When Andy gets up at 4.30 to catch the early train I wake enough to know he’s leaving. I’m on my own now and it will soon be time to get everyone up. This is when the troubled dreams begins.
One hour later I wake with a start and I’m sitting up in the centre of our empty bed and the room is black. My heart is racing; it’s so dark in here. As I register the detail of the scenario just played out on the cinema screen of my sleep I start to cry, which is ridiculous because I already know it was just a dream.
A nightmare is a vivid and realistic dream that causes significant disturbance to the person who dreams it. Common nightmare themes include not being able to run fast enough from trouble or falling from a great height. It is usual for individuals who have suffered from traumatic events to relive the events of their trauma in their dreams. Not surprisingly, people who suffer from depression often report nightmares as one of their symptoms. Many sufferers of depression regularly wake exhausted form sleep and lacking energy to face that first part of their day because of sleep disturbance and scary dreams.
Psychologists think that depressed individuals have a tendency to ‘over dream’ because they have a tendency to over ruminate. Rumination is a pattern of anxious thoughts that focus on the causes and consequences of distress rather than on the solutions. Rumination can be a particularly difficult habit to break and leads to significant anxiety and other negative emotional states. It could be that a depressed person dreams more because their mind is trying to flush out the negative effects of rumination so it is free to cope with the new day ahead. It could also be the case that this quickly becomes too much work for the weary brain and the depressed individual is locked in a cycle of bad dreams, sleepless nights, troubling states of emotional activity, introspection and more rumination. Anything that slows the ruination will help.
By the time I pick up my phone to call Andy I’m feeling a little calmer but thinking fearfully on past phases of vicious insomnia and recurring dreams: dreams that were so scary they stayed with me all of the day, more real than any of the events in my day time life. A significant feature of my own emotional landscape over many years.
I pick up my Bible and I read.
Psalm One is trees planted by living waters fresh leaved and full of fruit. Psalm Two has the raging nations stilled by the rule of God. But Psalm Three? I can’t remember, so I take up the book,
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.
Whilst I was counting bad dreams in, God was counting them out. Enemies that assailed me now fallen at our side.
Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.
My head is lifted a little higher now and I’m watching the morning grow light in my bedroom window. That familiar pattern of huge sky against red brick and the green grey branch of a neighbours ornamental spruce. Small birds sing loud and the voice of God, just as loud. I am stunned, in a jaw dropping blessed kind of way.
God speaks to me straight from the page in the inked marks of English language.
A scared girl had a bad dream.
From the Lord comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.
Readers may also like,