Archive for the ‘Dreams/Nightmares’ Category

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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This has been four nights in a row with the same recurring nightmare, and I am wiped out. After jolting awake multiple times the first night, I got drunk the second night, but that did not help. For nights three and four, I took the highest dosage of Xanax that my doctor prescribed me. That has not stopped the nightmares, but it has at least lessened my body’s reactions to the release of cortisol and adrenaline.

The background is different, but the plot is always the same – I cannot protect my inner child. Last night, I watched helplessly as my inner child (always represented by a younger version of my son – he is around five years old) climbed onto a platform over a coliseum. A child before him had already fallen off and plunged to the ground, and people were checking to see if he had survived the fall. My inner child tried to hit a ball with a bat from the platform and then purposely jumped to my horror. I ran to the ground and had a few terrifying moments of not knowing whether he was alive or dead, but he was okay.

In another dream, I was in school and walking to class. I passed by my inner child’s class, and he was learning how to work a fry cook station (like they use in McDonald’s) with no adult supervision. I ran to stop him, but he walked into the hot grease with a big grin on his face the whole time as I could smell the flesh of his burning feet. I pulled him out and screamed at the people watching, but everyone said that they were not responsible for him. Surprisingly, he seemed to be okay with no damage from the grease.

I can’t remember the other dreams right now (still shaking from the coliseum one), but they are all this type of theme – I cannot protect the child.

Also last night I dreamed about my son (inner child) being asked to go into a room repeatedly that had no gravity, which we both found to be fun, but I wonder if that is symbolic of not being grounded??

I know that recurring dreams are significant, and I wish I could decode this series, deal with it, and get some rest. I am making a point to get nine hours of sleep a night because I slept so poorly the first two, but I am physically exhausted because my sleep is anything but restful.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have shared before that I often struggle with what to tell and what not to tell another person about the things I “know” (intuit) about her history because of my own. I have been healing from child abuse for seven years now, and I have been active online interacting with other child abuse survivors this entire time. I have the child abuse victim equivalent of “gay-dar” … I often just “know” that someone is a fellow child abuse survivor because I recognize the red flags.

I recently had the honor of being part of helping a longtime friend come to terms with her own history. I have “known” for years that she is a fellow child abuse survivor, but she was not yet awake to her own truths. A couple of years ago, I did share my suspicions with her as part of an intense conversation, but at that time she was not yet ready to face her history.

We had another long and intense conversation recently that moved into disturbing dreams. I am particularly gifted in dream interpretation for child abuse survivors because of having worked through my own dreams and well as being well-versed in the symbolism that is common among child abuse survivors’ dreams. She shared the details of a few dreams that really rocked her, and I had absolutely no question what they meant.

One dream in particular haunted her, but she did not know why. As she shared the details with me, I knew that it was about the perceived “death” of her inner child and her grief over the loss. The dream also carried a lot of positive elements of her amazing strength to have survived deep trauma. As she sobbed about the “death” in her dream, I kept asking her if she knew who it was that had died, and she finally said no. I told her that it was her inner child and explained the symbolism of her dream.

After she calmed down, she said that she has shared that particular dream with multiple professionals (I believe she meant counselors and/or therapists). She would see the understanding in their faces, but they all refused to interpret the dream for her. They said she would understand when she was ready.

That got me questioning whether it was my place to interpret the dream for her or not. I generally listen to my intuition in these situations, as I did here, and follow what it tells me to do. It did not occur to me not to interpret the dream, especially since it was causing her such anguish. However, because of my dream interpretation, she is pretty much now forced to face her truth. To what degree is it my responsibility to let her face her demons when she is ready? Clearly these professionals did not believe it was their place to interpret the dreams for her. I simply could not let her continue in anguish and believe falsehoods about herself because of not understanding these dreams.

In this case, it was a close personal friend that I have known for years. When people share dreams with me (or in a group) casually, I generally don’t interpret the dreams for them unless asked. However, I do often shudder that people have no idea how much of their private selves they are revealing with others when they share their dreams.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I had another night of nightmares with the central theme being sheer terror. Oh, joy! I had to sleep with the New Age music station tuned to my television in order to go back to sleep each time. The music helped me calm back down and relax after each time I jerked awake in terror.

I am not sure how figurative or literal the dreams are because they involve horses, which is not something I typically dream about. It could be figurative because any mode of transportation represents how in control you feel about your life. I used to dream about trains a lot (no control over where you are going). As I have healed, I have moved to cars. I do not recall ever dreaming of using horses as transportation. It could be literal because my mother/abuser had horses throughout my childhood.

There was a part of the dream that definitely represented my mother. In my dream, I scanned over a city that has significance in representing my mother.

As for the horses … One dream was particularly terrifying. I was riding a horse and ran into a “bad guy” who approached me on foot in a cavalier manner to harm me. He very clearly was going to take what he wanted, and even being on horseback was not going to rescue me. He pulled out a gun before I woke up with my heart racing and adrenaline pumping hard.

That is the part that has me confused. All of my flashbacks of childhood abuse involve someone I knew or being handed over to a stranger by someone I knew. I have not recovered memories of a complete stranger coming upon me by chance and harming me. However, this does play out in my dreams sometimes, as it did in this dream. That adds a whole new level of terror because, if the person did not know me or my family, what would stop him from doing whatever he wanted, even killing me?

As I write this, it occurs to me that some of you who suffered from ritual abuse have shared about cult “set ups,” so perhaps I was set up to be harmed by a member of the cult that I did not know to create this additional form of terror?

However, it could be a figurative representation of the first time my mother harmed me. She could have seemed like “a stranger” because hurting me was “strange” up until that point. I simply don’t know.

On another note, the eating has not been “effortless” as it was last week. Whatever memories I am dealing with have triggered the urge to compulsively overeat, but I find no satisfaction from the anxiety if I start to nudge that direction. I am hoping to disconnect the two in my head and recognize the urge to binge eat as a symptom of more pain to be healed. I keep hoping that, at some point, I will have worked through all of the big stuff and will no longer be slammed like this any longer. Here’s hoping, anyhow.

Photo credit: Rosanne Mooney

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I had a strange dream (flashback??) that has me wondering about possible preverbal abuse. I had a tough time sleeping last night. I awakened around 3:00 a.m. to use the bathroom, and I could not fall back to sleep. After about an hour, I turned on the TV in desperation and tuned to the same music channel I use to do yoga. Sure enough, that worked. I felt my body releasing a bunch of tension that I didn’t even know I had and then drifted off to sleep.

In my dream, I was a baby. I was crawling around the floor touching different items with my hands and also putting them in my mouth. This was a very vivid dream – like I was really there in that moment as a baby. This is how I tend to experience flashbacks – like I have been beamed into the past that is as real and present (if not more so) than my day-to-day life.

I noticed the feel of the diapers between my legs as I crawled around. Then, I felt someone pick me and remove my diaper. I felt an unpleasant pressure (not quite pain but an unwelcome feeling in my genitals). I screamed out repeatedly, not as I typically do as an adult in my dreams but as a baby would wail.

The dream later moved into my accompanying a friend (as an adult, not a baby) and her baby/child (it kept changing) to court where she was advocating for her baby before a judge. A friend of hers had hurt her baby, and she wanted the friend held accountable for it. Nothing happened the first time, but we went back to court a second time with her picking me up from home and driving me to court. The friend who had hurt the child gave the judge an envelope with a check in it for my friend. The judge bounced the baby on his knees.

When we tried to leave, our car was wedged between the other friend’s car in a very small parking area, and there was a bunch of baby stuff there, including a crib. The alarm went off as I was trying to find a way to move the car without damaging the baby stuff.

All of this has me considering the possibility that I also suffered from preverbal abuse. The earliest flashback I have experienced before this is as a toddler. I was around 18 months old, and my mother hurt me as she changed my diaper. I also have a memory of my mother hurting my sister at 18 months old, so I assumed that was the “magic age” that my mother started her abuse for both of us. However, it is entirely possible that the abuse started sooner. And, if it did, I know that healing from preverbal abuse is a completely different animal when it comes to healing from it.

While I am open to the possibility, I am certainly not “looking” for it. I trust that, if this is my truth, that part of myself will continue to come out looking for healing as I am ready to heal it.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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