07 January 2012

Nightmares? More Like Nightstallions....

According to the online World English Dictionary, the word “nightmare” is defined as follows:
      1. a terrifying or deeply distressing dream
      2. an event or condidtion resembling a terrifying dream
      3. a thing that is feared
      4. (formally) an evil spirit supposed to harass or suffocate sleeping people


There was a time when nightmares did not plague me as they do now. Sure I had the variations of the dream of showing up to work without pants, and the occasional falling or running away dream but the dreams were never as vivid or as horrifically graphic as they are now. The only exception is the aircraft crash dreams that I have and those closest to me know about those (and they have expanded to include train accidents too). I have had the aircraft dreams since I was 13. I don't count them in the current dream scape. The new ones are graphic, horrible, and almost always involve some aspect of the fire service.

As a firefighter, not that long ago, I never experienced dreams about the calls. I just didn't. Sure I had crazy dreams, and the ones we all have, but never like I have now. You only heard about dreams in the fire station in hushed whispers, so I don't know if what I went through with no dreams is normal, nor do I have anyone like me to compare the current state of my nightly terrors. I used to tell everyone about my crazy and often silly dreams to get good laughs. I got lots of odd looks too. I used to dream of people riding pink donkeys, or chasing monkeys out of their homes, or eating cotton candy while swimming, or, well, you get the idea. Nonsense. Silly crazy and often funny dreams that left me wondering what on earth they were really about. For some reason, not long after I left the fire service, the night terrors began. These were not tied to medicine, food or anything we can determine. They just happened. Horrible, graphic complete with sounds, colors and smells I would remember for days and even weeks later. Some were similar to calls I had been on, others were new manifestations of themes that had never even occurred to me. People being killed in horrific car accidents, terrible illnesses, people being run over by trains, people being killed and maimed in the most disgusting of ways. I often wake up shaking, physically shaking from fear. Sometimes I wake up crying.

And then there are the dreams about the verbal assaults. The captain standing over me calling me slurs, telling me I'm worthless, pushing me, screaming at me, and cursing me. Those are almost always the same as what I knew. I found myself reliving the verbal and emotional abuse over and over again when I closed my eyes. I always woke up from those dreams in tears, and the feeling of worthlessness followed me into the following day.

I wake up my husband when I have these dreams. Thank God he is so understanding. He holds me until I stop shaking and lets me tell him about the dream. For some reason, it helps to keep it from coming back right away if I tell him about it. Sometimes I wake him up before I wake up because I'd crying so hard. Those are the worst dreams. He gently rubs my back or my hair (but not back hair, just to clarify) and talks in slow, soothing tones until I wake up on my own. We have discovered that trying to wake me from the dream makes it worse when I go back to sleep and I wake up really hard.
Now all the dreams aren't terrible. There are the ones that cause me to laugh in my sleep. Some times so hard that it wakes up my sweet husband who cant tell if I'm laughing or crying. Those often leave me laughing most of the day. Since the nightmares started, I don't have too many of those anymore. I used to laugh in my sleep at the station, to the point that everyone would be standing around me and wondering if I had finally lost it! I have to smile when I think about some of those silly dreams.

So last night I endured another bad one. Not so much graphic as traumatic. I woke up shaking, afraid to go back to sleep. I snuggled up to my husband, who held me tight as I described the horror that unfolded, and I drifted off to a more peaceful place. I wish I knew if this was normal. I wish I knew how to make these dreams go away.

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