My experience with Sertraline is generally positive in that I don’t seem to be suffering any adverse side effects. However, one thing that has definitely been affected as my dosage has increased is the frequency of sleep disturbances. I often wake up several times in the night, wide awake, and struggle to get back to sleep. Additionally, I suffer quite badly with night sweats which don’t seem to be alleviated by sleeping with the window wide open, minimal pyjamas or a fan by my bedside. When I do sleep, I dream the most vivid of dreams which usually feature random people I’ve encountered before and haven’t necessarily thought about in years. The scenarios are bizarre and sometimes quite realistic, to the extent that I wake up crying or feeling very anxious. It can sometimes take a matter of minutes for me to process that the dream wasn’t real yet I’ll still remember it throughout the day, as if it were a live memory and not a fictitious vision I’d summoned up by accident. The impact of this is lessening (I think) but I’m feeling generally very tired and some of the dreams I’ve had over the last week have been quite disturbing. As a writer, I figure that this could be quite productive material at some point in the future when I am perhaps off the medication and can try to make sense of some narratives lurking in the dreamscapes. Without further ado, here is the first of the many twisted dreams I’ve experienced under the influence of Sertraline:
10th September 2019
I am in my Tama’s (deceased paternal grandmother) house, stood in her bedroom doorway and facing the two double beds. Hers is the left bed, which faced the grand dressing table (adorned with the usual moisturisers and the addition of gimmicky McDonald’s toys) and the mirror, which had been vandalised with stickers. Dadu’s (deceased paternal grandfather) is the bed on the right-hand side, closest to the chest of drawers filled with bedding and surplus. In between the beds, the classic set-up remains as it always was- the portrait of the couple blown up on a large canvas, framed by a handmade golden border. They’re smiling out to us, Tama in her dashing crème saree with red embellishments and Dadu in a smart suit. Their thick-rimmed glasses betray the age of the photo- it’s hard to believe it’s been 21 years since it was taken. I was just a baby myself, then.
Beneath the portrait, there’s the white bedside table with the famous golden lamp, activated only by touch. The telephone sits idle by the lamp’s side and the glass of water from the previous night is still, topped with a mug coaster (to prevent flies and dust gathering). The window is slightly ajar and the thin white window-cover dances against the leaves of the Tulsi ghas which looks worse for wear. There are leaves on the floor.
I hear laughter. The laughter of small children and the rampant racing of small feet downstairs. I turn to the corridor but take one last cautious look in the bedroom and soak it all in.
I walk down the stairs and everything feels like slow motion. The dust in the air around me seems to catch the glare of the light from the bulb overhead- for a moment, I feel as though I am floating on the middle step. Above me is the shelf of wonder, stacked dangerously with board games from the eighties through to the present. I smile and continue downstairs, eager to find the source of the laughter which rings even louder and reverberates in the kitchen.
I turn right at the bottom of the stairs and enter, only to see the mischievous faces of Mya and Dobby. They immediately stop laughing as they realise they’ve been seen but then they glance at each other and become hysterical once again. I would laugh, too. But something’s wrong. They can barely see over the height of the circular dining table and as they come into view, speeding past me in their game of Tig, I realise that Dobby’s head is full of tight, springy curls and Mya’s hair is short. Their laughter is sweet and untarnished by all of the events to come.
They’re toddlers, not teenagers looming over my petite frame. They’re joyful and energetic, not static and occupied with books/phones.
I’ve gone back in time.
I hear the call of my Tama in the front room, she chastises the kids in Bangla. My stomach drops. They’re being too loud and they’re going to destroy something in the kitchen again, she says. I am positive I am going to be sick and take a second, watching the kids launch fridge magnets at one another over the dining table. I want to go and see but I’m scared. I want to see her one more time even though I know this can’t be real. I turn around and I am shaking as I walk through the stair landing. Somebody reaches out a hand from the left, two steps from where I am stood. It’s my Didamoni (deceased maternal grandmother) who winks at me, grabs my shoulders and then releases. She stands beside me for only a moment and I notice that I am looking down upon her now by a few inches. I am frozen. She walks past me into the kitchen, asking the kids if they’re hungry, and I walk a couple of steps into the front room. The sofas are still red. The walls are still crème. The curtains are still pleated exactly as Tama liked them and the fireplace rages on even though the top window is slightly open. She’s stood there in the middle of the room, mid-rant, when she sees me. Then she decides to start all over and tell me about how naughty the kids have been- she’s found Penguin wrappers stuffed behind the pillows and they’ve been running outside with no shoes on through her garden. I don’t know how to respond, how to tell her how unreal this is. How to broach the subject of her-
I need to get out.
I tell her I’m just going to make a phone call, that I’ll be back in a second. She just grunts and then starts on the topic of Dadu, who has yet to return from his walk. Tama batters the sofa cushions to plump them up and slams them into place. Star Plus is droning on in the background.
I walk backwards into the landing again and then up the stairs solemnly. I take the phone in Tama’s room and call dad’s number, praying he’ll pick up. The line rings for eternities. Then, I hear a muffled response on the other side. Before I know it, the words are leaking out and I am crying so hard. I try to tell him to get me out because I’m trapped in Tama’s house and I’m in the wrong era and I don’t know how I got here. He says he doesn’t know I’m talking about.
I wake up.
The tears from the dream side have followed me into reality.