While I wasn’t crazy

The meds (Goddess be blessed) seem to have been working out and things suddenly, almost overnight, turned OK. (For those who are wondering – it’s Lamictal-Paxil, both in very low doses.) It has stifled the writing a little, as well as taking away much of interest to write about here.

I had a lot of last month off – not necessarily for fun stuff, CME type stuff and credentialing mostly, but still…not work. This was wonderful.

I’ve been able to appreciate the world again, to want to see it and love it.

Last night and into today, after being back about a week, and again on shift work, though not as brutal as before, I had nightmares all night. I know some of the readers are into that psychological stuff, so I’m going to do a highlights recap here and see what anyone thinks is fun to toss out as interpretation.

To be fair, I’m not sure at all what I believe about dreams – whether they are from the unconscious or some kind of psychological source, whether a neurological cleaning and memory mechanism (probably I mostly believe that), or something metaphysical (“One-sixtieth of every dream is true?”).

I will note the following events over the last week. When I was at the clinic, a doctor was attacked by a patient and the patient’s relative. It wasn’t particularly scary when it happened, more like a high school type fight, and I called the cops to come break it up. I was upset by it but not terribly, more at the fallout regarding how the doctor was treated by management and licensing authorities.

Second, there was a recent break-in at the neighbor’s apartment. Simple theft, about a month ago, but I felt sort of invaded. It’s not like car theft, I mean, it’s someone’s home.

Third: I have been practicing lots of meditation/metta style (though that one feels oddly selfish to me) and various other techniques. I’m in the “noble failure” stage, but am still working at it. I’ve finally come to see the value in a settled, happy person as being kinder to the world (whereas in the past, I thought, very much in line with my culture, that a degree of righteous anger and discontent was necessary to keep one working to better things). Last night I came to bed somewhat anxious, and tried the deep breathing techniques, and tonglen, which has seemed scary in the past. I’m wondering that, if you believe in it, it’s psychological resistance to trying to calm anxiety.

Fourth: I don’t write about this a lot, but I live in a part of the world embroiled in a violent conflict. Last week, the government on “my side” (if one can say that, though in this case, that kind of thinking – the my side / their side just means everyone loses) did something violent and inexcusable. And it feels like there’s nothing that anyone can do to stop this, and my partner and I have once again been wondering: United States, Australia, New Zealand? Over the last ten years, every time I am in North America, I feel like it is very shallow, everyone having these long conversations about which tile to pick out. I was there recently, though, and my partner and I promised each other that if we go there, we wouldn’t become that. And when we came back here, and this event happened, we said, Fuck…maybe the conversations about floor tiles aren’t so bad. Especially compared to the ones about casualty numbers.

Fifth, the most prosaic: it has turned hot here, and sleeping during the day (and night) means a lot of sweating and physical discomfort and icky sleep.

Dream One Woke me up at 5 AM, panicky, to the point of having to turn on the light and check the house:

It is night at the clinic, toward closing time, maybe 1 AM. We’re trying to close up – the clinic in the dream is pretty much like it is in real life, nothing distorted in the layout, same auxiliary staff, and they keep letting people in (theoretically, we see everyone who walks in by official closing time). I’m sorta pissed off because they keep letting “one last patient” in. (Note: this actually happened last night.) At the end, everything is closing up, lights are off, doors are locked, and we’re trying to see the end of the patients.

Then someone comes to the door. He’s scary. He is tall, maybe 7 feet, and thin and has shoulder-length hair and doesn’t look quite human. His eyes are dark and blank, he looks sort of like pictures of Jesus, but scary. He’s dressed in white. He has no facial expression, but he is here to be treated.

And he is terrifying, and we tell them, “Don’t let him in,” but then something about having to treat all comers and ethics pops up and they let him in. It becomes immediately apparent that he is a murderer. Also, he removes two prostheses from his lower legs, revealing bilateral Syme amputations, and he walks on the stumps, and his shins are disproportionately long anyway so he’s still tall.

He has a medical letter describing that he is part of a white supremacist motorcycle gang (not really something found in this part of the world), and lost the feet in an accident. He is also described as having had sociopathic tendencies during the hospitalization.

We are terrified, I go to call the police. On the phone I calmly tell them where we are, and fumble trying to think of the street number (Note: this is exactly what happened when I called the police for the real-life incident, we’re in a shopping center and everyone just says that and no one knows the actual number, but they asked.)

Everyone tries to hide from him around the clinic, while still trying to treat him. I wake up suddenly with the image of the man in my mind, and wonder if this will be one of those terrible dreams that are almost forgotten by morning. My beloved cat is sleeping on one side of me, my partner on the other.

In the end I turn on the light and get up and check the house.

I have no mental association of a man of that description whatsoever. Or white supremacist gangs.

Dream Two

I am lying in bed, and for some reason I am sobbing and very ill. Sweating. I hear noise outside toward the apartment door (it opens onto a courtyard), and go to see what happened. I discover that the window and door have been attempted to be broken into; the window is open, and the metal and paint around the door lock is chipped away, and the thing that covers the gap at the bottom of the door has been prised off, leaving a gap.

The gap under the door is big enough for my cat to go in and out, and he is there creeping under and playing around, along with a strange cat who I don’t want in the house. Also, I know that now I have a hole where mice and snakes can enter and I think, Shit, what can be done about this?

I decide to call the landlord and tell him this needs to be fixed. I think I am in underwear and a T-shirt and I see my neighbor (a sort of friend, my age, her husband went to med school with me) heading off for the day, and I realize that my face is all red and it is obvious that I have been crying, so I try to explain that I’m ill, not crying. Somehow it all feels like a ruse – both the illness and the crying.

At some point in this dream, I am sweating and shivering and feverish curled up on a miscellaneous shrink’s couch, being observed. I think that also somewhere in the dream, I receive an invitation to my medical school graduation ceremony, an invitation which is vaguely threatening. I am trying to make the connection between those two events.

When I wake up, I am truly sweating because it is hotter than hell in the room, being mid-day in a bedroom that gets morning sun.

Dream 3

The last dream.

I am in my mother’s room – but the house of my middle school years, where we all were desperately unhappy, not the house of childhood that I loved, or the one in late high school where my mother lives today, which is her house more than anything. Whenever I have a nightmare that takes place at a childhood home, it is in this house, and whenever I dream about this house, it is a nightmare.

In real life: We moved there in my father’s desperate attempt to climb a social class, and all went to hell there when we didn’t fit in and life did not become the dream that this McMansion was supposed to buy him. I lost my neighborhood and school friends and he became more and more miserable.

In the dream:

I am in my mother’s bedroom and she’s sitting in bed, we’re chatting. My sweet cat is there, and he has found a little kitten that looks a lot like him. (Note: in real life, my mother recently visited a friend who is bottle-raising a litter of kittens and she told me that there was one who looked like a baby version of mine.) I am trying to convince her to keep him, as he is very cute and I feel sorry for him. The two cats seem inseparable, playing around various places in the house.

The two cats keep playing around. I see that the little kitten is somewhat dirty and has fleas. I take him into the adjacent bathroom – also true to the original floor plan of the house, down to the two vanity sinks, and wait for the water to heat up to bathe him, thinking that I need to go out and buy something as a flea treatment too.

I fill the sink with water and wash the little guy, chatting with Mom all the while about how long it takes the water to warm up, how much nicer he’ll look cleaned up. But the kitten starts choking a little, and I make sure to keep his head out of the water but he keeps choking.

Somehow, he seems to be getting smaller and in more and more distress. Finally, as the water drains, I realize he has become even smaller than a newborn kitten and has died, and changed shape. The core of him seems to shed the fur and creep off down the drain. I am terrified and don’t know what happened, what I did. I saw that something inside of him, something stick-like, slithered down the drain, so I wait, not sure he could be really dead. The skin and fur are still in the sink.

Then, a fully grown green dragonfly emerges from the sink, spreads and shakes out its wings, looks like a praying mantis. It flies around and I realize that whatever the thing was, it wasn’t a cat, or it was, and became a dragonfly. It flies around the bathroom. The turn of events is horrifying – how could this have happened? How could it have not been a kitten?

Downstairs, there is someone at the door, and my beloved cat goes to see who. I don’t open the door, because I know it is someone frightening. I think it is this trashy neighbor who lived a few doors down.

And then I woke up – the phone rang.

I have very few associations with this dream, except that this house appears from time to time in my nightmares. I’m not particularly afraid of dragonflies and have no associations with them other than admiring their long lifespan in high school biology. That bedroom and bathroom were on the third floor, don’t remember any kind of bug problem there.

My cat did once bring a praying mantis home (in my current apartment, he wasn’t even born at the time we lived in that house). Why did he have a double?

* * *
The only unifying theme I can see here is doors, closed doors, intruders behind the door. As a kid, door knocks when I was home alone used to terrify me, I’d run and hide, I think as a result of being a sensitive kid shown those “Stranger Danger” type filmstrips at school. I have never been the victim of a home burglary or assault. No one scary ever came to the door in real life.

So – anyone see any other threads? For whoever likes this kind of stuff – you’re invited to go at it. Is something coming for me?

Oddly, my partner also reported a night of nightmares, making me lean more toward either the metaphysical or heat explanation.



  1. It was good that you posted, and I’m very glad that you’re find some meds that are working for you.

  2. Wow. These are absolutely terrifying, just to read. i cannot imagine what actually having them must have been like. Thank you for posting them.
    In a strange sinconicity (is that the word i want?), i, too have been having nightmares lately, (“graduated” from bad dreams). Nothing like yours, but still so very scary.

    Very short versions of a couple.

    i am at the house i grew up in, in the kitchen, where there is a large glass window. It is night and i am alone. There is a woman and a youngish boy at the window, trying to break in…the woman has a knife…and i can’t get help. i am alone. Just like i feel in real life.

    My dear son is somehow being dragged behind a car, some other people say “At least let’s try to help him”. They step on the rope or chain, whatever is holding him and it breaks. He is not badly hurt, but still ends up in the hospital and somehow it is ALL my fault. And my heart is just breaking for him, just as it has so many times in “real life”. (Sam-son, just graduated from HS…”cutting the rope/chain”……..?)

    Annnnnd, i am, not by choice, withdrawing from Cymbalta and experiencing EVERY damn symptom listed…..(i finally googled it.)

    Okay, that’s waaaaaay enough of me.

    Sara, i wish you only the best of lovely dreams and speaking of breaking hearts, my heart is just hurting so badly for your country…….

  3. i’m no good at this…but

    Doors closing on you….your country, your choices there, your job? Fear of changing all of the above? Just plain fear of….what? Fear of loss.

  4. i’m not really very good with dreams, but i have experienced more vivid and bizarre dreams whilst taking certain pyschiatric medications.


  5. Sara,
    Happy Hanukka beautiful.
    with a lot of love,
    from Milo

  6. oh, p.s. really hope you are well too…

  7. Hi Sara,

    I only stumbled across your blog now, it seems that you have stopped blogging, which would leave to to assume that you are well and perhaps ‘normal’ now. I’m 19, a student and I have depression … somehow I inherited the crazy genes from my dad’s side… just came out of an episode. I just wanted to say, though, this might sound unusual, but reading your articles were really so very uplifting and therapeutic, it’s nice to know that there are people in the world that have ‘normal’ lives while masking the craziness inside. Your posts really spoke to me, sorry if I sound all touchy emotive right now, I’m just being honest … most of the time when I converse with other friends with this similar problem, I find that I shouldn’t be bitching and moaning … they have it worse … and they don’t work and meet deadlines. It’s been comforting to read that there are ‘normal’ people masking the craziness, leading ‘normal’ lives, even though it can feel fake and at times uncomfortable.

    I’m sensing that from a few of your posts that you think that your field strips away humanity and feeling, and that perhaps artists have it better because they have the ability or perhaps the permission to emote and express. I’m a music major, it’s part science (at least in the way it’s studied, jargon and objectivity is encouraged in analysis and research). It is also part sport and part art. In my opinion, subjective expression in any medium can be counterproductive, if anything destructive … I think artists know how to amplify and manipulate their situation and emotions so that it becomes bigger to the reality. Perhaps it is normal where I am right now to have depression … it’s quite funny though, the world doesn’t know … and even if it did, and I told the world, … it’d probably seem kind of histrionic.

    Anyways, thanks for writing, although old … your words are not outdated.

  8. as for the nightmares, you have to be carefull when u try to put an explanation to them… if u just ate or are starving befkre going to bed ir if its very warm in the room, this will cause you to have nightmares… traumatic events also. unreal acts like flying or breathing underwater, anything supernatural, they dont mean anything, it is in the nature of dreams. what you should watch out for in dreams are the atmosphere and what are your actual feelings in the dream… how do you feel towards whats happening? watch out for the main object or subject of the dream and start from there…

    p.s cats are usualy a sign of sexuality buuut in our case,mentally ill people, have a way of relating very well with cats ( i have a borderline personnality disorder, check it out it is quite similar to bipolarity) and our cats are our crutches in times if distress. they bring much to the human soul… (i strongly believe in zootherapy as a way of coping with stuff) so you knowing a litter of cat was out there made u cautious and worried about the little furry loves. i live in an area where homeless cats are overpopulated and own three cats myself. i have been dreaming about trying to help the little ones and adopting all of them for three months in a row now… not everynight but it is a reccurent dream.

    reccurent dreams are also important as they tell a lit about ourselves… i gave them the name of “conscious dreams”…

    hope that helped a little. i got this info from many books that said the same stuff (i take info and leave info).. books about dreams… look for them at ur library or any bookstore 🙂

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