Archive for the ‘Dreams/Nightmares’ Category

I was attending a sleepover at a school/church function (places where I felt safe as a child). I was tired and went to sleep early. The beds for the sleepover were lined up against the wall like you see in an orphanage or boarding school. Other people were still coming and milling about while I slept. I could never really drop off.

My body was “out,” but my mind was aware as my ex-friend took the bed next to me. My mind was on full alert even while my body slept. (This was my norm as a child.) She moved my body around to make sure I was really asleep.

Then, my dream went into flashback mode. I felt her pulling the covers off my body, just as when I was a child, and I felt the weight of her body climbing onto mine. This wasn’t a nightmare – this was a full-fledged reliving of every detail of experiencing it.

As a child, I would dissociate, leaving my body for the ceiling while my abuser did whatever he or she wanted with my body. In my dream, however, I fought back. I couldn’t move anything other than my head because of the weight, but I bit her right on the nose and kept biting with everything I had in me. I woke up with my heart racing.

In real life, my body was extremely exhausted, so I dropped back off to sleep and re-entered the dream. I was packing up my stuff and leaving the sleepover. I told the leaders that my ex-friend had attacked me, but they seemed oblivious/unconcerned. I went home.

Then, I and my sister were forced to have a play date with the ex-friend. Her mother kept trying to patch things over, and I had to pretend like everything was OK, even though it wasn’t. I knew I couldn’t let my guard down for a second, but I had to pretend that everything was normal.

I had this nightmare on the day after Thanksgiving, and I have already written about the nightmare from Thanksgiving night. If I am going to have nightmares every night until Christmas, it’s going to be a long holiday season.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Food chain (c) Lynda BernhardtI was plagued with weird dreams last night. I was visiting with friends at a mall in my hometown. I can only remember one friend (P – used to be my best friend in my 20’s, but I haven’t heard from her in years), but I think there was a second one there, possibly my sister. Anyhow, we were having a good time until they told me that two people were coming. The first was C, a high school friend who I would love to see, and the second was momster. I said I was sorry to have to miss out on seeing C, but there was no way in h@#$ I was sticking around for momster and fled.

I tried to blend into the crowd in a different store, but momster and the others found me there. Momster came up to me and wanted hug (like she did when I saw her last at my sister’s graduation). I gave her the weakest hug ever, and her end was just as weak. P and the others were saying, “See. I knew you would be OK seeing her.”

I ran out of the store and ran as fast as I could through the mall with P and the others trying to catch me. I leaned over and vomited. P and the others were still saying that I was OK and this was good for me, but I had to stop and vomit again even harder.

Then, it was Halloween (my ex-friend and I took our children trick-or-treating together on Halloween for eight years – this was our first Halloween not doing so), but I had to attend a make-up class that was being held in ex-friend’s classroom. (Ex-friend is a teacher.) I didn’t want to see her but knew there wouldn’t be a choice. She was polite to me (in real life, she pretends I don’t exist), but it was awkward. I borrowed a textbook from the speaker, but ex-friend took it from me.

Then, my son said he was hungry, and we went looking for food. He had bought himself a mansion filled with ponies, and I kept commenting how keeping ponies on carpet isn’t really the best idea.

Strange, strange dream. I had trouble falling back to sleep and am now pretty tired from being so restless all night.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have had several hints over the past few months that I have more healing work ahead of me. Last night’s cluster of dreams was like a flashing neon sign that more work is to come.

I was at my child’s school (although the building looked nothing like my son’s school), and it was beautiful. The colors around it were vivid – lots of bright green grass on the grounds and a beautiful, mossy roof on the building. I walked up to my husband, who was standing outside the school on the grounds, and then my friend walked up. (My friend has the same name as my sister and always represents my sister in my dreams.)

I got nervous when my friend walked up because I was worried she would “tell” my husband, but I couldn’t identify exactly what it was I didn’t want her to tell. Instead, she and I climbed up a long ladder with many parts onto the mossy roof of the school. There I found a girl in her teens who was battered and bruised. She really wanted to go inside the school but couldn’t. So, she lived on the roof and tried to be as close to the school as she could.

There were people in the school who knew she was living on the roof (even though the ones in charge did not know). They would make sure she was OK and even educate her.

Then, I saw my son (always represents my inner child) and a bunch of other children having fun outside on the grounds. They were dressed like boy scouts and seemed to be preparing for a field trip or some sort of fun.

We went inside, and I was sitting next to a different friend as an older child showed me a “cool toy” that simulated giving oral sex to a man. I was bothered by this because the child thought it was great fun, but I could see the sexual nature of the toy. Then, my son picked up another toy like that and was playing with it, too, and I was upset by that. Then, I looked down, and all of the objects on the table were representative of penises.

Next, a small dog came running out, and I knew I had to leave the room. (Seeing my dog killed was one of my two most traumatizing memories. I suspect the “little dog” represents an extremely traumatizing memory that is not quite as bad as that one but still difficult enough to qualify as a “dog-level” of trauma.) I closed the door behind me, but the dog got out. The door caught the fur at the tip of his tail, but he was still able to get free.

Then, I ran into another child who said that all of the balls at the school were the same, so he made his own ball. He had taken two balls and packaged them together. The result was the “skin” of a volley ball stretched across two full balls inside of the one. I looked inside, and the small dog was encapsulated inside of one of the inside balls and was both frightened and angry. I knew the dog needed to be let out of the ball.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I used to have a recurring dream about my teeth falling out. I had it for years … pretty much throughout my adulthood until I started recovering flashbacks. There were different variations of the dream, but the underlying theme was the same. I wanted my teeth to be permanent, but they would start falling out. Sometimes they were so full that I couldn’t close my mouth, and that would cause my teeth to break off. In other dreams, teeth would just start falling out, and I would freak out. I never figured out what they symbolized.

Then, last night I had another dream about my teeth, but it had a twist to it that has helped me to understand it. The dream also tells me that I have more healing work ahead of me … fun, fun.

First, the dream – I was at my office (I was watching “The Office” before I went to bed, and some of those characters were in it) when I noticed that I had two permanent teeth embedded on the inside of my current teeth. They had a jagged feel, which told me that they were permanent teeth, and I was completely freaking out about them being there. I wanted them extracted. I felt around some more and found a third permanent tooth embedded behind my lower teeth.

I ran to the bathroom (symbolizes the most private part of myself) and looked in the mirror (self-explanatory). I opened my mouth and was able to see that the roof of my mouth had an entire second row of permanent teeth embedded behind my regular teeth on the top of my mouth. There was also some sort of bone in the center of the roof of my mouth. To say that I freaked out is an understatement. I wanted all of those teeth extracted immediately.

I called my childhood dentist and marveled that I could have had these teeth in the roof of my mouth for 40+ years and not have noticed. I got a message that my friends needed to see me. My friend (who shares the same name as my sister – symbolizes my sister in my dreams) said that we needed to meet with another friend and me, and nobody else could come. I walked over with the other friend, who I think symbolizes my friendships as a whole.

I think I have finally cracked the code of these teeth dreams. I think that the teeth symbolize memories that I tried to embed permanently in my subconscious mind. When I had the dreams about the teeth falling out, I was upset because I wasn’t ready to remember. However, my reaction this time was wanting to extract them, which is much more in line with how I feel about repressed memories today.

So, the good news is that I have finally uncovered the symbolism of those dreams that haunted me for decades. The bad news is that I apparently have another layer of memories to process. Lucky me. I can’t say that I am surprised based upon noticeable memory gaps surrounding my Christmas memories. I feel empowered by my shift in how I view those repressed memories. While I am still horrified, I now see the goal as bringing them out rather than as holding them in.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Last week, I blogged about several intense dreams that I had throughout the week. Because of inclement weather and my son being home, I did not get a chance to blog about the coolest set of dreams in which I experienced true lucid dreaming.

Lucid dreaming is when you are aware that you are dreaming, and you take control of the dream. Over the past several years I have become aware that I was dreaming in the moment (typically in a nightmare), and I learned to scream as loud as I could to wake myself up. I would scream and scream in the dreams, but they would be frustratingly silent screams in my dream. However, the effort of trying to scream will frequently cause me to make a noise that winds up waking me up. This has become my escape hatch.

On Thursday night, I actually experienced true lucid dreaming, and it was amazing! First, it was another variation of me trying so desperately to sleep but not being able to. I was trying to sleep in the front passenger seat of a car, but people kept watching me. An Asian woman tried to steal my purse (another reference to my “essential baggage”), but I was able to protect it. (I have no bad experiences with Asian women that I remember, so I am baffled by her ethnicity.) I awoke briefly and was surprised to discover that I was actually sleeping in my own bed because I had tried so many ways and places to sleep in the dream.

Here is where it got cool – I was in this big room surrounded by a lot of items (sort of like a toy store), and I recognized in the moment that I was dreaming. I decided that, since this was just a dream, no harm could come to me, so I would choose to be completely present and explore the dream. When I did this, some toys started singing something about me trying to heal too fast or faster than I should. I just acknowledged the message and moved on.

I wish I had written this when I first woke up because I have forgotten most of the dreams. I remember vivid colors and being amazed at how interesting it was to “be alive” and controlling my own movements in the dream. I saw a display of Christmas items, and I chose to stop and admire the beauty of it rather than push it away (which is the way I typically react in real life).

I can’t remember most of the details. I just remember the feeling of being present in the dream, the beauty of the vivid colors, and the absence of fear. I hope I have another dream like this soon!

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I guess this is not going to be the week for restful sleep! I am shaking after awakening from the following dream:

I had to paint a very detailed statue (think Nativity scene but not religious in any way), and I am doing it to replicate a complex statue that my mother painted when she was younger. (My mother and sister are both talented with painting, sketching, and drawing. I can barely draw a stick figure. As a child, my mother would have the three of us paint statues as childhood activities.) I can see my mother’s, and it is beautiful. Mine, not so much (which would be true if I actually tried to do this real life).

There were many facets to the statue, including several bananas. I was wearing very nice clothing and did not want to get paint on it, but I was sure I could do this messy job without getting messy myself. My mother was there, and I was painting in my church’s parking lot (the church that I attend today).

Some people from my church came to help unload our baggage. We had a lot – both my mother and me – but they were only taking my stuff into the church (which was where I was apparently staying for some reason). I needed to put the statue away before I could help, and I didn’t want anyone touching my “essential” baggage (very large navy blue suitcase on wheels) because it had everything I needed even if all of the other baggage was “lost.”

My mother’s baggage was being unloaded to go to a man’s house. In real life, she has apparently been having a chaste friendship with a man for a couple of years – he wants more but she doesn’t, and my sister thinks he is using his relationship with her as a cover (she has many theories – he is gay, a serial rapist, etc., and needs to appear to have a girlfriend as a “cover”). I haven’t met the man, so I have no idea. I can only tell you that my mother is mentally ill, poor, and claims to despise sex, so I question the motives of any man chasing her.

Back to the dream…All of these church people are taking her baggage over to go to this guy’s house where they are going to live together without getting married. I was really bothered by this. Different people that I knew from high school walked by without acknowledging me. I went up to my Sunday School teacher and asked him why the church was being supportive and helpful of my mother choosing to “live in sin” when a church (not my church) kicked out someone my age for “living in sin” with her boyfriend. He said it’s different for my mother.

Then, these judgmental people came to move the rest of the baggage and took my “essential bag.” I told them I could take it myself, but they threw it in a cart with some other things. I followed them because I wasn’t going to let the bag out of my sight. They said that I was the one holding my mother back – that she wanted to marry the man but wouldn’t as long as I was not in her life. They were supporting her in doing “wrong” because she could not do “right” due to my choice to keep her out of my life.

I felt guilty and thought about whether I should reconcile with her. Then, I got angry because all of these people were judging me, and I was not the cause of the problem. I thought about the things that my mother did to me throughout my childhood, and I became angrier as these people kept pulling the cart with my essential baggage in it. Then, I woke up shaking.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Bizarre Dreams

I had some bizarre dreams last night. First, I was washing dishes by hand in the kitchen sink (something I hate to do). I had just finished, but then more appeared, and I got to work at washing them. I was working very hard on a bowl coated in oatmeal when two sets of hands (one set on either side of me) started washing the rest of them. I looked up and found two men – nice college-age boys who were living in our house – washing them for me. I was so surprised because it is always my job to do all of the cleaning. I felt very special that they would help, and their reaction was that they were just pitching in – no big deal.

Then, I was living in my mother’s house as a teenager again. I was asleep in my bed when I heard the door open and my mother say, “Rise and shine!” like she used to do when I was a kid. She did this at the same time that two radio alarms went off in my room – one beside my bed and one on the stereo across the room. I was angry with her for doing this because I was responsible enough to wake myself up without her help.

I got out of bed, and I was overwhelmed by the numerous large piles of clean clothes all over my room. I turned off the alarm by my bed right away, but I had a hard time finding the power button to the stereo. The button had moved from its usual place, and I could not find it.

I went to the bathroom (same location as in my current house) to brush my teeth, and I was aghast to see the college boys walking around wearing nothing but towels while I was in my pajamas. (Keep in mind that I was a teenager in this dream.) I couldn’t use another bathroom, though, because renovations were going on, and the room they were using was a guest room being added onto this bathroom. So, I had to brush my teeth with these guys walking in and out. They didn’t even seem to notice me, but I felt uncomfortable being so “exposed” with a wall torn out of my bathroom.

I woke up and then went back to sleep. Here was the second round … I was so tired, and I just wanted to be able to sleep. A male friend of mine from college was there – someone I trusted who never once tried to take advantage of me. I kept wanting to sleep with him nearby so I would know that I was safe. (Side note – This has been a recurring theme in my dreams lately – seeking out “safe” people in my dreams to watch over me or let me sleep in their beds so I can sleep.)

There was also part of the dream that took place in a restaurant. A high school friend kept asking me why I wouldn’t call her at her new phone number. I kept telling her that it wasn’t safe. She kept saying that nothing had changed, but I got her to admit that the phone would ring at a public place, so we had no privacy when we talked. I kept wanting to sleep and kept trying to be with safe people so I could sleep.

Any theories on what this means? I know that bathroom dreams are about the most private part of yourself (bedrooms are pretty private, too). The piled clothing and kitchen sink represent my emotional “baggage.” I am a teenager in the dream (all high school and early college), so this relates to my mother’s abuse during that time and/or the college rapes. That was a period in my life of feeling very unsafe no matter where I went.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Last weekend, I was in a very dark place. However, I managed to pull myself out on Monday by putting all of my tools into practice. I am no longer concerned about being “abandoned” over the Christmas holiday. Whenever the thought even crosses my mind, I know how to fight it.

I was OK on Monday and Tuesday, but then I started getting jittery on Wednesday and then feeling anxious on Thursday. My sister also had a panic attack on Thursday night. I thought this was perhaps another “disturbance in the force” outside of myself, which is frustrating because I do not yet know how to fight that. When the problem is not within me, it is much more challenging to know how to fight back within myself.

I stayed anxious all weekend. I used Xanax to sleep at night, and I found myself compulsively overeating for several days. I couldn’t tell you why – only that I felt “off” and anxious, and eating soothed that feeling.

On Saturday, my sister mentioned in passing that her university’s graduation was that day, and she was reminiscing with her children that it was exactly one year ago that she was the one graduating with her Bachelor’s degree. I did not think much of the comment at the time – no dots were connected.

Then, on Saturday night, I had a flashback dream that told me exactly what my problem is – It has been one year since I forced myself to see my mother/abuser again after a six-year hiatus. I only did this because my love for my sister outweighed my aversion to seeing my mother, and my sister invited us both to the graduation.

In the dream, I relived the moment of my mother hugging me. It wasn’t a complete repeat of the place, but it was a repeat of the emotions. I was having to spend time with my mother, even though I did not want to. I was making a real effort to be polite even though I wanted to run screaming from being anywhere near her. Then, she wanted a hug. I did not want to give her one, but I believed I had no choice, and my friend (who came with me last year to the graduation to be my “buffer”) stood next to me watching and letting me make the call. She had no way of knowing that there was no choice – only compliance because I never feel like I have a choice in my mother/abuser’s presence.

She hugged me thoroughly as I tried not to touch any part of her. A part of me wrestled with whether it would be easier just to let go and embrace her hug, but the larger part of myself had flashes of all of the ways I had been hurt in childhood by her body touching mine. The hug seemed to go on forever. As soon as it ended, I forced myself awake. My heart was racing, and I was very shaky.

It took me a couple of hours after being awake to tie it all together – Seeing her again was traumatizing, and her hugging me added to the trauma. I know all of you are thinking, “Duh!,” but I guess I never really made that connection. I saw it as facing past trauma, not as adding more trauma that needed to be processed.

I had so much drama trying to get home (our flight was canceled due to weather), and then I faced a breast cancer scare as soon as I returned, so I never took any time to work through my feelings and reactions to the trauma of seeing her again. I just wanted to put it all behind me…and now it is back on the anniversary of that newer trauma. Oh, joy!

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I “met” another inner child through a dream, and I will be curious to see if this inner child returns in my future dreams. I have shared previously about my son, N, representing my inner child in my dreams. A reader helped me recognize that N is now okay and is actually smiling. I have continued trying to “rescue” N, but he needs no rescue. He is okay.

So, the other night I had a dream where I “grew” my family by adopting a foster child. This was another little boy who was the same age as N in my dream. He refused to tell me his name, so I gave him the name of T just so we could have a way of communicating. He was very quiet and sad.

The three of us (me, N, and T) were hanging out in the kitchen, and I was getting them ready for school. N was happy, but T was quiet. The kitchen sink was piled high with dishes. I looked up and saw that T was trapped in the kitchen sink, and he was scared. He wanted to cry and looked so sad, but he said nothing. I immediately pulled T out and hugged him tightly. I told him that I love him and that I was so sorry that he had been scared.

T then spoke for the first time and said, “My name is M,” which is my deceased father’s middle name. I told him that I loved his name and that my father shared his name. I held him close, and then I woke up.

I don’t know the story of M or why he shares my father’s name. All I know is that I love him and that I want to “parent” him so he is no longer so sad and scared.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I sometimes have what I believe to be night terrors, although I have read online that PTSD can be misdiagnosed as night terrors, so who knows? Whatever you want to call it, they are scary as #$%&, and that is saying something for a person who has nightmares on a regular basis.

When I have a nightmare, it is awful, but it plays out differently in my head than a night terror (or whatever it is). My understanding about night terrors is that they occur during non-REM sleep, which is what this feels like, but my night terror last night happened right before I woke up, which sounds inconsistent with a night terror diagnosis. Whatever it was, I am going to discuss this topic, and feel free to replace “night terror” with whatever term captures this more-than-a-nightmare nightmare.

I still remember my first one vividly. I was in college, and I had an intense dream that I was driving a car down a dark road and saw a man walking alongside of the road. As I passed him (in flashes, not linearly), he reached in, pulled me out, and raped me. I awakened very shaken, breathing hard, with my heart racing. The quality of the dream was different from any that I had ever experienced before.

I have nightmares so frequently that I have learned how to do “lucid dreaming” where I recognize that I am asleep and have a variety of ways for force myself awake, such as screaming at the top of my lungs, which results in silent screams in the dream but will sometimes cause me to make a noise in my sleep, which causes me to wake up. These tools do not work with night terrors. I once had one that cycled around multiple times. I would be sleeping in my bed and a man in a hooded black robe came in my window after me. I used my tools to wake up, only for the story to repeat itself over and over. I could not awaken – I could only restart the dream so I was stuck in a “loop.” It was terrifying because I truly could not tell if I was awake or asleep.

Last night was Night #6 of nightmares, and I am both physically and emotionally drained. I had this quality of dreams last night again where I could not pull out and could not tell whether I was awake or still sleeping. I would try to will myself awake but could not read the clock. Different people kept coming in my bedroom, but I could not see them. One time it was my kid. Another time, it was someone trying to hurt me, so I held on tight so he couldn’t leave (and I could “bust” him), even as he bit me and I bit back.

If these are not night terrors, I don’t know what to call them. They have a very different feel from a regular nightmare, such as the time I “flashed” down the stairs after seeing that the front door had been left unlocked and then was attacked by the door. These dreams are more vivid, and I cannot pull myself out. The sheer terror I feel is indescribable.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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