By Susan L. League
Dreams have always been a part of my life, especially recurrent, other-worldly nightmares. My imagination was and still is that of a child. Born and raised in the deep south by an unusual mother, who was schizophrenic, undiagnosed, and untreated, so everything was real to her. There were aliens, who planted devices in her ears to listen to her thoughts, the lady ghost who used to cry constantly inside our house and the demons who attacked her physically. The greatest gift she gave me was no restraints on my imagination. I believed in all she believed.
In my early 20’s, a new nightmare entered, becoming recurrent and terrifying. Awakening, gasping for air, trembling with each dream made me fearful of sleep.
Imagine a glass house 3 stories high. The house a cold, sterile, glass cubical with 9 rooms total and 3 stories high – a perfect casket. There were no doors to enter or exit this house of fear. No furniture, nothing in the rooms at all, except for me. Sometimes, my young daughter would be with me and sometimes my mother. Even though I had been in this so-called house in my dreams repeatedly, I could never recall the ending while inside the dream.
My location was always the middle cube on the second floor. Strange that I remember that so vividly. In the distance there was movement, a massive storm spinning treacherously toward the glass house, slowly at first then speeding up. Drawing nearer and nearer, I knew survival in this glass prison would be impossible, yet there were no doors for escape. Just as the winds began tearing the house apart, I would awaken.
For 3 years this dream haunted my nights. Sometimes, my daughter and my mother were with me. Again, the same ending. Just as the glass would start to shatter, I would awaken. Time after time for 3 years the same nightmare.
Then the dream changed altering my life. I was alone. The storm was just about to reach the house, but I didn’t awaken as in the past. The air was full of the ear-piercing sound of glass shattering and my screams.
Suddenly, outside walking through the chards of glass, I see a body face down in a ravine. Rolling the body over, I was looking into my own face. Eyes wide open, glassy and cuts all over my body. But was that really me? Seeing myself looking at myself was a struggle to grasp the reality and meaning. Immediately, I awakened more terrified than ever before. This time the dream had ended violently. I died.
At that moment, I fully understood what the storm and actions in my dream meant. The moral of the dream was that if I did not alter the direction of my life, I would die.
The monster storm or the image of destruction was played beautifully by my physically and mentally abusive monster/husband.
The monster threatened that if I left him, he would kill my mother and take our daughter. They were all that meant anything to me. He used their lives to press me into submission.
Fearfully, I began my exit strategy. Promising myself that if he killed me, it would be with my back turned to him as I was leaving. No longer would I be his victim.
We were in Florida at the time, and I worked at a university. My husband had run me off the road several times on my way to work that morning. When I got to the office, the phone receiver was laying on my desk. My co-worker quietly said, “it’s your husband.” I answered and he told me he was on the way to the university to kill me.
Quitting my job, my wonderful co-workers took up a collection for a one-way ticket back to my home. My graduate assistant rushed me to the daycare center to pick up my little girl. We passed my husband driving into the university as we were leaving. My daughter wasn’t in the car with him, so I knew I still had a chance to get to her first. My friends delayed him by saying I was running errands on campus, so he didn’t know I was on the run. Leaving everything I owned, my car, clothes, etc., I returned home to Atlanta with my daughter to hide from him.
Wish I could say all was well, but it wasn’t. He found us, beat me up, broke a few bones and tried to kidnap my daughter. But the police arrived just before he could get away. Laws were different in the 70’s and domestic abuse wasn’t normally dealt with properly. But a protective order I filed sent him to jail. Imprisonment, the lack of control, was a major fear of his.
For the first time, I was the one in control. My court date was the following day. When a restraining order is issued, you must stand before a judge and justify your reasons. Sitting in the courtroom with a black eye, busted lip, and splints on the broken fingers, I felt safer and more alive than ever. I wore them like battle scars. The judge asked me to stand and said, “I don’t need to ask her anything – all you need is to look at her and know she had just cause.” I was finally free!
Abusive men are cowards and terrified of not being in control. So, for the first time, the frightening monster storm of my dreams was afraid of Me!
That was many years ago and I am now in my 70s. I understand that each successive wife of his has been abused. And during the rare 3 years that he was in my daughter’s life, ages 9-12, he molested her. She tearfully confessed this to me, and her father went into hiding so he couldn’t be arrested. What made this act even more deplorable is that my daughter has learning disabilities and was vulnerable.
There are monsters in this world that walk about us. They wear faces that appear to be normal and harmless. But underneath lies evil.
The glass house nightmare was a warning for me to get out before I became a forgotten statistic. My sincere wish is that anyone, who may read this and is in the same situation, will find hope. You can walk away, and you can survive. I’m living proof that life can be beautiful again. Do not be silent. Seek help.
And the end of the story? I lived happily ever after with a wonderful man, who loved me greatly, and never had that nightmare again.