When sleep does not equal rest

So its the new year, 2013.  I’ve had a wonderful Christmas and am quite sad because today my husband has gone back to work and I’ve had to spend the day tidying the Christmas mess.  So far I’ve managed to do about ONE ROOM and I’ve been at it for hours. Time for a break. 

I didn’t post blogs towards the end of last year.  There was a reason for that.  First of all, I did put a list of my top 2012 things on the Strange Chemistry site here but mainly it was because I simply couldn’t write something appropriate.  Following the events in  the US and China I didn’t feel it right to write something hopeful and cheerful because we live in a world where our children get bullets instead of books.  Now it’s 2013 and I have a lot to look forward to, my new book is coming out in August and I’m working on another one, we have a family holiday planned and I’m sure there will be wonderful things to come. 

But in the spirit of a new start and still thinking about sad endings, I thought I’d come clean with an article I wrote, but never posted some time ago.  When you read it, you’ll see why I wussed out of putting it out there, but a friend of mine was recently really honest on her blog and I wondered if by not posting I was in fact being dishonest

So here goes, my big confession … I suffer from nightmares …

When I say this, people nod as if they understand what I’m talking about, but they don’t.

I only began to realise this when I was in my twenties.  A work friend was talking about this terrible dream she’d had. Two things stood out to me about the conversation. Firstly, the fact she’d had a bad dream was unusual enough for her to comment on and secondly, the dream she was describing wasn’t one I would have categorised as particularly bad.   I asked her if that was really the worst dream she’d had.

Her reply?  She had bad dreams very rarely and yes, that really was, for her, a terrible nightmare.  I questioned her more closely.  “So … you don’t dream about monsters, death, blood, gore?”  The look of alarm on her face made two things clear. I wasn’t normal … and I shouldn’t talk about it in public again.

So when I tell you now that I suffer from nightmares I mean that every night I am woken up at least twice from dreams bad enough to make me sweat and my heart pound, then during the day I’m haunted by images from my dreams the night before.

It used to be the case that I would wake up screaming, that my sheets would be torn, that I would have bloody scratches on my own body.  Things aren’t so violent now but when I first started sleeping in the same bed as my husband I would punch and kick him in my sleep.

My dreams vary in extremity and levels of graphic detail. They’re much worse during times of stress, and I honestly can count the number of times I’ve had a good night’s sleep on the fingers of one hand.  The last time was the night after my hip replacement (in March 2007) – I was dosed into unconsciousness by morphine and had a catheter in, so I didn’t even need to get up to use the bathroom (bliss).

The night before my wedding stands out.  I slept in my old room at my parent’s house, but my mother had, at some point since I’d left home, removed my bedside light. I hadn’t noticed when I went to bed, but when I woke up at 1am and reached to turn the light on, I couldn’t, because it wasn’t there.  I honestly was too terrified to get out of bed, cross the floor and go to the main switch.

A grown woman, about to get married was too frightened to put her feet on her own bedroom carpet in the dark in case some … thing grabbed at her from under the bed.

I sat hugging my knees and crying until it got light.  It seemed a better option than calling for my mother.

Now I’m a mother myself I often dream about terrible things happening to my children.  Before the children I would more commonly dream of my friends and family hunting me with murderous intent.

Sadly my earliest memories are not family occasions; they aren’t of my mum and dad, or younger sister. My earliest memories are of my earliest nightmares. 

My earliest real recollection is of my mother installing a nightlight in my room.  I had hysterics when it turned on because I thought the monsters had actually come into the house to get me. She had to throw it away.

I had counselling when I was in London.  The NHS gave me eight sessions for free. The counsellor then suggested that I would need private sessions twice a week for two years … at a cost of £40 per session. Needless to say I decided to put up with the nightmares and continue to pay the mortgage.

I tried hypnotherapy last year at a cost of £50 per session.  I gave up after two sessions – it seemed a very costly waste of time.

Why do I have the nightmares?  I honestly don’t know.  Perhaps I have an overactive imagination which has turned on me.  Perhaps it was a single incident from before I can remember, although I consider that unlikely.  Perhaps it has something to do with my Victorian style upbringing.  Or maybe it’s just that I, as a person, don’t have the facility to deal properly (i.e. consciously) with life’s ups and downs.

I don’t think I’ll ever really know.

.So in the spirit of breaking silence, my biggest admission is that I’m now on antidepressants.  My prescription acts as a sedative so I can actually get some sleep, but I still have a little way to go before I find out if the tablet will change my brain chemistry enough to alleviate the nightmares.  If I’m honest though, I’m concerned that a change in that department might make me unable to do what I do best … write.

I always wanted to be a writer, but I had no real confidence in my ability and no story to tell.  Then a few years ago an idea for a novel came to me.  The main character was a teenage girl who suffers from nightmares; the same nightmare over and over again.  I had a very clear picture of my character, I knew how the nightmares affected her and how exhausted she was, but I wasn’t sure of her story.

It took me a while to work it out, but eventually a blend of Hindu and Christian mythology gave me my answer.  Cassie had been reincarnated and was dreaming about her previous life.

My nightmares gave me my inspiration and my sleepless nights gave me time in abundance to work out my storyline.  Once I had it clearly in mind I was driven to write.  I did so in the daytime while my daughter was at preschool, or in the evenings when she was asleep.  It took me seven months to write Angel’s Fury and to my great joy it was bought by Egmont and published in July 2011, it has won awards and people often tell me how much they love the book.

After the success of Angel’s Fury, I was worried that the character of Cassie was so personal that I wouldn’t be able to write anything else.  But in fact I’ve written two and a half other books, I have outlines for two more and lots of ideas.

I recently spoke to a lady who suffers, just like me.  Speaking to her let me know I wasn’t alone and gave me the courage to speak out honestly about my condition.  She asked me to let her know if I ever found a solution.

I’ve got something amazing from my nightmares – the fulfilment of a lifelong dream, but it’s time to get rid of them. 

So there you go, I’m starting 2013 in a spirit of honesty and good mental health. Oh and, I did say that I wrote the article a while ago, so in case you are wondering if the pills are  working, I can tell you that things are much improved. 

    • Banksy
    • January 2nd, 2013

    Nightmare! (excuse the pun). My dreams began when I started taking prozac. Sometimes they are frightening, more often than not, they are just incredibly vivid. It often feels like I’m living an alternative life during the night as they are so real. I do occasionally get confused whether something happened in real life or in my dreams. The pills seem to be helping you, which is great x

  1. What an amazing story! I’m so glad you’ve managed to pull this horrible experience around and turn it into something positive – congratulations on writing such a successful book, and thank you for sharing your experience with us. Nightmares are nothing to be ashamed of – you can’t help what your subconscious/unconscious (I’m not sure which is correct here) throws at you while you’re asleep. My experience is nowhere near as bad as yours, in that it certainly doesn’t happen as frequently, but I do understand what it’s like to go through horrific nightmares and to be haunted by images from them during the day. In my case, they are often filled with dead bodies, sometimes people I know but not always, and sometimes I’m responsible, but not always. So I certainly hope they aren’t memories of a previous life! For me, the worst of it is the extreme tiredness that follows, because I’m often scared to go back to sleep. I can’t imagine what it must be like to suffer these horrible dreams on a nightly basis – you must be worn to a frazzle! I’m so glad things have improved, and I hope they continue to do so.

    • Aarushi Gupta
    • March 28th, 2014

    You are a brilliant writer :)

  1. March 11th, 2013

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