I had a migraine headache this weekend. Its effects were minimized by the use of Imitrex, but it nevertheless deeply impacted my ability to keep up with work, family and social responsibilities. I also dreamt about depression, in a most unusual way this weekend. It was a continuing dream, which took place over several sleeping periods.
The dream began in the way such dreams, which closely mirror reality and are usually indistinguishable from it, often do–with my awakening. I performed my morning ablutions as normal, but then, for some indefinable reason, rather than head out the door, I got into a heated philosophical debate about the value of selfishness to societal function and the existence, or lack thereof, of true altruism. Now I normally would argue against the existence of altruism, but in my dream I played angel’s advocate. However, this discussion lasted so long that when I looked at the clock I realized that I had missed a very important appointment. Now, this appointment was a big deal, and missing it was going to set me back almost six months in my life-plans. I was shell-shocked on looking at the clock. I literally couldn’t believe that I had missed this appointment, not in the “damn I can’t believe I missed it” but in the “the clock must be wrong; somebody fix it please” way. And I went catatonic. I couldn’t act, move, speak, or even think really (although I could think about not being able to think, so I guess I could think, in a way, though only tangentially).
All of this occurred in the first sleeping session, and when I woke, I retained some remnant of my nocturnal disorder. It was certainly enough for my wife to comment. Luckily it was the weekend, and so although I needed to get busy on many extracurricular projects, the fact that I went almost immediately back to sleep, sleeping away the majority of the day Saturday, did not cause my dream to become reality. I missed no appointments. But when I did return to slumber, my solipsistic state reasserted itself, and I continued to dream of inaction, of the inability to participate in communion with the rest of life. If I wasn’t depressed before I had this dream, this dream would have been enough to depress anyone, especially in the way that it merged with reality so that I was never sure how much was dream and how much was extant.
This cycle of sleeping, waking, sleeping, always to inaction whether in dream or in consciousness continued throughout the day Saturday. I recognize it now as one of the most severe premonitions or auras of an approaching migraine that I have ever had, but at the time it was truly frightening. I felt an almost Proustian juxtaposition of dream and waking, of reality, memory, future, past, and present. And I couldn’t be sure that it would end. I began, during my brief lucid and sober moments to contemplate coping strategies for a life lived in a catatonic dream (I believe I slept for close to 18 hours on Saturday). Had the mental state not dissipated with the onset of my migraine and the application of Imitrex during the middle of the night Saturday night, I would probably have felt the need to seek psychiatric evaluation on Monday. Whether or not I would have possessed the volition to initiate such a project is another question entirely. And so, in a way, the titanic headache was a relief.
I would like to capture this experience in poetry and, perhaps, to tie it to socio-political concerns. As an “average American,” (is there such a thing?), I feel impotent in the political arena, belabored in endless rules that intrude even into my personal life, and voiceless. I think the parallel will work, but I have more to do to clarify my thoughts on the metaphysical aspect before it will be ready to become a poem.