A Nightmare and a Dream

April 23, 2013

It was the summer of 2009. I had just graduated high school, much to the surprise of, well, everybody. I was on the verge of flunking out of school and life. Nonetheless, I graduated. But before I was to enjoy the harvest of my dismal efforts, I was to have a tumor removed from that special place where your spine kisses your brain. Apparently I still had a brain. This has been medically proven.

I was told the procedure would be fine. It’s an easy enough location to operate on. “Oh, sure. You’ll spend a couple days in the ICU (intermediate care unit) and be outta here,” the surgeon told me. What he didn’t tell me was that I might forever lose my ability to walk. What the surgeon failed to inform me was that I might not wake up after the anesthesia had worn off. No, that was just one of those lovely surprises life tends to throw your way.

I went under in the middle of July. I still remember counting backwards from one hundred as the surgeon put a large breathing tube through my nose and into my lungs. “See you soon,” the anesthesiologist whispered to me as she squeezed my hand for good luck. I closed my eye and wandered off into a faraway dreamland where life no longer hurt.

I woke up alright. A week after my surgery had ended, that is, but I woke up. I had lived trapped in a frightening nightmare for a week and no one of my family seemed to understand why I was acting so disturbed and dissociated from the real world. In my week-long nightmare, I had seen such horrors as a pitchfork being driven through my mother’s face. A trigger-happy drug dealer shoot my father down dead inches from me. An inferno engulf my best friend as I stood frozen and watched. No one understood why I couldn’t stop crying for weeks, months, years after the nightmare had ended.

I watched everyone I loved die horrible, gruesome deaths in a week-long nightmare while I lie comatose in a hospital bed, occasionally becoming alert enough to pull out my breathing tubes, intravenous lines and anything else my demonic possessed limbs could reach.

Only by the grace of God am I not in a wheelchair right now. I pushed myself and pushed myself until I could walk after that. Now I run and it’s a miracle.

All my life it has been just God and I. No one understands these nightmares I still have some nights. No one understands why I break down in tears in between violent sobs sometimes. Though, much more rarely than what used to be, never will I be completely healed.

I don’t mind being broken. I just wish others would stop trying to fix me and let me find my own way to God. Maybe put their arms around me, tell me, “God is just beyond the mountains,” and walk a bit of the beaten path beside me.

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2 Responses to “A Nightmare and a Dream”

  1. Alison said

    I am crying right now because I had a similar experience when I went into fulminant liver failure for no known reason earlier this year. While I was unconscious for four days in the ICU from the ammonia buildup and brain swelling, my PTSD kicked into overdrive and delivered the most traumatic sequence of hallucinations imaginable. Several of the sequences even seemed to last multiple years complete with every minute of every day. Mine were more detached from reality than yours seemed to be — my family members showed up and died hideous deaths, but the settings were a mixture of historical, horror, and fantasy all rolled together for maximum trauma. And at the end of each years-long-seeming sequence, I would think that I was waking up from a nightmare, only to find out that the “waking world” was yet another layer of horror. When I finally woke up for real, the transition to reality was gradual, with me only slowly realizing the horrific events had not been real. It took months for me to really feel back into reality, like it really was reality and not another hallucination, and I’m still haunted by the experiences. Even now, it feels like I lived whole lifetimes in those four days, leaving my memories before the illness distant and dissociated. My husband and two small children really struggled with my detached behavior during my recovery.

    I have never heard or seen anyone else discuss this phenomenon; thank you for opening up about your experiences. I feel slightly less alone tonight than this morning :-).

    • JT said

      Dear Alison,

      What you described is more aligned to what I experienced. There were moments of my “nightmare” that also involved aspects of horror and fantasy. For example, cows made out of ice cream.

      I know it seems silly to speak about, but it was reality for me at the time and that’s what made it so horrifying.

      I guess that’s all it was, though. A really bad hallucination, most certainly drug related.

      I’m really glad you posted, Alison. I appreciate your openness. It helps to know there was someone else who has been there too.

      Best of luck to you and your family. Stay safe.

      Sincerely,

      ~JT~

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