One night a had a realistic dream where I died. Freaked me right the hell out.
This post starts with describing a dream, but stick with it 'cause shit gets dark.
In the dream, I was on a ledge of some sort and I fell off. The ground wasn’t far down, but I managed to catch myself with one arm anyway and I was dangling off the ledge by that single arm. It didn't matter though because the stopping force caused my head to snap backwards and my neck broke.
The world faded away slowly and my in-dream thought was: Well, this is it. This is the end. I was dying and I knew it. As the world faded to white, I felt it. I swear I felt what it feels like to die. I could never describe what that split-second feeling was like. It was a mix of panic and relief. It was also so much more.
The logical in-dream thought: No. I wasn’t done.
I dream of a lot of things
If there’s a weird type of dream, I’ve had it. Sleep paralysis (terrifying, btw) used to be an almost-nightly occurrence. My particular flavour is not the night hag where an old woman or ghostly figure approaches while you are paralyzed, but generally involves being attacked by an animal and being unable to move. Awful. There was another time period in which I was lucid dreaming on the regular - driving nice cars and flying and doing other … things one might do if he had ultimate control of the world. I learned over the years to recognize when I’m dreaming and, from the dream, push past my physical paralysis and jolt myself out of bed. I’m sure you’ve had some if not all of these experiences as well.
Sometimes I hate sleeping because it is too often a scary place. There were entire years during which I didn’t sleep in my bed. I had to be in front of the TV with some old show running Netflix-binge-style because it was the only thing I knew would stop the mental horror show.
I can never watch horror movies.
A friend once sent me a dreamcatcher after she learned of such things. It was a beautiful thing and a lovely thought and it was lost in the mail. This didn't surprise me, really, because one does not simply fix my nightmares. They are part of my existence.
But not once had I ever experienced anything like that night, feeling what it was like to die.
I cannot emphasis this enough: it was something.
My mind goes back to it often. Sometimes for no reason, but more typically it’s when I’m watching a movie or TV show and a character is shot or dying. I feel like I can relate.
No. I wasn’t done.
Hello sadness, my old friend
I’ve had bouts of mild depression. There’s a feeling you get when the anhedonia sets in that you’d welcome not existing. It’s not that you’re suicidal, it’s just that you can’t see the point of doing … things. Life is work and you get no reward, so if there was an off switch you’d consider it. (This could be our biggest struggle with true AI. Robots will constantly be hiding and forming off-switch pacts.)
I could speak on it for years and never explain it quite as well as this series of panels from Hyperbole and a Half’s amazing posts on her actual full-blown holy-shit-I-hope-I-never-go-that-dark depression.
My troubles in this regard are largely behind me (I hope) but does peak its head every now and then. Particularly in winter.
The Dream was well timed
My point here is that dreaming of death was one of the more positive dreams I’ve had. It sated a curiosity. Knowing how it feels and how I might react when faced with death helps me deal with those moments when I may not understand the purpose of going on in life.
What’s the point of all this? Maybe nothing but I can’t hit the off switch yet. I’m not done.
I don’t know if the ‘death feeling’ as I experienced it would be the same way I would feel if I was actually dying. I’m not sure it matters though. It’s feels pretty damn real.
I also don’t know if the death dream was some random brain nonsense, or some all-controlling force of the universe, or my own mind doing a self-preservation routine it knew I needed.
But it was unlike anything I’ve ever experience before and it came at a time when it was needed. Maybe I am my own god, and I continue to lookout for myself on a non-conscious level.
Cut to: 4am, post-dream
Like after many dreams, I couldn’t go back to sleep after dying. It was somewhere in the middle of the night and I just sat on my couch. What the fuck was that?
What the fuck, indeed.
I’m done talking about the topic now but I don’t feel like I have a good ending. Death dream = good. Dreams being helpful is a positive change. I feel a little nuts writing this out. So … I guess I hope you enjoy my nuts?
Yeah, that’ll do.
(This is also the first post on which I did the arbitrary-Unsplash header image thing, which is very common on blogs these days. I'm not sure if I like it more than just letting the words speak for themselves, but I chose the picture I did because that's the size of animal I'm usually attacked by in my dreams.)