My bedtime routine always involved my mom and brother. We would bathe and say our prayers, thanking God for the day and sending blessings to those of us who are less fortunate. This has been a staple in my routine ever since. I always lived in a stable home with parents who did everything they could to ensure I felt loved and protected. I attribute this to my ability to sleep well as a kid. However, I had very bizarre, anxiety-inducing recurring dreams for years.
Every once in a while I am reminded of the cliff. This dream always started at a gas station at night time. This gas station was in the middle of nowhere with neon lights. There was a full moon and the windows were always down. I assume one of my parents was inside paying for gas when I decided to hop in the driver’s seat. My brother slept soundly in a car seat in the back. I might have been six or seven. I drove straight off a cliff.
Although I grew up in a loving, stable home, I was not raised with an understanding of self-comfort. I never knew why I was having the dreams or what they meant, brushing them off and hoping they wouldn’t come back. For a long time, this one did. When it was time to learn to drive, I got that same sinking feeling in my stomach as I had back when I got the cliff dream. For a long time, my driving anxiety was crippling. I am almost certain these feelings of anxiety had something to do with that dream, and its effects spanned years because I was late to learn to self-comfort. In Nicole Russell’s book Everything A Band-aid Can’t Fix, she writes about the importance of sharing and reflecting on bad dreams. I’ve since learned that skipping that process is a dangerous way to ensure you remain fearful. I wish younger me knew what I know now.
To self-comfort after a nightmare today, I:
- Take deep, slow breaths to bring myself back to the present moment.
- Say a short prayer expressing gratitude and reminding myself that I am protected.
- Log my dream in a voice memo.
Precious Dreams Foundation’s work to ensure kids have the tools to get a good night’s rest and self-soothe when it’s not so good is so important because what happens at bedtime can truly make a lasting impression. As a summer intern with Precious Dreams, I hope all the kids we reach can build a healthy relationship with sleep and always find a way back to what brings them comfort.