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.
February Update: In December of 2019 Zyprexa badly failed me and I have stopped taking it. Stress dreams of an incredibly powerful and sick nature have replaced the bloody nightmares. The horrible insomnia continues.
What Did Zyprexa Do to Me?
I started Zyprexa for my violent nightmares in 2007 and it helped immediately. It saved my life. And it drastically altered my personality, at least that’s how it felt to me. Drugs like Zyprexa or Prozac aren’t temporary and short acting, they build up in your blood stream and stay with you as long as you take them. They’re not like a drink or a fix, you are under the influence for perhaps years.
Although Zyprexa reduced the number of intensity and severity of my nightmares, it never ended them. They’re still with me but less bloody. And Zyprexa wasn’t my first attempt at ending them, I’ve been on psychoactive drugs since 1990.
With Zyprexa I became less contentious, less argumentative, less inclined to make a point. Actually, not inclined to make a point at all. I walked away from insults and slights I would have never tolerated before. I didn’t care anymore. I also didn’t care about many things that were important, that were worth fighting for. More difficult to explain was that I felt my brain changing. A physical-like feeling which was very disturbing. But I couldn’t live with my nightmares so I accepted my new personality.
The question, though, again, is what makes up a person’s personality? I worried tremendously when meeting new people. I didn’t want to start any new relation. Who were they meeting? I wasn’t myself, I was something else. A new person would only see me in this drug altered way. Would they accept me when I went off the medicine and got back to my real self? Or would that self return?
Zyprexa failed me last December and I went off it because it was no longer working. And I gave up alcohol on doctor’s orders in April of 2018 for health reasons. I’m still drinking coffee but stopping that has always left me tired and stupid. I should be as clear as I was before the drinking and the drugs. The real me. Right? And that’s a good thing. Right? But who was I all those last few decades? Something else. I don’t know what.
Life is now back in my face. Drinking and medications put a blanket over everything. A soft focus on the world, distance. That distance is now gone and I’ve noticed this every time I’ve stopped prescription medicines or drink. Everything is painfully close along with tremendous anxiety. That anxiety starting for me in the third grade. Well, here I am again. The real me. Right? It’s been a long road back.
“The more you know yourself, the more clarity there is. Self-knowledge has no end – you don’t come to an achievement, you don’t come to a conclusion. It is an endless river.” J. Krishnamurti
Or, an endless road.
NB: The above was taken from my post here (internal link)
Link to the e-version where you can read the entire story. Requires Flash:
https://www.temenosjournal.com/2016-17.html (external link — enable Flash)