On A Heirarchy of Nightmares

I have a lot of nightmares.  Always have.  The most salient reason I’ve found is that I have an “artistic temperament”.  That this is the best explanation tells you something about the paucity of information on nightmares.

I understand there is a scale of nightmare severity, which is a questionnaire used to rate nightmares.  I have been unable to find an actual example online, but would be interested.  Lacking this, I present you with my own, more personal Nightmare Rating Scale.

Class I: Icky, icky, ick, ick, ick.

This is the uncomfortable nightmare.  You are teaching a class in your underwear.  You are back in high school after 20 years, and failing algebra. You are having a sexy dream, only to awaken and realize you are in no way attracted to the object of your dream. Result: Wake up needing a shower and a few chapters of a decent book.  I can take about three nights of these before I never want to sleep again.  Class I nightmares seem to be caused by stress.

Class II, type A: A Visit from Dexter

This is the slasher movie in your head. I recently had one that involved the chopping of a loose-skinned skull. Ew. I really shouldn’t boil them first. Result: Wake up needing chocolate and a stupid book.

Class II, type B: This light switch doesn’t work

This is also a horror movie, but more like The Others or The Ring.  It’s all about suspense and atmosphere.  There will be fog or inexplicably dark rooms, confusion, and a general sense of dread.  Result: Wake up, turn on every light in the house, turn on some music, huddle with the cat.  I can take two nights of Class II nightmares before I start chugging caffeine.  Class II nightmares are often inspired by watching horror movies or reading scary books.

Class III: Jaws: The Revenge

This time, it’s personal.  It’s you at the business end of that chainsaw, and your husband is wielding it.  He’s grinning and telling you how great it will be once you’re dead.  Result: Wake up needing your mommy and a Disney movie. I’ve had maybe two of these in my life. I tried my best never to sleep again.  The only Class IIIs I’ve had were caused by physical problems.  For one, I had the flu and had difficulty breathing, and for another, I had just been prescribed a CPAP and was getting used to sleeping with headgear.

Mind you, none of these are night terrors, which is an entirely different animal.  I haven’t had one of those puppies since puberty, and my memory is too thin (thank goodness) to comment on them now.  Also, I’m not talking about the classic, something-is-on-my-chest nightmare, as I don’t consider it such.  This is called hypnagogia, and the next person who tells me about it claiming they’re haunted or were abducted by aliens is getting slapped.

I write this as I’m going through a resurgence in nightmare frequency, probably brought on by my impending birthday, which I effing hate. When I first left my job, my nightmares were so severe my doc recommended Clonopin.  I declined (I’m still not sure why), and eventually the problem lessened.  Other people who have left the same place of employment have had the same problem.  I am in the unenviable position of being able to reassure the newly escaped that the the nightmares get better…after about 18 months.  Since my job was, in my opinion, barely nightmare-worthy, I wonder if a long period of nightmares are common when making such a drastic transition.

Did I mention I hate my birthday?  Stupid birthday.  Stupid nightmares. Don’t boil the skull next time.

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