Painting My Nightmares

Anxiety and Night Terrors


You are having a silly dream. Maybe you’re walking with Rod Stewart and he face-planks and when he stands up has a bloody nose. (I had that dream…) But suddenly the silliness transforms. There are more shadows. Looming shapes. Sudden jump-scares. And then: IT. The ‘thing’ in the dream either appears or an event transpires which feels as if the sheer unexpected horror of it will cease you. You scream. You can’t make sound though, so it’s coming out raspy, like mumbling. This wakes you, and usually your partner is shaking you and scared too; because they heard the screams caught in your throat, and felt the way you were tensing and thrashing. A night terror. It’s different than a nightmare but both are probably caused by anxiety about a source of stress completely unrelated to what transpired in the actual dream.

I decided to paint my nightmares. Well, not really. I drew them and then collaged them. I consider them all quick artworks and unfinished. Especially this one. I dreamed this creature was sitting on me. It’s in need of much work and it’s the one I’m working on presently, in between other pursuits. I’ve got the “underpainting sketch” of paper-tone down which is how I like to start.


This next image is a night terror too, one of my worst. I was walking on a stone staircase. There were cobwebs. It wasn’t especially scary, just a little spooky. Until a creature rose up from beside me and bit my arm. I woke with pure terror and it took a while to shake the imagery of it, and the mood.


This next couple of images, you may find a little humorous. It wasn’t a night terror. It was a bad dream that was unnerving and I ended up shaking my head, “What was that about?” Which is why it stays with me. It is unfinished. I’ve yet to collage the woods into place. So here are two portions of the one artwork. In the dream, I was in a dark woods on a path. Delta Burke of the old show Designing Women, was hiding behind trees and following me. I looked in the distance and kept seeing a red glow. It ended up being the evil version of the logo of the Morton Salt girl, she had glowing eyes and was following me too, at a pretty fast clip. I stopped by a tree to discern which way to go to avoid the salt girl and Delta, when my teeth fell out!


This next image is a recurring dream I’ve had all my life. I saw bear cubs in the wild when I was in grade school and since I was alone fishing down the back hill of my Grandma’s Vermont house, I felt responsible for little cousin’s safety. I took her hand and led her up the hill, never looking back but terrified the mother bear was nearby and bearing down on us. Since then, I’ve had at least a few ‘bear-chasing-me’ dreams per year. In most of the nightmares, I am thinking I am within the safety of buildings, but an elevator opens up, or I turn a corner, or I enter a room, and there’s the bear, bearing down on me. This is a depiction of one such nightmare.


The next two dream collages I’m sharing here are perhaps my absolute worst and most memorable. The first one I dreamed just once, the other one recurred between 2000-2005. In the first one, I was about 16, living with my parents in a house that had an old road that led nowhere but into the woods. It had a stone wall alongside it and a big field. I dreamed I was walking along this familiar area, following alongside the wall where chipmunks and squirrels played, when it became dark. I heard chanting in an unfamiliar language and crouched down behind the wall. See the crouched depiction of me, right-hand corner? In my dream, (nightmare; night terror) I saw a ritual in the field. Hooded figures were circling a fire, chanting and I was terrified they would see me. I awoke, alone in the house, early morning light across my bed, and I swore I could still hear that unknown chanting in the room. that has always stayed with me.


The next one, as I said, would happen at least once a week and it went on for years, during the 5-year period that I was round-the-clock caregiver for my husband who had ALS and was paralyzed. I learned all his machines, gave him his various meds and treatments, (I lost 80 lbs.) fed him through a feeding tube, turned him, moved him, showered and sponge-bathed him toward the end, set up his laptop with the robot voice like Stephen Hawking’s, I did all I agreed to do in my wedding vows, sickness and health after all. And through it all I knew I was the one on duty, every day was life-or-death. This is the recurring nightmare that would wake me, screams caught but just sounding like mumbles, tears streaming, my body flailing and my husband, tears coming down because he could not comfort me, being paralyzed. The position I put him in at nightfall, would be the exact position he’d be in when he awoke in the morning. I was a ragdoll body in the nightmare. It was vivid, and real. An unseen force would thrash me from wall to wall, and ceiling over and over again. I think I chose a prettier color scheme for this collage because it’s my bedroom and there is a stark juxtaposition between what is supposed to be a safe restful place, and the unseen terror that was throwing me around that “peaceful” place.


Perhaps one day I’ll finish the series or maybe I’ll move on to another calling. Who knows. Here are a couple other things:

My son and his girlfriend at Pride NYC:


Notice how I’m shifting the mood here, to something more upbeat? That’s on purpose. What do you make of this? It’s a rock my son brought home. The minerals inside were soft and eroded away. It’s got a V going all the way through. I absolutely love it. My son calls it a ‘hag rock.’


I actually thought about sharing paranormal experiences here, maybe another time!

Gotta go!

SWEET dreams


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