A Bad Dream

January 5, 2008 at 6:13 am (frightening things)


I am awake.

This is unusual. It’s just barely 6:00am in my time zone; I’ve been up since four. I’m at my mother’s house, but she isn’t here — she’s out of town, coming back tomorrow. I’m here with my girlfriend, who is asleep in bed next to me. Her face is swollen. She had her wisdom teeth pulled two days ago.

I am awake because I had a bad dream.

I love my dreams. I’m fascinated by them.

They also scare me. Sometimes they are premonitions and that scares me. Sometimes they make me sick for days.

I think this dream was the worst I’ve ever had. It was terrifying in and of itself, but it also scares me because I don’t understand, I don’t know what it means, I don’t know what it’s about. I’m going to write about it here, as purgation and distraction. Share your thoughts about it with me if you have them.

I’m in my father’s house, sitting on my bed. It’s the middle of the night. I’m looking out my open bedroom door. Suddenly I see a tall figure in the hallway — it scares the shit out of me, I clutch my chest.

I realize, suddenly, obviously, it’s just Max, my little brother. But I still feel scared and sick. I want to make sure his him. I say his name.

He doesn’t respond. I hear my father’s voice from across the hall. “What are you guys doing still up?” He’s angry or exhausted.

I lie in my bed and I feel insane. I feel sick. I am floating.

Then two things happen at once. The first is I realize I’ve had this dream before (I’m often aware that I’m dreaming) and/or that this is a terrible, familiar routine, this has happened before. I have some strange vague thought about my parents’ divorce.

The second is that my brother leaps out of nowhere on top of me, tries to hold me down. I think h is trying to hurt me. I throw him off of me and suddenly he is eight years old, and his arms and legs stick out rigid like a cartoon of a dead cow, and he’s shaking and convulsing in some sort of seizure. I know that all of this before it happens.

I know I need to scream and I know that I will have no voice. I’m yelling “Daddy! Daddy!” as loud as can but no sound comes out.

And then I woke up, sick and crying. I was terrified and unable to talk for a long time. I had a panic attack. We briefly considered calling the hospital.

There is more knowledge here that I’m not sure how to convey. I know Max is attacking me because of something that happened to us (the event is definitely connect to something from the past); I know that the seizure is what always happens when I throw him off. I know that I want my father to come save me, that I keep screaming as loud as I can hoping I will make some kind of sound, a croak or a whimper or anything, but I am stuck silent, which I know happens every time.

I also suddenly remembered, while still in the dream, that (I think) I had the same dream two nights ago, some much more mild version of it, a version where the whole story didn’t play out. And that last night (Thursday night) I had a bad dream about my mom and my brother and I driving all around New Mexico, visiting the house where we grew up (and where my parents split up), and Max was crying and crying because of something my father had done.

So clearly for some reason unresolved trauma around my parents’ divorce is resurfacing now. I don’t really understand why or what it’s about, though I know that I didn’t really deal with it at all when it happened (seven years ago) and it’s resurfaced several times. But never like this. The sick terror of that dream is still in my body, keeping from getting to sleep.

They did tell us they were splitting up at exactly this time of year. Maybe that’s it.



  1. katkmeanders said,

    You should research night terrors, sleep apnea, and such things. Gah! I can’t remember what it is, but it is a sleep disorder I think. Where a person has nightmares, and feels a weight on their chest crushing the air out of them. It is very treatable. Go mention this to your doctor and go to a sleep clinic or whatever is needed. *comfort*

    Ok, I did a search, and came up with this:


    There is more than that out there. But it’s probably sleep paralysis. Read up on it, and go get help for it, don’t keep suffering. Go see if that is what it is at the least.

  2. katkmeanders said,

    Adding, I myself brux in my sleep. *sad*

  3. katkmeanders said,

  4. moonbeammcqueen said,

    What a horrible nightmare! Your subconscious must really be trying to work some things out for you. How great that you’re trying to figure it all out, but I hope it’s not a recurring theme. That divorce must have been hard on you.

  5. Daisy said,

    Kat, thanks so much for the info and links — I’ll definitely keep reading. I’ve had occasional episodes of sleep paralysis before (sans the crush weight, which sounds horrible!). I didn’t know it was considered a disorder. That definitely might have been what was happening to me after my nightmare, though since I have a history of panic attacks, it might have been that. It’s really interesting, actually, how much sleep paralysis basically sounds like a spontaneous mid-sleep panic attack — panic, pain in the chest, inability to move, etc. Plus hallucinations, which mine tend to include, even when they happen in the clear light of morning. Also interesting how much they sound like a classic visit from a menacing ghost, suggesting they’re not a modern phenomenon.

    I’m sorry about your bruxism, I know that can be both maddening and painful.


  6. Daisy said,

    Moonbeam, I hope it’s not recurring, too. Now that it’s morning and bright out and I’m thinking clearly, it’s seeming more and more like freaky nightmare (maybe because I got triggered somehow), less like a terrifying revelation. I was able to go to sleep after I finished writing this, which was a wonderful relief.

  7. robertjerome said,

    Wow, that is really weird. I think I have unresolved issues from high school as I sometimes have dreams about being back in high school and wondering what I’m still doing there. I wish I knew what the bovine transformation of your brother or the paralysis signify. I wish I knew of a good dream interpretation book I could recommend, but since I don’t have many dreams (or I seldom remember them) I’m not too on top of my dreaming. I would advise you to get down to a Barnes & Noble and browse through the psychology section until you find a book on dream interpretation.


  8. Daisy said,

    Thanks for the suggestion, robert. : )

  9. robertjerome said,

    Okay. I have a dream dictionary in front of me and I’m going to attempt to interpret your dream:

    Dreaming of being attacked by a grotesque looking cow (in this case your brother attacks you before he turns into a grotesque cow) is an omen of bad luck according to my book (it is only a good omen if the cow was contented looking). “It represents threats to your most cherished plans, and the forecast of the outcome depends on the degree of the animals disagreeable appearance” (hmmmm…interesting). “If you escaped, you will overcome all obstacles; but if you were trapped or injured, you must be prepared for a period of hard work without much joy.”

    A calf, on the other hand, is mostly a happy omen (you mentioned that the 8 year old version of your brother attacks you before turning into a cow). “A suckling calf is a sure sign that all your hopes will be realized. A butchered calf indicates disillusionment; a frisky calf is a happy omen for marriages or affairs of the heart.” (again, very interesting)

    Floating- “A marvelous symbol of success, prosperity, and all that you desire if you had no trouble staying afloat, and even if there was some difficulty, it only delays the success slightly by reason of obstacles which you can easily overcome.”

    Dreaming about divorce “depends upon the marital status of the dreamer. If married, it is a dream of contrary and you can rely on your mate; if single, it is a warning that your affections are probably misplaced.”

    Parents- Fathers in dreams generally represent “authority” while mothers signify “love.” “If the parent you dreamed of is dead and he or she spoke to you, you can expect to hear important news.” If the parent you dreamed of is alive, however, and they spoke to you in a dream (you dreamed your father told you and your brother to go to bed) this “forecasts progress in business, professional, or career matters.”

    Paralysis- “Generally…suggests an emotional conflict or sexual inhibition.” If you were completely paralyzed it means “you are fighting your conscience over something you want to do and feel you shouldn’t.” If it was only partial paralysis, however, “this indicates a fear of frigidity, impotence, or latent (get this) homosexuality.” Being paralyzed in a dream can also reveal “a repressed desire for freedom from responsibility or from an organic malfunction (scary).”

    And finally…

    Brothers- When a woman dreams about her brother it signifies “great domestic security.”

    I hope this helps you make sense of your nightmare (hopefully that’s not too harsh of a word). Sorry I couldn’t be of more assistance before.

    The book I am referencing is titled “The Dreamer’s Dictionary” The Complete Guide to Interpreting Your Dreams” by Stearn Robinson & Tom Corbett.


  10. Daisy said,

    Hey, thanks so much, RJ. That does help.

    The explanation of paralysis is the one the makes the most sense to me. On reflection I do think it’s fairly likely that the dream is more about my own, completely person issues, rather than family ones.

  11. Sarah said,


    I felt compelled to comment on this post, because your dream was eerily similar to a recurring nightmare I had when I was younger.

    In my dream, my younger brother would come to me after committing some truly horrific atrocity, which was somehow as a result of our painful shared past. I was always torn between trying to protect him from the people who wanted to punish him, and trying to protect myself from him. In the end, he always turned on me, and as I tried to defend myself, he became an emaciated ghost of himself, and began to vomit and scream and convulse. And while this was happening, he always turned back into a small child. Every time, the dream ended with me trying to cry for help, but finding myself mute and paralyzed, floating helplessly above him.

    This dream was a regular occurrence throughout my first year at high school. After a while, it began to cause a serious disturbance in my life. I finally told my mum about it, and she told me that I would feel much better if I could get to the root of where it was coming from. She said that finding the meaning in a dream is a lot like analyzing the symbolism in a book. With that in mind, this is what I was able to piece together about my own dream over time. I thought I’d share it with you because I suspect a lot of it might apply to yours as well:

    My brother was significant in my dream because he is associated in my mind with security and innocence. The grotesque and sinister traits he took on in my dream signified the traumatic loss of these qualities. My paralysis and inability to speak reflected my helplessness in the face of these terrible things; my floating the vulnerability and instability I felt, that sensation of having nothing solid to hold onto. The dream really was not about my family at all. It was about the struggles that were taking place within me as a sensitive adolescent, trying to reconcile the terrible things in my childhood and in the larger world with my optimism, my idealism, and my faith in other people.

    I took a lot of comfort in realizing this was just my subconscious’s way of helping me to cope with something very painful. I hope you will feel the same way.

    Best wishes.

  12. Daisy said,

    Sarah, thank you so much for your comment. What eerie, unusual coincidences. I’m really surprised and relieved to hear someone else had such a similar dream. Your interpretation makes incredible sense to me.

  13. Sarah said,

    You are more than welcome, Daisy. I’m very grateful to have been able to offer you a bit of comfort and relief. It was a complete freak accident that I happened upon this post this morning, as I’d never so much as seen your blog before, and I was thouroughly dumbfounded at the discovery of such an incredible coincidence. This absolutely defies reason. What a strange world we live in!

    I also wanted to tell you that after reading this and posting my comment, I set about reading more of your posts on a whole host of topics. You remind me of myself to a frightening degree, albeit far more articulate, insightful, and courageous. I find your work extremely inspiring, and I am utterly delighted at the odd twist of fate that brought me to it.

    With love,


  14. Daran said,

    It doesn’t sound like sleep paralysis, which I have experienced many times, and which isn’t inherently unpleasant or distressing.

    My personal theory of the condition (which fits my experiences of it) is that it is the state of being asleep coupled with qualia which correspond closely to your actual physical state and situation.

    Unless one is sonmabulant, your actual physical state during sleep is almost complete paralysis. Normally this is hidden from you by dream-qualia in which you perceive yourself as performing voluntary actions in a situation which may be quite different from your actual situation (lying in bed, for example).

    However the paralysis is not complete. Your eyes in particular remain under voluntary control, which is why REM happens in dreams. You can also open them, with an effort of will. If you do this while asleep, (and there is sufficient light) then you will see your real situation, which will tend to force your proprioceptive qualia into line, resulting in sleep paralysis.

    I have also, on at least two occasions I can recall, experienced sleep paralysis while falling asleep. I had a WILD time.

  15. das said,

    you were victim of a typical ghost attack. Search for ghosts and the vedic tradition. They have solutions.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: