to sleep, perchance to dream

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Living in the sub-basement of my head I’d rather climb the stairs and lay my head down on the soft pillow of a freshly made bed and drift off – only to return on completion of the cycle my mind is on. To hide away from the world that feels oppressive and intrusive; from the voices and noise of daily life; from the darkness that emanates from every direction. To curl up and pull the duvet up and fall into the blackness away from the hell around me.

Hamlet asked whether eternal sleep would bring the dreams of more pain and not give any peace from life. Since changing medications I am dreaming again – previously the sleeping tablets that knocked me out meant I had no awareness of dreaming at all. I felt tired in the morning, but the lack of awareness of dreams meant I did feel rested – no nightmares, strange or psychedelic experiences. And I think I preferred it. Not having any memory of the night stopped those moments through the day when you would half remember something you had dreamt.

Ultimately it lessened the pain and concerns my dreams would throw up. The ridiculous conceits of the mind would weigh on the waking hours – adding to the misery. The issue is I can’t go back to the slow release tablets because they were too hard to live with in the morning. Some days it took a couple of hours to fully wake up which is no way to live your life, however you did sleep all night. Now I might not sleep as soundly but I am alert once I’m up.

Regardless which version of the medication is in my system there is still the battle to get out of bed while living with the black dog. There is a comfort, a safety within the sheets that you don’t feel out there. You can safely close your eyes and disappear from the world – you can’t see it so it doesn’t exist. It’s not hiding, it’s finding a safe place where you are less at risk from life. Nothing ever attacks me in my bed; no putting on a brave face or pushing yourself just to get through the day.

You daydream of real dreams. At least in your dreams you know nothing is real. They are only an issue when you wake and add them to your daily life – on their own they are storyboards of your imagination, badly plotted flick books that stutter and muffle noises, dampen senses and colours. In dreams you can see everyone you need to whether dead or alive, fictional or real, they stand with you. Those we miss are revived and those we would like to meet are opposite us.

The yearning for a make-believe world draws the depressed to their beds in the hope of hope. To believe in something and find solace in the briefest encounter. Standing in locations untouchable in real life lie before us as we feel the heat of the sun on a tropical beach or the familiar surroundings of a room from our past with a long passed relative. The comfort and protection of the imaginary over the harsh realities and sharp edges of real life is always going to be preferable.

That’s why bed and sleep is the refuge of the depressed: a place where we are unburdened by the ghosts and people of the day. The opposite is true of the manic phase where all you want is an audience, friends to play with and bounce off, to be surrounded by people. With depression the self-inflicted loneliness the mind craves isolates you from those who love and care for you as you look to the bed for solace instead of them.

It’s a cruel trick to play on you – to make you unobtainable at either extreme. At the bottom you isolate yourself and at the top you want to be surrounded by everyone. Those closest to you want to be with you and show their concern for you yet the only time you accept it is when you are in the middle at your “norm”. Those who stick with their mentally ill partners are victims of the disorders too. Perhaps they too are counting down the hours until you can both sleep and dream away from each other.

Hamlet’s soliloquy that holds “to sleep, perchance to dream” is best known as the “To be or not to be” speech – one about our mortality and the possibilities of the afterlife. Maybe there is no right answer, maybe there is no solution. Life throws these things at us and we need to find our own way through. I just want to go to sleep until this passes. Perchance to dream.

JD

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