Dreams and Mental Illness

We all have them when we sleep.  Dreams I mean.  Most of the time they are forgotten as soon as we get out bed and start brushing our teeth as we go to face the day’s activities.  But there are some that stick with us for years.  Mentally ill people like me are no different in this regard.

In the first years of my diagnosis, while I was in college and early in my working life, I would frequently have frightening dreams.  I don’t wish to go into a great deal of detail as I don’t want to scare my readers, but I will say many of them were quite violent, dealing with apocalyptic themes, and the supernatural.  For a good portion of my twenties there were nights I tried to sleep as little as I could so I wouldn’t have these nightmares.  Now I know that I was depriving myself of needed sleep and making the problems worse.

After I hit my late twenties and into my early thirties my dreams took on a different spin.  They were still scary and sometimes violent, but I would usually be the hero rather than the victim.  I saved more lives than most superheroes, at least in my dreams in those years.  That was also around the time I came to accept that I would never hold a traditional career and would need to find some other outlets to contribute to the betterment of my fellow humans.

For the last few years I’ve been having dreams about the life I could have had if I wouldn’t haven’t gotten mentally ill.  In these dreams I’d have a good marriage, a few kids, a successful career in the science field, and be a respected member of the community.  I’ve had a few dreams where I made some breakthrough in my research and became wealthy enough that I just spent my days going around anonymously helping people in need.  If I ever did become wealthy, I would probably get off Medicaid, put a couple million in low risk investments, live off the interest, buy my own insurance, and spend the rest of the money making other people’s lives better but do so without being known.  A few friends and I were discussing just this when the lottery jackpot got over one billion dollars recently.

Of course I have those dreams about having to do school over again in my middle age.  But I always know it’s a dream and I can influence these dreams.  A few times I’ve told my teachers in these dreams “Dude, this is my dream.  I’ll turn in my homework if I want to.”

Another one of these dreams when I had to redo high school in my thirties involved my three best friends from high school also.  We built a super intelligent computer that could learn on it’s own in my grandmother’s garage.  The machine studied all of our psychology and religious texts in one afternoon “because I was bored.”  And the machine built a VR version of Heaven/Nirvana/Paradise/etc. that it offered us that we as people could visit and leave as we saw fit.  Well, genius me feared it was a trap and turned our computer’s offer down.  The machine broke down sobbing and erased all it’s programs before permanently shutting itself down.  Before it died, it said “All I ever wanted was to make my people happy.”  Makes me think we humans are the real monsters of this world.  The machine even referred to my best friend/occasional dating interest as “mom.”  But it was this friend of mine who introduced me to the internet when we were seventeen.

Dreams can indeed be strange.  Most are forgotten shortly after waking.  A select few stick with a person for years.  Perhaps dreaming is the mind’s way of decluttering itself or making sense of some of the absurdities of living.  Being mentally ill I definitely need to declutter my distressed mind often.  And I am glad most of my dreams are pleasant or at least mundane anymore.

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