On the up? Or slipping down?

Last night my dreams returned to one of my recurring themes: returning to school.

I am a university dropout. Not just once but twice. As a straight A student at school who saw myself as an academic, these experiences shook my very image of myself and, almost twenty years later, I have still not mad peace with this.

I frequently dream that I have returned to university or secondary school. Often I have lost my timetable and am unable to remember where I am supposed to be. On other occasions I am retaking my A Levels before remembering that I have already completed them and couldn’t really improve on them. If it is university I am dreaming about, it is usually about the accommodation. I am often lost or having to share chairs with random people instead of having a room.

Last night, however, I found myself at my village primary school, back when it had still had the “temporary classrooms” that had been temporary since at least the 1960s. Wooden equivalents of Portacabins that were cold in winter, hot in summer and starting to leak. By the time they were finally replaced, it was the early nineties and I had moved on to secondary school.

But back to my dream. There I was at primary school, a fully grown adult, wearing a ball gown. It was approaching home time. As a junior, you left the school through the car park, a roughly circular patch of mud surrounded by trees. To reach it from the main building you had to walk up two slopes and along a path. I was carrying multiple items, which seemed to include a bag of books, a hockey stick, a cornet (a brass instrument I used to play) and music, plus my PE kit. Weighted down and tripping over my long dress, I was struggling to make it up the slopes, my feet constantly slipping backwards on the knobbly surface. When I finally reached the top of the first slope I had the second to tackle, with the same issues.

Eventually I made it to the car park, which was now deserted and so I began to trudge my way home along empty country lanes under green, leafy trees, still carrying my burdens.

The meaning of the bags seems obvious: with the preparations for this major move, there is clearly a lot on my mind. Having looked up the meaning of the ball gown, it apparently represents revealing or hiding something of the self from the world. Isn’t that something we all do? And the slopes are striving for better things. Pretty appropriate I would say.

 

Fear of the dark

Dreams are a big part of my life. It’s not surprising given that I have dreams I can remember almost every night. Some reflect events I am experiencing at the time, some reflect parts of my past, and some are just plain weird. Today, I’d like to tell you about one that is definitely weird but also reflects some of my fears.

It began with a training and selection session for UK Athletics. I say training session because although it all seemed very serious with Roger Black encouraging Dame Kelly Holmes, it all took place on an uneven piece of grass under some oak trees. Plus I was there, and I am definitely not athletic. Some of the athletes had arrived with their faces painted blue or had dyed their hair to convince the selectors of their commitment and dedication. I spent a lot of time sat underneath an oak tree while faeries fluttered by.

This was followed by a second dream in which my husband had bought a massive old house. We had moved in and it was the first time I had been inside it. It was dark and creepy, although there were also members of the public roaming around it as if it were a stately home. I crept along the corridor, switching on over-bright lights and peering into rooms, too frightened to enter. When I finally did get the courage to enter one – only when a couple carrying a rabbit wearing a nappy in a bag went in before me – it was full of tall, dark furniture that loomed over me. Eventually I reached what was apparently our bedroom, which had an enormous bath encased in dark wood that could only be accessed by steps.

As for the meaning? Well, what the athletics part means, I don’t have a clue. It does not reflect me at all. I do, however, enjoy the countryside and oaks are my favourite trees. To me they represent solidity and security. There is something stoic and reassuring about them. Perhaps this is in contrast to the darker, uncomfortable second dream.

We are currently in the process of a life changing house move, which explains why I was dreaming about moving. While I am not scared of the dark per se, I am afraid of cavernous dark spaces, such as long corridors. The strangeness of the house may well be due to the impact that this move will have on us, as we move to a completely new country and culture. Excited as I am, it is also daunting, and we are naturally apprehensive about the changes we face.

I am sure that I will be dreaming more about the move during the next few months, but that there will plenty of bizarre, unexplainable ones too.

 

Depression, dreams and exhaustion

Tiredness is a well-known symptom of depression. It’s one of the things doctors ask about when considering if someone is presenting with depression. For many years it was unclear why but a discovery by Joseph Griffin of the  European Therapy Studies Institute has shown that people with depression dream up to three times as much as non-depressed person.

The purpose of dreaming is not fully understood. The best guess is that it is a way for our brain to regulate, organise and remember recent experiences. They should help us to process both good and bad experiences and move on from them in a healthy way and they  form part of the sleep cycle, which you may be familiar with. If not, for a health person, it should work like this:

The REM or Rapid Eye Movement stage is when we dream. This should then be followed by a period of deep, restful sleep known as Slow Wave Sleep before we return to lighter sleep and the cycle begins again. With depression, however, we stay in the REM phase for longer, having more dreams.  This means that our brain remains active for longer, demonstrating almost identical brain waves as when we are awake. We also remain emotionally roused which causes the production of adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol at a time that our bodies should be resting and replenishing itself.

As someone who is aware of multiple dreams most nights, it’s not surprising that I am permanently tired!