Some of my dreams are pleasant; most of them are not. At least that is true of those that I can remember when I wake up. I have recurrent dreams as well. One is that I am lost. I want to get somewhere, and I can't. I get out a map, but I cannot make head nor tail of it. I get in my car and drive and drive, but I never arrive at my destination.
Another recurrent dream is one in which I have agreed to take a part in a play that is being staged or directed by a friend. I have an important part, but I do not attend rehearsals and I do not learn my lines. On opening night, I show up at the theatre, and the cast members look at me with reproach, as if I had betrayed them. I always wake up before the curtain goes up, but the guilt and the shame remain with me, for a moment or two at any rate, as I go about my morning chores.
One night not too long ago I dreamt that my car went off the side of a mountain road, and in the nick of time, I leapt from the car to the safety of the mountainside as the vehicle plunged into the chasm below. I woke up on the floor on my hands and knees in front of a glass-topped nightstand by the side of the bed. I was bleeding from a cut on my forehead and inside my mouth. In the morning, I looked at myself in the mirror with dismay. I had a bruise under my nose and another under my chin. The cut on my forehead had stopped bleeding, but the one inside my mouth oozed blood all day.
My wife was alarmed when I fell out of bed, but she was both incredulous and angry when one night a week later I began acting out another dream and accidentally punched her. The next morning she was still miffed, so I asked her what she thought I was supposed to do. I was in a bar or a horse book, I said, I didn't know which, and had just shot several deadly assailants three or four times each in the chest and one of them kept coming at me. The bullets didn't even slow him down.
My wife said that we were no longer going to watch Sixty Minutes on Sunday evening, assuming, I think correctly, that what had suggested the scenario I described to her was a segment about a former professional football player known for his violence. She also said that she wanted me to see a doctor.
My wife is no fool. My doctor told me that it was common for people, elderly men especially, who reduce the amount of a certain drug that they have been taking--which I had been doing--to begin acting out their dreams. There was even a name for it, RBD or REM Behavioral Disorder. He suggested that I withdraw more gradually from the medication. The drug that I was taking was an antidepressant, which I had taken not for depression but for anxiety.
A year ago I would have been terribly worried about my problems with dreams because I used to be a full-blown hypochondriac, but I am better now, and to me it seems reasonable to conclude that a dream is just a dream and nothing to get very excited about. I suppose a bad dream is fear or anger or some other negative but all-to-human characteristic coming to the surface, but so what? Besides, I am making progress. The other night I had a dream about being cast in a play, and this time on opening night I actually put on makeup and a costume and went on stage. I didn't know the lines, so I ad libbed. I was glib and verbose and funny. I brought the house down. Indeed, I was so good that it displeased the other actors, and later in the play, they wouldn't let me go back on stage.
- Jack Swenson