Sleep…the one time of the day where our minds can shut off and we can gain some relief from the noise of OCD right?
Not always, well not for me and not for many, many others. I have found dreams can be upsetting and I can wake already feeling defeated. Sometimes they don’t even have to be what I would consider, that bad. Last night I dreamt that I forgot to pick my second oldest son up from preschool (a different preschool then he actually goes to) and my dad said he would collect him. I was half and hour late and as I was driving (I can’t drive in real life) my dad was walking on the pavement next to me and I felt like all I wanted to do was just get to my son but time was just moving so slowly. I was moving in a car but moving at walking pace. I thought I can get there quicker but my dad offered, I let him cross at the zebra crossing and think I had to be somewhere else and that was all I remember. I woke feeling bad. Feeling guilty.
Since this OCD spike started last December I actually didn’t start getting bothered by my dreams until I began counselling. The meds I was taking would sedate me and I remember not having dreams. I was relieved. Then once I began therapy and weaned off the medications I began having more dreams. Every night I hope I don’t have a nightmare that will bother me for ages, I make sure the last think I look at on my phone before bed is positive.
There was one study I found online, link below, that said actually with people suffering with OCD there was no difference in the reports of dreams that caused anxiety than those without the illness. This really surprised me but on reflection it makes sense. Dreams like thoughts come involuntarily and so just like everyone has intrusive thoughts, everyone has bad or peculiar dreams at times. Dreams don’t reflect us, yes they can feel more personal because we, of course obsess over them and search for answers, ‘why did I dream that? Where was that from?’ assuming they must be saying something about us. Others wake and shake it off as ‘that was an odd dream’ and carry on with their day but with OCD that’s not so easy. We attach meaning and feel bad that we had dreams of unpleasant content. We can feel bad and guilty before we’ve even gotten out of bed. I often ruminate about dreams, pray I won’t have more dreams and am even more aware of avoiding things like the news or anything like documentaries or tv series that I think are bad before bed. I carry out compulsions to make me less likely to have a bad dream. I didn’t realise I was doing these things to this extent.
I take comfort in knowing that this is common. I’ve seen many, many accounts from OCD sufferers expressing that they to struggle with dreams (or nightmares as they are often called when unpleasant) that can leave them ruminating on them.
Here’s the definition of dreams.
Are these not exactly what we experience during wakefulness? So I feel, the best way to move past dreams is to apply exactly what I’m learning about my OCD to my dreams. I did that this morning and although feeling still a bit uncomfortable, I feel less personally attached to my dream last night, like I’ve created some distance between me and it and it’s not a personal assault on my character.
I wanted to talk about this because there isn’t much research on it so it’s a topic I felt I wanted to bring to light.