Bipolar Dreams
by Graham Brown

Ever since I can remember, I have had the most incredibly vivid and realistic dreams. From a teenager onwards they have varied in frequency in occurring until the last few years, as my bipolar disorder became more and more pronounced.

Since then they have been almost a constant in my life but especially when my moods are out of balance and they tend to be less frequent when I am more stable. I don’t know if it is just me or if other people with bipolar disorder also have these very real dreams.

What are my dreams like? Well – they almost always revolve around the same type of theme although the setting changes. They always leave me emotionally and physically wrung out by their reality and intensity. And they always leave me emotionally fragile the next day.

My dreams nearly always involve a loss of a family member in some way, either by them disappearing and not being able to find them, or knowing where they are and simply not being able to get to them. Some times they involve me being extremely paranoid about my wife having an affair and a loss over this type of situation.

Let me run you through one of my dreams and see if this type of thing is familiar to you.

My wife and I are out shopping at our local shopping centre. We wander from shop to shop as normal. Then I turn around and find my wife is missing. I look around the shop we were in to no avail. She’s not there. I start looking at the other shops one by one getting increasingly frantic. No one I ask has seen her.

I scour the entire shopping centre and she is not there. I start shouting out her name as I go through the crowded centre ignoring the people staring at me. I then start to look in the service areas and carparks and then it starts to get even worse!

As I go through areas of the centre they change – I will go through a door leading to a particular spot but when I get to the other side of the door, it’s not where I am supposed to be. I turn around to go back and the door has disappeared and I have to follow on where I am. This happens time and time again – I go along one area that I know well and it has changed and whenever I try and backtrack to where I was – I can’t get there because doors have disappeared or they lead to somewhere unexpected.

My heart is thumping. I am shouting out, crying and screaming but to no avail. I can’t find my wife and I have this overwhelming feeling of being absolutely trapped.

In real life, I am tossing and turning in the bed, crying and sweating profusely and mumbling or calling out in my sleep, until the dream gets so intense that I wake up completely drained and terrified of going back to sleep as I know that I will just return to the same dream.

The setting changes, the scenario changes but the intensity and realism continues. There is always either a tremendously overwhelming sense of loss or being trapped or both and being able to do nothing about it.

Why am I sharing this? For the same reasons I have shared other situations – I might be the only person with Bipolar who has these dreams, but if I am not, you know you are not alone.

Graham Brown
January 2003

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