I had a nightmare last night. It wasn’t the sort where there were horrible monsters or anything (my dreams are much more mundane, more the sort where no matter how hard you try you can’t find a toilet, and when you do, you can’t get the lid open, that sort of thing), but once I had woken up, heart pounding and sense of dread smothering, I couldn’t get back to sleep. I tried to re-enter the dream and change the outcome while I was still in that semi-somnambulent state, but nothing. All it would do was repeat itself, or expand its awfulness, leaving me with no option but to turn over and wake properly, to shake off the sense of powerlessness with the light of the morning.
It’s been a while since I had a bad dream. Towards the end of August my dreams take on the hue of anxiety that ensures that during the early hours my subconscious is to be found attempting to tell small people things that they have no interest in and will not listen to, but this one was nothing like that. This one involved one of my own children; Sam, to be precise.
I suppose it’s not strange when I think about it, but anxiety dreams about my children usually involve my losing them somehow. One time, I dreamt that someone stole my car when baby Sam was still in it, and it ended when I woke up, tears spurting from my eyes at the thought that the robbers had discovered him, and left him, on the side of the motorway, on his own, cooing and tapping his little feet together happily. This time, no one took him from me; instead he took himself away, he didn’t listen, and was lost. And I woke up with that horrible sense of the not-quite-real.
I know this dream will repeat itself. I know that over the next few nights, in those moments between waking and sleeping, when I could reasonably expect to lie, comfortably relaxed and drifting, I will return. Again and again I will attempt to influence my mind, and again and again I will be defeated. I will have to wake myself up and give myself a talking to. It’s only a dream, I will say, stop being ridiculous, think about something else. And me, being a well brought up sort of person, will attempt to do as I am told.
I know why it is. I know why I am experiencing an anxiety spike. I know why I have this feeling of loss, this sense that no matter how hard I try, that nothing will change. I know why, when Sam rushed up the road to post his application form for a summer holiday activity day with the local RDA on his own yesterday morning, I stepped out onto the end of the drive in my raggedy old pyjamas, in full view of the neighbours and the postman, just to check that he had made it there safely, and was on his way back, all in one piece.
It’s the same reason that I cried, the day he was lost for real and I rang the police for the first time ever, all over the traffic warden and the staff from Tescos, and they cried too, when he was found, and I didn’t have to make a statement after all, or make a cup of tea for a police officer sitting politely on the edge of the sofa and explain that he couldn’t really make himself understood very well, and I didn’t think he knew his address. It’s the reason I keep an eye on him, make sure someone is with him on the way to school. It’s the reason that understanding what it means to have a good friend, and be a good friend, is on his EHCP.
Because, you see, the violence against disabled people, against learning disabled people is shocking. It happens in books and films, and people think it’s romance. It happens in assessment units and care homes, and people think it’s natural causes, the culmination of a tragedy that started the day they were born. It happens in a hundred careless, heartless ways, and it happens with murderous, sickening intent.
It’s hate, and it’s fear. And it frightens me.