I don’t often have pleasant dreams. The bulk of my dreams involve some sort of death, being assaulted, or some other crisis. But now and then I get gentler dreams, usually of socialising with other people. I’m also lucky enough to sometimes get real songs playing in the background.
Those less action-packed dreams have become more frequent, but they’re being perverted by COVID-19. I didn’t even realise it until this morning when I was having a conversation with a friend about dreams and our lockdown mindsets. I’ll explain just what I mean by how COVID-19 has affected my dreams.
In one such dream, I’m out with friends. It’s someone’s birthday I suppose, nebulous as dream premises can be, and it’s an evening lit by warm exposed bulbs and candles. Plates of food and innumerable glasses cover a long, scrubbed wooden table, themselves in turn covered by a thick cloud of laughter, swapped stories, and conversation unmediated by a virtual conferencing platform. Waitstaff weave between other similarly crowded tables, slipping through the murmuring restaurant like fish in tumultuous waters.
I sit with my friends, laughing and sharing in this convivial moment, but a nauseating ice penetrates my stomach, churning it. The panic and unease grows as I look around, realising that I am out, in a crowded restaurant, and I am not wearing a mask. I don’t even have one. Nobody does.
There are no masks, no distancing, no precautions. People are even sharing their food and drinks! The panic rises within me and nobody even notices.
This is the reality of dreaming about social situations now. It’s as if half-way through my brain remembers what we’ve had drilled into us for over a year now about how to avoid an even greater tragedy than has befallen so many so far. Isn’t it bad enough to have that constant, low level hum of stress and hypervigiliance while I’m awake? Does it have to seep into my dreams, too?
I don’t have any answers or life hacks for de-stressing one’s dreams, but I just wanted to add my own observation to the growing body of work on how this unique moment in time is affecting all of us. And maybe someone else out there will feel slightly less crazy knowing they aren’t the only one experiencing this.
As I said when the aforementioned friend confessed they’d had dreams like mine: it’s useful knowing someone suffers similarly. Sweet dreams everyone!