Dreams (for the future, not the sleep ones or the day ones) are a difficult topic for me.
As far as I can remember, I looked down on dreams. When others spoke of dreaming or dreams, I sneered. What are dreams, really, but empty hopes, I’d think. I’d look on for a while, and then I’d turn my back. Whether it was a news article, or someone speaking about it around me. Dreams are useless. Dreams are for the weak and to hold out hope for the empty masses.
It was only after treatment for depression started that I finally understood my connection to dreams.
I’d look on for a while, every time it was talked about. I couldn’t not. I had to.
It’s a seemingly small thing but I wanted to dream. I still want to dream. I want to have something I value that I can work towards. Maybe. I don’t know.
What I learnt in the course of my therapy was that my ability to dream had been quashed from an early time in my life. Dreams were bad. Horrible things. They were not real or realistic. They hurt more than they help. Get that job. Do that thing day in and day out that you don’t know if you really like, but have to do so that your kids will be fed. Be responsible. Care only for what can be touched and materialised. Stick to what is safe because safe, while boring, can’t hurt. Do what is approved. Do not do what is NOT approved because you are shame embodied for even daring to THINK that you have the ability to do something unapproved. YOU WILL BE DESTROYED. Your will will be destroyed.
Dreams were beaten out of me. Scolded and shamed out of me. None of my dreams were practical, useful or good. If I dared to dream of a future, it was not possible. I was never going to be good enough for my dreams. Ergo, I did not deserve to dream.
I never even dreamt of getting married or having a girlfriend. Daydreams, sure. Never an actual dream to work towards. I would not be good enough after all.
So when others dreamed, or spoke of dreams, or spoke of dreaming, I would scoff. But the yearning was what made me scoff. It was easier to belittle what others could do, because that was what I’d been taught. It was also easier to belittle it so that I could avoid thinking of that gaping hole where my dreams used to be. In turn I would belittle those who dreamt because they could do what I could not.
When I learnt of this in therapy, I learnt yet again, how hurt people can hurt others. For the sake of my own pain, I had looked upon others as less than enough. As with my anger, I had struck out at others, especially those I love, because I knew no other way to handle the uncomfortable feelings that were rising inside me. I had been forced to minimise myself for the sake of others growing up – I now forced others to minimise themselves for the sake of adult me.
Or at least try to be no more. Learning about my condition and how I reached this point, has helped me understand why I have certain reactions I don’t agree with or like. Seeing those actions in my history being committed to me, has helped remove some of the sting of the extreme guilt. And enough guilt being removed has helped me to confront my own actions and take responsibility for them. This has taken the place of just feeling guilty and continuing the actions, because I knew no way to stop it every time the feelings rose. I can confront those instincts, remind myself that I am not that person from the past, and choose my next step.
Sometimes, though, when things get overwhelming, all that goes out the window and I hurt others. Again.
Now when people speak of dreams, I allow myself to hurt and feel empty. I recognise why it is that way. And I don’t scoff or belittle.
Instead, if I am asked, I ask others in turn for practical ways that they can engage in their dreams. Low hanging fruit. Good first steps. I encourage the dreaming, but if asked for opinions, I go for the practical intertwined with the dreaming. That way, I don’t scoff or belittle, and even hopefully contribute a little to the fulfillment of the dream.
But I’m not perfect. I still fall into old ways. And I can’t dream still. I have little bubbles popping out of my head now and then. I can’t help what I do next.
I burst them before they get burst by reality.
The strangest thing is that I finally have a few things ticked off that I thought I could dream of. I have a comic online, albeit with low readership. I have a published book. All things that God gave in the midst of my depression. I have a loving wife and amazing kids. An actual home where I can rest, instead of just return to. Friends who support and encourage, rather than tear down. And I’ve finally reduced my anger and my belittling of others by confronting my own fears and pains. All by God’s grace, because the circumstances have been such. My own efforts alone would have come to nought.
Yet I still burst those bubbles because it hurts too much to even think that I have a chance of a dream.
So people talk of goals, dreams and futures. I only look to the next week. Or month. I can’t dream yet.
But I hope maybe someday I will.