Sunday, September 1, 2013

Even in sleep, there is no escape

I have had a wonderful week.  By that I mean, I only had two panic attacks, despite two court appearances and two and a half days in the office.  I made it through an entire work day without taking my Lorazepam and I only lost one day to my depression.  From where I've been, it's like nearly reaching the summit and seeing a clear path straight to it.

Unfortunately, I'm still frequently reminded that depression is more like alcoholism, than reaching the top of a mountain.  You're never quite cured.  You never actually summit.  Fighting urges toward self-loathing and feelings of worthlessness is like an alcoholic struggling not to drink when she smokes.  Except I can't just avoid thinking the way an alcoholic could conceivably avoid smoking.  Combine that with anxiety, which ebbs and flows, and triggers can transport you from good to really, really bad.

And, of course, as the title suggests, there is really no escape from your own mind, even in sleep.  I had one of the worst nightmares I've ever had last night.  Although I'm prone to dreaming, and I often lucid dream (a state of realization that you're dreaming and the ability to manipulate the outcome), I fairly rarely have true nightmares.  Sure, I suffer the occasional "I forgot to put pants on before going to work" dreams, but I think everyone has those.

Rather, last night, my dream involved the same terror that my waking anxiety invokes.  I honestly don't vividly remember the details, but I do remember the emotions.  A man was trying to "get" me, although not in the chase-me-through-the-woods kind of way.  He was bearing down on me and I knew he was dangerous.   He was scary, in part, because he wasn't sinister on the surface.  He smiled, seemed friendly, but it was a mask.  First, he called and called and called on the phone.  He sent emails, he friended me on Facebook.  He tracked me down at home, where I refused to answer the door.  Then another time, he tracked me to my parents' house and I answered the door not realizing it could be him.  There were sirens outside and he was seeking refuge from something, a ploy to convince me to let him in.  I turned him away at the front door only to find he tried to get in around back.  I saw him cross the deck and disappear into the dark backyard.  The police later showed up because they were trying to find him.  Because he was after me.  Then, at a party at some house that my mind built, he arrived, uninvited, but finally able to get close enough to me because the hostess didn't know the danger I did.  I was trapped.  Although no one else seemed to know what was happening, he had me hostage and I couldn't leave.  I remained strong and calm and unbreakable.  Then he went after my daughter.  Once he had her, I shattered completely and I succumbed.  He released her and I told my terrified, tiny child to run.  "Run into the woods and don't come out.  Do not come back here.  Mommy loves you"

I woke up then, without knowing what was to happen to me or my little girl.  Did she get away?  Did I?  Was she too brave or frightened to leave her mommy?  Was I doing the right thing by giving myself in her place?  Could I have saved us both?  ....Was she better off without me and the terror that follows me?

And that's what has stayed with me for the waking hours today.  Time will pass and suddenly I'll get a wave of complete terror.  Almost the opposite of foreboding, like I KNOW something bad has already happened.  Even as I type, I feel creepily outside of my own body.  I can't shake the feeling that something important and terrible has happened, and then I remember my dream and realize that I'm just carrying that ugliness into my day without even realizing it.  I've spent time thinking about what the dream means, and I like it no better rationalized than I did subconsciously.  I feel stalked, exposed and trapped.  I agonize that my children will suffer.  I am afraid.

While I want to believe that things will continue to get better with time, and I will apply the coping skills I have learned, I also know that my mind is relentless.  From the minute I wake up until the minute I fall asleep, my demons circle around in my head, and even when I can't recognize the individual thoughts, the emotions are clear.  Fear, sadness, hopelessness, worry...they're almost never naturally inclined toward something positive.  Then, when I need to be free from myself the most, I sleep, only to be chased by those emotions, personified by the villains in my dreams.  It leaves a person tired.  So tired.

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