Memories and Dreams

I dream a lot. In fact, I dream almost every time I sleep.

I also sleep a lot.

Sleeping used to be the way for me to escape the awfulness of being alive, back during the darkest days of my depression. As my illness mutated and changed and I found medications to keep me balanced, the sleep followed me. I sleep at night, without difficulty. I sleep when I’m not at work. I sleep during the day, often for hours at a time. I take naps, snooze, drift off … you get the picture.

And when I sleep, the dreams come. They aren’t bad dreams; nor are they particularly good. In fact, most of my dreams involve mundane, everyday things, like brushing my teeth or driving to work. I can even remember some of them, long after the initial grogginess of waking has left me.

I am also—sometimes—aware that I’m dreaming of the dream. Not necessarily to the extent that I think to myself, “what an interesting dream”, but because the continuity of my dreams fluctuates, and when it morphs from one location to another, and one scenario to another, a part of my mind that keeps track shouts out, “this isn’t where we were just a moment ago!”

But the clarity of the dreams is, as usual, somewhat opaque. Through a fog of distance and sleep, they return to my waking mind as a faint memory of an event that may or may not have taken place. I think most dreams are this way.

But for me—perhaps because of my illness or the medications, or just because of my own perception—this becomes a difficult thing in my head. You see, I often find that I can’t distinguish between the memory of a real event and the memory of a dreaded event. When the event is terribly fantastical and otherworldly, yes—it’s easier. But since so many of my dreams involve things I actually do every day, I find I can’t recall if I actually did something or not.

This is apparently more common than I realized, but when I suggest to my wife that I definitely turned the heat down before going to bed, yet in the morning it’s still on 70°, it’s still disorienting. She appears not to suffer from this problem; nor does anyone I talk to about it.

Dreams, of course, are experiential, just as are actual events—we generally believe they are happening when we’re dreaming—but upon waking, they usually disappear rapidly, or are relegated to a memory state separate from reality. For example, I can recall a memory from very early childhood: taking a bite of a hotdog. And I remember that it was, in fact, a dream, because I remember waking up and thinking that it was funny how in my head only a moment had passed, when in the world outside the whole night had come and gone.

But I also remember images and events—great castles in the fog, ski accidents, conversations with friends—that I have no basis for comparison. These are all things that definitely might have happened because in the past I’ve seen or done all those things. Yet I can’t be certain because I so frequently dream of those things as well.

It’s disturbing to see someone at work, or in your own home, and remember some bit of knowledge about them—only to find that you don’t actually know it because you’ve never actually discussed it.

It’s equally disturbing to think you’ve driven your wife to work and returned home, only to wake up in bed. And when memories of dreams begin to intersect with memories of reality, it brings the whole nature of reality into question. What’s real? What isn’t? And what, if anything, can be trusted?

I don’t know if this is an aspect of mental illness or something that everyone experiences, but it’s disturbing nonetheless, and something I wish I had a better grasp on.

What are your thoughts? Do you remember dreams as dreams, or do you also sometimes confuse them with memories of actual events?

24 Replies to “Memories and Dreams”

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  1. Thanks for sharing. I have never had this. I remember my dreams very briefy after waking. Sometimes I wished they remained in my memory a bit longer, so I could visit them again. But memory is not the best even to remember my real life, let alone my dreams. Your dreaming does seem a bit troublesome. I hope it becomes easier for year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. My own memory is fuzzy and riddled with holes as it is, which probably contributes to the confusion between that and dream – my brain just remembers them both the same way.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I question the same things you do… I experience deja vu all the time… Nothing threatening or evil, mostly mundane. But I never know that I am dreaming like you do. Dreams are so interesting. ~Kim

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s an odd sensation, to know that what you’re experiencing isn’t real, but to believe in it all the same while it’s happening. I’ve come to generally enjoy my dreams.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s funny you mentioned this. I had never really had dreams like you describe until the recent few years. I don’t understand how this confusion happens. I even had a similar dream last night, but it was an extremely pleasant one. I sort of semi woke up thinking I wanted to see the person in my dream again that day. Then I realized that it was just a dream and not reality. Sort of too bad.

    It’s funny, though I do remember a little bit of dreaming as a kid, during much of my life (unmedicated) I rarely remembered dreams. I sort of like that because the sleeps where I wake up feeling I hadn’t dreamed, are most restful. I didn’t remember dreams much at all during my heavy drinking days. Remembering dreams actually became more common for me after I was medicated for bipolar (when not manic).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that sounds about right. You typically dream during REM sleep, which is a lighter sleep state than deep sleep. Drinking tends to send you straight to the deep sleep state, so you don’t in fact have any dreams. As for the medication … I don’t know if I would say the strangeness of my memory and dreams coincides with that, but it very well might. There are a lot of unanticipated side effects to many of the medications used for treating mental illness, and they aren’t all reported.

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  4. I also dream almost every time I sleep and remember most dreams. I have had several prophetic dreams. Sometimes dreams can feel so real, particularly about everyday events, it seems as if the events have taken place during waking hours. I have experienced this several times and do not believe it has anything to do with illness. But rather the mind being relaxed during sleep and free to explore. Healing energy to you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Certainly an intriguing thought – I don’t really know when I started confusing dreams with memories, but it seems to be around when I started medication for bipolar. I could be wrong, though!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m the exact same way. Glad to know im no the only one out there! Also, you’re blog is beautiful and the frequency of your writing is super inspirational ::)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why thank you! In fairness, though, I’m only a contributor to the blog – the main force behind it is James.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This was a great read, and I can relate to just about the entire thing. I too am on medication for mental illness. When I dream, they are extremely vivid and sometimes I wake up confused. There are times where I know it was a dream, but I still question it, that maybe it actually happened. Most of my vivid dreams consist of bends in reality, almost Matrix style, clearly impossible settings and actions. I have insomnia because my mind doesn’t shut down to allow rem sleep, hence the crazy dreams(I did a sleep study because of this). Some are repetitive and I could most likely recite them from beginning to end, save for the quick changes in scenery and distortion of reality in my dream. It’s nice to be able to relate to someone on this subject. Once again, great read! I enjoyed it very much!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. When I started on my medication for anxiety, Effexor, I started to dream more vividly than ever. Usually, they’re highly disturbing and gruesome. But some of the elements in them are so real, that like you I confuse what I know from reality and what I’ve only dreamed of. It’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only one out there that experiences this. You’re writing is beautiful, thank you for being so open.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. I’m sorry to hear it. I haven’t had a true nightmare in a long time, but I remember the panic, lack of control and sense of inescapability. I hope things get better for you.


  10. Interesting post. I dont dream often, but when do its pretty cool. Well, depending on the dream. How dreams play into conscious exsist i dont know but its so cool to speculate. sweet dreams everyone.

    Liked by 2 people

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