Dreaming Bipolar in Stereo

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 host@thebipolarcuriousblog.com -Thanks!

7 responses to “Dreaming Bipolar in Stereo

  1. Interesting. I’ve had the “teeth falling out” nightmares many times.

    The one blatantly mental-health-related dream I can remember was one in which I was in a mental hospital, which is something that terrifies me and has never actually happened. More so than being locked up, the thing that was disturbing to me in that dream was being cut off from the outside world. There are other dreams that could be marginally related but not so clearly as that one.

  2. struggling with bipolar

    I have had the dreams about my disorder and episodes. I have had dreams where I am very depressed. I have few dreams about being manic. I have dreams about being suicidal – even when I’m not. The dreams feel very real. I wake with my heart racing to make sure I’m still OK and I haven’t acted on my dream’s “urges”.

    I am with you though on the whole vivid dream thing. I have many nights where I have very vivid dreams. I often don’t remember them when I wake in the morning, but they sometimes prevent me from going back to sleep.

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      Very interesting, and very different from what I experience! Boy, I hope I keep having dreams about soccer ball sized hailstones as opposed to dreams where I’m depressed, that sounds exhausting. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I have super vivid dreams, too (including lucid dreaming, recurring dreams, and recurring settings of dreams).

    Dreaming I am depressed or suicidal would be awful, I think, and so far that has not really happened that I remember.

    I’m not sure I’ve had a dream where I have had concern for my own mental state, but I often have dreams where I change personalities, become other people, other genders, swap in and out of bodies, and sometimes those other “me’s” are pretty screwy and the me “me” is very concerned over this.

    Looking back over that sentence…I’m not sure I have words (or grammar) to actually explain what I mean…

    Example: I had a dream last night that started off as me working as a secretary in an office. But eventually, I was also my boss…who may or may not have been a serial killer…but I was still the secretary…who morphed into a spy…and at some point there was a shape-shifter who could dissolve people with a viscus acid (who was not me, but mistaken as several of my me’s by other people) and eventually I was crawling up a garbage shoot the size of a small room with Tyne Daly in tow trying to dodge the serial killer, and eventually Captain Jack from Dr. Who showed up.

    And that is the abbreviated version.

    I often have dreams of losing control of some type (the most prevalent is driving and hitting the breaks, but the car will only slow down, not stop and I have to just sit there as I crash into things), but it is not always as clear cut as your dream was.

    I hope you have happier dreams!

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      Haha, I love your description of being several different people in your dreams. I have that happen too, but for some reason I’ve always found it somewhat comforting. Any “person” I am in my dream almost always feel comfortable and natural, so honestly it has never worried me. I think (on the other hand) if I began having dreams where I felt trapped in another person’s body though, that would make me nervous!

      I am also almost always friends with the serial killers in my dreams, and have barbecues with them in their backyards before getting a little upset when they’ve killed someone I generally liked. The only people that seem to try to kill me are folks who look completely friendly (like little old ladies) or are people I know, so serial killers are generally non-threatening to me.

      I do the lucid & recurring things too, but my favorite are the recurring settings. I’ve got a whole world mapped out in my head of the settings I’ve been to in my dreams, and if there is a diner it is almost always the same diner.

      Thanks for your comment, very cool!

  4. Ha, I snorted when I got to “a little upset when they’ve killed someone I generally liked.”

    I agree the setting are the best. I have this mall in my head that would be the coolest mall ever!

  5. I remember just after I moved abroad dreaming about being totally crazy, having a complete meltdown in front of around six people whose opinions mattered very much to me, and being utterly unable to hide what was going on internally. It was (in the dream) devastating, but I understand where it came from. At the time I was wrestling with my inner demons and struggling to understand what was happening within my mind. I didn’t have an official diagnosis but had an inkling of what was going on. My struggles had become increasingly difficult to conceal and in hindsight it was the absolute best time for me to leave my job and life and go abroad, because I needed a fresh start away from everything.

    That’s one that sticks in my mind but I’m sure it’s not the only time I’ve dreamt about this!

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