I jerked upright at 4 AM one day recently and looked around the room wildly, seeing nothing.
But I heard two sets of deep breathing edging into snoring and recognized them, and sank back onto the pillow, drawing what might have been the first deep breath I’d had in days. Or, at least it was the the first deep breath since I’d slipped into my dreams.
Like many people, I don’t understand my dreams. By that, I mean I don’t understand what causes them or why they come in such vivid color and with such passionate, desperate fear, arousal, glee, horror, love and terror. I don’t understand why I can go without them for months, and then be assaulted by them nearly every night until I resist going to bed unless I am absolutely so exhausted that I sleep like the dead. I don’t understand why I can’t have the traditional dream of falling off the edge of a cliff, or jumping out of a plane, because those dreams seem innocuous against the things in my nightmares – the violent deaths of loved ones, erotic scenes so real that I wake in the throes of orgasm, joy so wonderfully grand that I think I might be flying off the ground as I run to meet someone who loves me desperately.
That morning, the dream was so far upon me that I woke nearly on the edge of an orgasm I couldn’t stop, and even as I jerked upward I could feel the bile in my throat as I prepared to vomit, in disgust of myself, even though it was only a dream.
Since that morning I’ve started – and deleted – several drafts about the content of my dream. I’ve not really talked to anyone about it. Chris wasn’t feeling well and left for work early, and while he knew I didn’t sleep well, he didn’t have time for the sort of conversation that would have been needed to process it. In the past, grief-filled dreams have clung to me for days, leaving me emotionally drained and obviously upset, practically forcing him to pay attention.
Truth be told, he’s probably forgotten about it or thinks I have forgotten about it, because I haven’t had a meltdown to tears. I haven’t grieved, clung to him, or written him tear-stained notes on Winnie-the-Pooh stationery – all things that have been known to happen in the past.
I haven’t done any of those things because I’m not feeling grief or anxiety. And, to be honest, I’m not sure what I would say to him if he did ask me to talk to him about it.
What I’m feeling is shame.
You see, that night in the dream*, I experienced something no woman wants to experience in its raw, non-consensual, violent intensity.
In the dream, I was raped.
I am sure, in the dream, that I knew my captor, though right now I cannot put a name to the villain. From the moment I woke, bitter betrayal clung to me. I was angry and hurt. My trust had been violated. In truth, it’s probably better I can’t remember who did it. I wouldn’t want to treat him differently, and I’m pretty sure I would even though it was only a dream. You see, it was someone close enough to me that I comfortably – without angst – got into a car with him. Family, scene friend, coworker – there are not many men, to be honest, that I would get into a car with alone these days. I have no reason to.
Without fail, I would not want what happened in the dream to happen to me. It hurt, both physically and mentally. I was terrified, and I spent the hours upon hours that I was confined and tormented reminding myself that sex is an animal act, not an intimate, emotional bond-forming behavior. It was a mantra of survival, something I wished to be true so that I would make it to the next day without imploding from the hopelessness and helplessness.
So why did I wake in shame? Because, in the end, the thing that woke me up was not the forced sex, the condition of a dry vagina fucked to bleeding, or the slap across my face that made my nose bleed until the blood pooled in my mouth. I woke up because, in the dream, my vagina and my ass were bleeding. But in my sleep, I was wet and aroused. My body betrayed my mind and my heart and me, and I’m ashamed of that, even though it was only a dream.
* I realize my dream is nothing compared to the real thing, but I’ve never experienced the real thing. Nor do I wish to. The dream was terrifying enough.