Bump in the Night
Waking up at 4am in the grips of a nightmare is not new to me. When I actively struggled with Bipolar I used to wake up from the nightmares, in a cold sweat having been haunted by images that would not be exorcised. My nightmares started in childhood and they were recurring. At their worst, I’d be awakened hourly sometimes crying always traumatized. It got so bad over the years I used to be afraid to sleep. It took years of counseling to even vaguely understand some the demons that rose up from my subconscious at night. As big a fan of therapy and psychotropic medication that I am... I believe that secular cures cannot fix everything.
We are mind, body, soul, and spirit… thus, the antidote for my nightmares would not be found in a little pink pill. As as much of a believer as I am, I’d love to say that I became a Christian and Jesus worked a mojo and my dreams disappeared. That did not happen. It was a combination of the therapy, the meds, my faith, and countless prayers that have given me a measure of peace at night. I now understand how daily anxieties can seep into my dreams, but the bible already told me that: As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. (Ecclesiastes 5:3) It’s not those kinds of dreams that attacked last night.
All is currently right with my world, which I don’t take that lightly because two weeks ago I was a crazed nut job trying to balance all the stress in my life. I got lots of prayer and I took my concerns to God. I also did what I needed to do rather than letting the stress slow me down or procrastinating until the problems got worse. By last night I was in a grand old mood. I took a friend and her family out for her birthday. Fondue. What’s not to love about a meal that consisted melted cheese, meat, and melted chocolate?? We laughed so hard my molars ached. When I floated home on Cloud 9 I was really ready to enjoy my sleep.
Only one thing marred my peace. Her daughter’s hair almost ended up in the chocolate fondue which made me think of that obnoxious Willow Smith video, “I Whip My Hair Back and Forth.” I told them about the Alvin and the Chipmunks/Chippette parody (I Whip My Tail Back and Forth)… and thought it was hysterically funny to change the lyrics to “I Dip My Hair Back and Forth.”
Of COURSE, I had to come home and watch the original video on YouTube and this Chipette parody…
Yeah. Try watching THAT over and over again before going to bed. I don’t struggle with the Bipolar but I still have a tendency towards being compulsive. Why watch something once when you can watch it ten times?? Bed time came and went. Would’ve served me right if I’d dreamed about being attacked by a giant chipmunk. This was the worst thing that happened to me all weekend. Despite all the changes at work today, I was ready. I was more than ready. PLUS I was filled up with cheese and meat. What more can you ask for??
I went to sleep expecting to awaken for my usual 3am bathroom break. Post-surgery, I still have a bladder the size of a pea and never make it a whole night without having to get up at least once. What I didn’t expect was to be trapped in a nightmare that wouldn’t stop. I was having bad dreams a couple a weeks ago, but nothing like the full fledged nightmare that assaulted me last night. It was horrible. People being massacred and hunted…revenge killings… I would roll over and briefly wake up, but not enough to break free of the red hot grip of the dream.
I knew I was dreaming. I just couldn’t fully wake up. It was only when 3:50 rolled around and my bladder couldn’t take much more that I broke free. It was horrible. My body was flushed, but my mind felt chilled. In a daze I walked to the bathroom and the fear that gripped me was so real I could feel it on my skin. I am the only 43 year old woman I know who sleeps with a stuffed animal and has a night light. The toy is because I need to not feel alone. The light because I’m afraid of what’s in the dark. I can never walk into a dark room because I am terrified.
When I got back in bed I just sat there. I knew that if I went back to sleep I’d fall back into the black hole of my nightmare. That thought was unbearable. Fear?? Had all my talk of fear resurrected my nightmares?? Not hardly. I think it was spiritual. “This kind can come out only by prayer.” (Mark 9:29). Not one to see a “demon behind every bush,” I do not leap to label every bad act or the things that go “bump” in the night as “demonic.” Is there a devil? Only a fool says that there’s no God or there’s no Satan. My nightmares last night had the hallmarks of evil on it, so I prayed. Even if it wasn’t evil… what harm can praying ever do?? Unless, of course, I prayed and asked God to smite somebody. If it actually happened, that would kinda suck for them. But in this instance, I reminded myself that the evil wasn’t real. That nobody was going to kill me and even if they did, I probably wouldn’t be killed in such horrible ways.
I went back to sleep for an hour. One bloomin hour during which I fell back into a very dark place. Prayer did not stop the dreams from coming back. But the dreams did not stop me from waking up. I took the hottest shower I could stand and gathered the tools of my profession. I also put on make up (which I never do for work) and launched myself out into the world to meet my day. Despite the dreams I was ready. I thought about what I’d posted last and how I’d been confronted by a fear that I couldn’t control. It was an irrational fear of something that is not even real… something that could never happen… and even if I was killed, I’d end up in heaven with Jesus. So basically, it’d be a win/win situation.
The attack on my spirit was real. If the spirit is thought to be the mind, the will, and the emotions… then all three of those had been attacked last night. And Bipolar Girl of old would have been nearly catatonic after a night like that. Instead, I prayed some more and put my trust in Jesus. I also prayed for a friend who I believed to be experiencing some pretty heavy stuff.
And what was God’s response?? Work today was great! The dreams did not stop me. I didn’t even let the possibility of spiders in my house or car or any other fears cause me to miss a beat. Which reminds me of a repeating song we used to sing at camp:
Going on a treasure hunt!
(repeat each line)
I’m not afraid
Got my trusty boots
And my sword at my side
Oh No! What do I see??
Big, big (Insert obstacle — ie. a mountain)
Can’t go around it.
Can’t go over it.
Gotta go through it!
My fears, real or imagined, are sometimes like that song. I can’t go around them. Can’t get over them… but by God’s grace, I can go through them because God is my treasure.