A couple of weeks ago, I put a post up asking for people to fill in a questionnaire for me (seen here). I’m not sure if anyone would be interested but this is the responses from 65 people on their most common symptoms – remember you are not alone in this!
Tag Archives: nightmares
I am writing this on my phone so apologies in advance for any spelling/grammar mistakes! Also this could be triggering for some so please be careful if reading.
The end of next week is the anniversary of the first trauma when I was initially kidnapped and raped and so things are very bad right now.
I read a question somewhere that someone who hadn’t suffered from any trauma asked, “why do people celebrate their anniversaries? Why don’t they just ignore them?” And so I’m going to try and answer that from my perspective.
Firstly, recognising an anniversary is completely different to ‘celebrating’ it. Don’t get me wrong, I do know some people who celebrate it, in recognition of how strong they are and how far they’ve come. To show that they survived and want to celebrate that fact. All credit to these people, but currently I’m not in that place.
In all honesty, I want to hide away; pretend it never happened. However, my brain has other ideas! Whether its sub-consciously or something else, I have no idea but for the last couple of weeks I’ve really gone downhill (my last post was a show of this). My flashbacks have increased in intensity and frequency as well as throwing up some new stuff to try and deal with. My sleep is practically non-existent (writing this at 4.30am shows this!) and if I do manage to drop off, I’m woken up by a recurring nightmare that leaves me with a fast beating heart, sweat, anxiety and bad memories to ruminate on. I’ve also starting to grind my teeth so I also wake up with a tense jaw and headaches.
When I’m awake, I’m barely functional. I can’t be bothered to open my mouth to talk even though I have thoughts running through my head that I want to get out. So in answer to the original question, I don’t mark the anniversary, it marks me.
I had my weekly visit from my care co-ordinator today (well yesterday now) and I managed to get up to open the door to her and sit with her briefly in the living room. But I couldn’t speak and whenever I tried to, I just cried and the voice that came out was barely a whisper.
She asked me if I wanted sleeping tablets – I said I don’t know.
She asked if I wanted the home treatment team to come in – I said I don’t know.
She asked if I wanted to look at respite care – I said I don’t know.
I think you can get the gist of it, I just don’t know. I don’t know what’s best for me right now. My cc said that when I use isolation as a coping strategy that she can understand that and work with it. But she said it doesn’t feel like that right now – it doesn’t feel like I’m using it to cope and she’s right, I’m not coping.
She told me she felt like she was stabbing me every time she asked me to speak as it looked so painful and I looked like I needed a big hug and did I want one? Again she was right but I knew if I accepted a hug, I would completely break, so I said no thanks. When she got up to leave tears were streaming down my face and I’ve never seen her out in that state. If I’ve been crying in the session, I usually compose myself enough and we chit chat at the end to ground me, but not today.
My cc said she will call on Monday to see what decision I’ve made about treatment. I just wish sometimes someone would say, “here, this is best for you right now” and I wouldn’t have to decide because in all honesty, I just don’t know!!
A brief update after yesterday’s post about being scared for today’s therapy session and revisiting the nightmares etc. I think I’d worked myself up so much that by the time I got to therapy I was actually quite detached from everything.
We had a weekly catch up as usual and then she asked if I was ok to carry on where we left off. I told her I was scared about being there but I think we just needed to get on with it. And so for the first time since my last session, I read my nightmare over again. And this is where it got a bit strange – I felt no fear! I read it, and nothing! I’m asked to rate 0-10 what the fear factor is and I rated it zero. I thought seriously, that’s all it took, one session and I’m free to read it all.
But no, my therapist wasn’t quite so positive about it. She asked me to read it again and this time add in any extra details I’d missed out – sounds, sensations etc. Yet again, I did it with a zero rating. And then my therapist explained that she thought I’d completely detached from it and this in fact wasn’t me dealing with it but in fact the opposite, that I wasn’t ready to work through it. I was really disappointed, I wanted to fight this and have one less thing in my daily life to worry about.
My therapist suggested we do some more work on coping strategies and come back to the nightmare at a later appointment. If I’m honest, I would have gone along with this if I didn’t know she was going on leave, but as she was, I asked how I could ‘reattach’ myself to that memory – I needed to work on this today! She talked to me about recreating a certain part of the nightmare to see if that invoked any feeling but explained it wasn’t something she felt capable of doing. I suggested maybe going through a different memory and seeing if I could bring the fear back and so she agreed we could try that.
And so I did, I thought of another hot spot as they call it (when the fear is at the worst) and talked through it. It worked and yet again I found myself reaching for the tissue box as the tears just started. By this time we only had about 30 mins left of our session and so we went straight back to the nightmare. It was at this point that I wished I hadn’t pushed for me to carry on. It’s every bit as scary as I thought it would be and I found it really hard. My therapist is off next week so I’ve got 2 weeks before I see her again and this is what I was fearful of – opening this can of worms and not being able to close it when I’m on my own. I know it’s only two weeks but sometimes I just wish my stubbornness backed off and I didn’t push myself so hard!
Nightmares and night terrors in PTSD are really common and although I’m not too sure on the difference between a nightmare and a night terror, I tend to use my own language when describing what happens.
For me, it is like having a flashback in my sleep with the main difference being the fact that I have no control over it and the first I know is when I have woken up screaming, in tears and sometimes out of bed. They are so bad that I have become fearful of actually going to sleep and so my nights are very much my worst time. It is when, trying to stay awake, I think too much and my mood dips a lot!
So, knowing I don’t have many therapy sessions left, this was an area I knew needed addressing. My main concern was that I would open a can of worms and in the short time left, wouldn’t be able to close it again and would be left with no therapy sessions left and in the middle of something I couldn’t cope with.
Me and my therapist spoke about it at length and we decided we were going to give it a go. We were to use graded exposure to help with them and the plan was for me to write down the nightmare the day before my next therapy session. Then in session I was to read it (either to myself or out loud) and deal with emotions it brought up. Once the emotions settled down, I would read again and again until the fear associated with the nightmare was diminished enough for it not to be a problem.
This was the plan, but firstly the task of writing it down took a lot more effort than I thought! The first week I tried, I failed spectacularly. I just couldn’t get the words on to paper and I ended up dissociating really badly. I did go to therapy that week but only managed to stay for 30 mins as I just felt so unreal, I needed to get back to my apartment to be safe again.
The next week, I managed to write it down but if I’m being honest, part of me was scared of having the conversation with my therapist. I had never spoken about any details that had happened and I didn’t know how to. What language would I use? How would I get over the feeling of being judged? Or the disgust and shame behind my words?
I explained this to my therapist and told her although I knew it was her job not to judge me, I was still scared. On top of that fear was the fear that the actual nightmare made me feel. But we pushed through, with her reading it herself so I didn’t have to say it out loud.
I’m not going to lie, it was one of the hardest things I have done. Reliving a tiny part of my trauma elicited so many emotions I can’t begin to list them. But yet again, in session, I started to become detached and feeling like I wasn’t really sure where I was. I remember looking round the room and there was one of those springy door stops attached to the skirting board and that was all I could see, everything else seemed to just disappear. I am aware that this sounds absolutely ridiculous but it’s the only way I can describe it.
I managed to read through my nightmare 3 times in the session before it got too much. I have therapy tomorrow and already I am really scared. I haven’t looked at the nightmare since and I’m not supposed to but just thinking of reading those words again scares me so much!