The Dream

Thursday, January 28, 2016 by Anna Leida

Last night I had an unusually long, and surprisingly coherent dream. It started off as some sort of sports training event involving an outdoor obstacle course, where me a bunch of faceless people skipped, crawled and bounced around over logs, puddles and rocks in forest of old weeping-willow-looking trees at the bottom of a steep ravine, so deep down that sunlight only touched the top half of the growth along the sides. At the bottom, we suddenly ended up on the bank of a little creep, burrowed down in the moss, meandering its way under gigantic crooked roots. My fellows jumped over a small hill on the bank and with much wobbling made their way to the other side. As I climbed the bank and lowered myself down towards the water and the lower distant bank, I couldn't quite reach, but ended up landing gently on the end a small branch, about 5x1 cm in surface, sticking up from the mud. There I was, balancing on this pole, one hand still secured among the branches on the bank I had just left, and the other pulling the leaves and twigs reaching from the other. And as I stood there the actual dream - in the shape of this balancing act - began. On one leg, swaying from side to side, occasionally encouraged, occasionally mocked by my peers on dryland, and constantly sprayed with mist from the quickly meandering stream. All of my existence cooked down to this one task - keeping the balance over the blackish water, quickly flowing by, moist moss and tree growth surrounding. I closed my eyes, took control over the breathing, and felt the body slowly, gradually stabilizing in tone with the deeper and deeper breaths. The sound of the shouting crowd dissipated in a distance. For a while remained only the soft, deep murmur of the stream and the drip-drip from pearling droplets in the green, but soon also this sound disappeared. Only soft greenish light surrounded, filtered down from above. It was shady around, but not cold. Gradually, I could feel my hands pulling less desperately on the branches, until I could finally, gently, let them go, balancing only foot on twig. Who can tell how time passes in dreams, but it felt like a very long time for this one task, and I have no idea how long I stood there, eyes closed on one leg, before I wake up. Surprisingly enough, and very unlike my most common dreams, I did not suddenly loose balance and wake up from falling face down in the cold water either.

And with this positive introduction, and in the calm feeling after this Dream, it is time to face the music and start the task of Looking Back, by telling another Dream, from some of the darker times. A Dream which was repeated in several versions more times than I care to count. It is a variety of a strangulation dream, of which I also had several (also in other versions) during this time. I choose to describe this version, for I have no desire to go over them all. I also fear that a description like this will never be able to capture the bottomless fear and desperate panic of such a dream, but I still want to describe it, in the hope of reaching someone who has ended up dreaming this after a pulmonary condition, and who fears - like I did - that they will go on for ever, or that they are something other than your own nerves jerking you around. The strangulation part is of course my own personal touch to the matter, sprung out of my constant feeling of breathing through a blanket, sometimes growing into the close to panicky feeling of not being able to breath at all. This part can take many shapes. A hand around your neck, throat or face, squeezing hard. Entrapment in a small space underground with no doors (lets just say that some scenes from the Bridge, episode 1 are off limits since then...). There is a lot of screaming going on, but usually no effects resulting from these efforts. No sounds. No reaction. No release. No relief. Then comes the part where you suddenly wake up. Or so you think. For as much as you know you are awake, things around you are not quite the same. It is dark and you cannot see, yet you can sometimes sense the contours of your familiar bedroom surrounding you, confirming your status of "awake" rather than "still dreaming". You continue to scream, or try to do so, but no sound comes out, just like in the dream. You also try to breath, now that you're out of the grip of the nameless hand, or the doorless hole in the ground. To your big surprise, you can't breathe now either, even though you are awake. Thoughts range from "This is not right!" to "...(insert own exclamation of wordless panic here)...". You may even try to move, toss around and fight, and notice an awkward heaviness to the limbs, or sometimes the inability to move at all. Then is happens - you wake up again. You notice by how something in the room changes slightly, suddenly making you realize that your last awakening was just another part of the dream. If you are lucky, this is where you actually wake up, and if you do, you will hear a sudden gasp for air and realize that it is you, drawing breath as if you were a newborn, just come out of your mothers womb. At the same time you hear it, you are struck with the double edges realization that

1) You are breathing now, thank God, and it was just a dream.

2) You were not breathing while you slept, and it went on for long enough to make your brain panic and create this monstrous screw clamp of thoughts.

If you are not so lucky, you still can't breath, or move, or see very clearly, and it turns out, this is just another layer of the same dream. And so you move through the layers, one by one. Waking up, over and over, just to realize (again) that you still have no chance of survival.

If this is what it is like to die in your sleep: To have a dream, but never quite making your way through the layers and up to the surface, then I think there may be something in the Viking theology which says that whoever dies in their sleep will never reach Valhalla. Better to die in violent ways, conscious and aware, rather than being lost in a dream without end. Nothing after this can make me think after this, that death from drugs, pills, overdoses or pharmaceuticals is a totally painless one. Almost ten years ago now, I watched my grandmother die, from old age and ailments. She was more than halfway gone by the time we got there, and I could not help noticing that every time she made her way back towards the surface through the mist of morphine, a nurse was there, providing another dose. Young, shy and inexperienced in matters of life and death, I never questioned this. Yet I could not help wondering if there was something about it all that these forthcoming nurses did not want us to see. She died without ever reaching the surface again.

The Debate

Monday, January 18, 2016 by Anna Leida

I have been asking myself again and again why I take time to write this blog. It is definitely not meant for anything. If it was just a safety went, why don't I write it on paper and place it in a drawer?

Maybe because the drawers are already full with writings from years passed...

Why does a person has a need to make its voice heard, even if no one listens? What are blogs and facebooks and tweets other than holes where we all pour our loneliness? But when everyone talk, who will listen?

So much of interaction in this world is not really a dialog. Most of it is just a debate. Endless repetition of arguments, fencing with words, just making your voice heard, letting the world know where you stand. But so, so very few really listen. And a conversation without listening is just a debate. What is the meaning of these words?

Or should it be a duty to say something - even without an audience? As long as a person is silent, it is also a silent consent to let others speak for them. Maybe it is important to tell someone, even the empty universe, what your voice is like. To tell your story.

What is the point of writing? Like a work of art can be thrown out like a solitary statement. Is it not just a cowardly debate, with the opposition efficiently silenced by the distance of time. A way to make it easy for the writer to hear its own voice. A debate without a opposition. A monolog without an audience.

A dialog with yourself. A debate with the universe. Maybe sometimes that has to be enough. To create something that may live after you are gone, something that you wish to pass along. To whomever, or to someone dear to you. That is a true defiance of the darkness.

To present a point of view. If nothing else just to prove that it once existed.

The Cracks

Monday, November 23, 2015 by Anna Leida

There are cracks in reality. Invisible. Impossible to detect. Until you suddenly step through, and end up on the Other Side. Where you see the world from a whole different perspective - as it really is? And once you have done that, you're never quite the same again. If you ever get back at all. Some people don't. A lot of people disappear without a trace. This is where some of them end up.

Sometimes you can see a glimpse of the Other Side. In a sudden rush of fear one night alone in the darkness. When you awaken with a scream from a nightmare you can't quite remember, and feel blessed for not doing so. Sometimes, you remember vague pictures, feelings from a universe with no words. But these glimpses are nothing to what you know if you have been there and back. The things you have seen and wish you didn't. The things you know and wish you didn't. If you have been there, you have no doubt know what I am talking about. The fruit of knowledge is truly a curse.

Even though I no longer sure which side of reality is the real one, I have no doubt as to which one I prefer. For some people, the truth is all that matters, without regards for cost or consequence. I am to much of a coward to be one of them.

The Stress

Wednsday, October 28, 2015 by Anna Leida

Cat is gone again. Not very unusual, she is a creature of the wilderness and has been known to be gone for days on end. Yet, as soon as I don't hear her around any more, I feel the inner stress levels rising. "What if something has happened?" "What if she is lying hurt somewhere" "What if ---". Of course, she was there this morning when I opened the door to tune in to todays weather, and now she makes it hard to write this blog by positioning herself on my lap for a nap, the tail protruding halfway across the keyboard. Type frequency today expected higher than usual. Will enter extra round of pre-publishing checks to compensate. Anyway, the episode got me thinking about stress.

Shortly after the clot and all the stress following the strange new turns of my life, I noticed I was extremely stress sensitive. Even a simple demand for performance was met with a feeling of "Nope, not gonna do that", and then retreating behind closed doors or sometimes even back to bed (or under it...). Planning to make a trip to the store, get there, buy food, come home and unpack it demanded rigorous planning, sometimes over the course of days. Eventually, when I had finally set out to leave England and move back home, it took me a roundabout two months to pick up the flat, get in order and take the trip home. A trip which in itself took three days. I sometimes wonder why I did not ask for help more. But see, the problem is that also picking up the phone and negotiating with someone, is also an element which causes - Stress.

Jump a few months into the future - I am back to work, even though pulling it off just barely. Doing tricks like sleeping at work and eating a lot of painkiller to sustain. Sometimes when things go critical I spend a few hours during lunchtime, resting (I would not say sleeping) on the toilet floor of the office - the only place where you can be alone. Things are getting better. Then suddenly one day, as I have had a fairly normally stressful day, I sink back in the seat on the train, taking a sigh of relief. Finally on my way home. Suddenly, the heart skips a beat. And then another. And another. It feels as if the heart beats much harder than usual, trying to bump its way out of the chest, and I can feel the recoil of every beat traveling up the arteries in the neck. It goes about for some ten or fifteen seconds, and I have no control over it. And then it suddenly passes again. Terrified, surprised and shaking I sit very still for the duration of the trip.

Some weeks after, I think nothing more of it, when it suddenly happens again. This time I am working a week in the middle of summer when not much other people are in the office. One of them, the Rock of that place, is also there, and he stops buy for a chat about anything and everything. I am glad to see him and we chat some ten minutes away. Then he makes an excuse and returns to his duties, and I sit down to kick my computer in shape. And suddenly my heart starts hammering again. Slower than usual, but much, much harder. Or at least that's what it feels like. I fall beck in the chair and spend half an hour just sitting there, before slowly and carefully moving upstairs to the restroom. (This is a better equipped office to be sick in, compared to the other one, with just the toilet floor.) I spend an hour or two resting, before packing my things together and driving home. No work done that day.

And so it continues. My heart seems to live a life of its own, bumping away whenever it wants - unexpectedly and unwantingly. I had a suspicion then it may be stress related, but find it strange that it seems to show up in situations when I don't feel the least bit stressed. And lets face it, the Rock is one of the best persons I know at work, but he's not one to make your heart beat faster. After all, he is married.

So what is this all about?

Asking the doctors, you will probably get the same quick, perfectly true, perfectly uninformative and perfectly annoying answer (accompanied with a not-a-care-in-the-world-smile and a shrug of the shoulders): "Oh, its perfectly normal, don't worry about it!" Well, as long as I don't know what it is, I am going to worry. Excuse me, You Priests of the Hippocratic Faith, if I don't just take you at your word.

As usual, the internet provides a better explanation than any nurse or doctor or professor. Palpitations are irregularities in the heartbeats, usually caused by anxiety, and harmless unless unusually long lasting or combined with other symptoms. What I had is called "Premature Ventricular/Atrium Contractions", where the ventriculum contracts a little early, so the circulation s not really efficient. In order to compensate, the heart may push a little harder the next beat, and it is perceived as a "start-and-stop" feeling. Arrhythmia, is something quite different. Palpitations can be caused by a lot of things, like smoking, lack of sleep, hormones, too much caffeine, too much food, or too much stress. So, no need to fear. As it turns out, these type of palpitations are actually more common in athletes and people doing exercise or rigorous training. Which may be why I started having them after I started pushing my exercising past the slow-and-short-swimming phase, and actually started doing something.

But doctors, please consider explaining things a little bit more next time. Sometimes a few words can relieve all the worry in the world. Sometimes, we don't need a pill, or a cure, or an operation, or another examination. We just want to know what happens.

If you experience them too, here are some tips and tricks on how to prevent them, as well as some tricks to kick your heart back into rhythm during an attack (no, we are not using electrical pads...).

The Only Wish

Friday, October 23, 2015 by Anna Leida

It has been a year of change. Or rather a year in the tumble drier. As usual, I kept a diary through the worst times. You know, the king of diary you keep beside the bed. Where you scribble all the things down in hope that the action of doing so will somehow exorcise them from your head and let you go back to sleep again. The kind of diary you only write in, but never read.

I have decided to read it.

Maybe I will also try to bring some of the thoughts in order, and write about it here. We shall see. It will have to be done slowly, one page at the time, with proper time to run and reflect in between, but I will make an attempt. However, I want to start the nostalgic trip with a memory.

Back in Manchester. It is late September, or beginning of October, some time shortly after the onslaught of medical examinations are finished, and I am left alone to medicate, to hope I will not be one of the one or two in a hundered to have another clot following the first one, or one of those who suffer a larger bleeding, brought on by the equally dangerous so called blood thinners. They are not really blood thinners, but vitamin K - inhibitors, but they work by interferring with the bloods ability to clot, the effect being that if you start bleeding, it just continues. Rat poison is made from the same substance, leaving the poor creatures to choke on their own blood, while oozing from all bodily openings. If I wanted to, I probably have enough ammunition at home to tackle an army of rats, should I need to.

Back in Manchester, I have just about started to walk around again. A must when you have Dog who wants out. But walks are not to his liking. They are slow. And short and staggering. Interrupted by frequent pausing, leaning against posts and street lamps. A Special Person calls in the middle of the walk. Another excuse for a rest. I sit down on a bench in the field, leaving Dog to stroll around on his own. Now that I can not keep up any more, he likes me stationary anyway - then he can go about his business at his own pace. In the distance I see him skip off to greet a fellow mate of his species. A Briard perhaps, or a crossbreed. Big, black and hairy. It doesn't matter. English dog-keeping is more relaxed that Swedish. Dog meeting is something left to Dogs to sort out on their own. And free of nervous humans yanking the leash, it works out well almost every time. Listening to Special Persons encouraging mumbling on the other end, I watch the two males circling each other, taking turns in flagging tails and sniffing butt. A question makes its way through my wrapped thoughts:

"If you could do anything you wanted, right now. Right now. What would it be?"

Is that a proper question to ask? Making wishes to the moonlight are we? Imagining some flowers in the middle of winter? What would be the point? But I swallow my scournful snort, and think about it.

"I would like to run", I say at last. Just run, as fast and as far as I can. For as long as I can. Until I fall down dead, and can never run any more.

There is something about the running. The fight against the air, the struggle against the pain. The battle against the will to give up. In my case, right there and then, I would probably be happy to be able to just move around. That autumn I had a very palpable realization of how it would be to be to be dead. Immobile. Tied to a bed, a respirator, a wheel chair, or just slowed down by the wearing of age and ailment. Unable to move. A birds feeling of being tied to the ground perhaps. The feeling of hunted prey, caught in a trap. Unable to get away. And yet, I was none of those things, and my experience pales in comparison to really being trapped for life to a hospital bed. It turned out to be passing. Today I can run again. But I did not know that - not then.

My house was situated close to a natural reserve just along the flight corridor for Manchester airport. I used to do my staggering walks onto those fields, sit on a bench and watch the planes come in, one by one. Watching them gave me contradictory feelings. Childish joy of watching them fly, even though I couldn't. And disgust after a while when the realization that I couldn't took over. I guess that comprises the essence of envy. The same when people came to see me. Joy when they came, and doubly worse when they left. Because they, in so doing, put the finger on the distressing fact that I could not. I could not get anywhere. I could not run any more. I could only lay there, like a wounded animal in its hole, waiting to heal, or waiting to die.

Never before had I truly valued the ability to be able to run. I did not use to do it a lot. Just once in a while, when I felt like it - out of pure joy that I could. There is something about running. It is the essence of being alive. In the naivety of youth I imagined being able to do it forever. I know now, when I by some miracle am able to do it again, that I will continue to do it for as long as I get the chance to live - just because I can.