Hamlet pondered: To sleep, perchance to dream. Was Hamlet engaging in dream analysis years before Jung?
The “To be or not to be” soliloquy is one of the most well quoted verses in Hamlet. There are quite a few phrases worth quoting from that soliloquy. But for purposes of reflecting on an odd dconsequence of my heart failure, I am looking at just the following part:
To die, to sleep--
To sleep--perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When Hamlet speaks these words, he has just learned that his Uncle Claudius has killed his (Hamlet’s) father and married Hamlet’s mother. Scholars tell us that Hamlet is pondering suicide. However, he feels tormented with the fear that he might not find peace even after the death. His mental and moral anguish are at their peak in this soliloquy.
Well, the scholars may find this interesting but yikes, it’s a bit off-putting to me. Suicide is a pretty serious course of action, especially since it is irreversible. If Hamlet's thoughts and dreams were meandering in that direction, maybe he should have sought the services of a therapist.
My heart failure is serious too. But me, I love life and I plan to live this life as long as I can. So unlike Hamlet, it isn’t eternal sleep that I am looking for, but just a good solid 8 hours of sleep. You see, when you have heart failure, it is important to be well rested and grounded so that you can make the right choices about your treatment, your diet, taking your meds, exercising, and a whole host of other matters.
A couple of things seem to interfere with my ability to have an uninterrupted block of sleep. First, the diuretics I am on (plus probably just aging) seem to wake me up at least once in the night to go to use the bathroom. But dreams also interfere with my ability to have a block of peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. It might be different if the dreams were pleasant, melodic, Hollywood musical type dreams.
But no, I can’t seem to have cheery dreams. I have dreams that I’m sure Jung would love to analyze because they are so vividly bizarre. Additionally, I seem to have dreams throughout the night, with the same characters and evolving themes. It is like dreaming episodes in a nightly miniseries. Here are just some of the bizarre dreams I have had:
In October 2016 prior to the presidential election: I was back in the Federal government job I retired from in 2013. For some reason, I was accompanying President Donald Trump to a meeting with Department level officials. (I have no clue why, as this would be a high level assignment for someone way above my pay grade). I was walking through the hallowed hallways of a grand building and I saw one of my dearest friends. I ran over to greet her. Then Donald Trump came up to talk to us. I woke up, before the Access Hollywood cameras showed up, so no news or fake news here. Trust me, even though the election results had not yet been tallied, I have not been, nor do I ever plan to be a psychic.
The next bizarre dream is about a woman who was a good friend to my 91-year old mother. This woman is in her 80’s and is one of the kindest, courteous and gentle women I know. I often view her as a second mother. I dreamed that she was being honored at a U.S. Government ceremony for her work as a spy in China. Mao Tse-tung was attending the ceremony. I thought this was odd because (1) Mao was an enemy of the U.S. so why would he honor a U.S. spy? And (2) he is now dead. The travel costs alone to bring back the dead would tank an agency’s budget.
The third dream was based on the sitcom The Middle. In my dream, I was Frankie, the Mom. Frankie was being stalked by the IRS, and they wanted to kill her. It all had something to do about her credit cards Her 21-year old son, Axl was helping the IRS. They series may be a sitcom, but the dream was not. I worked with law enforcement agents for years, and the guns looked real and they sure sounded like real guns. I woke up with feeling afraid, and am sure my heart was beating a little faster.
Again, I have no clue why I would dream something like this. Perhaps the dream was a sign that it was a good thing that I had remained single and did not have kids. Throughout the dream, the government lawyer in me was very adamant that credit card investigations do not fall under the IRS jurisdiction. Credit card crimes are under the Secret Service, so the shooters in my dream should have been seeking a transfer to the Secret Service rather than firing on me! (I have a friend who thinks it is hilarious that I can be logical even when I am a character in a crazy dream).
The other night, I dreamed that I was at a baby shower with my friends. The expectant mother was a friend who is 59. What was that about, unless it was based on the biblical story of Abraham and Sarah? After the shower ended, I was going home on a Metrobus, but instead of traveling around the streets of Arlington, VA, we were cruising the roadways of the Amalfi Coast. I know buses sometimes have to take a detour, but I've never gone overseas with a Metro driver. All of a sudden, I was in front of a cruise ship. A passenger walking down the gangplank collapsed in a coughing fit. A friend and I were bending over him trying to get whatever was stuck in his throat clear when we heard sirens. Even after the EMTs arrived, the sirens would not stop. I suddenly realized that it was my alarm clock going off.
Up until the time I had heart failure, I occasionally had a vivid dream that I remembered. Now I seem to have them almost every night. When I mentioned them to my cardiologist and the cardiac nurse in Arlington, they said that it could be caused by the carvedilol which is my beta blocker. I also found on a Johns Hopkins website the following description of some side effects of carvedilol: “Beta blockers may cause certain side effects. Common side effects include *** trouble sleeping/vivid dreams, ***.”
Overall, the dreams are usually not heart racing scary, and some even fall in the category of being entertaining because they are so incredibly warped. But it got to the point that on some occasions I was not feeling rested on the nights that I would have these dreams, and I just wanted Comcast to cancel my subscription to Dreamflix.
But as always, I’m trying to figure out if there is something I can take from even bizarre dreams. So I have started reading a book on dream analysis. The theory is that you can use your dreams and your active imagination to figure out what your unconscious is trying to tell you, and that will help you grow as a person. So I’m giving it a shot, figuring that even if I do not grow as a person, I’m bound to get one hell of a plot for a television series or a novel.
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. She spent the next 7 years learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth. Then in October 2020, she received a heart transplant. This blog is about her journey of the heart.