A Trilogy of Dreams, Occurring in Sets, and What it Revealed, After …

What I’m about to tell you – like everything else in my blogs – is true.

This blog is about dreams.

My dreams are never particularly interesting.

They’re pretty straightforward.

Maybe because I am aware of the fact that dreaming is the brain’s way of processing the events – and my subsequent reactions to those events – of the day.

Maybe because what I think about or what I can, and do, imagine, during my waking hours is more “dreamlike” than other people’s actual dreams.

Maybe because I’m not afraid to wander deep into the dark corners of my mind, explore, pick up an artifact, look it over, then toss it back out into the dark black that forms the borders of my subconscious, a vestigial residue from the time before I was medicated, when I would fixate on horrible “what if” repetitive thoughts that I could not stop, because I got off too much from the sickening pain.

Maybe it’s due to the fact, that I lived my nightmares, culminating with the death of my father, the death of who I was before.

Maybe I’m just shallow.

But these dreams were different.

And yes, dreams as in plural, and as they were running like a midnight matinee in my mind, it didn’t occur to me just what it was exactly, that I was processing. It didn’t occur to me until I stopped dreaming them. It wasn’t until I got to the end that I understood.

I know this:

The dreams occurred in sets.

I can’t tell over how many nights. I can’t recall if those nights were consecutive, strung across time stretching like dim black pearls into the length of weeks or months.
Maybe they were scattershot.
Occurring in clumps of nights, collections of gleaming river stones.

I know this:

They began last Christmas – I think.

I don’t remember having any other dreams during this time. The sets had definite beginnings and endings. They never overlapped. They began, ran their course, like a fever, then stopped.

And then the next set would begin. And once the last set of dreams ended, they ended.
Any dreams I’ve had after that I can’t remember, and they didn’t stay with me like these still do.

The First Set:

My Family and a Constantly Mutating Hybrid of My Exes Hangout in Hotel Rooms and Ocean Liner Cabins.

It always started in a hotel room, or a cabin on an ocean cruise liner.

There was always a sense of density, like every molecule in the atmosphere weighed more than it should, despite the fact that every room appeared spread out and spacious – even the ocean liner.

Even though the dreams always took place during the day, there was a darkness that smudged the edges.

I’m in the room, doing mundane things, like hanging out. I never leave the room.
My family is in one room, and I’m in the other. And I’m always with some hybrid form of my ex-girlfriend and my ex-wife.

We’re not fighting or arguing.
We’re just there. I can always hear my family in the other room. We’re always getting ready to go somewhere, but we never do.

Once I dreamt that I walked in on my ex-girlfriend and an ex-friend ( a guy, obviously, who was a big flirt ) who I don’t talk to anymore.
I found them lying on the bed.
They were fully clothed.
The outlines of their bodies formed an acute angle, their feet on opposite edges of the bed, their bodies converging at the vertex – their heads.
They were touching forehead to forehead.

They weren’t kissing. They were whispering. I couldn’t hear anything, but I saw their lips moving. Staring into each other’s eyes, smiling, laughing softly the way lovers do when sharing secret jokes.

The intimacy alarmed and frightened me. I remember beginning to say something, but that’s all. The dream ended abruptly.

That particular dream, though was an outlier. I never dreamt that my ex-girlfriend cheated on me. My ex-girlfriend wasn’t perfect – who is – but that’s how secure she had made me feel in our relationship.

I feel like that dream was pulling double duty. Maybe it was processing something else, some last bit of friendship/relationship business, and placing it in the context of travel. I knew it wasn’t a dream about cheating or insecurity.
It was about intimacy – or lack of it.

Sometimes I would dream of returning home from a trip and packing or unpacking, the rooms being a mess, me finding a place to sleep. My brother Sam was always in these particular dreams, because we grew up sharing a room together.

Those were the most disorienting and claustrophobic.

Everything was cluttered.

The Second Set:

I Confront My Father As I Remember Him in a Picture From 1965 While I Morph Between a Forty Year Old, a Twenty Year Old, a Teenager, and a Toddler.

For a brief time in the early to mid eighties, my father had an affair with another woman.

It was a devastating time. I know now, as an adult, that he was going through a depression. His dream of starting his own supermarket failed. And it broke him.

I’m not ready to talk anymore about that.

I don’t know when I will or if I will.

The dreams were always a variation on a simple theme: I was confronting him about his affair.

He was always the same age. He was younger, in his late twenties or thirties. He was never the pale, emaciated ghost of himself that he became at the end, the way I never like to picture him.

I was always different ages when I would confront him.
I would talk to him as a forty year old man. I’d yell at him as a teenager or a twenty year old. Or as an infant, trying to communicate to him how I felt and being frustrated that I was unable to verbalize or vocalize what I trying to say.

My father was always silent.

He was neither sad nor happy nor angry. He was there to listen to my condemnations.
I don’t remember how many times I dreamt about this, but it seemed like a lot.

The Third Set:

I am in a Relationship With the Blurred Girl.

In those dreams I have a girlfriend.

She had no face.

She was not a composite of my ex-wife nor my ex-girlfriend, nor any female I knew or had ever known.

She was a blur, a gentle blur, but she was a blur.
In the backwards logic of dreams, it didn’t seem odd to me. And yet the strangest thing about this dream, about these particular dreams, was that nothing seemed strange at all.

There was none of the grime around the edges, no claustrophobia, no disorientation, no density – none of the usual sensations that something was off.

This was something new.

This girl was nothing I had known, or sensed, or felt, before. She was a literal tabula rasa. She was a clean slate.

In my waking life, I had filled my exes with love until my depression filled them with hate and anger.

This female, this person, was unspoiled. And despite the fact that she was a blur, she was solid, solid and substantial all the way through. She was someone who I had complete and total faith in, someone who I had complete and total trust in.

This blurred girl was someone who I felt safe with, secure.
There was no guilt from seeing someone behind my girlfriend’s back. There was no worn-down to the bone pain from constant bickering.

I felt at peace.

Sunshine bright light.

Clarity.

She was my girlfriend.

I was happy being with her.
She held my hand, would lead me around, often helping me navigate through the obligatory family gatherings mates and partners and significant others always attend, filled with people I did not know and could not recognize.

Her family.

I didn’t feel awkward or uncomfortable or anxious because I was around New People. These strangers accepted me, treated me, like family. And they were like family to me.

It was all so normal.

It was all so right.

Children’s birthday parties on hot summer days. Going to carne asadas, family cookouts.
Splashes of bright Spring and Summer colors everywhere: piñatas, cascarones, all and both broken and busted, their painted egg shells scattered everywhere mixing with the colored confetti cuttings mixed with candies covering sunbright concrete patios.

Then the dreams stopped.

It took me a week or two to realize that they had stopped, that I wasn’t dreaming about the “girl.” Then, after another few days, as the distance lengthened far enough for me to gain some perspective, I began to work backwards in my memory.

I reflected on those dreams for some time. I held each one up to the light like a diamond inspector, turning it this way and that, keenly aware of how they made me feel.

It was such a strange sensation, you see, I had to be sure.

It was a new sensation.

It was weightlessness. It was feeling feather light. I felt unburdened. It was the feeling of no pain. No guilt. No obligation. No baggage dragging me down.

It took me a few more days of reflection and meditation to be sure.

And then I knew.

My head was clear.

My heart was clean.

My heart quietly whispered to me. It’s voice was so soft, I could barely hear it, and after all the self-inflicted pain I caused it, after all the pain the death of my father caused it, it was no wonder, but I had to be still.

I stilled my heart.

I stilled my mind.

I breathed very, very softly.
I had to, because I wanted to be sure that what I heard it say was right.

That it matched the weightlessness that I felt.

My head and my heart, my spirit and my soul, were all finally aligned.

So I listened very carefully, and this is what I heard:

I accept that I was emotionally unfaithful.

I had punished myself enough.

I did everything I humanly could to make amends, to make it better.

I forgive myself for what I did.

I found the key that unlocked the door of my purgatory, and I used it to open the door.

I stepped out.

And I heard the voice talk.

And I held my breath, so I could listen one last time, so I could be absolutely sure.

It spoke, it’s voice softer than the breath of a sleeping newborn.

It was my heart speaking.

I’m afraid, it said, but I’m finally ready.

Dispatches From the World of Depression: A Bad Decision, an Even Worse Detour, and the Film Annihilation – A Contemplation of Self-Destruction via Confession – or is it the other way around?

I drove into that neighborhood last night.

It wasn’t with the old intentions.

I put myself into a position where I had no choice.

There was no right so I had to turn left. I had to turn left to cool off after an aggressive driver began making me lose my cool.

Taking that left was instinctual, out of necessity. But it wasn’t from that old, feverish, infected instinct.
It wasn’t under the pretense of going on a cruise and then just happening to pass by her house. It wasn’t after another long weekend night ending with me and you getting into another drunken fight, me giving up, getting into my car and driving off, running away back to my parents’ house, wanting to escape what was becoming an increasingly tangled mess, driving myself into that neighborhood, driving past her house, in the ridiculous and desperately vain hope that somehow, she’d be up and outside at four in the morning, and we’d somehow end up talking, and that I could find comfort in her lying words, in a world inside my mind, where our relationship was eighty percent in my mind and twenty percent her using me to escape her own, fucked up world.

Driving through that neighborhood last night literally made me sick to my stomach. I was filled with such an utter and raw revulsion – the strength of it took me off guard, especially since I was on my medication.

It was the memories.

I have told you before that all that time was like living in a fever dream, like remembering a really bad, drunk night, where you made all the wrong decisions, and you’re left with fifty percent of the memory of what happened, but you’re filled with one hundred percent of the sickly cold vomitsweat feeling of guilt that no shower will ever completely wash away.

Do you believe me?

I really wonder if you believe me.

But it’s true.

It was the first time I had been in that neighborhood since … the end.

But I guess I should have known better.

Every stupid, reactive, hurtful thing I had said and done when my depression was at it’s worst had scorched the physical earth with psychic scars, creating emotional ghosts leaving many places haunted by the sticky and sickly sweet memory of my self-destructive cycle of hate-filled action followed by the inevitable reaction of sorrowful feelings – regret, guilt, disgust and self hate.
The after-feelings never went away.

Every time after I drove past a particular part of town, every time I entered a particular room, stood in a specific geographic location, the memory wave of what I had done along with all the accompanying feelings hit me and filled me, leaving me forced to experience the feelings of that emotional event all over again with cruel, startling clarity.

It was like an emotional crime scene.

It happened with you.

It happened with my ex-wife, too.

Laredo, McAllen, Edinburg, Alamo, South Padre Island, San Antonio, Austin.

South Texas was littered with haunted landscapes.

And the worst part was even with all of that, all of those constantly running, self-perpetuating crime scenes that ran viscerally in my head, in my emotional memory, those constant reminders, those “Ghosts of Bad Decisions Past” everywhere around me, serving as cautionary reminders that left me devastated and swearing and promising – to myself, and to you – that it would never happen again, I would still find myself repeating that cycle.

Again.

And again.

And again.

I would never learn.
I could never control myself.
I always found a reason to self-destruct and sabotage myself and my relationships, scarring my loved ones indelibly. Scarring you.

I promised you that I would never hurt you.

I assured you that I wasn’t like all those other guys.

And for a while, for a wonderfully beautiful long time – three years – I wasn’t.

Until I was.

Until all the pressures mounted, all the have tos.
Until my father getting sick.
Until knowing my father was never going to get better again, he was only going to get worse.
Until being a father to your girls.
Until having to care for you, with all your own mental illnesses, your needs.
Until there was nothing left of me because I gave everything I had to everyone I loved.
Until I realized how foolishly unprepared I was for the many responsibilities I took on.
Until all the things I loved began to turn into all the things I hated, leaving me bitter.
Until I started to feel misunderstood.
Until I started to feel trapped.
Until I found myself unable to talk to you anymore.
Until all I could do was shout, so I kept my mouth shut instead.
Until the constant beehive buzzing in my head and the blurred vision I had every time I saw you.
Until I got frightened and told you I couldn’t see or feel our love.
Until I started talking to her, who was all-too-willing to talk to me.

Until the end.

Until you found out.

Until I realized what you had already knew – that no matter how much your mind could understand, your heart could never forgive me.

And that was it.

Until in a vain hope to find out why I had done the things I had done, why I was the way I was, I found a therapist, and that lead to my finding a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with Major Depressive Disorder and ADHD with mild OCD that I self-generated instinctively, to give my consciousness some sense of control.

I was happy then. I was relieved then. At last I had an explanation for all the whys of my life. The whys that made me repeat the same self-destructive cycles. The whys that made me hate myself, that filled me with self-loathing.

And I was prescribed medication to treat my illnesses. The medication was right for me. It worked. I changed my diet, drank less, exercised more. I was finally able to sleep, to finally sleep early and long enough to feel rested, balanced. And with the pain of my father passing, along with the slow-building clarity and self-control that came with managing my mental illnesses with consistently taking my medication, I got better.

But my heart was broken, because even though I got better, even though we both tried for awhile, our relationship was ruined. I had killed it. And my betrayal opened up all the old wounds and traumas you had tried to keep packed away. And I finally came to realize that even love can’t heal all – that some scars just run too deep. And finally I realized that you weren’t going to change, and that even though we still had love in our hearts, the illnesses in our heads would never allow us to be together again.

I realized that I had to let go.

I realized that the only hope I had left of us ever having even the slimmest chance of a possible reconciliation somewhere out in a vague future, was to cut myself off from you.

I realized what all the literature was saying was true: that we can only save ourselves.

I realized that now we are both on separate journeys.

Now, all I truly hope for is that you find your way, that you can use all your strengths to heal yourself.

So with time, medication, reflection, meditation, talking, writing, and thinking I achieved clarity. I saw clearly what my depression had done to me, what depression had taken away from me, how it tricked me and beguiled me and tortured and tormented me.

I had tried to be a good man. I tried to lead a good life. I tried to be a good boyfriend and friend to you. I tried to be a good father to your daughters. I tried to live the life of a gentleman.

My depression grabbed up all of that in one sweep of it’s oppressive, diseased, hallucinogenic hand and laughed blackly, looking wild-eyed at me like Frodo looking at Sam in the red heat of the Sammath Naur and told me, “Oh, you think you’re a gentleman, a good man? I’ll show you what you really are, motherfucker!” And with one squeeze my depression showed me.

It’s a dark moment when you truly see yourself for what you are, for all the things you’ve done, all the hurts you’ve caused yourself and those you love.

They say you are not your illness.

They say it does not define you, that it’s just a part of you.

It’s true, but it takes a lot of time to come to terms with all the things that I regret. I don’t feel the darkness in my mind anymore, though I’ve learned to accept it’s presence and respect the power it has. All of those haunted places, and the amassed baggage of negative emotions they contained, they’ve all faded away thanks to the medication.

And, if I do the math right, it’ll be three years come this September that I’ve been medicated.

Two months ago my psychiatrist told me that he was no longer worried about me. Last month, despite some tragic news of the death of someone who was dear to me, my psychiatrist told me that he was shocked. When I asked why he responded because despite the obvious pain I was in, not once during our follow up appointment did I once talk about me or what I was going through. I was talking only about others.

So it was a shock that by making that left turn into that neighborhood that I relived those feelings again.

But in reality I shouldn’t be surprised.

That place was ground zero for the worst part of my life.

It shook me.

So once I found myself in it, I drove as fast as I could. I tried to face forward, to not see too much in case every detail I’d glimpse would fill my mind with more memories, more emotions.

I made it out.

I made it home.

The feelings lingered there for a while.

I had just seen Annihilation earlier that day. It imprinted on me all of it’s surreal hallucinogenic and phantasmagoric beauty and terror, it’s sense of mental, emotional, and physical dislocation. It lingered with me long after I left the theater.

A line stuck with me, from a scene in the film where Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh are talking, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, who portrays a psychiatrist says, “Almost none of us commit suicide. And almost all of us self-destruct …

I found it a curious thing that the line from the film and my near-disastrous detour coincided with one another.

The mind, the heart, the body, the soul – all need to be tended to carefully, and with love, lest our illnesses give power to our desire to self-destruct. The only way to avoid that is through self-care, nurturing, and growth gained by self-examination.

Next time, I’m driving straight.