The good news: I’ve finally found an over-the-counter sleep aid that seems to be helping (for now–I know it won’t always work for me because that’s always what happens when I find something that does). The bad news: some weird things keep happening in my sleep.
After I’d been taking melatonin for a while, the weird, bright-colored, vivid dreams went from wacky and fun to actual nightmares. I’d wake up crying and sweating. This sleep aid is making me dream of places I’ve been and things I’ve experienced, but it’s almost like I’m back in those situations again. I don’t really know how to explain it. One night I dreamed of flying, and I got the same weird stomach-dropping sensation I felt when the very first plane I ever rode landed at Heathrow Airport in London. I’ve dreamed a couple of times about driving from Savannah out to Tybee Island and waking up swearing I could smell the salt marshes. I’ve dreamed about feeling the breeze off Lake Huron ruffling my hair as I stood ankle-deep in the chilly water (and my feet were cold too, like I had actually been out wading). Sometimes, when I’m especially homesick, I dream of the smell of frost on dead leaves and the sound of the wind howling through bare trees on my late-night walks from the library to my apartment during grad school. I’ve even dreamed about the smells of wet flannel and wood smoke that will always remind me of my dad’s house in the fall.
The worst thing about these dreams is that, a lot of the time, I wake up disoriented, especially when I’ve dreamed about a certain place or situation. When I dream about college, I expect to wake up in that grad school apartment, even though I hated it (I spent a lot of good times hanging out with friends after class and on weekends, but it really was a crappy place to live). If I’ve dreamed about being near Lake Huron, I’m always disappointed not to wake up in the spare bedroom at my grandparents’ house. The worst is dreaming about my dad’s house. I grew up there, and a lot has changed since then, but I’m always sure I’ll wake up on the futon in his home office (which used to be my bedroom, many years ago), smelling coffee in the kitchen and hearing Dad’s dog Kaiser thundering up and down the hallway. (There’s no other way to describe a young but full-grown German Shepherd trying to do anything in a house with wood floors.)
It could always be worse. I wake up next to my husband in the place that someday we’ll fondly think back on as our first married home, a home full of furniture we assembled and various things we’ve collected over our lifetimes. We’ve created new memories here that I hope I’ll dream of someday with the sort of clarity my current dreams of the past have–evenings in our little living room that smells of honeysuckle thanks to a candle he bought me years ago, the smell of the lake when it’s raining and the breeze carries it toward our balcony, laughing and bumping elbows in our little kitchen, the way the air in our dining room suddenly feels still when the air conditioning cycles off (because the main vent is right there by the table).
I figure it’s all got to be that sleep aid, though. If you know me at all, you know it’s a regular occurrence that I walk into a room and cannot remember why I was there in the first place. Sitting here now, fully awake, I can’t make myself smell wood smoke or dry leaves or salt marshes. I can’t conjure up the sensation of standing in a few inches of chilly fresh water in a lake that stretches further than the eye can see. It seems like this only works when I’m asleep, and it fades almost as soon as I wake.
Hopefully this sleep aid works for a long time. One of my biggest (and dumbest) fears is forgetting the feelings and sensations I won’t ever be able to recreate, or those I can’t just hop in the car to go experience again.