Originally published: 25.08.15
Recently, rather than watching my dreams play out, I have been playing themout.
In previous years, my dreams were experienced like movies I couldn’t turn off.
I experienced a terrible bike accident five years ago. I shattered my front teeth, suffered health issues, and eventually psychological issues. During the long healing process, I started taking a muscle relaxer every evening in order to sleep restfully, avoiding pain in my neck and shoulders. I did not realize that it also deadened my emotions and created disconnection with others. It also suppressed the anxiety and fear I felt inside, though I was still working through this in therapy and my own meditation work.
I made the decision because it was time. It was time to feel again, and time to take control over my own body and mind. I also made the time and mental space to support myself in healing. Too often we tell ourselves and others that we are too busy for our own well-being. Additionally, my journey to become an acupuncturist includes healing myself and understanding my own body, mind, and spirit more than ever before.
As I weaned myself safely off the medicine, my old nightmares came back. I thought that I had eradicated them through therapy and meditation, but alas, here they were again.
Most recently, I was battling a superhuman yet inhuman girl that raced around physically hurting people. Such dreams used to be horrifying. I felt paralyzed, helpless, and I would often hide myself with someone in the dream from the scary characters. In a particularly memorable dream from years ago, I hid underneath a car in the parking lot of a gas station. I had pulled a small boy with me, in an attempt to keep him safe. I remember we were lying in a muddy pool of water under the car, watching the dream villain’s feet get closer. He found us.
Other times, I was a scary character, inflicting damage on others over and over again, horrified at what I was doing, yet relentless in my actions.
But now, I am actually battling in the dreams, making decisions, strategizing. The edge of horror has disappeared because I have acquired power where before I had none. That night, I was racing the super strong, super fast girl towards the next person, and the next, always catching her in time. I had her in a stranglehold at one point. Her eyes stared straight back at me, saying, “You can’t stop me.” My brain interrupted, “But this is a dream. It isn’t real. It’s ok.” My brain was reassuring me, even while I was still in the dream. By the time I awoke, I was tired. But I was not scared.
Something has changed through the self-work I have done up until now, even through taking the medicine. Medicine can serve a great purpose, at the right time. But I have come far since all of this first started, and the benefits no longer outweigh the negative consequences. I can now cut off the replays of the accident before they take over. I have developed choice in my dreams. I do not allow fear to rule me consciously nor subconsciously. I am spurred to action in these movie-turned-video-game dreams. The threat of violence does not scare me to my core, and I have yet to wake up sweating, whimpering or screaming in the night, as I used to, when my partners would awaken and attempt to soothe me back to sleep.
I recently started riding a bike to school, or to the store, or to my brother’s house. I wasn’t sure I would be able to do so upon moving to the city. I was afraid that my fear would only grow. And sometimes, I imagine myself falling again. Falling apart. Smashing into the concrete. Incurring the same horrific injury. Repeating the same cycle of life. Sometimes the images will start to play as I get dressed, or as I study. I reign in my mind, release any emotion attached to the situation I am imagining, and will myself to let it go. Sometimes it stays, and I do not fight it too hard. Sometimes you just have to settle in and be with the situation.
So now, I just make sure to move forward. I take the bike to school. And I choose to fight back in the dreams.
Maybe healing is not always the eradication of destructive forces, but instead, our ability to handle our reactions to them.
Maybe one day the flashbacks will go away, and not interrupt my peace of mind.
But for now, I am willing to battle for it. I recently learned that victims who make the decision to take action if and when an attack occurs have a faster, easier, more complete healing process, whether they were able to successfully resist or defeat the attacker or not. I may not be able to stop this girl in my dream, or the destructive force that she represents, but I can fight back. I can beat her to each of her next victims, and laugh at her instead with my unbreakability and power.
And maybe one day the dreams will go away too.
Feminist Flair: I write about my personal journey toward healing and empowerment in life, my experiences as a female, and also as an LGBTQ individual. I believe personal and spiritual growth is possible at any age, and with more compassion and respect for ourselves and one another we can lift our world up to a better place. You can follow me on Twitter @FeministFlair