While recurring dreams may reflect an unresolved conflict in an individual’s life, a Kashmiri woman is grappling with conflict nightmares—in the land of encounters, cordons and lockdowns—taking a toll on her mental health.

In the dead of the night, the traumatic scene unfolds like this…

Silence shatters with a sudden scream, followed by sweat drips, a parched throat, and soft sobs.

Till daybreak, Haleema sits on her bed and keeps wondering about her dreams — ending her sleep at least five times a week.

“The moment I’m jolted out of my sleep, I find myself in sweat and with a pounding heart,” she says.

Aamina Altaf for MI

The odd thing about these dreams is that, no matter how many times she sees them, they take her by surprise, “as they detail new horrors every night”.

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Not only these conflict dreams disturb her sleep cycle, but also affect her mood and motivation for work and life now.

“Only yesterday,” she says, “I saw this dream—where a bunch of armed forces barge inside my house and turns everything upside down. And soon, a gunfight breaks out and we all run for cover.”

While running away, she turns back and starts looking for her family nowhere in her sight.

Aamina Altaf for MI

“I keep shouting my mother’s name but in vain,” she breaks down. “I could only hear the cries of others. Then a man comes and hits my head with a gun.”

Soon as she opens her eyes, her bewildered state of mind makes her grieve over her miserable plight.

Perhaps, she asserts, she’s only paying a huge price for living in the strife zone stricken with encounters, cordons, searches and raids.

“Earlier, I would wake up my husband first, but now I remain awake on my bed,” she says. “I can’t sleep after seeing these dreams full of chaos, conflict and disturbance. They make me angry during the day.”

She mostly dreams about her family members being beaten and whisked away.

“Sometimes in my dreams, they rob the valuable goods from my home,” she says. “Sometimes they beat my brother in front of my eyes. I don’t know what to do with these dreams.”

Aamina Altaf for MI

These dreams have now become a reflection of Haleema’s life. Even multiple visits to mental specialists aren’t helping her.



Mostly, she says, people tell her: It’s all in your head, please take it easy.

“But it’s not that easy,” she laments. “I want to sleep soundly, but I don’t know how to do that.”

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