Archive for category Nightmares

SuperBetter Book & Where Is Mia Today?

Since the SuperBetter book came out on September 15th, I got a few messages and emails about it and how am I doing today. I somehow missed that the book came out and had no clue my story was in it, though I’m guessing they might have said something about that a couple of years ago and I just cannot remember. But, yes, you’ve guessed correctly, the Mia, the Dream Warrior is my story. And I’m doing quite well.

I cannot believe it’s almost been a year since I logged into this blog last. I am also in amazement looking through the stats how much traffic this blog has had. I hope that it is making a difference to all of the people who have passed through.

Earlier this year I ended therapy. I got to a point where I felt like I came so far and had so many tools I learned how to use to combat PTSD, that it seemed appropriate to complete therapy.

I have done a pretty good job of building relationships. As you could tell from my last post in 2014, I was unhappy with how other friendships which used to be stronger got weaker. I think those relationships have changed and I might just see those people a handful of times a year, and that’s ok as long as I keep working on other friendships in my life.

Earlier this year I had an experience to remember that made me realize just how far I have come, and how I am an “influencer”. An influencer “has the capacity or power of person or things to be compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.” I have always had to give presentations in my career, and have always been successful at communicating in the workplace. But, when it comes to personal relationships and real connections with people, I sure feel like that is a lot more there than it was 5 years ago.

Recently, SuperBetter sent out some emails prompting people to join back in as ally’s. I am more than happy to do that to continue helping people get better from PTSD. So feel free to get in touch with me on here or on the forum, and I’ll be happy to be your ally.

I have still not felt comfortable sharing my project publicly with my family or friends. I have told a handful of friends, who are experiencing different kinds of post traumatic growth (not PTSD but other situations), in the hopes that my story could help them. But, I still feel like I need to keep my identity secret. It’s funny because the book came out and I kind of wanted to share it with some people that my story was in there, but then the other side of my brain said no, that’s not a good idea. Just let it be.

On the dream warrior front… I have had a lot less nightmares, if not just 1-2 in the past year. So that alone amazes me.

Happy-cat

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The World Has to Change

About a month ago I was running. It was dark out. I saw this kid/young teenager acting strange on the trail. I decided to slow down and wait to see what he was up to. He turned off the trail onto a street. So I started running again. Next thing I know, he jumps over a fence at me past this building. I took off running as fast as I possibly could until I caught up to three people walking on the trail in front of me. This isn’t the first time I’ve had someone try to jump me running in my lifetime. It scared me, but I brushed it off.

Tonight I was loading groceries in my car when a man in the parking lot came up behind me. I just loading the last bag and turn and see him with a knife and he asked for money. Fight or flight. I just said, “No” real firmly and quickly got in my car and took off. I saw him return to another car in the parking lot out of the corner of my eye. Driving home, I broke down in tears. The night before I had more nightmares about someone trying to break into my home – it’s a re-occuring nightmare. I must have these kinds of nightmares and nightmares of someone trying to rape me every week. You would think by now they would stop. And then things like this happen and it reminds me why they don’t stop. The world is still an evil place and cannot be trusted. I got home in tears and my boyfriend immediately came to see what was wrong. I should have called the police. He says maybe he should go with me from now on.

I text my brother, and he says I should get a flashlight as bright as a football field to fend off attackers and “The world is full of people looking to take advantage of those who they think are weak. You were raised in one of the worst cities in the country. Next time you run into one of these assholes let them know.” Why should I have to fend off these people? Why should women have to feel afraid? Why can’t the world be a better place? I don’t want my children to have to deal with this. The world has to change. I have to help make this world a better place. This is not acceptable. I should not have to be afraid every day, every time I turn a corner, every time I come and go from my home, every time I go to sleep at night and check that my door is locked over and over, every time I walk down the street or to work, or on the bus, or anywhere. This has got to stop.

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Leaps and Bounds of Progress

In therapy the past few weeks I’ve been doing some reflecting on the leaps and bounds of progress I have made. Even in my nightmares, I am making this same progress, which says to me I have come a long way in applying what I’ve learned to get better from trauma — in dealing with hypersensitivity, in dealing with conflict, in being assertive and self-compassionate.

At work, I’ve been dealing with a difficult abusive person. No matter what I do, this person will not be happy and they will be angry with me. It reminds me all too much of what I dealt with when I was a child with my caretaker. I have learned to not take what this person says personally, but a few weeks ago, I stood up for myself in a big way. I was sick of dealing with it, and identified what it was I needed from this person, which were my ground rules or guidelines for dealing with this person. Then I met with them and stated my guidelines. It hasn’t been perfect, but it has helped. That’s a huge step for me. 3-4 years ago I would have never had the guts to tell someone what I needed from them, let alone even be able to identify I needed anything. I used to not have needs. My whole life centered around how I could do anything and everything to make others happy and not angry at me. What a difference.

A couple weeks ago, I was struggling with my personal life. I wasn’t sure if it was just winter causing all my friends to get more and more distant. But, I knew this was not how I wanted my life to be. I want strong friendships with people I can count on, who can count on me, and who I can spend time with doing the things we both enjoy, and learn from each other. I feel like that is lacking. But, I had this dream I was taking this class with my friends. They had walked into the room and reserved a bunch of seats at a table for our friends, but they hadn’t saved me a seat so I had to sit with people I didn’t know. Ordinarily, this would make me upset – like they didn’t think about me and now I have to deal with being around people I didn’t know and wouldn’t know what to say or do. But, in the dream, it didn’t bother me and I thought, “Well, I get to meet new people. Your loss.” And happily sat with another table with complete strangers. This made me realize, sure, some of my friendships have grown distant for whatever reason. But, I have the opportunity to make new friendships and even ones that are stronger, where are values align more and we have more things in common, like being active or doing volunteer work and community service. Shortly after that dream I got to meet up with some of my friends. They all made fair-weather plans with me and no one followed up. I could be upset about that, but I figure they are busy, or inept at making plans. It’s their loss. And instead I made plans of my own. Granted not all of them were the best ones. I ended up volunteering for something that made me uncomfortable – it actually does fall under the avoidance category since it was at a place where I had been a zillion times with my ex-husband. And granted I’m probably viewed as an asshole because I got there and just said I can’t do this and I don’t want to be here and left. But, I feel a lot better that I was able to just say what I wanted and move on. Lesson learned – don’t put yourself in situations you are uncomfortable with and you don’t care about. I would have much rather been attending another event that night that benefits people rather than an idea I just don’t believe in anymore.

At work I have been working on a lot of goals for my company. This certainly put me in a big reflective stage on my own life. Here I am making all these plans for them. But, what about me? I have goals and I’m not meeting them. That’s not fair. So I have been applying what I do at work, to my own life. And hopefully that will mean I am a lot happier about where I am going and what I am doing here on this planet. One of my friends had posted this article on the 10 Painfully Obvious Truths Everyone Forgets Too Soon. So many of these are what I am talking about in this post actually. #2 is “You Live the Life Your Create for Yourself.” For a while, from August till November, I was feeling like I was waiting for my life to start. When in reality, I was living it. But, all the things I used to look forward to, like traveling, spending time with family, game nights, spending time with friends, running races, volunteering, I just wasn’t doing them. And it felt like I had kind of disappeared. I think I was adjusting to my new life and living with someone again. Now I feel like I’ve done that and I get really excited when I pull up my list of goals, and start to really want to put plans and dates together on those. Of course more and more things pop up in my head of what I want to do. And I start feeling like life is too short. Then I think of #3 Being Busy Does Not Mean Being Productive. One of the good things I gained out of that period of time between August to November, was learning how to relax – how to not have to do anything and not worry about it. If you need extra sleep, then that’s fine. If you need a night to just tune out at home, that’s fine. I learned how to not be busy, and that I didn’t need to be “busy” to feel alive. What I want is to be able to live my life so that if I were to die tomorrow, I’d be pretty proud of my life, of my relationships with my family, my friendships, what I’ve done as extra-curricular and at work, what I’ve seen of the world, how I’ve dealt with the world, and so forth. When I stop and think of that now, I actually thing, gosh I am already there. I’m pretty proud of who I am. Sure, there’s a few things here and there I want to change. But, I have the power to change that, to set goals and make those happen.

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Nightmares Are Reminders

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 stinycrumblesearching 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 gun911. 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.

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Dreams and Working on Self-Compassion and Hypervigilance

Last week I had two dreams back to back that were completely opposing. The first one was a nightmare my ex-husband had broken into my home and was waiting for me there. I got home and he was strangely not mean, difficult or argumentative. I asked him to leave and he left. But, I knew something was up. I looked through the peep hole and saw he was still waiting outside the door thinking about doing something irrational. There was a little old man in the apartment with me. My ex-husband coaxed the little old man into letting him back in. Then he started berating me and belittling me, telling me I was worthless, undeserving of any love or anything. I woke up crying and shaken up.

Then I feel back asleep. This time I dreamt I was in a shop next door to a restaurant. While in the shop, three different men hit on me. It was completely the opposite. I was loveable and deserving of love and attention.

In talking about these two dreams in therapy, my therapist explained although in the dream it was my ex-husband tearing me down, in reality my own psyche is doing that day in and day out when I judge myself and am hypervigilant, always worried that the decisions I make or what I say will not be what someone else wants. That I think how can anyone love me? But, then another part of me realizes how amazing I really am and that I am deserving of being loved.

I went on to talk about how I am still really struggling in my current relationship to say what I want. My boyfriend is vey encouraging and stops to remind me that I can do what I want and have wants and feelings, and there’s no reason to be afraid to express them. Sometimes it is that I know what I want but am worried its the “wrong answer” and other times I just really don’t have an opinion or feeling around something. Therapy has explained this is because I have spent a large part of my life blocking out my feelings because it is a lot easier that way, the other person can make the decision and not be upset or disappointed in me. Except now the other person wants to know what I want and feel. I think I am working on this and it will get easier.

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A New Nightmare or Closing a Chapter?

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.

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Falling off a cliff in mountain snow

Finally, my life feels stable. I am extremely happy and I can do anything I want. Yet, there is always that foreboding feeling that something bad is going to happen because that’s how the past has been, even the last two months have had difficult things to deal with. But, I know, no matter what happens I will prevail because I always have. This last week I had a dream I was driving on a mountainside with two family members in the car. The mountain roads were slick and covered in snow. Like in a video game I’ve played I accidentally fell off the cliff and into a bottomless ravine. I felt so much remorse for taking my family with me. Yet, I had this feeling “we’ll be ok, we’ll get out of this somehow.” And then I woke up before I’d find out if we were dead or not.

I don’t know exactly what the dream was about. If its just me dealing with the feeling that something bad could happen again next. Or if I’m feeling like I need to protect my family. One of my closest friends expressed the opinion to me that if they were in my shoes with the person who abused me when I was a child, they would confront them now and tell them how much they hurt me. I don’t feel that’s necessary, but a large part of why I don’t want to do that is more because I want to protect that person. I truly believe they did not mean to hurt me and that they did it because of how they were treated as a child. I’m at the point where I want nothing more than to just break the cycle. I want to get better and stop thinking the ways that I do (my PTSD brain) and I think from the conversations I’ve been having and dealing with the difficult coworker, I am doing a very good job at it. Just sometimes I get worried I’m forgetting to pay attention if I’m doing negative self talk or anticipation. But, I think I have been doing that a lot less lately because my self-esteem has grown. I have surrounded myself with some loving people and have done a lot of self-acceptance. I have been recognizing when some people make me uncomfortable and recognize that it’s their insecurities they are projecting onto me and I don’t need to worry about those. I’m not saying I should stop caring about other people’s feelings altogether and not do nice and thoughtful things for other people. But, what I’m saying is their problems are their problems and I don’t have any real control over their happiness. But, I do over my own.

This whole weekend I had someone worrying about whether or not I was happy. While its nice that they cared how I was feeling, I wanted that person to concentrate more on enjoying themselves this weekend, not worry about me. One of my biggest strengths is I find a lot of positivity in everything, even an injury. Last year if I had never gotten an injury running, I would have never done a triathlon. Traveling, I hear people constantly gripe about the plane and the seats and whether the wine is crappy or the plane being late. I’m just happy to have hours to read and catch up on news and my thoughts. People constantly gripe about how hard it is to exercise and eat right. Every time I run I feel a zillion times better and I have taken up learning how to cook healthy and delicious meals. I set aside time for these things because they are important to me. I wish more people would find the joys in their life. Because at this stage in the game I am feeling truly blessed to have the amazing life that I do. A huge turn around from 3 years ago.

So maybe “falling off a cliff in mountain snow” is nothing to worry about. I know great things will come of it later because of the resiliency I have gained.

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Quest: Diminish Nightmares

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:

http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/sleep-and-ptsd.asp

http://www.ihacares.com/index.cfm/He…sleep.terrors/

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[7] 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,[8] but also improves other daytime PTSD symptoms.[9]

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.

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Encountering Your Abuser After You’ve Left Them

This week my ex-husband followed me home or happened to be going some place near my home. I didn’t recognize him until it was too late. And I made a run for it. In the workbook they try to prepare you for situations if you run into your abuser, but no matter how much they prepare you, I don’t think you could ever be prepared. If I see him again, I’m calling the police. It has put me on a high alert the rest of the week. Some time last year I let down my guard after a lot of time had passed since he last threatened me. Why should I have to live in fear? Why should I have to move? To hide? To always have to look over my shoulder? Then of course the nightmares of being attacked start up again.

Earlier this week I read the Slog’s editorial, “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother.” And thought, I’m Adam Lanza’s ex-wife and I’m still scared to death of him. I do feel mental health care needs to be more accessible by everyone. But, how do you get a person like my ex-husband to get help and get better so they stop hurting people? So people like me don’t have to be afraid of them? I know the workbook and many people have told me not to worry about him, but how can I not when I’m still worried about my own safety and many others out there?

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Lab Tools & Equipment for Getting Better from PTSD

I realized the other day that I have been playing SuperBetter for over 6 months now since the end of February and beginning of March 2012. This morning I was reflecting on all of the tools and Quests from SuperBetter, the workbook Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence, and working with my SuperBetter allies and therapist, that I’ve used to work on PTSD and was thinking, hey, I should create a toolbox or to be more appropriate for my SuperBetter Hero who is a scientist, “A Summary of Laboratory Tools and Equipment!” So here goes.

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Summary of Laboratory Tools and Equipment (to Get Better from PTSD)

PTSD / Trauma Symptom Lab Equipment, Tools or Methods to Use
Anticipation

Hypervigilance

  • SuperBetter MindMaster PowerPack
  • Be aware of being hypervigilant
  • Be aware of my expectations
  • React instead of anticipate
  • Broken Babel Fish Quest – Read about it in my post here
Supposed To Beliefs

Expectations

  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapter on “Supposed to” Beliefs That Lead Women to Stay or Go Back
Dealing with Conflict

Avoidance

  • Deal with conflict instead of avoid it
  • Make Quests to do things I’m avoiding like go to the dentist, say “Excuse me”, go to a place to make new memories I associate with my abuser
Negative Self-Talk
  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapters Feel Better by Changing the Way You Talk to YourselfThe Power of Nonnegative Thinking
  • Track your Negative Self-Talk – see my posts here and here
Assertiveness

Self-Advocacy

Self-Compassion

Body Image

  • SuperBetter The Mood Elevator: Ground Floor PowerPack
  • SuperBetter Being Awesome PowerPack
  • SuperBetter Better Than a Chill Pill PowerPack
  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapters on Self-Advocacy: An Overview and Initial Self Assessment and Assertiveness, Aggressiveness and How to Take the High Road
Stress & Muscle Tension
  • SuperBetter Stress Buster Power Pack
  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapter on Managing Stress By Controlling Muscle Tension – See my post on this chapter here.
Anxiety

Isolation

  • SuperBetter MindMaster PowerPack
  • Quest to Ask for Help
  • SuperBetter Social Resilience in 5 Minutes a Day PowerPack
Guilt
  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapters How to Get Rid of Your Guilt  – See my post with my results here
  • Talk with a veteran or other domestic violence victims with PTSD and their experience of how they overcame guilt (this can be via an online chat, in person, etc.) – It helps!
  • Forgive yourself – This will happen!
Nightmares
  • Remember: Nightmares are just reminders of the types of people and behavior you need to be wary of – Read my post on this here

I’m sure I’m missing some tools, but can always add them in later, or new ones as I learn about them.

What things have worked for you to get better from PTSD? What do you want to try? What are the biggest obstacles you are facing?

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