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messengers of night

in my dream someone chased me
-butterfly, 9/10/98

i have nightmares sometimes. horrible, demeaning dreams that leave me shaken, feeling cold and crazy in my big empty bed. i sit up groggily in the morning with the sun creeping in through my north-facing window, and i look around my brightly-colored room. for a few moments i feel as if i am still trapped in a humiliating dream, and then i remember that i am awake.

sometimes i have dreams of surpassing beauty, full of amazing revelations and the most exquisite imagery i can think of. flowers, swans, and emeralds fill my sleeping mind. my good dreams blossom like springtime orchids, small and spicy-smelling, delicate and cherished.

i am a vivid dreamer. always, the images that come to me at night, what i see behind closed eyelids, are bright with meaning. although i have never been one to analyze my dreams in a traditional way, i have found that they always hold some message of import. no matter how cryptic or strange, my dreams have always affected my everyday life, like a window, partially closed, waiting for me to open it the rest of the way and climb out onto the roof to look at the stars.

particularly in my healing process, dreams have helped me immensely. i find that i have many dreams that somehow relate to my experience of sexual violation. some contain memory fragments, while others seem completely unrelated until i have had a chance to think about them for awhile. one thing that i have always believed is that my dreams come from a place deep within me, a peaceful sanctuary of stability, and that somehow one part of my subconscious has sent them to aid me in my quest for complete healing.

in my communications with other survivors, i have heard from many that they feel the same way about their dreams, and i have decided that i needed to make a place in emergence to express the importance of dreams in the aftermath of sexual violence.

i recommend keeping a dream journal. write down the most important details of your dreams. if you have had a nightmare, night terror, or a dream you feel uncomfortable thinking about, it is okay to wait a few days before writing about it, or to only write down key points, so the upsetting aspects of the dream won't cause you any additional discomfort. try to write about images, emotions, people, and intuitions you encountered in your dreams. if it doesn't bother you, think over the entire dream as you write about it. step by step, describe what happened, highlighting what you consider to be the most important moments. if you feel like an image symbolizes something in your life, be certain to write that down as well.

frequently after writing about dreams we are able to discover their true meaning, to see through the window of our subconscious mind and realize the message we have recieved.


many survivors have difficulty getting to sleep or sleeping comfortably. i have often struggled with my own inability to fall asleep. most often when dealing with this, i push myself to the point of exhaustion and then collapse, but i have spent a lot of time recently searching for ways to make it easier for me to get to sleep.

try to set a schedule for yourself, instead of leading unstable hours. if one night you fall asleep at nine, wake up at seven and the next you go to sleep at four and wake up at ten, your dreams are bound to be confused. some dream analysts have stated that having an irregular sleep schedule can often encourage nightmares.

try to start relaxing a full hour before you plan to go to sleep. take some time to take care of yourself, clear your head, release your stress and anxiety. if you can, ask someone to rub your shoulders or have a soothing conversation with you. talk about your day, whatever little things have irked you, whatever feelings you felt or decisions you made. anything you need to talk about. if you can't talk to someone about it, write about it. it is easier to fall asleep if you don't have a lot on your mind.

try to make the place you sleep feel more soothing. play music, wear comfortable pajamas, light incense...whatever makes you feel safe and secure. make your bed your nest. pamper yourself with sheets, pillows, and blankets that will make you feel comfortable.

if fear is an issue, it is okay to use a nightlight or a stuffed animal.

if you can't get to sleep, don't be frustrated or angry with yourself. sleep will come, and with it, dreams. don't be afraid of your dreams. they are a million windows into a million places within you.