I am a terrible procrastinator. I could probably procrastinate for my country. I'm so bad at starting things that I put off absolutely everything until the last minute, when I end up overwhelmed with stuff that needs doing. As a result, the only thing I'd thought about this letter was that if you were actually in a rehab clinic, you'd probably be bored out of your mind, and so perhaps sending you something to read would be a good idea. I'd toyed with the idea of sending you a Sandman book, but there's 11 of them in the series, and I wasn't sure if any of them would work as a stand-alone. Then, for my birthday, a friend gave me the book "Espedair Street" by Iain Banks. I'd read it before and enjoyed it very much, which was how come it came to be on my birthday wishlist, but a few days after I'd been given it, I was lying awake at 5am and I read it again then. I usually try to read fairly boring books when my sleep disorder is playing up, because otherwise what happens is what happened in this case - instead of reading a couple of chapters and falling asleep, I sat up in bed wide awake until I'd read the whole thing - by which time it was 8.30am and it was a bit pointless even trying to get to sleep. I figured that it would be the absolute perfect book to get you, as it?s about a rock musician called Danny who's led an... interesting life, and it's funny and wonderful - bits of it made me laugh and bits of it made me cry. It starts like this: "Two days ago I decided to kill myself. Last night I changed my mind and decided to stay alive. Everything that follows is... just to try and explain." So I thought I'd go out and buy another copy of that and put it in the post to you with a note, and that would be it. Then I had this dream.
To make the rest of this make sense, I should talk a little about my dreams and my sleep disorder.
For as long as I remember, I've had vivid and slightly odd dreams. When I was younger, I used to have prophetic dreams. I remember in ridiculous detail how I dreamt about the Zeebrugge ferry disaster before it happened (in my dream, it was a large boat with a Z on the side). These days, my dreams are generally only messages to myself rather than to the population at large. My dreams fall into three categories: normal, vivid, and hyper-real. Normal dreams are just dreams like normal people get - where my brain sorts through all the garbage it's acquired during the day and presents me with a little film to watch. They're pretty boring, and I don't remember them very often. Vivid dreams are so real that when I wake up I'm not sure whether real life is real or whether it was the dream that was real. I get these most of the time. As you can imagine (actually, you probably know from experience), it's weird being in a state where you're not quite sure what's real and what was dream. Luckily the dreams fade pretty fast, and within a few minutes I know who I am again. And I groan, and reach for the various tablets that are by the side of my bed, and take them, and trot to the bathroom and do all the normal waking-up ritual. [One problem I have is that I have a lot of nightmares - on average, one bad one a week, and when they're that vivid, waking up doesn't help - I wake up with the dream as real as the reality I wake up into. That's not fun. I've tried all sorts of counselling and psychoanalysis to find out why I get nightmares so often, but so far no one's been able to work it out.] Then I have the hyper-real dreams.
I'm not sure if hyper-real's a proper word, or if I made it up myself. What I mean by these are dreams that are so utterly vivid and real that when I wake up I'm still in the dream, and I can wander around for hours still in the dream even though I'm technically conscious. I think these are pretty rare. They're certainly rare for me - I get one maybe every 6 to 9 months? - and they're definitely rare for the population at large. I think they're another one of these things that I get that normal people don't get. Anyway, last night I had one of these hyper-real dreams, and it was about you.
That in itself is odd. I usually have dreams that are about either people I actually know, or random dream-people that I've never met before. It's pretty rare for me to dream about people that I know of but don't know personally. Then there was a whole load of other stuff about that dream that made me wake up thinking it was some sort of message from God. I found myself sitting down to write this letter in a distinctly shifted mental state. [...]
[I have a sleep disorder] called Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder. It's a strange form of insomnia that's fairly rare and quite hard to treat. Nothing that works for normal insomnia can be used for it, including things like hypnosis and pharmaceuticals. Bitter experience told me that (it's such fun taking the maximum safe dose of prescription-only sleeping pills and finding the best they do is give you a headache). About the only thing that works for it is just letting it do what it wants to, which is a pain in the ass for normal functioning. Normal people sleep for about 7 or 8 hours and then are awake for a further 16. I, on the other hand, tend to be awake for as much as 32 hours on the trot and then sleep for maybe 24. The ends of each sleep phase i.e. the first and last couple of hours that I?m awake, are distinctly odd. Utter exhaustion leads to a rather skewed view of reality - and probably to that dream.
"The dream", as I've been calling it, was actually 4, or maybe 5, different dreams. Five seemingly unconnected dreams, linked by the fact that they were all about the same person. Writing them out, they don't sound particularly meaningful - but in my head, living through them, with all the sound and visuals - they did. It was profound, and hyper-real, and when I woke up I was absolutely convinced that the whole thing had really happened. I spent something like half an hour trying to sort through which parts of the dream were dream and which were reality, and even after I knew most of it was a dream, I still thought that [my mum really had known you for some time and hadn't got round to telling me.] Even after I'd realised that the whole thing had been a dream, I stayed spacey and not quite with it for over an hour. I was conscious and sitting here typing, but not really "with it" in any way at all.
elynne said recently that she wants a dream recorder, so that she could remember all the really amazing bits of her dreams and play them for other people. I can relate to that. As well as bizarre dreams, I also have a tendency to write novels in my sleep - but as soon as I wake up, even if I have paper by the bed and start writing immediately, the words have gone. That's annoying, because it's not that I'm lacking in ideas - just that I can't write them down. Dreams don't translate into words well - that dream especially *sigh*. It's a shame, because it was important to me. It made me feel connected with you in some way, and made me think that maybe this letter might actually mean something to you.