I’m finally being seen by the concussion specialist. I waited nearly two months for this appointment. He tests a bunch of reflexes and then asks, “How’s your sleep?”
“Oh god.” I explain how it seems to be getting more normal–but also how I need more than 8 hours, sometimes a lot more. And how often I get exhausted in the middle of the day and fall asleep on the floor.
“Are you dreaming?” I shudder and nod.
“Regular dreams or PTSD nightmares?” I burst into tears. I don’t even know what regular dreams would be like. Maybe some of my dreams are regular dreams–but they terrify me.
I dream that I’m in a shower stall like at a gym with a man who closely resembles Alexander Skarsgard. He’s holding me and kissing my neck. I’m laughing and talking to our friend in the next stall. I wake gasping, sit straight up and scan the room. Nothing here. I am shaking and I can’t breathe. Why would I dream about letting a man that close to me? It takes some time to soothe my fear and fall back asleep.
I dream that I’m sleeping on a floor in a shack. The ceiling is low and I can hear other people similarly housed nearby. I turn over; there’s someone sleeping next to me. Long hair, familiar somehow, and I feel great apprehension. My abuser turns to me; “It’s me. I missed you!” I scream, jump up and start running through crowds of people. I can hear, shrilly behind me, “She doesn’t have anything to be afraid of. I just want to talk to her. That’s my wife. She’s afraid of me because of something I can’t help. She’s discriminating.”
And I scream back “I’m afraid because that person is abusive and has hurt me. Please help me!”
I wake up in a cold sweat, struggling to free myself from my blankets.
I dream that as I breastfeed an adolescent orphan, she grows breasts. She also has male genitalia. I am told she’ll die if I don’t rip them off, so I magically perform gender confirmation surgery with my bare hands. She calls me “mother”.
I wake crying. I’m disturbed because it was strange and graphic–and also because I gave the child in my dream the name I wanted to give my own daughter–the daughter I’m not so sure I’ll get to have. My head pounds as I weep for my stolen chance at motherhood and the shitstorm in my brain.
I dream that my abuser is on the ground. I am beating the living shit out of him, throwing punches fast and hard at his face, screaming at the top of my lungs how he’s a sick, stupid piece of shit. A vicious, manipulative liar. I scream about broken wedding vows and infidelity, stolen money. PTSD. I hurl every profanity I can conceive, and every punch lands devastatingly. Then I look down and see my childhood dog, battered and forlorn. I scream and apologize, over and over, horrified. I wake up crying, whimpering the name of my dead cat. I’m so upset I can’t go back to sleep at all, instead I get up and go to the kitchen in the middle of the night to sit on the floor and sob.
I dream that I’m in a vast expanse of cold water surrounded by hundreds of small drowning children, holding one tiny flotation device. I wake up sobbing. Every time I recount the dream I tear up and feel ill.
What would a regular dream be? I don’t know, I know about my dreams–and they are terrible.