Nightmares and Dreamscapes


For many years, I’ve suffered from night terrors. Or, rather, anyone sleeping in the room with me has suffered from them.

The scenario was always the same–a room that’s too dark (I need a little light) and a recurring nightmare that a dark figure has broken into my house and is trying to kill me. I’ll wake up screaming and thrashing, trying to fight off this would-be assailant, all the while terrifying the person (my best friend on a trip, former boyfriends, my husband) innocently sleeping next to me.

I haven’t had one of those in a long time (*knock on wood*). But I do still have recurring nightmares. Only now, instead of a dark figure trying to kill me, it’s always the real enemy–cancer.

I had one of these last night. In the dream, I found out that there were three new tumors in my reconstructed breast. In delivering the news to some friends, I remember crying and saying, “this is going to kill me. I’m going to die, and my son won’t even remember me.”

I woke up in a panic. Like the recurring dreams I have about my mom, these are always vividly real. I lay in the bed for a moment in terror, until I realized it wasn’t real, and there are no new tumors. Of course, that didn’t stop me from doing a quick self-exam in the bathroom just to be sure.

When I wrote last month for HuffPost about my struggles post-cancer, this was one of the things I didn’t mention. I may have some control over my thoughts and fears during my waking hours, but my anxiety is free to run amok in my subconscious when I sleep. I literally have zero control over it. It doesn’t happen every night, but it happens enough to really rattle me–I always feel nervous and haunted by the dream the next day.

Unlike the dreams that sent me into night terrors, I know there’s a pretty solid likelihood that I will experience the monster coming to get me in these dreams. But until he rears his ugly head, I just have to remember monsters in dreams cannot hurt me.

6 thoughts on “Nightmares and Dreamscapes

  1. Jennifer, your words are healing. I’ve tried to put words to my feelings but I feel lost so sometimes I just stay quiet. When I read your post This is What No One Tells You About Surviving Breast Cancer I pointed to your words and said Yes! this is it… this is how I feel! Thank you.
    I was diagnosed with Leukemia, and it is true for me too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad to have brought you even a tiny bit of comfort! Life after cancer is so hard. No one really talks about it, and it feels strange to complain because there’s this sense that you should just be happy to be alive. Sure, you feel that way, but you also mourn what you’ve lost and you fear what could still happen.
      Sending thoughts of peace to you!


  2. My anxiety shows up in my dreams too. Most of my dreams are nightmares or at least that’s what I remember the most it seems. I often have dreams about my illness too. I seriously think that one can develop medical PTSD. It feels just like it.

    Liked by 1 person

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