Sometimes I feel this crazy.
February 1946, Ohio, USA — Woman in Straitjacket at a Psychiatric Hospital — Image by © Jerry Cooke/Corbis
I just had an especially vivid and detailed dream and posted it over at Psychforums immediately on waking so I didn’t lose the details and “feel” of the dream. I asked people to try to interpret it for me so I’m going to include those responses too.
I just woke up very upset and angry from a very intense and vivid dream. I’ve been trying to figure out what it means because I feel like it’s important but there are parts that just make no sense if the central theme is correct.
It started out wonderfully. I was in some psychiatric hospital program and had a received a great deal of help in it. Later in the dream it seemed I was an inpatient but at the time the dream started I was an outpatient because my son had to drive me there (for some reason I wasn’t driving my own car or maybe he just wanted to drive) to attend some awards dinner where I was going to receive an award. I was incredibly popular among the other patients and I had a bearded psychiatrist (aren’t they all bearded?) that I loved. I felt like he had saved my life.
So my son and I made several trips, first to a cheap chain restaurant (I don’t know why I was eating dinner twice) and then to another store, then finally to the hospital awards dinner, where he dropped me off. I got a lot of hugs and congratulations and support from everyone. I had many friends in the program. I had no idea what sort of award I’d won and none were given out but I was having a great time. At one point two of my friends (both dx’d BPD) pulled me up on the stage to join them in an impromptu song and dance from a musical. I kept along as if I’d been rehearsing for weeks. At one point it became a medley and we broke into the theme from “Hair” (why?!?) and started throwing flowers everywhere and at each other. It was a great deal of fun and I wasn’t at all self-conscious even though I was dressed in a hospital gown (like an inpatient?). I’d never felt freer or happier. I felt love all around me from the audience and the other people on stage.
My son came to get me later but when I got in the car I realized I couldn’t find my purse. As in real life when this has happened, I panicked. My purse is like my life–and I had special medications in there that eased my psychiatric symptoms too (and that had been hard to obtain), as well as my house keys, car keys, credit cards, ID, money, and the zillion other important things women keep in their purses. I didn’t remember having it at all at the hospital function so we first went to the store and the first restaurant to ask if they’d seen it. They hadn’t so we went back to the hospital and asked the woman at the front desk if she had seen it. She said she had to go talk to someone and to wait a few minutes. After a little while, my psychiatrist came out and said they had found it, but couldn’t just give it to me. I would have to pass a “character test,” of the type they sometimes give candidates applying for jobs to make sure they’re honest or aren’t going to steal or lie or whatever.
I looked at the test, which was about 40 pages long. None of the questions had anything to do with my purse or even with being “honest.” The questions made no sense and I couldn’t think. I was too upset by not having my purse and angry that I had to pass a stupid irrelevant test to get my own property back. I kept getting distracted by other things and couldn’t focus. After about an hour my psychiatrist asked me if I was done yet but I had only answered 4 questions. I was almost in tears by now and told him how upset and hurt I was that he didn’t trust me. He said he didn’t make the rules and could do nothing. He said don’t worry about passing, just answer the questions the best you can. One of the questions was a multiple choice “story problem” like an elementary school math test and the story was about someone with both my first and last name. I was impressed by that and showed everyone around that my name was used on the test letting them know I’m the only person in the country that has my name. I still couldn’t focus and the questions still didn’t make sense. I finally gave up and took the mangled sheets of paper with holes from too much erasing and rewriting to the person who was scoring, a cold woman in charge of testing. I was so angry and upset I ran down a long hallway into the psych unit and saw people there–really crazy people–dressed in straitjackets and lying around on gurneys and in wheelchairs. They were making strange sounds and babbling incoherently and didn’t seem like they knew what was going on. But then I saw one of my friends and told her what happened, then started crying hysterically. I knew the crying was mostly to get attention and sympathy. It was definitely manipulative, but I was extremely angry and upset so it was a way to vent my frustration too. My friend held me and the other people didn’t even seem to notice or care about my OTT behavior, because they were so out of touch with reality or what was going in.
I went off running to look for my psychiatrist to beg him to let me go and take my purse, after all he knew me and I was the recipient of an award. I finally found him and stood there in the doorway of his office in my hospital gown, sobbing but without tears. He looked at me coldly and said there was nothing he could do, it was hospital policy, and they were still working on the results.
Finally he and the woman who did the scoring came out together and told me I’d failed. I screamed at them that they told me I didn’t have to “pass.” They just looked at me. “What am I supposed to do?” I screamed in frustration. They told me I’d have to keep taking the test (and paying $100 each time to take it) until I passed before they could give me back my purse. I told them I didn’t have the time or the money for doing that and they had my car keys too. Again, they just looked coldly at me. They showed no empathy for my situation whatsoever. I felt so betrayed by this psychiatrist who I’d thought cared so much about me.
In frustration and rage, I ran out of the building and found myself in a slum area of a large city. I was running the wrong way. I’d apparently forgot my son was supposed to wait for me but I’d been in there for hours and maybe he’d left. I wasn’t thinking straight. I ran the other way and suddenly was running through a dark garage but that had neon-sparkly floors and walls and there were young gang members in there just hanging out. They looked threatening but I was too enraged to be afraid. I ran right past them and kept running. I jumped into a hole in the ground and found myself in someone’s slum apartment in the projects, cockroaches running everywhere. I kept running through and climbed out the window on the other side and ascended the fire escape. More gang members were sitting around but I kept running. I don’t even know where I was running; I wasn’t thinking at all, but I just had to run.
I woke up feeling incredibly angry and sad at the same time and decided to write all this down before it dissolved away the way dreams tend to do. I have no idea what it all means but I’m getting a few ideas.
My “purse” could have been my false self I’d recently shed in therapy (in the dream) and have had moments without through blogging and even at random times in real life, but that doesn’t explain why my therapist turned out to be such an asshole and betrayed me. It doesn’t explain the ridiculous test I had to take to get it back. I can certainly understand why I would have wanted the purse/false self back though, because although in the hospital I felt happy and free without it, in the real world I felt naked and victimized and crazy.
My psychiatrist could have represented my family, my mother in particular, who I felt betrayed me a long time ago. The slums represented a bleak and impoverished future that I fear so much. I always feel like I’m running frantically–but never sure if it’s toward or away from something.
I’m going to be thinking a lot more about the dream today, but I wanted to write it down while I was still in the dream-feel that follows awakening from such a vivid dream. I feel like this was really important and I need to understand what was really going on.
Here are the two responses I’ve received so far.
1. What I get from it is that you are wanting a healing and are proud of yourself for recognizing your problem and work toward the healing, but it isn’t coming. You sometimes say you wish you could go to a facility, and your purse can’t afford it(?) Or, like me, sometimes you feel more normal, your true identity which your purse contains (but you can’t quite hold reliably). The trouble or conflict you are having is reaching the emotions (or cognitive acceptance) which you still haven’t, which is the test with your name on it. It perplexes you. You recognize it but can’t understand what it is you’re still controlled by (what you haven’t accepted yet).
I think the running through the ghetto(?) is your fear of an impoverished future without even the healing (if you give up trying because you leave the hospital, throwing away the test, living without your identity)?
There was a new video [Spartanlifecoach] which you might relate to. It is about he lizard, monkey and human parts of the brain and how the human part can become constricted (his theory, I don’t believe this is science.). And, it is unable to process emotions/memories. The monkey part of the brain (amygdala) being more reactive controls us. (Which matches my self-perception.). He says the human part can be exercised and process more easily things that it couldn’t. Maybe like re-parenting. But, he gives examples. And, mentions how it doesn’t have to be an emotional breakdown, just an acceptance “yeah, that happened.” There could simply be things you couldn’t realize. They were out of your view, yet when you realize them they’re relatively simple?
(I think that’s what happened to me a few months ago when I realized I had been projecting my mother at my ex. I thought it was going to be the worst thing I had realized yet — and it immediately turned into “yeah, that is it.” It seemed anti-climactic compared to what I braced myself for.).
Maybe it *is* just a cognitive test that you need to take. Not the emotional breakdowns (which sound like what I call dysphoria, and have come to see as not healthy to my TS. They can be fake, I think, where I’m sucking emotions out of myself for an unproductive purpose. Which sounds like after you threw the test away, and went to another ward where you spoke to a friend and cried, but not genuinely.).
2. First of all the dream is symbolized in splits, the hospital is the same as the slums, the “two friends” are the same as the psychiatrist and the nurse. it is unclear who the son is, it does seem important though that he drove the car. same goes for the hospital and store. The contents of the purse seems to be your identity, on a deeper level a purse seems to be quite an obvious womb symbol.
So the dream goes from narcissistic perception of a family home, being in the phase of being praised and happy about your good looks (Hair, god.) and awesome achievements to this break with the restaurants and the purse and then suddenly your identity is lost and your parents have (found) your identity, but only want to give it to you when you prove to them that you are “honest”.
You have to pay them for giving you (back) your identity, you feel instead of enriching, they impoverish you. so when you cant pass this mysterious honesty thing you give up and land in an inner world with neither the narcissistic sparkle, nor an identity. everything seems impoverished and youre just running aimlessly.