I moved back with my parents for a year. My Dad was a doctor and he put me in touch with the best psychologists and psychiatrists. None helped. They thought my experience closely resembled post-traumatic stress disorder. But PTSD usually occurred when a trauma was witnessed first-hand. A second-hand experience, where you simply hear about an event, was considered much rarer. And as far as PTSD induced by the paranormal, I’m sure my doctors never got training for that in med school. I eventually moved out of town, first to Grass Valley, California and then to Isleton, a backwater in the California Delta. No relief. The nightmares weren’t constant, and there were times I could go for days without them, but they always returned.
I was never able to explain how devastating the nightmares were. Then, in 2003, I came upon a motorcycle accident on Jefferson Boulevard in West Sacramento. I got out of my car and hurried to the downed rider. He was lying in the middle of the street, unresponsive. I took off my shirt to help staunch any blood flow. But he did not have any open wounds, so I wondered what to do. I held his hand. I would want someone to hold my hand, if I were dying. A woman who knew CPR stopped to help. At that point blood began to flow out of the man’s ears. I knew then he was suffering a deep, internal head wound. A traumatic brain injury. As he passed away, a sudden thought occurred to me: this isn’t as bad as my nightmares. And it wasn’t. The nightmares were far more terrifying. Perhaps, real life was easier to handle. When you are awake, you have some understanding and control over the experience. When you are asleep, you are just a victim. Like that man lying on the pavement.
In 2007, I got a new psychiatrist and a new start. He began by re-prescribing all the medicines I had taken since 1990, with the hope they would have better effect, now that I was older. There were also new medicines, ones that had not existed seventeen years before. One was Zyprexa. Within three days, my nightmares stopped. Or at least for long periods of time. I can now go weeks without having a nightmare, and when I do, I never have more than one in one night. Usually prescribed for schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, Zyprexa is a miracle drug. I continue to take it, and I dare not stop. I am not cured, but somehow Zyprexa chemically masks my terrors. The nightmares are not completely gone; they remain around the edges as if to let me know I’m not completely free. And my sleep in general is still terribly wretched, the worst kind of insomnia. But this kind of freedom is good enough.
They say believing in God means taking a leap of faith. Now I don’t have to leap so far. In 2012, my parents died within two weeks of each other. I did not feel uncertain for them. I don’t believe they, or anyone else, disappears into a black meaningless void. The experience I had proved to me there is something beyond life and, I am sure, beyond death as well. I can’t plot the dimensions or purpose of the supernatural, any more than the blind men could, with their elephant. But something’s there.
I would, however, have preferred ignorance over this costly lesson.
It’s often true that not seeing things can be a blessing. My discovery that something lies beyond was based in my experience of Jim’s death, seventeen years of nightmares, and a broken brain. I learned an enormously important and transcendent truth, but one I couldn’t handle. Perhaps, if the nightmares stay at bay, I will learn to live more easily with this truth. Perhaps one day, I will be shown more of the elephant. With luck, less trauma. I press on.
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