When multiple sclerosis invades even my dreams
A columnist looks at his vivid dreams in which MS is present
I may not be able to turn in circles like a dog anymore, but I still have a few bedtime routines.
Before I had an intrathecal baclofen pump, multiple sclerosis-induced spasticity would wake me up multiple times during the night. Whenever that happened, it was next to impossible to fall back asleep.
Now that the spasticity is controlled, I’ve been able to concentrate on the other things that interfere with rest. Before I do anything else, I make sure to empty my bladder. The days when I could navigate in the dark to the toilet without really waking up are long gone.
Then I position my side of our adjustable bed just so, along with the blankets, my pillow, and myself.
Finally, with everything in its proper place, I clear my mind and drift off “to sleep — perchance to dream.”
Dreaming in MS
Except during the period when my spasticity was at its worst and my sleep sporadic at best, I regularly dream. My dreams are of the usual variety, I suppose. Some are fiction, some documentary, some fantasy — but they’re often spoiled because I’m aware that I’m dreaming.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that they’re entirely lucid dreams. I’m unable to control the action or pick the theme. If I could, I’d never choose to dream about multiple sclerosis (MS).
Most nights, MS doesn’t enter my dreams. It stands to reason that since the majority of my life didn’t include the disease, the majority of my dreams wouldn’t either. This is especially true when the dream is of a past, pre-MS, event. I might find myself in school, unprepared for a test and not wearing pants, but at least I’m in good health.
Occasionally, my dreams are of the present. Sometimes they represent my true current state, but sometimes MS isn’t there. Those dreams are rare, because my awareness shows up armed with reality to ruin things. In several of these dreams, I’ll be walking when it’ll occur to me that I shouldn’t be. Then, like Cinderella at the ball, I’ll find myself struggling to reach some kind of support before I collapse.
When that happens, I guess I should thank my awareness for giving me time to reach a chair. What I’m not thankful for is MS intruding into my dreams. I’m well aware of my reality, but I feel like my subconscious should be off limits.
I’ve had at least one dream (that I remember) of a possible future in which I was walking again with trekking poles on a familiar path. I stumbled and let go of my supports, but instead of falling, the stumble turned into a slow, shuffling, joyous run. I don’t know why awareness didn’t interfere that time, but I’m grateful it didn’t.
Maybe hope is the one thing that is off limits.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.
I have what I call walking dreams. I am walking like a normal person then I wake up and realize it was dream.
I have had MS for 23 years.
Most of the time, I realize that I shouldn’t be walking while I'm still in the dream. Sometimes though, like you, I wake, up disappointed by reality.
Thanks for reading Tracy.
You’re a good & uplifting writer, I enjoy your columns.20 year MS veteran here getting ready to get on Ocrevus tomorrow!
Try to manipulate your dreams,you can ya know. Ask for what you want to know as you’re falling asleep. Funny how in my dreams most of the time I’m walking or running!(sigh)
Thanks Kim! No one has ever referred to me as uplifting before lol. I have tried to manipulate my dreams but haven't been successful....yet. Much of the time, it's like I'm watching my dreams from the audience. Just like on TV or a movie theater, I can shout all the advice I want but the main character never hears me.
I went to an Existential Psychology (EP) program to get my master’s, on the way to Doctoral study and a license to practice psychology. The idea with EP was to focus on the here and now and notice how much conciousness is not related to here and now, and the dysfunction that results. EP is a bit “out there” compared to the standard approaches and we had our share of “out there” students. For me, the here and now did not include living forever and simply passing into a new existence once the old one expired. Lucid dreaming (LD), and particularly “out of body experiences” (OBE) during LD was frequently described by some students, who looked forward to all the stuff they could do in their dreams. To the serious LDreamer, it was a way to venture into new horizons, and the belief was that afterlife, or something close to it, was OBE during LD. So then Ben, if you are really into it, have fun!