Breathe (2018)

Melanie Cervantes
20″ x 16″
5 color screen print, 140#/300 gsm, Canson Cold Press Watercolor paper, Printed in my kitchen, San Leandro, CA, December 2018
Edition of 60

For many years now I have been deprived of restful sleep. I’ve been walking through life perpetually tired and have normalized pushing myself through exhaustion. Every night my sleep was interrupted by desperate attempts to start breathing again because I have a condition which interrupts my normal breathing and creates an oxygen deprived environment in my body. On most nights this happens to me at least 120 times.The condition is called sleep apnea. When this sleep apnea occurs during dreaming, frequent sleep interruptions enhance dream recall.

This dream recall nightly reveals a mental anguish caused by traumatic memories locked away by my brain as it attempts to protect my conscious mind from unknown truths. But my body remembers. It has become such a frequent experience to feel a gentle rocking of my shoulder and a whisper of “you’re ok” after I wake up in the middle of screaming “Help me!” and feeling warm tears wet my face.

Bulgarian writer Elias Canetti noted that “all the things one has forgotten scream for help in dreams” a sentiment which perfectly encapsulates my experience with the surreal landscape created by trauma related nightmares. The antidote to this sleep disorder and the anxiety caused by reliving the terror caused by past traumas is the use of a device that provides continuous positive airway pressure to keep me breathing in my sleep. As I face the wounds left behind from past harms I pause and remember…BREATHE.