Thursday, 21 October 2010

I blame the meds

You have to wonder about the workings of the human mind and subconscious…

I had been having some very strange dreams in the days (or rather, nights) we are now recalling and the small hours of Friday 17 September 2010 produced a typically florid example: my forehead started bleeding spontaneously and profusely (in my dreaming state) and I reared up (in my actual physical state) feeling choked and gasping for breath. Not very nice at all, but mercifully brief. On other nights, I have had fantastic visions of colourful quirky fairgrounds, with exotic people turning into abstract shapes or animals. At one point, the folds of the pillow under which my arm was resting turned into the pointed feet of a huge spider pressing down into my passive hand.

Bigger and more spikily fantastic than this, I am afraid!

These scenes present themselves—paradoxically with some conscious effort on my part at shaping them, such is the way with half-waking dreams—as I am trying to fall asleep. As a result I wake up abruptly, then doze again until another dream episode unfolds languorously, then turns nasty, so that I wake again. There are typically four or so such sequences until the tardy Hypnos deigns to turn up and release me into full unconsciousness.

The watches of the night are when the weird stuff happens to a lot of people and restless insomnia can seem the cruellest of punishments. I will talk more in due course about other sleepless moments and how I deal with them, but things generally look much better as the rising sun begins to assert itself (Homer referred to “rosy-fingered dawn) and by full light at least some sort of calm has more often than not returned to the battered mind.

I have to recall that, not only is my blood chemistry deranged by shortages of this and excesses of that, but also that I am taking onboard a heady mix of exotic substances, now entirely free to me as a cancer patient of the NHS. Perhaps the most likely culprit is the steroid prednisolone, the one that might have made me get up and do worthy energetic domestic tasks at unlikely hours but has so far spared me such slave-driving.

A wonderful and quite long walk was the perfect medicine to drive away these visions and ground my experience on terra firma, whose sights, sounds, smells and textures are no less fascinating and indeed far more beautiful than any drug- or pathology-induced fantasy. At a reasonable pace we (I am with my son and his girlfriend) take in an art exhibition at Orleans House Gallery and cover most of the riverside distance between Twickenham and Richmond. So now you know what area I live in, but you had possibly guessed that already (the black walnut was a bit of a clue).

Orleans House Gallery
The Octagon is all that remains of a once substantial riverside house.

Tomorrow we will have a full English breakfast: another blow struck for sanity!

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