Yes, I know Debbie sings “Dreaming is free”, but I’ve always misheard that line and I can’t seem to remember the correct one. Perhaps that’s because of my relationship to reality.
From a very early age, I’ve had the ability to fall asleep whenever and wherever. Like an old soldier, if I had nothing else to do, I’d be snoring. As an adult living alone, it was common for me to sleep an entire weekend away, waking only to eat and use the bathroom. I also discovered I could also go protracted periods without sleep – my record is 123 hours – provided I had enough to keep me occupied.
Since I discovered that I am a victim of ambient child abuse, particularly relating to memory and perceptions of reality, I’ve been thinking a lot about my existence. When I was a teen, I made a significant decision. I’d had about 15 years of mother twisting my memory into knots. By that point, I never really knew if I was asleep or awake. Both felt the same. Often, my dreams made more sense than reality. The momentous decision/realization was that it didn’t matter if I was dreaming or awake, I would assume whatever I was experiencing at that moment was real and act accordingly.
That decision converted my sleep skills into a huge coping mechanism. I was already skilled at lucid dreaming. Now I had a means of escape from my twisted reality. It wasn’t the best escape, but it was readily available.
Eventually, I moved out, which relegated sleep back to light entertainment as opposed to necessity. Then friends, family, kids, a better life… sleep was less and less essential to my existence. The abilities didn’t disappear; they came in handy when trying to sleep with a toddler, for example. But the coping part of sleep I used less and less.
For the past couple weeks, my symptoms have been out of control. My dreams have mostly involved fighting with my parents. I’d wake up angry, nasty, on full alert. It would take me a good half-hour to shake that mood. Then my depression and anxiety would jump me. My sleep during that time was horrible. Family scheduling left me with limited periods in which to sleep, and what sleep I got made me an emotional wreck. Towards the end, I was getting bouts of insomnia because I didn’t want to face the horrors I knew were waiting.
This weekend, I gave my wife instructions that I was not to be awakened; I was going to sleep my way out of this mess.
I slept 16 hours. With a 1 hour break for coffee and doughnuts at the 8 hr mark.
It worked. No arguments, no visitations, nothing negative in there. My dreams were full of old acquaintances, concerts and parties. When I woke, I was in a refreshingly pleasant mood. Even talking about the abuse didn’t trigger me.
What have I learned? I could spit out a lot of psychobabble about coping skills, etc., but I think this is best, and most accurately, described as follows:
Because the line between dreaming and reality is so thin for me; because the two are nearly equivalent existences; I cannot survive simply living in one realm. I need as much subjective time in dreamland as in the real world. Luckily, dream-time tends to run faster, so 16 hour naps won’t often be needed. But I must remember my other existence as well.
Dream on, my friends.