I’m A 27 Year-Old Who Still Gets Nightmares, And It’s Fucking Embarrassing

girl tea sad bed
Asdrubal luna

I had a nightmare last night. The kind where you wake up in a cold sweat, heart pounding, adrenaline pumping through your veins, like whatever anxiety was just occurring within the confines of my mind had physically materialized itself within my recently awakened body. Like even though I was gently nestled within the safety of my down comforter, it felt as if someone had literally just been trying to kill me.

Somebody had been trying to hurt some kind of pet (?) even though I don’t have one, trying to hurt my family, trying to hurt me. It didn’t make any sense, and I fought back by beating my assailant over the head with pots and pans. I came straight at him, even though he had a knife, even though I know next to nothing about any kind of combat or self-defense. I just couldn’t sit still and do nothing.

In retrospect, it was all very reminiscent of the fight scene from Beauty and the Beast, but at the moment all I could do was lie awake in my bed, struggling to calm myself down. So sleepy I couldn’t keep my eyes opened, but so startled I couldn’t let them close either.

It’s an extremely humbling moment, to be this 27-year-old capable woman who supports herself and lives on her own, but also to be so very alone in the dark, in the middle of the night, and so very frightened by my own subconscious imagination.

It’s a feeling I’m familiar with. A feeling that lets me know I need to get my shit together, to get some balance back in my life. Less drinking, more sleeping. Fewer nights out, more nights in. Fewer people, more books. Less socializing away from the loneliness, more embracing and learning to love my own solitude. All long-term solutions to a relatively short-term discomfort.

I used to have this trick to calm down. A something and a someone I would allow my eyes to close for and imagine that would help me feel safe again. This happy thought, which was surprisingly one of being vulnerable and weak and allowing myself to be taken care of, was what would let me feel secure again. If you’ve seen the movie Hook, the one where Robin Williams needs a happy thought to fly again, that’s what this was for me.

I say was, because it didn’t work for me last night. The parts of this thought that I pulled from memories, I could no longer remember. The parts that were fabricated I could no longer imagine into existence. I couldn’t dream the safe dream I made for myself when I was awake, the one that allowed me to let go and drift back to the dreams of sleep, and I knew at that moment it would never work for me again.

That realization produced a momentary panic, where I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t just concoct something new out of thin air. Even the lies we tell ourselves contain a sliver of the truth.

So I had no choice but to dwell on the dream and how terrible it was. And I realized how different it was from dreams I had had before. Dreams where someone would break into my apartment, and I wouldn’t be able to move at all. Dreams where I would try to scream and no sound would leave my mouth. In this dream, I fought back. Even though I was afraid, I chose to be brave.

And I thought of all the ways I had learned to be brave in the past year and a half on my own. How I fought for and took care of myself. How I had learned to be the source of my own comfort – by being kind and patient and vulnerable and understanding with me. And as I fell back asleep mulling over these facts they became my new happiest thought. TC mark

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