Dreams are a fascinating subject because when you analyze them you start to dig into our very souls. Often times the stuff we dream about is pure nonsense, random images mixed with familiar sights and sounds our brains shuffle together as we sleep. The best dreams are lucid dreams where you are in control. The worst dreams are the stuff of nightmares, literally.
I am not going to write about my worst nightmares or my best dreams. Instead I want to focus on a recurring theme that constantly shows up in the vast majority of my dreams. Last night was a slightly different variation of the theme.
I have a fairly standard dream set to be honest. I usually have a few random images taken from familiar movies. Usually I dream myself into the role of one of the main characters then reenact the familiar scenes but with a twist. As the dream unfolds I tend to rewrite the film to suit my desires in that moment. These dreams usually bleed into the next phase of dreams. Of course these themselves only manifest if I am capable of getting past the foggy haze of the work dream. That’s one I constantly struggle to overcome.
The second phase of dreams usually follows some path where I, the viewer of the TV, end up disconnecting from the movie I had just been enacting. At this point I am no longer dreaming the movie as reality but have now reentered my in-dream reality. This is the ongoing dream that plays out each night. It works like an alternate reality to my real life.
This is the phase I want to focus on the most. It is usually in this set of dreams where I am back home with my parents. The placement of the house moves around as often as we did growing up but it’s usually a house we’ve lived in prior or similar enough it feels the same in my mind. In all instances of this alternate reality dream I am always me, Stephanie mid or post transition depending on how the dream goes. I am always living with my parents again fully out as a woman while they ignore that fact entirely, preferring to see me as the old me instead of facing reality.
The primary reason this particular sequence of dreams tends to cause me anxiety, and truthfully intense emotional distress, is because of the players. My sisters are always there. Usually they are in an earlier stage of their own lives. Becky, my youngest sister is always her 6-7 year old version from my childhood. Candy, the sister just about a year younger than I am shows up as her teenager self. Stacy, my oldest sister, usually manifests as some wanderer who floats into the dream for a few moments for a cameo then drifts back to wherever she had been hiding that whole time.
In all of these dreams I am always out and dressed as Stephanie, living as a woman. I have my long hair, makeup and feminine clothing. But the others in my dream always reference me as deadname. This bothers me tremendously. Obviously it causes distress for me as a trans person but this isn’t the reason why I dread this phase of dreaming so much.
It’s the existence of Becky and Candy. Rebecca has cut me out of her life beginning in 2012. We haven’t spoken ever since. I am constantly waking up in tears following a heartfelt dream adventure where her and I are living together having reunited, made up and found peace with each other. In the dream I usually go through my every day routine for a while, usually at some point her and I get in my car and drive to the mall. No matter which town from my past we’re currently living at the time in the dream we always drive to the same mall, the Magic Valley Mall in Twin Falls, Idaho. It is never the mall of my youth but in my dreams it always reminds me of it.
This is where phase three often begins. My sisters and I used to play a fantasy game as kids that took us on other world adventures. Once we’ve left the mall in the dream, having completed our shopping for the day, we go off on a science fiction action adventure style quest. This is where the majority of the spice in my dreams comes from. Unlike the middle phase which is nearly predictable, or the first phase which only includes a revolving series of familiar movies from a small selection, the third phase is ever changing and never makes sense.
Last night I dreamt Rebecca and I were travelling back in time to stop some bad thing from happening in the past that led to a current atrocity. As the dream morphed from the familiar family phase to the wild and crazy quest phase the reality around us began to bend. Naturally I tried to pull things from my familiar life to ground the dream. This is where lucid dreaming comes in. I often try to take control of the narrative once I realize it is a dream. Despite this phase always following the familiar phase which does cause me anxiety and depression because I long to mend things with my baby sister. The adventure phase often takes me longer to adapt to. It usually ends with my sister and I facing death, hugging each other tightly in an emotional end-of-life embrace as I wake up and rejoin the reality I face daily.
The distress this line of dreaming causes me is three fold. First, as mentioned there is the part where everyone deadnames me despite always dreaming myself up as myself. The second form of distress comes from the jolting transitions these dreams take as I am yanked from phase to phase. This itself can be jarring and emotionally draining. Then there is the reuniting with Rebecca to go on some sci-fi or fantasy-themed adventure. This causes me turmoil because I miss my sister tremendously. Apparently enough to dream her into my life regularly. When I waken from a dream she was a player or one of the central roles I am often in tears or on the verge of tears.
Fortunately dreams are unpredictable and even lucid dreams are only marginally under my control. These three phases do not manifest explicitly every single night, there are other variations that alter slightly but this phase is the most common. When I have this sequence of dreams I usually wake up with a desire to crawl back into bed and cry until the day ends. Instead I shake it off and go to work most days. That is what I am doing here, wrapping this up so I can get ready for work.
Dreams are supposed to be where we get the most rest. For me they have always been the busiest part of my sleep sessions. Usually once I am dreaming is when I am the most active. Since my dreams are always intense, usually very active and often emotionally draining even following a full nights rest I’m drained still. Last night I hardly got what I would describe as a full night of rest. I hardly achieved the sequential stages of dreaming until after 4 a.m. I know this because every time I wake I check the clock. The rest of the night I was stuck in the ugly loop of work fog which is where I am falling asleep but stuck in a single moment from my current job stuck unable to complete the task constantly starting over and looping this moment over and over until I get past it. Those dreams are the worst.
Whether good or bad, dreams are a common part of our sleep habits. I don’t always enjoy the stuff my brain shows me while I am attempting to rest and heal each night. Sometimes I find myself facing demons I’d much rather avoid. In the end I doubt we have as much control or influence over our dreams as we like to think. Either way today is going to be a long day as I once again ponder whether or not I should try once again to unsuccessfully reach out to my estranged sister or if I should just bury her in the past where she belongs? Either way I ran out of time, the clock now says hit the road so I digress.