I have nightmares. I thought I'd mentioned them here before, but apparently not. Generally they're pretty bad, most of the time they happen in the first 30 minutes of sleep, often I stop breathing and always I have to wake myself up by concentrating on wiggling my toes. I taught myself that trick in high school.
I also completely rock the recurring dream style. Through most of highschool it was a dream about returning to the school as an adult with a few other women. We'd pull up at the gate in a white car, grab our walkie-talkies and disappear into the school grounds at night. What happened in between always varied - once I walked into the gym where a class was going on, once I went back to the car and found that the boot was full of dead bodies folded like shirts - but it always ended with the others dropping off the walkie-talkies and me eventually being grabbed from behind.
Ahh, teenage angst. Dontchya just love it?
I've had several other notable recurring dreams over the years, but none as good nor as longlived. That went a couple of times a week for several years. I still do some great stand-alone ones though.
Anyway I've noticed a bit of a trend - these dreams only become nightmares when one character starts getting out of control. I'll be in a situation, like last night where I was with a group of kids showing off their karate kid moves, and one person will just start acting completely inappropriately. In this case it was a guy who turned into an adult and then started getting violent. It isn't the whole dream that's nightmarish, just one character. And they ALWAYS started off nice. They start behaving oddly, it gets worse and suddenly it's a nightmare and I'm fighting to breathe.
That's the point when the real panic sets in because I try desperately to wake myself up, something I can only do if I force myself into calmness and concentrate on wiggling my toes. Which, incidentally, I'm not doing in reality just the same as I haven't actually screamed myself hoarse although my throat still feels like it.
You know, I was aiming to make this post kind of light-hearted and funny, like "check out this weird shit my brain does when it's shutting down", but it turns out I can't.
Even though I'm used to them and know how to deal with them - hell, I even know when I'm going to have one because I fall asleep in a different way - they are horrid. And mostly I manage to fall asleep again by remembering my mother coming into my room when I was about six and had had an awful nightmare (about spiders, and when she sat on my bed a giant spider sat on my legs in my dream) and she brushed my forehead and told me to think about butterflies.
So that's what I do.