Monday, 27 February 2017

The Thing About Nightmares and Depression

"Have you ever had really bad nightmares?"

I was asked this on a night out with friends. We discuss everything and anything on our nights out; from the new Lego Batman movie to rugby, work, books and overseas trips. Not unusually, the conversation ended up at sleep paralysis, and in turn, nightmares.

There are many ways to answer this question - a simple yes/no, a joke about how my excessive watching of true crime documentaries means I have no fear anymore, or heck, even the truth.

But I clammed up. I thought about answering. I thought about lying. I thought about answering honestly and frankly. I thought about telling them of how real my nightmares have felt. I thought about telling them about the nights I lay sleepless, too afraid to sleep. Or of the worst nightmare of them all. Of feeling trapped and suffocating and unable to wake up. Of recalling your nightmare in the middle of the day and freezing with the reminder of that real pain you felt. Or the days when it felt like I was still asleep and living through those nightmares. Of how my depressive nightmares are very different to my medicated nightmares.
About how I don't have night terrors of that severity anymore unless I forget to take my medication.

But that would involve bringing up my medication, and in the process my mental illness. Reminding everyone that I'm not quite okay. That I'm still not 'normal'.

In the end I choked on my answer. I swallowed it back down and said nothing.

I've discussed depression-induced nightmares on the blog before. It's not a new topic for me. But sometimes, when it comes to opening up in person, I clam up. I can't say the thing that stigmatizes me. That makes you look differently at me. That reminds you I am the same person who writes about their mental health online.

But then the next night I did forget my medication. I fell asleep without swallowing my two tablets which keep me sedated, pupils dilated, and sane. My routine is to take my tablets an hour before bed, fall asleep on cue and sleep throughout the night. I wake up groggy, always, but rested enough to get through the day.

But not on Saturday night. There's something about my dreams when I forget my medication. They're vivid, more real. I can recall them as soon as I wake up, like they've just happened. And they trap me. There is always a moment when I try to wake up. I can't open my eyes. It becomes a fight. I struggle to wake up but I'm trapped. I become fearful as I try to wake up. I panic.
And when I do wake up, I feel physically sick. I'm disorientated. And I can't tell the difference between reality and what just happened in my head. It's scary. I have no words to describe how scary these nightmares are because there is nothing quite as scary for me to compare them to. They keep me up at night and prevent me from waking.

Yes, I have had really bad nightmares. But I take medication to keep them away.

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