humor · mental health

Dreams Within Nightmares

“All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a nightmare.”

To paraphrase a genius.

I would be the happiest person if I could understand how something I know is impossible can still terrify me. How can someone be afraid of sharks if they’re in a swimming pool?

Logic is my true north, my one constant guide in a world out to get me. It is the air I breathe and the nourishment that sustains me. I’m a hardcore skeptic in all things paranormal. I will never understand a person’s ability to take things in faith, it’s too foreign for my mind to grasp. I need proof.

Example time: I was never able to believe in Santa Clause. His existence was doubted in almost everything I watched. Logically, I felt like he was not the magic man my parents presented him as.

One year, Dad filmed Santa. The camera was on the ground facing the tree. The only thing you could see was a white glove place the presents.

Why would he sit the camera on the ground to film? How can so many people fail to prove he exists, yet we catch him easily? Logic is there for us. It wants to be our friend, we just have to embrace it. Now, let’s continue.

No screwed up childhood is complete without nightmares. Thankfully, I do not sleep walk like some people I read about. That can be great story material, but sounds inconvenient AF. Especially for people living in a house with stairs.

Sometimes while dreaming, people will realize something isn’t normal and understand, “Oh this is a dream.” Then they either wake up, or some people can lucid dream. I got pretty good at that and enjoy flying.

For all the perks of long, realistic dreams, there are harsh downsides. Nightmares are always brutal. My brain is so sadistic, it makes me think I actually feel pain.

The trick from tv never works. I believe I feel the pinch whether I am awake or not. I have to kill myself if I want to wake up. It’s like my brain doesn’t know what to do about death. Suicide can be stressful if I have trouble telling if something is real or not.

I have to wait for something supernatural to happen. If vampires are chasing me, I can be fairly certain it’s ok to jump off a cliff. If a serial killer tries to kill me, it seems pretty risky. If something supernatural comes at me in real life, there is a high probability I will kill myself by accident.

I had unpleasant dreams for as long as I can remember. Running naked from a classroom or screaming for kids to get out of my house gave me anxiety, but didn’t prevent me from sleep the next night.

The true terror began when Mom rented the 90’s IT movie. I hated clowns before I saw it. After the movie, they became another full blown complex.

Why did I watch it? Because Mom said, “You won’t like this movie, it’s scary.”

Why did Mom let me watch it? I’m glad you asked. I asked her that very question myself. She says, “I tried to warn you, that should have been enough.”

Touché.

Even though it traumatized me with clown infested nightmares, I felt safe when I woke up because I still slept with my parents. Nightmares became part of normal life. When I had my first nightmare sleeping in my own room, things changed.

I wish it had been a clown dream. I would have killed myself and dealt with the fear when I woke up. Instead it was aliens. I wasn’t even afraid of aliens.

In my dream, I woke up to a strange noise coming from the living room. I go to investigate and three cliche, big-headed, grayish green aliens are walking around scanning things with Star Trek tech.

I couldn’t decide if it was real or not. I decided if the universe was never-ending, eventually there could be another planet with people on it. I didn’t want to risk it.

We strike a deal. I’ll remain quiet and they won’t hurt me or my family. After they scan for a few more minutes, one pulls out a laser gun and shoots me. I felt a keen sense of betrayal before waking up.

It doesn’t sound very scary now, but I was terrified at the time. I had never considered aliens as a threat before, and now I had to decide how credible they were.

Here’s another fantastic example of how hard life was before Google. In order to research aliens, I watched every movie I could find on the subject. I decided the chances of aliens coming to Earth to pick on me specifically were low. The important thing about this is, it gave me the brilliant idea to research scary things in general the same way.

I rented every horror movie I could get my hands on. It took a long time in the days of 5 movies 5 days 5 dollars Blockbuster Blowouts. Halloween was first.

Sure, after the first movie I thought I made a terrible mistake and would never sleep again. Then the sequels were so terrible I realized ‘None of these things have ever hurt me before. Why would they hurt me just because I saw them on movies?’

Light brightened the day once again! I consumed the horror genre with gusto. Michael Myers and Jason Voorhies couldn’t touch me now.

Then Bestie came home for the summer. When we were taken to Blockbuster I told her about my horror obsession. She was game and chose a marathon of Nightmare on Elm Street. I knew I was finished upon understanding the concept of dream = real.

It found my weakness. I was so afraid I thought about what it would be like to tell my parents I needed to sleep in their bed again. I agreed to watch the sequels hoping they would be terrible and shatter the illusion. A lot were terrible, but I only became more afraid. This guy just keeps coming back.

I already had realistic dreams with pain. Freddy Krueger was my kryptonite. I couldn’t sleep at all that night. I was too afraid of what I would see. When I went home it was even worse. I chanted my “It didn’t hurt me before, it can’t start now” mantra like a shield. It didn’t help.

I became paranoid my tv would turn off, leaving me in darkness. I was so afraid, I started leaving my lamp on too. The knife under my pillow wasn’t enough. I cuddled my bat like a teddy bear. I just couldn’t make myself feel safe.

The few times I fell asleep, I dreamed of waking up in darkness. I would see darker shapes moving around in the blackness. I usually woke up when one grabbed me, but sometimes I would be smothered until I woke up gasping for air. It felt like I held my breath in real life and woke up when I couldn’t hold it anymore.

For months, I didn’t feel safe falling asleep until the sun was up. It lasted through summer and into the school year. After a week of going to school, my sleep schedule evened out from sheer exhaustion. When the dreams didn’t kill me, I had no choice but to adapt.

I still have a horror obsession for all things not Freddy Krueger. I’m not afraid of him anymore, but I’m not a fan either. Funny thing is, it’s the only horror Bestie ever enjoyed.

Everyone should read it at least once. Knowledge is power!

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