Posted by: jedwardswright | November 11, 2010

Nightmare Alley

I woke up from my morning nap as disoriented as a spinning top, feeling every different degree of crazy.  Another nightmare had haunted my brain while I slept.

This time I was attempting to navigate the social and physical complexities of some sort of camp.  Lost in a tangle of makeshift tents made of bed-sheets, branches, and wood bark, I struggled through the maze to make my way back to my shelter to pack for the trip home.            

When I arrived, sloppily made souvenirs flowed from the limited furniture, as if I were dame of the crappy craft committee. Clothing meandered in semi-sorted piles across the ground.  Damp cardboard boxes, a few tattered green garbage bags and a couple of small suitcases were the available containers.  The task appeared completely hopeless, but I was supposed to have left already.

In standard nightmare-issue style, I was losing it. If my behavior had been any more bizarre, Jerry Springer would have called. Vaguely appreciating the necessity of hauling butt out of that place, preferably an hour or so previously, my panic rose like a climbing flood.     

In the midst of this melee, I came to — a confused, paranoid creature almost convinced that the experience was real.  Emotionally, it was real. That is the worst of it.

Depression and nightmares are usually intertwined. I have been known to host bad dreams because: I am not on anti-depressants, I am on the wrong anti-depressants, I missed my anti-depressants, my hormones fluctuated for certain womanly reasons, or because my life was going down the toilet at the time.

For years, nightmares were the only dreams that I ever had. Even now, a pleasant dream is a rare, welcome experience.

Given all this fluctuation and uncertainty, is there anything that we can do to banish the nighttime monsters from our non-waking hours?

Well, the standard “how to have a good sleep” advice is worth trying. Before bed don’t watch scary or upsetting shows/movies or drink caffeine. Do try: eating bananas; drinking chamomile/Sleepy Time tea; play calming music or relaxation recordings; and if your doctor/pharmacist approves, take a bit of melatonin before bedtime.

Another suggestion from the obvious box is not to mess up your meds. Duh! I sort my meds into a nifty plastic pill case marked with the days if the week, and most of the time it helps. At least now when I don’t take my pills I can check, rather than wallowing in self-doubt. Asking myself whether or not I took my meds without any evidence is generally useless.

Finally, if your medications aren’t working, or you suspect that something with your current prescription is out of whack, get thee to a physician pronto. If you aren’t on meds, and the dreams continue to plague you, put on your big girl/boy panties, suck it up, and make a doctor’s appointment. Anything that impairs quality sleep can aggravate depression. None of us needs that.

If nothing else, it helps to know that the bad dreams that plague us are part of the depression experience, not some kind of personal torture reserved for us as individuals.

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