Dreams and Dream Diaries

Trigger warning: all the triggers

On a whim, and fueled by too much coffee and the sort of stressed boredom that comes along with Festivus in Alabama, I purchased Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-Body Experience by Robert Bruce and Brian Mercer.  I confess that part of my interest was generated by Brian Mercer’s hilarious author photo (sort of a cross between an elementary school yearbook picture and a realtor’s calendar headshot) and Robert Bruce’s self-aggrandizing author description and introduction.  Increasingly, I read books because I’m interested in their authors, not their subjects, and these two looked fascinating.  I also tend to like “training programs” for new skills, neatly divided into calendars and weekly tasks.  This one also has, of all things, a CD-ROM (which contains something called the “BrainWave Generator”), which I’m really pumped about.

Anyway, of course, first thing, I’m supposed to be keeping a daily dream diary.  You’d think after almost two decades I’d stop being like, UGH WHY DOES EVERYONE WANT ME TO DO THAT SRSLY FUCK and just get on with it, but I . . . just can’t do it.  I’ve tried for years, I always manage a couple of entries that make no sense later (usually in the form of horribly violent sketches or strings of seemingly unrelated single words).  Dreams and sleep are a problem for me, as I imagine they are for the mentally and emotionally special everywhere (“emotionally special” just sounds nicer than  the terms that doctors and counselors have thrown at me in the past).

First of all, I don’t sleep easy.  I don’t nestle into soft sheets and warm blankets and gently drift into a land where anything is possible.  I do a bunch of drugs, maybe run until I’m exhausted, and then curl into a fetal position like a rat burrowing into a nest of trash, lulled by the sounds of the same audio book (Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare: The World as Stage, disc one), which I use to drown out my brain.  I wake up with the blankets hanging off the bed, drool crusting on my face, and my arms tight and spasming from clutching a stuffed animal to my chest like a frantic kid with some seriously special needs.  It comes in cycles and is pretty closely tied to how stressful my life happened to be that day.  It’s a problem–I know.  And I’ve already had All The Treatment, thanks.

So my dream life is fucked up.  First of all, I’m usually too drug-addled to either have or remember anything.  Second of all, when I have dreams, they’re usually FUCKING HORRIFYING.  I have to wonder how many of these dream-diary keepers are trauma survivors, PTSD sufferers, or just, uh, emotionally special, because I’d bet not many of them.  If you’re biggest sleep worry is just remembering or interpreting your dreams, then I envy you.

My dream diary usually looks like this: BLOOD RIPPING SCISSORS NECK KITCHEN FLOOR RAPE BLEEDING FLASHING LIGHTS BLOOD FUCKING NURSES HATRED PARAMEDICS HATRED BLOOD KILL EVERYTHING HAMMER BLOOD SCREAMING AM I SCREAMING OUT LOUD SCREAMING

It’s fucking terrible.  It’s not all the time, but it’s enough that I don’t always look forward to sleep.  And I don’t put much stock in dream interpretation, like, ever.  It’s gotten better over the years, and I’m not sharing any of this because I feel sorry or because I need to be held and comforted (gross), only to make a point.  Or think out loud.  In writing.

Keeping a dream diary isn’t something that you necessarily just do.  Like la la la.  I don’t want to write about some of these things, or recall them better.  And I certainly don’t need to spend any time wondering “what they mean,” because it’s pretty fucking obvious.  I’m just trying to decide whether something like astral projection (if that’s even a thing) or lucid dreaming might be helpful or harmful.  I mean, I journal a shit-ton about everything else, and some of that stuff’s just as horrible.  It usually helps.  Maybe this would help, too, if I kept at it for longer than the usual week or two.  Or maybe I’m the last person who needs to have any control in their dreams.

Maybe I’ll just photocopy the author pictures from Mastering Astral Projection and make myself some sort of comforting charm that involves hanging them above my rat’s nest of a bed.  Maybe if I just laughed a little more.

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4 thoughts on “Dreams and Dream Diaries

  1. Ali

    Wheeeee I have a lot to say about this. I even contemplated doing my own blog entry about it, then I got lazy so I’m just commenting. Go me. Sorry if this is a bit disjointed. I’m typing it on the fly and not proofreading because I’m totttttallly supposed to be working on final papers right now. Again, go me.

    I’m narcoleptic. While most people know that means that I sleep a lot, very few people know what it actually is (I didn’t until I was diagnosed). I’m going to just go with you probably not knowing what it technically entails as it makes explaining things easier, so blah forgive me if you already know this junk. This will become relevant to the discussion, I swear. Narcolepsy is a “sleep-wake” disorder, where normal sleep cycles are neurologically disrupted. Science is still a bit iffy on exactly what causes it (Stanford is leading with the research right now), but I’m not going to drag this out with lots of “but…maybe…ifs” and such. Basically I have a genetic mutation that became activated at some point in my life (approximately middle school, in my case) that caused an auto-immune reaction that attacked my brain cells that produce or receive orexin/hypocretin. Orexin regulates sleep, as well as appetite and arousal, and the lack of orexin in my brain means that my brain does not really know how to “sleepy cycle” well.

    I am not actually very well versed in how sleep cycles are normally, but what I do know is that the average individual is supposed to cycle through various stages and reach REM at around 90 minutes into sleepy time. Good sleep and rejuvenation comes from a proper balance of these cycles, not from one part in particular. Narcoleptics such as myself have an excessive amount of REM due to our neurological issues. We skip through the various sleep cycles and reach REM, at worst, within minutes of falling asleep, our REM can be “broken up” (causing repeated night awakenings that mimic sleep-maintenance insomnia), and can occur at times when it REALLY isn’t supposed to be. Like when awake.

    Now I’m reaching the part that is actually relevant to your post. Because of these REM issues, narcoleptics dream more than the average individual. We have more REM time and less separating our REM from consciousness, which means we also almost always remember our dreams vividly. The oddest part of narcolepsy is the hypnogogic hallucinations, which is basically when our brains decide to go into a REM cycle without us actually falling asleep first. We are, pardon the bad joke, “wide awake and dreaming” in the literal sense. This can occur before or after sleep and often comes with sleep paralysis. I have had this for a long time and used to think that I saw ghosts or was going crazy, because when it happens to me I see and hear things just as clearly and consciously as you looking at the computer screen now. Most narcoleptics tend to have horror hallucinations for some reason, I personally would see very large spiders flying at my face. Hence, I have a strong dislike for spiders now.

    I am always conscious in my dreams, what some people would call “lucid dreaming” is actually a very natural state for a narcoleptic. Speaking only of my experiences with dreaming, it is common for me to have “dreams within dreams” (inception, whatever) several times over, dreams that continue from other dreams on previous nights, and dreams that reference (be it in ‘other character’ comment or in my mind’s dream commentary) other unrelated dreams that I have had. But the common thread of my dreams is that I am always conscious that I am dreaming and of who I am in reality.

    And you know what? It fucking sucks. People are not SUPPOSED to have REM that close to consciousness. My fucked up REM issues are why I have never woken up feeling rested, of why I am prescribed uppers just to make it through a few hours a day, and why I have issues with muscle tension at times (cataplexy). I have a few good hours a day, and sometimes when my narcolepsy is bad (signified by a jump in dreaming), I don’t have any good hours. School work is hell because I am so exhausted that I fall asleep reading and have a hard time remembering my work. I have had to call in sick to class because I was so tired and hallucinating that I couldn’t leave my bedroom. I can’t stay out late and have to schedule naps in if I am going to have a long day. Naps are only fun if they aren’t required to function. My point behind this is: WHY DO PEOPLE WANT TO DO THIS TO THEMSELVES!?!? Yes, all capitals was necessary. Oh yeah, “lucid dreaming” and shit. I keep running into Pagans who thing it is really ‘cool’ and have all these little techniques to fuck with their sleep cycles and attempt it. Here’s my dealio: I’m okay with belief, I’m okay with people finding significance in dream symbols, I understand that many indigenous groups have their own traditional dreamwork or whatever. But we here in the grand ol’ West have science and technology and live in a society where interrupted sleep is becoming the norm rather than the exception. We know what sleep is, neurologically, and how we are best supposed to sleep. Do yourself a fucking favor and be happy working towards that (not using ‘you’ to refer to you in particular, since you understand that fucked up sleep ain’t great). It reminds me a bit of “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” from the skeptic American perspective. Quit trying to religiously glorify what is actually a detrimental medical condition, and especially stop trying to create issues where you don’t have any. And leave Jung out of it.

    I think that is all I have to say. Sorry about all my yelling and swearing, you know it isn’t directed at you.

    Reply
    1. thornthewitch Post author

      This is the best blog reply ever. I’m doing research on dream and sleep stuff now (from a magical perspective), trying to keep a dream journal, and generally giving things a fair shake, but I think the issues you raised are seriously under-discussed (or even acknowledged ever).

      Also, you most recent comment: I totally feel your pain. That’s a tough call, and I can offer no advice. Nerd problems.

      Reply
  2. Raven

    I’ve tried to keep dream journals in the past. Like you they last about a week or so and that’s it. I sleep well and have dreams, but I very rarely recall them. They aren’t nightmares, but I put so little stock in dream interpretation that I don’t care that much if I recall my dreams or not. I have far more things that I’m interested in and would rather spend my time on.

    Reply
  3. Cathy Sander

    I have (and still) keep a dream diary, but it’s there out of necessity. I have had a long history of taking these things too much at face value, so the organism-as-a-whole effectively ‘forced’ me to do this work. Nowadays, it’s an occasional thing. I no longer feel that I ‘have’ to do this.

    Reply

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