Blogs Reports

I Have Nightmares, Do You?


Reported by Tess

Published on Tuesday, March 7th, 2023

Mental Health Recovery Trauma
Blogs Reports

I Have Nightmares, Do You?


Written by Tess

Published on Tuesday, March 7th, 2023

Mental Health

Recovery

Trauma

Content warning: This report contains descriptions which some people might find upsetting

 

 

 

 

 

In my last report I wrote about a psychologist telling me I display the symptoms of PTSD. One of the symptoms I have is nightmares. As adults we don’t talk about nightmares. Why is that? The psychologist told me that by not processing what I’ve been through when I’m awake, my brain is trying to make sense of things while I’m sleeping.

 

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I walk down the steep driveway. The blue Escort is sat at the bottom. I open the porch door and then the front door. The air is still. I see dust floating where the light is streaming through the window. I go into the living room with the ceramic figurines on the sideboard. Into the dining room with the picture rail across the top and the blue glass fruit bowl. The kitchen is next with the spice rack next to the cork pin board, and the cooker with the grill above the gas hob. I know this place well. I was here a lot as a child and then lived here for a few months in my early 20’s. I go back to the front door and begin to climb the stairs. I look up and see the body hanging from the banister at the top.

 

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I have nightmares. They aren’t memories but are sometimes so real I have doubts if they are things I’ve repressed. The person in the nightmare above is still alive but I don’t think I’ll see them again, even though I miss them enormously. Sometimes I have nightmares where I try to get the body down and revive them. There is usually a party taking place in the garden and people pass by me to go to the bathroom. Other times I’m at a funeral getting screamed at and blamed for the death of the person I couldn’t save.

 

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I live in a flat in a square turret. The outside of the building looks like where I used to live but inside it’s bigger. I race up the stairs and manage to reach my door. There is a big hole next to the door, big enough for someone to climb inside. I push the door open. I patch up the hole as best I can and change the lock. There are rooms coming off the hall. The bathroom has bunkbeds in it, the next room is full of drawers and cupboards, the next room is a dingy kitchen, then there is the main room. It’s the same as the one in my old flat. It’s full of rubbish and I can’t see the floor. A face appears at the window and tries to get in. I’m several floors up and I don’t know how they got there. A key turns in the front door and people walk in. They act like they don’t see me. The face at the window laughs.

 

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Some nights I avoid going to bed. I don’t want to dream.

 

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I’m at the front of a large Tesco with friends. She is there and approaches us. She tells them stories about me. It’s the same stories I used to believe when I couldn’t find proof that they were lies. Later I learned the stories were something called gaslighting. My friends believe her stories.

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She appears in my nightmares a lot. Sometimes I don’t have any interactions with her or even acknowledge her in my dreams but just her being there will be enough to wake me up shaking. It’s been over 10 years since I saw her while awake.

 

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I’m back in the flat in the turret. The door won’t lock. It’s a flip latch similar to one on public toilet doors. There is a hole connecting my flat to next door. They steal my post through the hole. I can’t get anyone to fix the lock. Someone walks in to tell me about another flat in the building that has no-one living there and is secure. They come back several times to try and convince me to go and see this other flat. Eventually I go. The secure flat is no more than a large square of space with one window overlooking the bins at the back of the building. There are piles of magazines in one corner and a dumb waiter is in the wall opposite the window. I’m able to properly lock the door behind me and nothing happens. I sit on the floor. It goes dark. I go back upstairs to my own flat and I can’t get back in. The door is now that of a prison cell. I bang on the door with my fists and the person who told me about the secure flat opens the flap.

 

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I sometimes feel very juvenile when I tell people I have nightmares, but everyone I’ve spoken to about nightmares says they have them too. Why don’t we talk about them? What are we afraid of?

 

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Two landscapes. One is soft and smooth. There is nothing but this soft and smooth landscape then suddenly it becomes like the inside of cardboard – the wavy layer only rougher. It doesn’t go back to the nice landscape.

 

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I used to have that one as a child. I don’t understand why it used to terrify me, but I would wake in tears. I also used to be paralysed some nights when I tried to go to sleep as I could hear a ticking through the pillow that went away when I lifted my head. I don’t remember telling anyone about it. It was years before I realised the ticking was my heartbeat.

 

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I’m walking around a housing estate. Some of the buildings are covered in a plastic film and have cranes and JCBs around them. I reach a tall high-rise. At the bottom it’s filthy. There are broken tiles on the walls and the door to get in is broken. I look up and the higher the building goes the better it looks. Near the top there are window boxes filled with flowers. I go into the building and step into a lift. The interior of the lift improves as it nears the floor I’m travelling to. I step out onto a floor that is immaculate. I go to a door and walk in. There are floor to ceiling windows overlooking the estate. The person I’m visiting makes me a drink and we talk while watching the cranes. A bulldozer comes down the road and pauses outside the turret building. I spin around and try to leave. By the time I reach the turret, it’s too late. I’ve lost everything.

 

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Some of these nightmares have only happened once, most have reoccurred several times. It’s easy to ascribe meaning to many of them – loss of control, loss of property, loss of people, feeling trapped. They are exhausting and the day after having one I feel as if I’m trudging through treacle. It’s hard to shake off the feeling that what I dreamed really did happen and to try to disprove it, I find myself thinking about what I know I’ve been through, which takes me back to the dreams again. It’s a cycle of real and reimagined trauma.

 

Image: The Nightmare by John Henry Fuseli

Written by Tess


Hi I'm Tess, I work for Groundswell and have a long history of mental illness. During a particularly bad patch I sofa surfed for a while. I have a very opinionated cat and live near Manchester, although I'm formerly from Stoke-on-Trent.

Read all of Tess's articles

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Mental Health Recovery Trauma

2 thoughts on “I Have Nightmares, Do You?

  1. Omg Tess this must be terrifying for you !!!
    It must be mentally, physically and emotionally draining. Thanks for sharing

  2. Thank you for sharing this Tess, the way you write your dreams in the present tense creates a strong visual, I understand why these would be distressing for you sometimes. Your understanding of the meaning of your dreams is very powerful and I agree with you that as adults, we should feel comfortable sharing our dreams and nightmares.

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