When it comes to my dreams, I’m generally unfazed by spotting polar bears in my bathtub or falling in love with a guy I haven’t seen since fifth grade. What strikes me as odd is that I’m always walking through dreams without my wheelchair, yet I still can’t maneuver stairs. This unexpected new reality is just one of the many puzzling things that I have noted about my dream world since becoming a high-level quadriplegic.
Dream Me is independent and has a full range of motion. Despite showing no visible signs of paralysis in my dreams, my legs often lack confidence. I move slowly, step gingerly and reach for handrails. In dreams, I’m a seeker; I search, and solve puzzles. Recently though, locating accessibility features has become a bizarre recurring theme in my twilight quests. Dream Me has no issue with seemingly endless hunts to locate an elevator in outer space or wandering through labyrinths looking for barrier-free exits.
I’ve started to wonder: Is my subconscious obsession with accessibility unhealthy? Clearly, the theme is relevant to my life, but with my limitless subconscious at its disposal, why isn’t my brain giving me the night off from ADA duty? Am I the only one with a spinal cord injury walking unsteadily up access ramps in my dreams?
It turns out, I’m not. In fact, 60 percent of the 138 people with SCI who responded to a poll I created responded that they, too, are sometimes in and sometimes out of their chairs when they dream. In contrast, most of the remaining 40 percent of respondents never use wheelchairs in their dreams. A big surprise for me was that only a few said they always use their chairs in their dreams.
Many respondents commented that despite enjoying otherwise full mobility while dreaming, they also run into illogical SCI-related stressors. Apparently, the dream world is full of seemingly-able sleep-walkers: dreamers with functioning limbs who still