If you have PTSD or C-PTSD, you know about nightmares. You have them so often, they aren’t a surprise. They’re just a way of life. Yet, little is mentioned about the nightmares.
I’d always had frequent nightmares, but it got much worse in 2012 which is when I realized I had C-PTSD. I began having several almost every night, which of course led to a lot of fatigue. The nightmares also became even more vivid than usual, which is saying something since I’ve always had very vivid dreams. They became so vivid in fact, that often I would wake up feeling as if I’d just done whatever I did in the dream. If I dreamed I ran a marathon, for example, I woke up physically tired & achy.
After learning about C-PTSD, I assumed the nightmares would be about reliving traumatic events, which does happen, but only rarely. Most of my nightmares are about strange things- being an adult yet having to repeat high school & relying on my mother to take me rather than driving my own car; while repeating high school as an adult, being unable to find or remember the combination to my locker; my car being stolen &/or totaled; my husband mocking me when I was obviously upset or rejecting me somehow; or someone letting my cats outside & they ran away. Strange stuff! I finally asked God about it after waking up for yet one more bizarre nightmare. What He shared made a lot of sense & I think it will if you too suffer with odd nightmares like I do.
The brain constantly processes information, whether the information is good, bad or indifferent. Our dreams are often a result of that processing, because the brain doesn’t take breaks. Sometimes we don’t remember dreams because they weren’t important- the brain simply processed something unimportant. Other times, it tries to make sense of horrible things that have happened, which is where nightmares come into it. Sometimes the brain relives those awful, traumatic events in an attempt to understand it, but not always. Sometimes nightmares look as if they have nothing to do with traumatic events on the surface, yet they actually have a lot to do with them.
While the circumstances of the dreams may be different, the emotions they stir up feel exactly like some trauma you have experienced. My nightmare of my car being stolen & totaled? It caused a huge amount of anxiety & fear, & I felt completely helpless. Eventually I realized it triggered the exact same emotions of my seventeenth birthday. That day, my mother took my gifts from my then boyfriend/now ex husband & destroyed them on the way home from school. She blamed me for making her do that & making her car messy. The event caused me so much anxiety (knowing I’d have to tell my ex what happened to his gifts), fear (wondering what she was going to do next) & I felt helpless (she destroyed the gifts as I was picking up her Avon order & gone for maybe 3 minutes- I couldn’t have known what she was going to do or stop her from doing it)
When these nightmares happen, the good news is that they have a purpose. They show you that there is an area in which you need more healing. It can be hard to figure out, so I highly recommend asking God about it. He loves you & wants to help you, so let Him! Ask Him what did that dream mean? If you like, you also can look up symbols on a dream dictionary website- I’ve done this. I write down everything I can from my dream- items, colors, feelings- then look up what each means & write it down beside each item. Sometimes things make more sense to me when I see them in writing so that can be a helpful tool.
Once you realize what the dream was trying to make sense of, you can heal. Work on coping with the traumatic event however works for you- pray, talk to a therapist, talk to a close friend, write in your diary. What you do doesn’t matter, so long as it works for you.
I know nightmares are a very difficult part of C-PTSD & PTSD, but they are also unavoidable. Why not make them work in your favor by learning what they’re trying to help you cope with? Once you do, the nightmares often go away or at the very least don’t happen nearly as often. I haven’t had a dream about my car being stolen or totaled in a couple of years. 🙂