There’s this nightmare I have a lot. I’ve heard that it’s really common. Maybe you even have it too?
In the dream it’s pretty dark. There’s just enough background light that I can see to move around, but it’s dark. Dim and gloomy. I go and flick a light switch on, but nothing happens. I start to feel uncomfortable. I’m getting that itchy, scratchy feeling between the shoulder blades. So I go to the next light, but that one doesn’t work either. That itch in my back is getting stronger. There’s a growing sense of menace in the darkness all around me. Something’s there. I can feel it.
I’m not just uncomfortable anymore. Now I’m scared. I move through the house, light switch to light switch, lamp to lamp. Nothing. I’m getting desperate now. I must have light. There’s something coming, and I know that only the light can chase it away.
Then I remember. This has happened before. It’s a nightmare, and I can escape. If only I can wake up. I start to struggle against the dream. The sense of menace is closer now. Heavier. Thicker. I’m panicking. I shout at myself over and over, “Wake up!” Wake up!” But I make no sound. I know if I can only get the words out then I will break free.
Finally I burst, terrified, out of the dream. I lie in my bed, shaken, the fear still with me. It’s dark and I need the comfort of the light. I summon my courage, get up, and head for the light switch. I flick it. And nothing happens. I open the bedroom door and hurry into the hall. My back is crawling. This isn’t funny. I really need some light. Bright, bright light, to chase away the clinging shadows from the nightmare. I stab at the next switch. But nothing happens…
I’m still asleep, and the dream, repeats.
Sometimes this will play out three or four times before I finally wake up for real. When I do I always have to get up and put a light on straight away. The worst times, I wake up too drowsy to get out of bed. Sleep grabs me, pulls me back under, and shoves me right back into the dream again. I hate this dream. I dread it.
I have it most when I’m alone. So sometimes when Jay’s not here I sleep with the light on in the hall. If there’s a light on it doesn’t happen. Sometimes I sleep on the couch. I don’t know why that keeps the dream away, but strangely it does.
Then last night my nightmare came again. Only this time it was different. This time as I scurried around the house, the fear rising like nausea, switch after switch failing to give off the promised light; something changed. I got angry. Cross. Not a maddened, terror driven anger. I was just, suddenly, really pissed off. Annoyed. And determined.
I stopped dead in the hallway. I refused to run anymore. Sod the fear. Sod the looming, unseen menace lurking in the dark. I had well and truly had enough.
“No. Get lost.” I said, “I’m not having this anymore. I’m not playing this game. I’m out of here. I’m leaving.”
As I picked up my keys to open the front door, my eyelids became heavy, started to droop. In the middle of the dream I was falling asleep. No! I knew I couldn’t let that happen. That somehow if I fell asleep I would be stuck here unable to escape. I wasn’t going to let that happen. I wouldn’t let it win.
Forcing my eyes to stay open I put my key to the lock, and…
And I opened my eyes. Lying in my bed – Jay fast asleep beside me. I was awake. No fear. No lingering crawling down my spine. No need to turn on a light. Everything was fine. I closed my eyes again and slept like a baby.
When I woke up this morning it was a beautiful, sunny day in Edinburgh. It seems to have been almost eternally grey since we got back from Spain. But this morning it was glorious. I grabbed a quick cuppa and headed out for a walk. And as I was wandering around the park, enjoying the belated arrival of Spring, I remembered the nightmare.
Straight away I thought about the Just Another Anima project and felt sure the two things were connected. I thought about all our plans. About how, when I let it, I find it all a bit overwhelming. How I think about stuff I have to do, like sing songs in public, and feel totally inadequate. Of the fear that rises up out of nowhere. Of the voice I sometimes hear in my head. The panicky little voice, shaking and whimpering, “I can’t.”
Then I thought about the dream and how calm and peaceful I felt when I woke up in my bed last night. And I knew that going ahead with this project was what had changed the outcome in my dream. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway, over and over, had made something slip inside me. “I can’t”, had become “I can.”
And it’s a beautiful day.
I don’t know if I’ll ever have that nightmare again. But even if I do – I don’t dread it anymore. I’ve beat it once. I can beat it again. I can. I will.
They say it’s a very common nightmare. Lots of people have it. Maybe even you?