The Art of Lucid Dreaming

Every night, as my body falls asleep, my soul is awake, aware that it is in a dream. I usually see events unfold from a first person point of view with limited physical control, with my mind following the dream as it is to see if it has a message for me. I let the dream take over, and only interfere with it on times when I feel like I might be stuck in it or if it turns into a nightmare.

Facts say that we humans always dream, but most of us forget about it when we wake up. Ever since I was a kid, I would always have a recollection of what I have dreamed about the night before as I wake up every day. Sometimes I would get a whole episode, sometimes just fragments, although I cannot seem to remember everything. I have ignored this, thinking it was normal, and never questioned why my dreams seem to be real.

I don’t recall when I first heard about lucid dreaming, it’s just that I was amazed that there was a term for it and that it was rare. I researched about it over the years to fully understand it, there was even a time I tried to interpret almost every dream I would have. It made me more anxious and tired, as I would be stressing about what signs in my dream would mean and if it was bound to happen in my already challenging life. I learned that some people would even see themselves sleeping, and I was totally freaked when that first happened to me. I try not to do it again in fear of not being able to go back to my own body, I think that’s why most of my dreams are first person view. I don’t think I can even imagine what my reflection looks like in a dream, a defensive tactic I have developed to avoid seeing myself from another perspective.

The best dreams are the ones that seem so out of the world but yet feel so real. I have flown once, and I remember how vivid it was; how ecstatic the feeling of flying was like the superheroes I watch on TV. I remember waking up to aching legs, because in my dream the pressure of flying was made from one’s legs. I do not know how to swim in real life, but I had some dreams where I would be able to breathe underwater. I was living my fantasies while I slept.

However, as my eyes close and darkness captures me, it can also follow me into the other worlds I see. I have had encounters in which I had to force my physical body awake by thinking about which body parts I can easily move first, like my toes or fingers. I have tried to avoid these by not watching horror films before sleeping, as I tend to relive nightmares.

Perhaps lucid dreaming is my way of searching for the void I feel whenever I am awake, but the truth is sometimes I also yearn for a dreamless sleep where I can fully rest.  I don’t think I remember a time where I just.. slept.

 

 

MRI

“Mam, are you okay mam? Mam?”

That left me out of trance. I take deep breathes, and say, “yes.. please continue.”

Again, after a few minutes, the nurse asks me. “Mam, are you okay? Are you sure you are okay? Press the button if you need us. We’re right here. Just a few more minutes.. relax.. think of something that will make you happy.”

The nurse plays music for me. I take deep breathes, and close my eyes. I imagine.

Hey Soul sister by Train. I smile. You’re not much of singer, but you like to pretend you are. You sing along, off tune, and it makes me smile because you do this for me.

All of Me by John Legend. A tear falls down from my face.

I imagine you, like how you are, lip syncing to the song while we dance poorly, I am not much of a dancer. You hold me close, and say “baby, it’s okay..”

I breath heavier, your face fades away. My head starts to hurt. The nurse is telling me, just a few more minutes to get a clear scan, but I am shaking. I can hear you, “it’s okay, it’s okay, I’m here.. calm down. I’m here..” slowly, your voice becomes quiet. I panic. I don’t want to be alone.

The MRI scan is over. The nurse takes me out, slowly and gently. He sighs. “Are you okay? Please sit down for a while, it’s going to be fine..” I can’t hear his voice, my head starts to hurt, and I vomit.

I sit and look around. I am alone. You are not here. You never were. You never came to any of my sessions.

I cry silently, as my attacks overcome me. I tell myself to be brave. I tell myself it’s okay.

Because you know, but you never came anyway.

– you keep me going even after you’ve left. // hrh

Rain

The sky is dark and the rain starts to pour, and I am not bothered because I am prepared. In this country, it is a must to always have an umbrella with you- rain or shine.

But I curse myself as the bus stops and I realize that I have left mine just when I need it.

I tell myself it’s no matter. I can probably hail a taxi as soon as I get off the bus, and I hope it doesn’t rain harder. I am already feeling light headed because of the flu, and the usual Manila traffic isn’t helping either.

“Miss! Wait!”

I pretend not to hear, but the footsteps behind me catches up and I am suddenly shielded from the rain. I look up and see a smiling face, holding an umbrella on both of our heads.

“Hi.. Sorry, but maybe I can help you get a cab? Or walk you to where you’ll go? You might get sick if you get caught in the rain..”

Same scenario of how we met before, and today is your fifth year death anniversary. He has the same eyes as you, warm and kind, and I’ve noticed the law books he was carrying. You’ve always wanted to be a lawyer.

I thought I’ve forgotten you, but here you are again, reminding me of your last words.

I’ll always be there when you need me.

// hrh

 

 

Unmasking the Masked: The Reality of Anxiety

My dear readers, this is a tale.

Once upon a time, there was a young woman in her early 20s. She has achieved a lot in life- with her adventurous college years coming to end with her greatest achievement: with honors. She has worked hard enough to battle poverty to finally come to a place where her career takes off for her to be stable.

She has been through a lot, with so many scars to mark her battles, that the concept of mental illness is so foreign to her. She believes that you can control your mind to handle pressure; it is just a matter of who has enough will to do so. And boy, she was really confident in hers.

Until one day, that is, a series  of unfortunate events has made her, one of the greatest warriors, to admit defeat.

First, the denial. You think of other illnesses that may be associated with what is happening to your body. There are times when you feel sick and unable to eat, or how your heart palpitates and you can’t breathe. The tests will usually come back fine with no alarming results, leaving the doctors puzzled because they can see that there is still something wrong with you.

I did not expect that it will also be the trigger to other health issues as well, but that’s just the thing with anxiety- the more you deny it, the more it makes its presence known, like a weed that grows no matter how much you try to make your garden appear perfect. It is frustrating that it gnaws on you when you fight it out.

I was filled with anger and pity. You look for events and people to blame. You backtrack on happenings and ask yourself why you; because no matter how much try to calm down, you just can’t. You end up pointing the finger back to yourself as nobody will ever get what it feels like and it’s probably your fault. It drains you of your dreams, snuffing out the light and leaving you in the dark with your worst thoughts. It drowns you with doubt, and you can’t float even when you know how to swim.

A mixture of feelings, a roller coaster ride. It is exhausting, not only to your soul and mind but to your body. It never lies, but you pretend anyway. You pretend that it is just one of the other sickness that you have. You pretend it is nothing; when indeed it is everything. Poor you, so alone, in a world where your downfall will not be justified or recognized because there will always be someone who has it worst that you and you should be thankful.

Thankful, for your threshold breaking, a threshold that should I remind you is different for each one of us, and is therefore immeasurable. If it were that simple, we shouldn’t even be having these problems in the first place.

The acceptance is made after long hours at the hospital, going from doctor to doctor and experiments to verify that it is indeed what it is. Even in our progressive world, we are still so sensitive about giving the final stamp to any mental illness, especially ones that are easily claimed when one is in distress or sad. We label our moments, normal humane moments that showcase our feelings with terms that should deserve attention than just not being okay.

As a working adult, you learn how to deal with the meetings on your own. I don’t know if I love the long hallways at the hospital, or if it feels a little too crowded with everyone having anyone else. It is quite a shame to check yourself in or to practically drag yourself to the hospital in the midst of a panic attack, with your work clothes on looking so important, your coat so crisp, and yet you are like a child again, holding your chest because you just can’t breathe.

I think, the hardest has been seeing the way your doctors look at you because they know your condition. They are not puzzled with it like others are, and as professionals they recognize that you are probably tired. It becomes a little bit easier to accept it after that. They ask you about your job, your lifestyle, trying to pinpoint the cause why you are breaking down at such age- and deep inside, you know but refuse, of course, to share it with anybody else.

And then the treatment. I cannot say it is healing; maybe my anxiety itself does not recognize it. I have, though, learned that the best way to deal with it is to know that it is an endless battle you face every single day. That’s the thing with mental illness- when your mind is sick, you cannot just target the sickness and expect it to be done. The drugs, yes, they do help. I have been fascinated by how even experts are reluctant to prescribe sedatives, but it’s a name I have lived with. Sedatives to calm you down, sedatives to make you sleep, just the right amount. Not too much, not too little, for the mind is already fragile. It is already broken, held on together with the tapes you put on it every time you overcome the struggle of a breakdown. The lines are visible; they are there, they will never fade.

You continue with life as it is. You go to work daily to sustain your expenses. Some days, you feel free of it- hopeful even- but in truth it is a chain that you must carry and learn how not to let it suffocate you. It is definitely okay to say you’re not okay- a cliché, perhaps, but the most useful one.

People with anxiety wear masks all the time, because we have to show face that we are still fighting, still living, still breathing; even when sometimes, we find that we are out of it.

It is about embracing that you are flawed and you will be for the rest of time- but broken things are often so beautiful, are they not?

// hrhjeshea

Wanted: Hell Torturer

Satan gives you a personal tour of the place. You didn’t have much choice when he captured you for the job as the new torturer. You had been in the hospital, brain dead after a car accident. You aren’t religious, and never believed in an afterlife, so you screamed when he came for you, in all his glory, a demon who was a human dragon. You are crying, begging for mercy, but Satan doesn’t want to deal with your petty begging- although it is acknowledged by the law of the divine that as an average human being, you were offered the job.

Hell is terrifying to behold. All the books that described it were right, even ten times more. You never liked horror movies, so it is quite a shock for you to see the ways all souls are being tortured. Wailing souls, oh the sound of it isn’t like anything you’ve heard before- the cries of people who have realized that they are submitted to Hell for eternity.

Satan turns to you, and your heart stops upon seeing his face. “Do you not see why we are running out of ideas? Souls here have been around since mankind sinned, this is the end, and yet when punishment comes to you everyday, the souls have learned to expect it.”

He brings you to the section where the oldest of them were punished. Their wails are not like the new ones, as their cries have only turned to anguish, the way people sob when the same things happen to them over and over again. You see how much they welcome torture more; their bodies bleed and they are fixed again.

You finally understand.

“You measure their tolerance of physical pain.. and that is the pain that is easiest to accept. Especially when it comes to you everyday and you are fixed after. A wound only hurts when it bleeds.”

“You question me, human?” His voice is something that will make you shake, and so you do.

“I… I.. you have hired me…” you stutter, but you continue. “I am speaking as a human myself. Physical pain is expected, our lives are short- we are frail, weak.. but their heart.. our hearts.. that is the punishment we all avoid, because we always expect the best. Break their spirits.. look back into their lives and see their regrets, their feelings.. and take it from there.. we.. we have enough of that within our lifetime. then.. then.. you can alternate between physical torture and that..”

You tell him your ideas in a blabber. How you can reenact the way a father rejected his daughter, how a boy you trusted most leave. How friends stab you in the back. How you missed to tell people you love them because you were too stubborn to do so, and you regretted it.

The devil walks to you, his size changing according to the average, and little by little, you notice his features. For in the beginning, the devil was the most beloved, the Morning Star- Lucifer, the most beautiful of all angels, God’s favorite.

In a flash, you see the hurt in his eyes, now turning as gold as the sun. You see him as Lucifer.

You gather courage to ask. “…do.. do you have regrets?”

He doesn’t answer, and return to his former form. For a moment it is as if Hell had gone quiet under the powers of its master.

“You’re hired.”

// hrh

photo: Lucifer

Icarus and the Sun

I’ve tried to understand how our story went
and now I know
that our love is that of Icarus and the Sun
too blinding, too risky, too deadly-
it was meant to end as fast as it started.

I am the blinding Sun you’ve yearned for years
but you’ve forgotten you’re made of wax
so on the day you finally flew near me
you find yourself melting away slowly

Your promises
Your secrets
Your sincerity
At the end, you walk away like they’re nothing

As I have loved you more, you suffocate
because you become less day by day
While I burn brighter than anything else

I am the Sun
You are Icarus
No matter how much I hold on
I’ll just kill you.

And you have killed me, too
by telling me that those short days
meant nothing to you
and by letting me pretend
that we haven’t shared
a few days of passion
a few days of ecstasy

But on the days after you’ve left
I find myself no longer wishing to be with someone else
And I envy how you seem to be okay
better, even, without me
while I’m getting dimmer
and dimmer
until I fade eventually.

— for the Sun is meant to be alone // hrh

art by: Gabriel Picolo