I have done a lot of soul-searching lately. Not only have I bared my self, but I have also examined each and every piece and given them their due. Carl Jung spoke a lot about our shadow; how we cannot run from it, we are always attached. And when the nightmares come, it is your sub-conscience trying to reach out.
I have written before on my experience with nightmares and sleep disorders. I cannot ever remember a time where sleep came easy to me, or when sleep brought solely comfort. It has always been a battle. As a child, the problem was my hallucinations. I was hooked to machines and stuffed with drugs, but no diagnosis was ever made. The sleep walking began as well. As time went on, my hallucinations retreated more inward. When I could finally fall asleep, I would have horrible dreams every so often. And then a few years ago, nightmares came every single night … and they stayed with me for three years.
The dreams had common themes: There was always something or someone trying to kill me, whether a tsunami or a person, and I always had to save my little sister.
An old therapist of mine, who studied Jung, made such an effort in helping depict my dreams. Jung believed that the people and things in one’s dreams were merely symbols; projections of the self.
According to Jung, dreams are a way of communicating and acquainting yourself with the unconscious. Dreams are not attempts to conceal your true feelings from the waking mind, but rather they are a window to your unconscious. They serve to guide the waking self to achieve wholeness and offer a solution to a problem you are facing in your waking life.
If this were true, then perhaps the things that were always threatening my life were the part of me that was self-destructive and my little sister that always needed my saving was the little girl in me that never got protected. My shadow-self – my subcouscious – was filled to the brim. I stuffed everything so deeply down that it had nowhere to hide anymore. That is when I began having the recurring nightmares. My therapist taught me that until I laid each part of my shadow on the table and gave them their due time and attention; recognizing them and crediting them, I could never move forward.
I disregarded these teachings for a very long time, and the nightmares ensued with full force. Until recently.
I noticed that after posting The (not so) Pretty Truth, my night terrors began to ease up. Then I began conversing with people that understood me down to the very core, like Gabriel. We are so very different, and yet so very similar. Our stories and thought processes do not have to be explained to one another. Through our conversations, I began to feel more normal. I was not only facing my demons (the big bad wolf in my dreams), but I was also holding my child-self in my palms, apologizing and comforting her. I offered her freedom from the chains, and gave every one of my horrors their attention. You will always be a part of me, and I accept you… I will no longer push you away, but I will also no longer allow you the power.
I have been nightmare-free for a week now. What seems like a such a tiny thing, is actually very big. For three years, three years, I have not had one peaceful nights sleep. I was terrorized when my eyes closed, waking up more exhausted than before I slept. There was no way out, no escape. To wake up this morning, having had vivid dreams with no theme of death or danger, I let out a sigh. I even saw one of my ex’s last night in slumber, one that had haunted me since we ended our violent relationship. Instead of fearing him, arguing with him, or even reuniting with him, I looked him in the eye and smiled. Then walked away. I have let him and our past, go.
Doing the hard work was something that I put off for a very long time. Allowing my real-life terrors to look me in the eye, on equal levels, was the detrimental task to free myself. Now that I have begun, I am already lighter. I do not have panic attacks while lying in bed at night, breath growing short and rapid. I do not cry myself to sleep. I do not hide from the world, being scared (cripplingly so) to leave the house. I even went out and got a job. There is a freedom that I am feeling, and though I know that I still have much work to do, I am relishing this moment.
Leaving nightmares behind, and finally beginning to dream.