Archive for category Grief
Nightmares are just reminders so we don’t get too comfortable and unalert of the bad things around us and that could happen to us. I tried to remind myself of that after waking up crying from a nightmare this morning. Nightmares are just my brain’s way of understanding and dealing with trauma and healing.
I had two nightmares two nights in a row this week. The first night I dreamt I had a 2 year old daughter. She looked just like me when I was 2. I was with my family and went somewhere with my brother, leaving her with my sister to watch her. When I got back she was gone. She had gotten out of the van and disappeared. I was so angry with myself for not being there to watch her myself, taking the responsibility for losing her on myself. A state search was started and I was searching everywhere near where she had disappeared. How far could she get? Would anyone have taken her? The fear set in and I felt what I would imagine any parent would feel that lost their child. Someone suggested to me that I should be upset with my sister for not watching her. She had a two year old. She knows they just run off and could be gone at the drop of a hat. But how could I be angry with her? Its my fault I just trusted that she’d watch her and that I didn’t take care of my daughter myself. As I’m out searching for her, I get a phone call from my ex-husband. He alludes to the fact that he had taken her. I break out with so much pain and rage that if he does anything to her, hurts her in any way, I will kill him. I felt what parents must feel when any harm comes to the way of their children. Then I woke up.
The next night I had a nightmare similar to what I often have. I’m out with a group of people and we’re watching a parade or something in a neighborhood and these thugs come up to rob us. First they want to know if any of us have guns though. Surprisingly, two of us did. They go to shoot someone with one of the confiscated guns but luckily the gun is not loaded. Then they shoot the 2nd gun but luckily into a tree and somehow that starts a fire. Then they shoot two or three of the people I’m with. I see a guy sneak back into one of the buildings behind us. And then another guy in a security guard uniform follows. I figure their going to call 911. The thugs seem to be going away and then I go in after them. The place they’re in is some kind of gambling place. I see them in the back by these machines and approach them to ask if they’ve called the police. They say no, “Why should we? Its over. We could get in more trouble.” I think they’re crazy. I try to use my cell phone to call them but its not working. I go up to this ticket type counter and ask the lady through the glass if I can use their phone and call 911, there were killings outside. She says no, its none of their business, they want nothing to do with it. What the fuck? I go outside and everyone I was with is already gone including my boyfriend except the shot victims. I panic. I get around the corner. For some reason in my head I’m so far from home and have no way to get there. No bus. No car. No taxi. I check my phone and go to call my boyfriend but his number is gone. I can’t remember it. None of my friends numbers are there either. And no text message histories. All gone. I have no way to contact him. I find my phone isn’t working at all. He’ll worry about me and not be able to get ahold of me either. Complete panic sets in but I hear this song clear as day with the lyrics that you’re scared, alone and afraid or something like that. Then I woke up crying and thrashing about in the bed.
I walked through these nightmares with my therapist and it was interesting. The first dream was me still dealing with being in an abusive marriage. I take responsibility for it. My 2 year old daughter was me who I didn’t protect and take care of by being in that abusive relationship. My sister in the dream was again an extension of myself. I trusted me to take care of me but didn’t. Telling my ex-husband I’d hurt him if he hurt me was what I felt I should have done that I never did for myself.
The 2nd dream I was all alone in the end. I was the only one trying to do anything about the situation. But I found myself completely isolated from being able to do anything. The music was comforting in way, reminding me that even when I’m all alone I can still deal with everything on my own.
I keep thinking these nightmares might stop one day and then I have one again. I think its just part of my healing process and though I’d like to think I’m SuperBetter, I’m still working on things. And that’s ok. This stuff is hard and I’ve come a long long way in just 3 years. And I have the opportunity possibly to help others who are in my situation, and that too is part of my healing process.
I’ve been going along fine for the past couple months, which is why you haven’t heard from me for awhile. Things come up, particularly being my own self-advocate. I still need to do a much better job at that. And then last night I had a terrible nightmare, one of the ones where I wake up bawling my eyes out and screaming. I was dying in my nightmare. I was hit by a truck or something and I made it to a bathroom where my head and various body parts were just leaking blood all over the place. I was in a whole hell of a lot of pain and no one was around to help me. But, for some reason, in the nightmare it was if I was back 4 years ago with my ex-husband and so I called him like when I once was injured and had to go to the hospital, to ask if he could come home and take care of me. But, I didn’t want him to be angry with me so I didn’t say how bad it was so he was just like well, I don’t need to come home, you’re fine. And then I realized I was dying with the amount of blood that was leaking out of my body and everything was growing fainter. I felt so much remorse for being alone dying with no one to help me.
I have been feeling really isolated from my friends lately. I have been feeling upset about certain situations and have not been speaking up about them. And I think that’s what this is about.
In interpreting dreams, this could be a really good thing or a bad thing. It could mean I am really getting a closure on that chapter of my life, the Mia who was abused. Or it could mean I am really struggling feeling like I could lose my self-confidence. I would like to think it is the first, but I still feel very cautious about being used and abused.
I have written about nightmares a few times on here. I put something out on the SuperBetter forum in Bad Guys: Get help identifying and squashing them looking for any advice to overcome or diminish nightmares, but have heard nothing so far. But, plenty of people have looked at it! Why is that? Is it something you just have to live with or work on on your own?
I have had terrible nightmares all my life and had a pretty bad one last week. Most of my nightmares consist of someone chasing and trying to kill me. Usually its a man and sometimes its a group of people. Usually I am being brutally attacked. Sometimes I see other people, usually women that have been attacked or murdered by the person chasing me. Sometimes what saves me in the nightmare is trying to save these other people from being attacked.
I really need some help trying to limit the number of nightmares I have and squash them all together. Here’s what I’ve already read and tried:
Wikipedia’s article on Nightmares explains this phenomenon I’m experiencing:
Recurring post-traumatic stress disorder nightmares in which real traumas are re-experienced respond well to a technique called imagery rehearsal. First described in the 1996 book Trauma and Dreams by Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett, this contemporary dream interpretation involves the dreamer coming up with an alternate, mastery outcome to the nightmare, mentally rehearsing that outcome awake, and then reminding themselves at bedtime that they wish this alternate outcome should the nightmare recur. Research has found that this technique not only reduces the occurrence of nightmares and insomnia, but also improves other daytime PTSD symptoms.
I picked up a new workbook, the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook, since I completed the Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook. It has a very small section on nightmares which includes this same advice to come up with an alternate outcome to the nightmare and rehearse it. I might think of picking up a workbook just on dealing with nightmares. But, I want to try spending some time rehearsing alternate outcomes and going into sleep thinking about these. For example, the perpetuators could fall into a hole. Or someone saves me. Or I’m able to disarm them without getting hurt. I can take control of my dreams as I have my life.
I watched two documentaries recently, What Are Dreams?: Nova and Happy. What Are Dreams?: Nova explains sleep is an active state that affects your physical and mental well-being. Through an example of a study on a person’s sleep patterns, the documentary explains the difference between dreams in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep vs. non-REM sleep. Our first stage of sleep is non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep dreams usually are working out every day problems, re-experiencing or practicing experiences, and can be repetitive. REM sleep dreams are usually fantastical or ridiculous, things that would not occur in everyday life.
One of the experiments they share in the film is how if we are woken up during non-REM sleep, we are in a much more happy and confident state of mind than if we are woken up in REM sleep. For example, they woke up a sleep study during non-REM sleep and had them finish a list of sentences. All of the words he had finished were positive and full of hope. When they woke him up during REM sleep, all the words he chose were negative and hopeless or aggravated.
Another interesting test by a doctor in the film was a sleep study who played a skiing video game before bed. Before non-REM sleep, he had knocked into quite a few walls and fell skiing. After non-REM sleep his play improved quite a bit, where he was able to remember where he had difficulty and improve his skiing in the game. In the non-REM sleep he had practiced skiing. And in his REM sleep he had practiced walking through his own trek marks in the snow.
Another interesting observation they made in the film which was of a man with depression. He had documented all his dreams for some time. They all had to do with discontent with women in his life. It was not a surprise to the scientist studying this man’s dreams to find 5 years after the study the man was divorced.
I have talked about it on this blog, but I continue to have nightmares of being attacked, and I know it is me dealing with the trauma of domestic violence, abuse, and sexual assault.
So not that I didn’t already know this, but dreams are a way for us to solve problems and keep our mental health. Some of the world’s greatest problems and creative works have come out of dreams. One woman in the film explained if we were to go to bed thinking I want to dream about this problem, 50% of the time we would.
I’m actually really glad I watched the documentary Happy and would recommend it. Although its already things I knew, it was a great reminder that happiness can come in all forms and cannot be obtained by wishing you were happy. There are many things that make people happy, but one of the top things that they drove home was our relationships with people and sense of belonging. Cultures that they interviewed that stuck in my head from the documentary were Japan and Denmark. Japan is known for having the least happy people, really Tokyo. While Denmark is known for having the happiest. Unlike Tokyo, the documentary portrayed that the countryside is much different in Japan. They interviewed one businessman who was out on a business dinner on his birthday and asked him if his friends and girlfriend would have much rather been celebrating his birthday with him than being on business. He said, well my girlfriend knows that business always comes first. You could tell how sad he truly was to say that although what he was morally taught in his culture, that yes business comes first over his own happiness. In Denmark, a mother of 3 children demonstrates how the family lives in a commune that shares cooking duties 2 times a month. The cooking takes 5 hours for approx 50 people. She says that they don’t have to worry about cooking and shopping for dinner every night when they get home from work allows them all so much more free time outside of work. Doing dinner together also allows them all to socialize and have stronger bonds than only being able to see friends, family and neighbors periodically.
SuperBetter has done an amazing job with their PowerPacks to remind you that happiness can’t just be wished. You have to remind yourself that the bad moments will pass, and you will feel better again soon. It is an amazing tool to help remind you to reach out to people, to know you are not isolated, and to work on your relationships with people. I know I have good days and bad days. The reminder that the bad times will pass makes it easier. And having people like my SuperBetter allies and friends and family to reach out to is a world of help.
One of the most awe-inspiring moments from the film was an interview with a mother who had lost half of her face being dragged from a car accidentally by her sister. Her husband had divorced her and became an alcoholic dealing with the trauma, she had remembered being sexually abused as a child as a result of the trauma, it took a number of surgeries and severe pain before her face and body were restored to a normal state. She felt so much despair that she wanted to die. With the support of her son, having her horses on a ranch and meeting a supportive man who was ironically named Happy, she recovered from the traumas and is very happy today. This is a true example of post traumatic growth and is awe-inspiring to me. I am very glad they shared this story.
In the Happy documentary like I have written a lot about they remind you that being self-compassionate goes a long way in your own happiness. I often have to remind myself, how would I treat my friend who is feeling this way? And am much more compassionate toward myself as I would be toward them.
This week was a rough week especially Wed through Friday. I knew a lot of things were bugging me again so I wrote those up. A lot of the things had to do with feeling pressure. Pressure at work. Feeling pressure and judgment from coworkers and my boss. Pressure from a family member on my life decisions. Pressure to be in a relationship. Pressure to push myself harder in my workouts. Pressure up get everything done for the holidays for everyone. By Thursday, I was buckling from the stress and just wanted to crawl under the covers in my bed, cry and hide from everyone. But, I didn’t because I couldn’t.
My therapist noticed the word I used, pressure. This is something I’ve felt my whole life. Pressure to be perfect, to anticipate what someone would want so they would not be angry with me and not hit me. Fearing judgement. Fearing pain.
I don’t know how to relax anymore. When I’m alone. When I’m with someone, I can learn to relax. The guy I’m dating is superb at this that I look forward to Sunday afternoons lounging around with him. I can finally relax and escape from all the pressure. But, it’s not the world that’s applying the pressure.
Today I actually admitted my caregiver beat me. And I admitted I have been belittling it my whole life. My therapist and SuperBetter ally both said this to me today, that through reliving we can take back our power. I realize how true this can be. I recognize that I’m applying the pressure and I can change that. I can finally take back my life and stop putting so much pressure and judgement on myself.
The great thing about this week for me was it broke all routine, not that I really have one. But, I had practiced things I ordinarily would feel guilty about like staying out at a concert later, sleeping in later and going to work later. I went into therapy knowing I had some things in my mind and by the end of the session I discovered they were all connected to dealing with grief.
The past two years have been filled with amazing memories and growing great relationships with my friends and family. I had printed up photos this week from the past two years I had taken of all my friends and family and though I had experienced a painful break up, I still realized what an amazing two years this has been and the people in my life.
Early in the week I was dealing with the pain of despair and luckily one of my SuperBetter allies reached out to me and said what I needed to hear. I said I know that this will pass and I’ll be ok. And he said, that is good advice to yourself but it doesn’t necessarily take away the fear and the pain.
I went into therapy talking about how my whole concept of time, people and relationships is changing. Things do not feel linear. What I discovered I was really dealing with was that grief is not linear. You don’t go through a break up, and get over it and get better. You don’t go though trauma or abuse and just get better and be done with it. You can come back and deal with grief at any given time or moment. And when you are dealing with that grief, you are dealing with all of the grief from all of your past and un-dealt with situations. And that can be a world of pain we can only stand for so long. Back in September and October I did not have the luxury to deal with the pain. I had to get moving and make life work. Now finally it can hit me like a sack of bricks and I’d say I get an A+ for dealing with grief. I have been compartmentalizing things to deal with grief, but have come to the understanding of that. For example, I have been avoiding people and places that remind me of my ex-boyfriend and when I ran into one of them today, I panicked but decided why not talk to them? And it was not so bad. I am me independent of anyone.
I was dealing with a lot today. Last weekend I did something that was so physically taxing I was covered in bruises which reminded me too much of being beaten by my ex-husband. I wondered why do I do these things that are so physically taxing? There was a point in the day where someone actually told me I had to stop and assigned me another task that was less physically taxing. They recognized that I would push myself beyond my capacity without recognizing the pain I was causing myself. Very much like being in an abusive relationship, I was not aware of the pain I was experiencing until someone pointed it out to me. Again I was dealing with grief and guilt. I feel like I have to do these things to make up for something. Now I can be more aware of when I do these things, recognize my limits, and know when I need to say no.
I think I am moving from linear thinking, left sided brain thinking, to emotional, more right sided brain thinking. I think I am now going to be much better able at acknowledging my pain and deal with it by reaching out to people. My way of thinking is changing because I no longer have to be afraid and constantly protect myself from feeling pain, both emotional and physical. So I’m not quite sure if this would all make sense to someone else who has experienced trauma and grief, but it is a lot for me to process.