Vivid dreams and nightmares. The only positive element to this post is that I’ve managed to add a word to my glossary!

I didn’t know, prior to all of my reading and joining neurodivergent communities, that vivid dreams, often nightmares, are very common for us. I don’t think many therapists know that either, otherwise perhaps I’d have been signposted to my identity a lot sooner.

At the start of 2023, my kind Wellbeing Co-ordinator, at our GP surgery, managed to get me in the queue for urgent counselling with an independent charity that works hand-in-hand with the NHS. I had one session with the woman assigned to me and then refused all calls from her subsequently. One of the many terrible things that she said to me was that I have always had vivid dreams and nightmares because… wait for it…expect to have them. Helpful eh? That briefly left me thinking that I was the problem here and if I could just stop being so…me, I would stop having them. And yet I’ve had them since I was tiny – the earliest go back to the age of two, and I can still recall those, video-style, even now. I’m not sure I expected to have them as a toddler!

The relief/shared sadness that others like me also experience these nighttime horrors, is a revelation to me. I hope that reading this will be a relief to you too, if you are unfortunate enough to experience them.

It’s not just about nightmares. It can also be really amazing dreams that feel so real and wonderful that, when we wake up, we actually feel an acute sense of loss when we realise they’re not real. I’ve read many posts from others on social media about this, and them not knowing what to do with that emotion – feeling a loss that feels very real when they awake. I can certainly identify with that. I imagine that our never-quiet minds play a big role in this, and that would be relevant to ADHDers too. I also imagine that those of us who have hyperphantasia are more susceptible to these vivid dreams. It’s possible that we fixate on certain events or people in our lives and play variations of those events over and over, as so many autistic minds are prone to do. This is known as perseveration. Many of us experience emotion very deeply, and there’s no reason why our dreams would have any less impact on our emotional wellbeing than our time awake. It may be that we sometimes live a life free from social constrictions in our sleep, hence we wake up wishing they were true. I don’t know, these are simply my thoughts, until such time as I can research this fascinating area more.

Dreams have always fascinated me, probably because they’ve always been such a big part of my life; I often feel that my day is the easier bit and the night is the challenge!

Whilst this is only anecdotal evidence that suggests that our nighttime hours are more lucid than most because of our neurotype, there is widespread supporting evidence of the relationship between PTSD and autism, which I will more write about elsewhere. Nightmares and vivid dreams are a key symptom of PTSD, this makes perfect sense as so many autistic people are suffering from complex PTSD. Here’s a straightforward and interesting blog post on the overlap between PTSD and autism.