This weekend I am pretty sure I had my first ever bipolar themed dream.
I am someone who has really vivid dreams, and I often have a lot of them (1-2 on a slow night, 4-6 on a busy night, sometimes more) each night. Some of them are wildly fantastic, others are mundane, but what they all have in common is how real they feel. I can almost always remember them all (to one degree or another) the next morning.
Nightmares are the same, unfortunately. Ultra real, and can get stuck on repeat on any given night if I wake up scared, as soon as I slip back into sleep it can mean entering a continuation of the nightmare, or experiencing the same nightmare over again.
My nightmares are usually about stairs that don’t make sense (heights). Or serial killers. Or unexpected death. Or car accidents. Or my teeth falling out.
For a while I was having those nightmares where you feel like you wake up but still can’t seem to move or speak (paralysis) until waking up again, for real.
Though I’ve had nightmares about death, my own or the death of others, I can’t recall ever having a dream about feeling helpless about the mental state I was in.
Two nights in a row now I’ve had dreams about my mental state and things going horribly wrong.
In the first dream I was performing a very important task -pretty much taking care of someone, when I began to feel off. I knew an episode was coming on, so I isolated myself in the next room, took the “as needed” medication I have to combat things, and lay down on the couch. I felt awfully proud of myself for doing everything right before things got out of control and I was rude to anyone, and then I drifted off to sleep.
When I woke up (in the dream) things obviously weren’t right. The room was a mess, things were destroyed, and I was wrapped in a towel. Someone burst in the door claiming they’d just gotten the voicemail I left them (which they claimed was of me screaming wildly) and then they shook their head at me with a look of disdain as I sat up, revealing what were apparently self-inflicted wounds of some kind on my arms.
I. Was. Mortified. Wait wait wait, I tried to explain, I didn’t do any of this! I took an antipsychotic and went to bed! I was asleep! I couldn’t have done all this!
And then I woke up.
The second dream was really just a remix of the first (on another night) in a different setting.
When I woke up I wasn’t surprised by the themes in this dream, but I was definitely surprised it isn’t one I’ve seemed to have had before. At least, I don’t remember having a dream like these ones, and normally I do remember.
My subconscious does a pretty good job of relating some of my deepest fears to me, and over the years I have learned to pay attention. I would say the themes from these dreams would be pretty significant popping up now, because they haven’t for the last ten years.
What I take away from the dreams is this:
- I am (still) worried about the issue of control. Sometimes I fall into one of those what if pits, where I wonder what if I lose control of myself? And, as played out in the dream, what if I have no memory of doing so? I think a lot of people who have experienced psychotic mania can tell you that the memories of what happens can be spotty at best, so though I would consider this a far-fetched issue at this time, it isn’t an impossible fear.
- Lately I have been worried a lot about if I am doing a good job taking care of myself, if the stress I am under is a realistic amount of stress, if it is triggering episodes, and if I am handling them in a way that helps put out those fires. As seen in the dream, there are times when I feel like I am totally on top of things, but things still go horribly wrong, for whatever reason. Not as wrong as in the dream, but still poorly. I understand that with bipolar disorder, there is an element of that that lurks around -that no matter how closely you follow the “rules” (whatever groundwork you’ve set up to help curb emergencies) it doesn’t guarantee avoidance of an episode.
I have been reading a book lately that says our brains are wired to remember memories that have the same sort of emotion as whatever emotion we are feeling at the time.
I will admit, though a little embarrassingly, this dream is a really exaggerated version of something that happened to me about 10 years ago. I mean, if the story of my life was hollywoodized, this dream (with the destroyed room and everything) would probably make it into the movie before what actually happened did.
When this occurred, I am pretty sure I was experiencing a mixed state -though I can’t be certain because it was 10 years ago and I knew absolutely nothing about bipolar disorder at the time.
The last couple weeks, though, I have also been experiencing mixed episodes, so it makes me wonder if that is why this fragment came up now.
Just a couple theories.
I thought I would share a little bit, and I was wondering if any of you readers have had bipolar “themed” dreams before, dreams where there is a loss of control, or mental illness is effecting your actions (or reactions to you) in the dream? If you’d be willing to share, I’d love to hear about them… feel free to leave them as a comment or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org -Thanks!