After my stroke, I stopped remembering my dreams. It came as a sudden realization to me, really–months had passed in a kind of stupor when one day I read about other people’s dreams…only to realize…I couldn’t remember my own.
Now, you might say that it’s quite normal not to remember one’s dreams. And I can totally see that as the case–but I am the kind of person who remembers her dreams. I even use my dreams as a source of inspiration for storytelling, and as a window into my unresolved thoughts and feelings, so closed am I at times in my life.
Why couldn’t I remember my dreams? In fact, there was such a blank in my mind when it came to my dreams that I wasn’t even sure I was dreaming at night at all. And could this have anything to do with my sudden lack of storytelling imagination?
The questions knocked about in my head for several weeks (really, several months) as I waited for stories to visit, and as I waited for dreams to visit. Of course, I was going about my normal business, trying to recover, heal, running errands, then gradually returning to work, all the while still trying to write fiction.
This week, I went to my neurologist’s office, where I asked questions and got answers that brought clarity to my medical situation. “Why can’t I remember my dreams?”
My doctor’s answers were very soothing. I’ve come a long way, I had to deal with a rough situation, and my body has probably fallen into a new sleep patterns. If I wanted to remember my dreams, he said, I ought to try to get my husband to wake me when it looks like I’m dreaming. (I brought this up to the hubby later and he said, “Now HOW am I supposed to know when you’re dreaming? It’s not like you’re one of the dogs and you kick your legs and whimper in your sleep!”)
And then I “graduated” from my neurologist, just as I had “graduated” from speech therapy last months. “I don’t think you need a neurologist anymore,” he said. He smiled. I shook his hand and told him that I enjoyed being his patient and that I was grateful and that he was such a source of solace and guidance for me.
On the way out, I made sure to pick up my xeroxed medical file (I have made it a habit, over the years, of getting a copy of my medical records whenever I have a Significant Medical Event). I flipped through the chart–I was tickled to read that I was described as “a very pleasant patient” by more than one doctor (I used to work in the surgical/medical industry so I know the doctors use pat phrases like “pleasant” to describe a number of patients–but I also know they leave OFF “pleasant” if the patient is NOT pleasant).
I was “pleasant.” Somehow, I was very pleased. But then again, I was a lot more pleasant in those days–the thalamus had cut off a lot of my emotional reactions, such as panic and fear (quite handy, actually, as there was a lot to freak out about at the time).
I read results for tests I’d forgotten I’d taken! One of the notes said I was able to only name 14 animals in 60 seconds. I suppressed an impulse to stare at my watch’s second hand and name as many animals as I could right then, and there. But I didn’t. I know I can name a whole lot more than 14 animals in 60 seconds now.
And that night–I remembered a dream for the first time in months. Of course, I was a character in the TV show “House” again–weird. That’s a recurring dream of mine. Why, I do not know. And the next night, I dreamt again: my mom and I were, for some reason, visiting the Golan heights. We, 2 Korean women, were walking around town, eating meals and exploring the neighborhoods (including one house that had a green room–green wallpaper, green furniture, green vases, green carpet, EVERYTHING was green).
Shortly after that (really, the next morning)–my cardiologist’s office scheduled me for the surgery that will end this chapter of life for me. In a month, I get the hole in my heart closed. No more wandering clots finding their way to my brain, that road will not exist.
It was a nice analogy; I had a heart with a hole in it, one that leaked under peculiar pressure and stress. But now my heart will be sealed.