The nightmare while in a coma: I was in a coma for... - ICUsteps


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The nightmare while in a coma

MonicaHorvath profile image

I was in a coma for 28 days. While in the coma i had terrible nightmares. I was completely unaware of my state so for a long time I thought I was stuck in that nightmare reality... I am so afraid of waking up in that nightmare again. It haunts me...

I guess what I am asking is, has anyone else experienced this horrific nightmare while in a coma? Is this normal?

21 Replies

Hi @MonicaHorvath

Your experience certainly echoes mine - I will attach a link on ‘ICU delirium’ which is what I suffered and it sounds like you did too. Not everyone has nightmares apparently - one person I spoke to, talked about seeing bursting clouds of colour, for instance.

The scenarios I saw & participated in, were extremely violent & sexual explicit - (not a normal fantasy world for me). They also involved highly convoluted conspiracies involving family & friends & medical staff. For a time ICU was run by a group of Pygmy South American nurses carrying Kalashnikovs who were constantly under attack from ISIS imposter nurses who were assassinating any non believers - such was my world - I could not wake from the nightmare such is the nature of sedation.

If this type of dream persists, search professional help - we store trauma in a different part of the brain, which doesn’t process in the same way. Some people cannot ‘just get over it’.

If you want more response to your post - try to lock posts in future - then only people in this community can see your post. If you look for 3dots in a line, press that & ‘edit’ - scroll to the bottom and click locked post.

MonicaHorvath profile image
MonicaHorvath in reply to Sepsur

Thank you for the advice. I will check out the link you sent me. I had the same violent and convoluted conspiracy situation. When actually did wake up, i was convinced the nurses and my boyfriend were trying to kill me. I couldn't process what had happened for at least the first week. I dont have the reoccurring nightmare, i am just scared at how completely convinced I was that my nightmare was real. Thank you so much for your reply.

Sepsur profile image
Sepsur in reply to MonicaHorvath

I liken my time waking from 57 day coma ( it took 11 days to come around properly) to be closer to an alternative reality than a dreamscape, such was its intensity & seeming solidity.


I was in my coma for February as well. Im glad to hear that your memory of them are fading. That gives me hope that mine will also fade soon. Thank you for your reply.

How are you feeling now ? I was the same . I had sepsis . Just curious

I can relate to your nightmares as had similar ones to Sepsur. My sepsis and organ failure was due to food poisoning and I thought I was deliberately being poisoned by my husband and the hospital staff. When I came out of my coma I was too afraid to speak as I trusted no one. They thought I had brain damage as I was so withdrawn and fearful.

This was 2 years sgo. I have recovered physically and mentally but still remember the fear quite clearly.

Stay strong and talking about your experience to anyone who will listen helped me!! There are some interesting articles to read so you don't feel as if you are isolated. A bit of tlc and slow targets is the way forward I found. Good luck with your recovery.

After they woke me up from my induced coma, I was convinced that the medical staff were trying to kill me. I thought they were lying about who they were. I kept trying to escape but I couldn't move my limbs. i was trapped. I didn't recognize my boyfriend. He was the only family I had because I lived in Colorado, while my biological family live in Florida and Illinois. The nightmare didn't end with waking up. I am grateful to the doctor's and nurses who saved me... but I it scares me to think about how completely convinced I was of the nightmares... it makes me second guess my current reality.

Absolutely. I was in a medical coma for 10 days and I was stuck in a living nightmare the whole time. It was the most frightening experience of my lifetime. I am waiting to start counselling to help me deal with it all. I was so traumatised by it all. I spoke about it with the nurses and my family. But I need proper help. You are not alone.

Mine had me trapped in a gameshow where I was in hospital but in various locations around the world. It was a horrible experience. I thought I would never escape. I believed that the only way to end the repetitive cycle I was trapped in was to die. So I was trying to remove tubes and cables from me. Apparently I was doing this in real life as well, not just in my nightmare and I was saying I wanted to die.

When I was woken up and saw the drains and feeding tubes and tracheostomy inside me I thought I was in another nightmare. Being naturally squeamish this was a dreadful reality as well. I have been left with keloid scars on my neck and abdomen. They itch and burn. The tracheostomy hasn't healed properly and I have a lump in my throat internally. It is painful and uncomfortable. I have to go and see an ENT specialist about it.

I too had sepsis, kidney failure, peritonitis and staphylococcus. They even cultured a new infection from me they named &c I was on 4 anti-biotics at the same time at one point. Mine was caused by gall bladder surgery that went wrong.

MonicaHorvath profile image
MonicaHorvath in reply to KizzyD

I was in the induced coma for 28days. I was on a ventilator. My nightmare involved family and friends in an unfamiliar house. I would go from room to room finding loved ones dead. Mostly shot to death, very graphic. I knew i was in danger so i was hiding in various places... fighting to stay alive. I didn't respond to the antibiotics until the end of my second week. At first they told my family that it didn't look like I was going to make it. They drove across country to Colorado to see me in my coma. I don't remember ever feeling their presence... i know i was trapped in Hell. So when I woke up I didn't believe anyone. I thought the nurses were trying to kill me. I didn't recognize my boyfriend. The entire situation is unsettling and frustrating and worst of all i can't figure out why.

Thank you for sharing with me. It helps so much to know I am not alone. I am now considering professional help. Thank you for your reply.

I was in a medically induced coma, I was in it for only in it for 6 days. I had terrible nightmares, I’ve been told it’s from the medication!

I hope this short radio programme will help you.

It is by a former ICU patient who experienced a similar nightmare dreams that he thought were reality. It also explains Drs are still learning what happens to the brain in ICU trauma. I am a member of patients and relatives committee Intensive Care Society as a result of seeing my brother critically ill. This radio programme helped me to understand what was happening to my brother. It was traumatic to see him this way. When you love someone deeply it is horrible to see them suffering. I hope this is helpful to you. Best wishes

I described it as being in a parallel universe, and even when I was out of ICU into the ward I still wasn't sure what was real & what wasn't. I was told it was caused by the strong drugs they use to sedate. It was the most horrible experience ever.

I was in ICU 11 days but have no memory of it. I found counselling helpful and we did a timeline of those 'lost' days using information from friends & my patient diary that the nurses filled out. When I was feeling stronger I wrote pages & pages of what I'd seen & experienced in the delirium. It helped to 'get it out of my head'. I showed the counsellor & she said she had never seen anything like it. It's 18 months since I was in ICU with sepsis & occasionally I have flashbacks, but thankfully the memory is not so vivid.

So, in answer to your question, the delirium is a normal experience for many ICU patients. You won't wake up in that nightmare again, you're out of ICU now & in recovery!

Best wishes

I was in a coma for a little longer than you four years ago and had similar experiences to the ones described here. In my case the imagined and real worlds fused, in that I was wearing mittens to stop me pulling out the drip etc., and that was explained by people cheating in some game I was involved in, which continued once the coma wore off and I became conscious but delirious. And everyone was an enemy in disguise. Not a laugh a minute, but it did all wear off. I still have shivery memories of it, but nothing overwhelming, and I think that's true of most people. In fact a lot of it is quite funny in retrospect and indeed it's quite hard to believe it was me it happened to. Good luck anyway: I'm sure there are happier times ahead for you.

KizzyD profile image
KizzyD in reply to Videodragons

I also believed I was trapped in a game. I also tried to rip out my tubes. I thought I had to die to beat the game. It was an actual living nightmare.

I had quite a few nightmares. I'm so sorry this happened to you. Like you I thought I was forever in these nightmarish alternate realities. It's called ICU Delirium. Even when I woke and they took me off the ventilator, I wasn't sure of what had happened and what didn't. What happened to you, and me, is sadly all to common. It gets better. But, I'll be honest that in the 3 plus years since I was in the ICU, I still have nightmares about it. I wish you health and healing.

I am comming up on one year, Dec 22, 2018 (my birthday as well) that I had septic shock, from a kidney abcess. I was on the ventilator x7 days and was on propofol & fentanyl. I was awake way more than I wish. Like the others I had terrible repetitive nightmares. Mine involved "trasformers" the machines that change into different things" and I am a grown woman who raised one daughter, no sons. I felt everything was a conspiracy, I didn't trust anyone and like someone else said, I had plans to escape, but I couldn't move. I would not look behind me as I had seen a witch there. My organs shut down, I had fluid in my lungs and started dialysis. After the dialysis I got a little more lucid, but didn't trust the staff, felt th err y were harming me, but I didn't tell anyone I kept my mouth shut for fear of persecution. When I went to step down unit I was very fearful at night. When I came home I was still very frightened, even to get up and go to the bathroom. That lasted about two weeks.

I tried to get to a therapist, but wasn't able to for 6mo. I am a registered nurse and I was fearful I was becomming psychotic. I found this site read everything, followed the links, printed out the informational sheets. It all is what helped me return to sanity and the real world. I think it was about 6 weeks after comming home my experiences seemed to get farther and farther away, and most importantly to me the fear & paranoia was gone. 3 months later my hair fell out, I was in crisis about that, came to this site found out this too is a consequence of the illness or drugs. Happy to say it fell out and by 3mo later I've grown a new healthy head of hair. I had the opportunity to go back to the hosp after speaking to the CEO , and about 40 various staff members about the ICU dellerium. They were not as aware here in my hospital USA, as they seem to be in your country. Hopefully that will change. Did get to a therapist who thinks all my anxiety is trauma related events, real or percieved.

GOOD LUCK, keep comming back here till you feel better. My experience is it was horrible, but it DOES get better. God bless and prayers for all those still suffering.

I also had many horrific & paranoid dreams. Lots of story threads all running at the same time. I might write them down soon before I forget them, because even though they are horrible & I have managed to separate reality from nightmare it has mixed up true events with dream events, so sometimes I have to check with family whether something really did happen in the past or was it in my dreams.

It took me 2 weeks to fully wake up, come out of that dream world & even though it was terrifying it is still part of who I am so in some weird way I feel quite protective of them. Perhaps because they were so real at the time. During one dream one of my children had died & when I started coming round I didn't want to ask my parents if it was true, in case it was & it was somehow my fault.

Some people find it easier not to think or talk about them. We are all different & deal with these things in different ways. An ICU nurse thinks it strange that my ICU team give you a diary of what was happening whilst I was in a coma that they write. Maybe because her way of dealing with patients that they help & who leave ICU is that the worst is over & it's time to move on into the future, but it is not that way for me.

Sorry, didn't mean to write so much! I am nearly a year on & the dreams are fading.

I definitely experienced it while in a medically induced coma, mine felt like they were on a loop and it was the same several one's over and over. After I was awake I still had night terrors even after I went home for some time. I agree I don't want to ever go back to that place again, it is traumatizing.

Yes I was in a propofol induced deep sedation which rendered me unconscious with extensive memory loss vivid and horrible nightmares and cognitive skills a year-and-a-half later that are not what they should be.

Wow 100 percent there. The dreams were in combination on what was happening for real, I drempt I was tied to a chair and some random guy.,kept putting pipes back in. But in reality I was pulling my food pipe out... Crazy, random...

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