My friend Jen Boissonneault wrote a blog post about dreams, which in turn inspired another friend, Natalie Kenney, to blog about dreams, and I thought this would be a good time to jump on the dreamwagon. My dreaming is a little different than most because I have Narcolepsy.
|Jen and Natalie. I was probably napping somewhere.|
Not the "I'm-just-tired-all-the-time-so-I'll-claim-an-illness" kind, but the real thing. Although I'm sure I've had it for decades, I was officially diagnosed about ten years ago, and my life definitely changed. I've tried all of the medicine on the market, but found the side effects were more than I could handle, so I adjusted my lifestyle. I sleep four times a day, for a few hours at a time. It's currently 3am, and yes, I am writing this post. I now schedule every part of my day and if my schedule is interrupted, it can be very distressing.
I experience cataplexy almost daily, so I have learned to control my emotions. I love to laugh, but I make sure when I do, I am sitting down, or at least holding on to something. Otherwise, I may fall down. Sleep paralysis I experience quite frequently, and although I should be use to it, it is still frightening every time.
So what does all of that have to do with writing and dreams? I'm getting there. First a nap...
While many people have difficulty falling asleep and then typically take an hour or more to reach the first phase of REM sleep, I don't. My non-REM periods, the 'brain resting phase' of sleep, are very brief. Typically, I'm asleep in less than five minutes of my head hitting the pillow; my husband claims it's more like less than a minute. But although it may appear that I'm sleeping at first, I'm really not. I go through periods of hypnagogic hallucinations, which many artists, like Beethoven and Salvador Dali, said aided their creativity. Some, maybe, but most are frightening. They seem more real than reality, if you can imagine something like that. And it is the one time during my sleep period that I don't realize I am actually asleep. I once called 911 during this period and told the operator there was someone in my house and my husband had been shot. I could smell the gunpowder. Yeah, explain that one to the cops at 2am.
Then, finally, I get to the good stuff. The REM sleep, the dream state. This is the best part, not only because I dream lucidly every time, but because I can control my actions in my dreams. There's a fancy medical term for that, too, but basically, if I'm having a nightmare, I just change it. I turn monsters in to puppies, or I fly away. I like to jump off buildings and mountains and then catch myself just before I hit ground. Call it my dream hobby. I guess this is my sleep reward for making it through the hallucinations without going crazy.
Then I wake up, almost directly from REM, and can go right back to whatever I was doing before my nap. And, yes, I do this at least four times a day.
So, of course I have the cataplexy to deal with, and my brain will eventually burn out from lack of rest, if I don't die of a heart attack during a horrifying hallucination first, but there are benefits, as a writer.
My creativity meter is always on high. I've found myself 'creating' a scene in a dream, watching it, changing it, smelling it, feeling it, and then waking up to write it. The middle of the night is my most productive time, because the house is quiet, I've just had a two hour bout of inspiration, and can sit down and write non- stop for hours.
Then it starts all over again.