Nightmares and Novels of Horror
Monday October 15, 2007
Dear Alice Miller,
I wrote to you the letter, “Creative Remembering or Just Craziness?” from July 26, 2007 in your archives. I have still not really reread my old novel I wrote that scared me, but I have been able to allow myself to think about what is in there because I think you are right and it is symbolic for me.
The two towns in the novel are my old hometown where I lived until I was five and the town where I now live. In this time travel story, a person can travel out of the past from the basement (unconscious) of a house in town #1 (my old hometown), to an abandoned beach in the present time of the town where I now live (a beach town). A man did that in the story. He traveled from the past of the first town, to the present in the second town, which had been evacuated due to a storm. Only a handful of people remained there on a barrier island at the time of the man’s arrival. The man did not know it, but a child was a ‘stowaway’ of sorts and traveled with him. The child woke up on the beach and was very afraid. He ran away and hid from the man and from everyone. The man tricked the remaining townpeople about his purpose in their town and also about his true identity. Only the child knew who he really was. (The man called himself Mister so-and-so, but that was not his true title. No. He was FATHER so-and-so.) The poor child in this story was horrified when he realized that not only was he not in the right town anymore, he wasn’t even in the right TIME. He also became very angry about being so alone from having to hide. He liked to hide in the shadows during the day and come out after dark and throw rocks at the windows of people’s homes. He was finally caught by some people when he dared to do it while it was still light outside. They listened to the child and he told them that FATHER so-and-so had really come from the past.
The man had traveled through time and space to interfere with events that would have caused a publicized sex scandal. (My parents moved here to my town less than a year after I got here.) In doing so, he had inadvertently stopped time for the other characters in the story. (I didn’t have many anxiety problems while my father was always with me. I was detached from the world around me and attached only to him.) Time would only advance while the man slept, so, one of the townpeople drugged him with sleeping pills. (My father died and then my mind fell apart.)
There are so many more things in this story that I see now:
1) The child came out at night to throw rocks. (I have nightmares.)
2) Time originally stopped at 2:00 in the morning. (Another night-time thing.)
3) When the man was drugged and time resumed, it was exactly at sunrise. Only the last few nights have I slept before sunrise. This has gone on for some time.
4) One of the relationships in the fictional sexual scandal was symbolically incestuous. I remember consciously trying to keep those two characters at a respectful distance while writing the story because it made me feel very uncomfortable when they got ‘too close’, and that element of the story was the only part of the writing that involved conscious thought.
5) The next novel took place in town #1 (childhood hometown). It was also a time travel story. The man AND the child were in this novel as well. I had to abandon this story because I thought I was having a nervous breakdown because of a female character whose life began to resemble mine in a way that my mind was just beginning to recognize. This was after a (real life) visit to my old hometown. I remember crying to my sister and saying, “I can’t write it. Something has gone terribly wrong. I think she is me. She is me! She is me!” I fired my agent and stopped trying to sell my work because I suspected I was insane and I had no therapist to help me then. I truly thought I was losing my mind, that perhaps I was finally going psychotic or something. This was a very, very bad time for me. It makes me cry, even right now, that I had to go through such mind-shattering horror.
6) I think it might be important that the child showed up completely unannounced in both of these stories. He just sort of popped into my head; ‘appeared onstage without a script’ so to speak. In story #1, he first showed up throwing rocks and I had to go back and write him in properly. In the second story he appeared on a park bench next to the distressed woman who upset me so much. He just showed up and started talking to her out of the blue. He said, “You ain’t from around here, are you, lady?” He said this to her while she was wandering around town in the past, after a night-time visit to the ‘time-travel basement’ of the house in story #1.
That’s all I can deal with from this right now. Perhaps I can start talking to my therapist about the stories. Maybe I will be more able to talk about it out loud after writing this to you. I’m still afraid of those stories. The concept of my childhood is still so hard to believe sometimes. I have a few more memories since the last time I wrote to you. There is still a lot I do NOT have and that is why this is all so hard. I’m not sure what to do next, but I must do something. Arthritis pains in my knees are becoming chronic and I am not willing to have any surgeries. I can’t alter or lose my consciousness outside of my home. I just can’t. I would just have to become crippled because I can’t even schedule an ordinary doctor appointment without being completely overcome by hysterics and I am deathly afraid of being drugged.
I think I know why I can’t remember. Many times, when I was a child, my father threatened to kill me. I don’t remember the context, but he said he had a right to kill me if he wanted to. That he was the father and no one could tell him what to do. I have been wondering. What if the child inside believes this and my body creates a deadly disease if I remember? This does not seem like a realistic fear, but it is still there anyway. I have been having a lot of fears about disease lately.
I had a nightmare last week about one of my daughters again. I dreamed that she had been sentenced to death by a crazy court system. Her crime? Talking in school. TALKING. In the dream my husband and I were trying to get to her and save her, but we couldn’t find the courthouse and our car kept stopping and time was running out. I woke up when we were afraid that she was being put to death. It was horrible. I hope all of these bad things can stop one day and I can just live my life and maybe write something that doesn’t terrify me.
AM: Why do you need to look for more memories? You know enough to understand what happened to you. And I know it from you. But I think that you can’t believe that all this cruelty REALLY HAPPENED, that your mother told you “Shame on you” when you tried to tell her what your father did to you and you needed her help. This reaction from a mother is so horrible that I can understand that you hesitate to believe. So you want to find more details, to convince me, your therapist, and maybe others about your right to be enraged. Actually you want to convince Lynn to BELIEVE her eventually that the horror was REAL indeed. With a mother who denied everything and made you feel guilty you are afraid of feeling your rage. But it is this RAGE that can help you to leave your family alone and become true to yourself. Does your therapist hinder you from feeling this rage? Can it be that he is afraid of it and you want to protect him?