Dreams—weird, vivid, wild, memorable dreams—have become a staple of my pandemic experience, and I’m not the only one. Across social media, people are using the hashtag #PandemicDreams to share how the global new coronavirus crisis is manifesting in their unconscious minds. Plenty of cool articles have ventured to explain why this is happening, too.
Personally, I’m not super interested in the why. I’ve long been used to my anxieties and experiences invading my dreams in uncanny ways and I’m woo-woo enough not to need a scientific explanation behind why countless people have all dreamt of their teeth falling out when they’re stressed. Instead, I’m interested in the what. So I asked people to share what’s been going down in dreamland for them over the past two months.
Here’s what they had to say.
1. The one where you’re back in college
“I had a dream the other night that I was walking through Manhattan and it was absolutely crowded with college-aged women. Everyone was in big groups, no one was wearing a mask, and I was holding my breath and running to get into my apartment, which in dream logic was a college dorm room. There were doormen in every building and they were all yelling at the mask-less passersby, asking if their lives were worth it. It was so chilling and real, from the class dynamics to the contagion. It was so wild to wake up from it and realize just how pervasive and constant the fear has become.” —Jay R.*, 24
2. The one in a stressful spa
“I had a dream last night that my favorite spa had re-opened and I learned I was one of the first allowed to go in after it had closed down due to coronavirus. It sounded so amazing and then I got there and learned I could only enjoy the spa while wearing a hazmat suit, along with a gas mask. There were a number of other safety precautions that were being taken, but I remember that it was the least relaxing thing possible and the look of horror on all of the employees’ eyes was very sad.” —Jordon R., 30
3. The one where you disappointed Bernie Sanders
“I was in a classroom from my elementary Catholic school. I was in the back of the class, as a 28-year-old woman, with my classmates. I was panicking because for some reason I thought that I had to eat the molding art clay that was in front of us. It was so vivid I felt like I could taste it while dreaming. Then all of a sudden, Bernie Sanders is there and he’s reprimanding me for eating clay. He’s like, pretty upset. I’m super embarrassed. There’s no way to hide it because my mouth is full of clay. I believe this dream ended with him telling me to go spit it out. I felt like I let everyone down. I’d really prefer to not let Bernie Sanders down.” —Katie T., 28
4. The one where you can’t stop touching everything
“I recently moved home from London, before the pandemic. I dreamed I had gone on a trip back to visit and was riding the bus around the city and generally sightseeing. The pandemic was going on and I and everyone around me were wearing masks. As I moved about, I was very aware I was touching bus poles and could be contracting the virus yet I still didn’t stop. I knew I planned to return home to NY at the end of the trip and that my grandpa’s very sick and in an old folks’ home and we’re worried about him. I was anxious and freaking out about it while traveling around, yet I still continued going about and touching things, knowing I’d be going home and very likely bringing it back to my family.” —Bridget L., 24
5. The one that’s too real
“I keep dreaming I’m just doing my job. In excruciating, realistic detail. I wake up and feel like I’ve already worked an eight-hour shift. And then I have to actually work an eight-hour shift.” —Blair S., 31
6. The one where you can’t enjoy the water park
“I had a dream I was at a water park with my husband, an ex-boyfriend, one of my uncles, and a handful of children who seemed to belong to us. It was so vivid. There were those sunscreen dispensers everywhere and sunshine pop was playing over the loudspeakers and everyone had an innertube around their waist.
I decided to hit the wave pool but no matter how I timed it, I couldn’t catch a wave and body surf it. I was visibly frustrated when one by one, my husband, ex, uncle, and imagined kiddos all joined me in the pool to try and teach me. In turn, they each lost patience with me and body surfed away until I was the last person left in the pool. I struggled there, jumping just a second too early or too late, for what felt like hours until I woke up tangled in my bedsheets. I was irritable the next morning and if I’m being honest, a little fire ignites a week later as I type this. Why couldn’t I catch a wave?” —Lauren H., 27
7. The one with war and filing
“A large filing cabinet came to life and gave me a tour of the former military garrisons in Afghanistan.” —Emma S.*, 23
8. The one with all the guinea pigs
“I had a dream that my roommates and I got guinea pigs, and for some reason, we put them in the drawer of a nightstand in my room. The guinea pigs were the size of mice and I had a bad feeling about them. I told my roommate I couldn’t keep them there anymore, and when I opened the drawer to give them to her they jumped up and bit my hair. Then I woke up.” —Madeline S., 26
9. The one where you did it
“Dreamt I woke from a coma with amnesia to find I’d previously been a serial killer and had to run around hiding the horrific evidence that would put me away.” —Devin D., 49
10. The one that makes zero sense
“I was sick in a musical-theater themed children’s hospital in Boston but they wouldn’t let me use the bathroom. They made me walk across the street to the Red Lobster every time I needed to pee.” —Brooke T., 22
11. The one with grandpa
“I dreamed my bed-ridden grandpa who’s had a stroke was well again and my whole family was around a table. He said something to me in Hindi, which I don’t understand, and my dad got annoyed with me for not understanding. I had a tantrum about how it’s my parents’ fault for not teaching it to me when I was younger and then expecting me to understand now. I woke up in tears.” —A.A., 19
12. The one with an interesting investment
“My boyfriend bought a dilapidated red barn full of antiques from an old man in overalls. Since lights streamed through the slats we decided sunshine was a good omen, decided to move in, and it turned out one of the beds belonged to Marcel Proust.” —Rachel R., 47
13. The one where everyone is running
“In my dream, I’m on a hill, rushing down among the tall grasses only half-illuminated by the moon. I can hear the steps of people ahead of me, jumping to avoid potholes and snags just like I am doing. My face is hot and sweaty and my heart is beating hard, hard, hard in my chest. We are running away from something. Ahead of me, I can see people appear and disappear in the darkness. They are wearing plaid shirts in different colors flapping wildly, and I think this is how bulls in the ring must feel.” —Jules R., 39
14. The one where you’re stuck
“I keep having stress dreams that I can’t escape out of a nursing home. Sometimes I just feel horrible and stuck. Sometimes I manage to escape through a back door and as I am being chased, I take to flight.” —Michele K., 44
15. The one that you wish was real
“I had a dream about an empty, fully-stocked supermarket. Just rows and rows of food and no people.” —Hannah E., 25
16. The one that’s way better than reality
“My dreams have been awesome. Nothing about the pandemic at all. Just really realistic dreams that I’m part of whatever TV show I’ve been watching that week. So far I’ve hunted vampires with the Winchesters, hung out with David and Patrick in Schitt’s Creek, and was a contestant on Too Hot To Handle.” —Fran W., 24
Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.