I’ve always had them. I recalled my childhood night terrors to you in an earlier post: the man in the sky admonishing me for being a bad girl, accompanied by booming thunder and lightning. I was 3 or 4 when these began, and these dreams are among my first memories.
As an adult, during times of worldly stress, nightmares emerge again.
Following the 9/11 attacks, I frequently dreamt about men in long robes wearing turbans and bearing assault rifles rounding up the women and holding us hostage. In some, buildings would catch fire, and I’d have to shimmy down an elevator shaft to escape. In others, I had to run. And in one, we were held in a big room and given electronic devices. No one seemed to care that they were imprisoned; they were too distracted by their devices.
Soon after the Ukraine invasion, dreams about Russia began. In one, a few women, including me, were rounded up by Russians who had invaded the US. I was desperately trying to befriend one of my captors so I could survive. In another, a group of many women and children were being held in a complex of apartments. They were very, very basic with cinder block walls, like what you would find in some church camps that I remember from childhood. There were tiny cameras mounted everywhere that would track our movements, with flashes going off when you least expected it, making it known that someone was aware of your location. I went outside and tried to go for a run, wearing sandals, and with legs that felt so very heavy.
Sometimes my nightmares have nothing to do with worldly issues at all.
This week’s dreams included one about snakes. There were multiple types, some poisonous, some not. I was driving over them, and one was trying to get into the car, nudging my seat under me. I woke up to the dog pushing her paw into my backside. So, maybe this dream wasn’t about snakes after all. Maybe it was my brain’s interpretation of what was physically happening to me!
Some of these dreams are disturbing enough that once I wake up, I struggle to get back to sleep, as my anxiety is triggered and in full gear. Those are the nights when I try to solve all of the world’s problems at 4:15am. Sigh.
According to one scholarly article I read, about 1 in 20 “normal” people experience one nightmare a week. I’d say that’s about what I have. Sometimes fewer, sometimes more. Nightmares are often associated with times of stress, and are frequent in people with PTSD. This is understandable.
Nightmares as an adult can be distressful. I personally try to figure out why I’m having them. Sometimes it’s obvious, as my reactions to war were created by my imagination, or my brain makes up a scenario to match physical sensations I’m feeling in my sleep, like my dog kicking me! Other times, they reveal deeper anxieties that let your conscious mind know that your subconscious mind needs to work out some issues. Aren’t our brains frustratingly amazing?
Have you had nightmares as an adult? Can you always relate them to stressful triggers? I’d love to hear about it.
Nightmares can definitely affect your stress levels and leave you feeling unsettled, certainly affecting your overall wellness. If they are disturbing your sleep on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to seek help from a professional to get to the root of the issue.
As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.