Dreams of depression have often marked moments of crisis or breakthrough to recovery in my experience, but it has been many years since I’ve written about them. Here is a revised version of a post – actually a journal entry – that reminded me how mysterious the cycles of the illness can be.
Depression comes, depression goes, and I have no idea why. Sometimes, I suddenly break out of it through mysterious dreams that shock my spirit awake. Those are the unexpected blessings, no more to be explained than the unpredictable recurrence of the illness.
There are frightening dreams as well when I may be wandering through dark halls and rooms of mansions or castle-like structures. Usually, I open doors in growing fear, sensing that I am about to come upon someone or something that will kill me. I may follow a stranger from room to room until he turns and stares at me with death in his eyes.
I run if I can, but never find a way out of the great buildings in time to save myself. I wake up in terror as I am about to die. These are fitting images of being lost in depression, when I’m seeing nothing but darkness and fearing the worst.
But occasionally a powerful dream will help me break out of that pattern and wake up with a sense of renewal and fulfillment.
In those dreams the enclosing buildings have a way of opening up and leading me to a spiritual awakening, filling me with a sense of wonder at healing forces far greater than my small zone of illness. Those are exciting moments when I know that a basic change has occurred and some power is bringing me back from disaster. They are great gifts. I can’t summon them on my own. They are always unexpected, and each experience opens my disconnected psyche to the world again.
In one of these, I dreamed I was in a large hall full of people gathered for some kind of celebration or ceremony. I didn’t know anyone and had no idea how I had come to be there. The hall had a cavernous ceiling topped with a great dome. Seats were arranged in rows on either side of a long aisle – they were really high-backed wooden benches, like pews in a church.
The space was dark, pervaded by the sort of diffuse, brownish light you see during a solar eclipse. The rows of seats were full of people who looked as if they were expecting something important, but they seemed distant from me. I could walk and sit among them unnoticed.
A young woman I did not know stepped to the middle of the aisle between the benches and announced to everyone that she had to get something of great importance. Then she reached into one of the the pews and pulled out a long wooden box resembling a portable easel. She set it upright in the aisle and pushed against a lever on one side with all her strength.
Suddenly, the box sprang open, and a team of eight or ten horses, arranged in pairs and posed in galloping motion filled the center aisle. I was close to them and awed by the sight. I knew they were the golden horses of Troy – looking alive yet clearly artifacts. They emanated a powerful spiritual force, and I rushed to get closer, perhaps alone in the crowd realizing what they were.
I touched them, and at once they began to rise upward into the high dome. As they ascended, I felt an unutterable spiritual fulfillment. They rose very high and began to dissolve in golden streaks or cloud-like shapes in what seemed now the sky instead of a dome. It was a moment of great spiritual transformation as I watched them ascend – and then I awoke feeling that the spirit world had opened to me when I had least expected it.
It wasn’t long afterward that I dreamed about the key that could unlock the secrets of time. I was in a large house or museum filled with antique objects – all of them dusty, as if they had been warehoused for years. One of these was a beautifully burnished bronze or gold disc, at least six feet across, with edges that appeared at times serrated, at times like the points of a star.
I thought of it as an intricate 17th century mechanized sun with ingenious but hidden gears and rods that enabled it to do amazing things. Somehow, this golden disc presented me with a key so that I could unlock all the doors in that great house. As I opened each dark room, the clutter of stacked and warehoused antiques fell away. Instead, there were now bright white walls and open space throughout the building.
Everything glowed with a rich luminosity, and I heard a resounding voice saying the phrase “unlocking the mysteries of time.” And each syllable of that phrase seemed to flow into me and work some invisible change. It was exhilarating, because I felt I was cutting through the appearances of life to perceive them as part of a greater wholeness than I could have imagined. I was completely at one with the huge spirit space that opened all around me. Then I awoke, restored to myself, depression gone.
I have no idea what these dreams are all about or where they come from, but each awakening from this dark illness is a treasure. It may not be one I can keep for long, but it’s a treasure of spirit nonetheless.
Have dreams been an important part of your experience of depression or recovery?
This was so interesting to read because I certainly recall having what I refer to as “epic” dreams in the early stages of my healing from depression and later, from abuse. I would wake up and be in awe of the things that came up in my dreams and truly felt they were signs that I was on the right track, as well as a way to remember the feelings I had repressed. A few times, I dreamed about talking with each of my grandmothers; in one of them, the grandmother I felt closest to was telling me I was doing okay and that she was supporting me. In the other one, my paternal grandmother was talking to me on the phone and scolding me for never talking to her and I said, “But Grandma, you’re dead.”
For years and years, starting with the death of my maternal grandmother, I had frequent dreams about people who had died being not totally dead – sometimes, they would try to talk or mumble and I would wake up scared. I had a phobia for a long time about dying and not really being dead so that I would feel everything that was done to my body and wouldn’t have a way to let anyone know. Wow – it just occurred to me now that this was what was going on emotionally for me most of my life – feeling dead while alive and not being able to express the deadness.
While I was taking Trazadone for a number of years, I barely dreamed, or remembered them, at least, and now that I am off it, I do dream, but nothing quite as spectacular as those older ones. I think they were “wake-up” dreams and now I don’t need them so much because I’ve worked so hard to deal with the issues they were alerting me to. I don’t at all believe that dreams are merely our brains trying to sort out the day or our neurons “misfiring.” I think they can be rich sources of information and healing.
John Folk-Williams says
Hi, Judy –
I agree that dreams are rich sources for healing. What you describe are just the sort of powerful breakthrough dreams that I used to have. They always force something into my awareness that I’ve kept hidden – usually the feeling and action are the meaning rather than an interpretation of details. The dreams you describe about “deadness” are remarkable – those must have been amazing moments. The vividness makes it easier to come back and get in touch with a core feeling – exactly the feeling I’m most uncomfortable with.