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Nightmares & C-PTSD

 

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C-PTSD, PTSD & Nightmares

When you first learn that you have PTSD or C-PTSD, you will hear about having nightmares, but very little has been discussed about what kind of nightmares.

 

When I first realized I had C-PTSD in 2012, I read everything I could find on the disorder, & kept seeing nightmares on the list of symptoms.  I assumed it would be dreams repeating traumatic events.  Unpleasant, for sure, but I lived through the real thing so I figured I could handle the nightmares.

 

Not even close!

 

I have had nightmares ever since I can remember, but the frequency has increased greatly since 2012.  And, of the many nightmares, very few were actually reliving the trauma.  Instead, many were very strange, such as having my car stolen then totaled, finding a little child I needed to protect or other odd subject matter.  I honestly wondered what was wrong with me.  How could I have such awful & strange dreams yet nothing of the trauma I have been through?  It seemed completely bizarre to me.

 

Recently I realized something.. these dreams may not be specifically about trauma, but they share similar emotions to traumatic experiences I have had.  The nightmares often leave me feeling powerless, abused, unloved (even hated), helpless & more.

 

I’ve heard a few people say their nightmares are much like mine- not about traumatic events, but about events that trigger similar emotions.

 

I believe this means such nightmares must be a normal part of having C-PTSD or PTSD.

 

If you too are having odd, unsettling nightmares, then know you aren’t alone.  Nightmares are part of PTSD & C-PTSD, unfortunately.

 

As disturbing as they are, they may be able to help you.  Dreams & nightmares alike have meanings.  They’re never random, even though they feel that way.

 

Dreams can show you areas you need healing in or areas where you have healed well.  They can show you things you weren’t aware of or you need to be aware of.  They also can simply help you because your brain is  processing some information.  The brain processes information every single moment, even when you’re asleep.

 

If you want to understand your dreams & nightmares, prayer is the best place to start.  Ask God to help you to understand them & learn what you need to know from them.

 

A good dream dictionary is a helpful tool too.  I use a website (there are many to choose from).  They can help you to see what each item in your dream represents, which can make it easier to interpret them.

 

It’s also a good idea to keep track of your dreams.  Write them down & look them over from time to time.  That can help encourage you when you see how far you’ve come.  It also can help to remind you of things you need to deal with.

 

Personally I write down my dreams & nightmares, plus what I find the meaning of everything I can remember in them.  Colors, objects, people, feelings.  Once it’s all written down, I ask God to help me to understand what the dream or nightmare meant.  It’s proven to be quite helpful to me many times.  It could benefit you as well

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Purging Of Repressed Emotions

Since I have been no contact with my parents, strange but good things have been happening.  One of those things is God has helped me to get in touch with the negative emotions I had stuffed inside for years.

 

I’ve had a lot of nightmares, repressed memories & flashbacks to deal with, especially in the last few months.  While it hasn’t been fun by any stretch, it’s been a very good thing.  I’ve been able to remember things I hadn’t thought of in a long time, then deal with them.  This has enabled me to make great strides in healing.  I feel freer & even physically lighter, as odd as that may sound.  I feel cleansed of things I didn’t even realized I needed cleansing from.

 

I can’t help but thinking that this is happening as a result of going no contact.  I noticed this has happened to me after being no contact with my parents for several months & also years before after going no contact with my narcissistic mother in-law & sisters in-law.

 

When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist- be they your parent, sibling, spouse or anyone- so much of your thinking is taken up by that person.  Either you’re trying to find ways to appease her to avoid her rage, or survive the relationship with your sanity in tact.  Either way, you simply don’t have time to cope with the constant wounds inflicted on you by her abuse.  You’re functioning in survival mode.

 

Once the narcissist is out of your life, it takes some time for your mind to feel safe enough to stop functioning in survival mode.  When it does though, finally, it seems to demand that you work on all those issues you weren’t able to face due to constant trauma.

 

If you too are faced with nightmares, flashbacks &/or repressed memories after going no contact, please don’t panic, Dear Reader.  Your brain may be doing as mine has done- it stopped functioning in survival mode & wants to be healed.  I would suggest going with it.  Work on your healing from narcissistic abuse however helps you.  Pray.  See a therapist.  Whatever works for you.  After all, maybe one of the reasons for you being out of that toxic relationship is so you can heal.

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A Little About Nightmares

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.  🙂

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Another Helpful Tip For Dealing With Narcissists

I realized something this morning.  When I know I’m going to have some sort of interaction with at least one of my parents, the same thing happens almost every time.  I have either a nightmare about my childhood or a repressed memory come back to the forefront of my mind.

 

For the longest time, I assumed this was simply because I was thinking & worrying about what was coming.  I believe this is wrong though.  I believe God allows these things to happen as a way of enabling me to deal with my parents.

 

As I mentioned before, I want to go no contact with my parents, but God isn’t allowing me to tell them this.  Instead, He wants them to be the ones to pull away.  He has told me that by me getting healthier & tolerating less of their abuse, this will happen naturally.  So far, it really has.  Keeping that in mind..

 

My father plans to visit me on Friday (I’m writing this post on Thursday to publish Friday), & last night I had a horrible nightmare that reminded me of exactly how miserable I was growing up.  I was utterly depressed, even suicidal, yet had to pretend to be happy to appease my mother.  She would get mad at me if I looked depressed, so I had to hide it rather than have her yell at me & shame me.  Remembering this has made me angry.  Angry that my mother would shame me for my feelings, angry that my father never even noticed anything was wrong with me, angry that there was absolutely no concern that I was suicidal.

 

This anger I feel will help to strengthen me around my father during his visit tomorrow.  As hard as I try, sometimes I still tend to fall into bad, old habits around my parents.  But, when I am angry with them, the chances of that are much slimmer.  I have a better focus on just how dysfunctional & abusive they really are, which helps me not to fall into their traps or for their manipulations.  Once the visit is done, I will deal with my anger about the situation & heal a bit more.

 

Remembering traumatic things isn’t easy, I know.  But, God isn’t into waste.  He doesn’t allow things like this to happen for no reason.  There is always a purpose.  I have learned to use such things not only to help me heal by coping with the trauma I remember, but also to help me when I must deal with my parents.  It’s turned out to be a good thing, albeit not an easy one.

 

Does this happen to you too, Dear Reader?  Does something happen to make you angry before you deal with the narcissist in your life?  If so, you’re not alone!  It actually can be a good thing, although it doesn’t feel that way at the time.  It certainly has been for me, & if it can be for me, it can be for you as well. Use that anger to help strengthen you against her manipulations.  Use it as a reminder of exactly how dysfunctional the narcissist is.

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Dreams- The Surprising Wisdom They Contain

The Bible is full of stories of people who dreamed powerful dreams full of deep & personal meaning.  Abraham, Job, Ezekiel, & Daniel just to name a few.

Although many years have passed since those men dreamed their dreams, dreams are still a very important part of life today.  Acts 2:17 says, “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (KJV)  I believe this is happening today, & is partly why so many people are having more dreams & more memorable dreams than they once had.

I’ve always had very vivid dreams, but especially since developing C-PTSD.  Now, if I dream of being at the beach, I wake up with tired legs that feel like I’ve walked through sand.  If I dream of running, I wake up out of breath. It’s very strange!  Plus, my dreams are often very odd.  Common dreams people have include the ability to fly or being naked in a public place.  I have no such dreams- they are always something much more unusual.  So unusual in fact, that I asked God what was going on with these weird dreams of mine.  He had some very interesting things to say..

For one thing, people who have experienced trauma have nightmares.  From what I read, I assumed that meant nightmares about the traumatic incident(s).  However, this is not necessarily the case.  Sometimes that happens, but usually the nightmares are about other  things that the dreamer would be upset about.  For example, cars symbolize your life in dreams.  I also happen to have three classics & adore classic cars, so cars are often a part of my dreams.  Fairly often, I dream that my ’69 Plymouth has been vandalized or totaled somehow. Usually, that dream happens when I feel someone is trying to control or change me.

The brain is constantly trying to process trauma.  Even when you’re asleep, the brain is still trying to process what happened.  Even if you aren’t dreaming about a traumatic episode, or even if you dream isn’t upsetting only odd, it still may be your brain trying to process trauma.

There will be many dreams you don’t remember.  If you don’t remember some dreams, you’re normal!  The brain works every moment of every day, which means it is still trying to understand or process some things (not necessarily even traumatic things) while you’re asleep.  If you don’t remember some dreams, it means you don’t need to remember them.  I think of those dreams much like those programs that run quietly in the background of your computer.  They’re necessary to function, but not necessary to know all the details about.

The brain knows what you need, even if you aren’t aware of it, & can try to tell you that via your dreams.  If you’re working too hard, you may dream about being on a vacation, then wake up with a strong desire to take a trip.  That was your brain’s way of saying it’s time for a break.

Sometimes, God speaks to us through our dreams.  Daniel 2:19 says, “Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night, and Daniel blessed the God of heaven.” (AMP)  God spoke directly to Daniel & others via their dreams sometimes.  I believe God spoke to me via one of my recent dreams.  I had a dream about being in a hospital emergency room where I was treated (rather uncaringly) by a doctor.  While there, I realized I had a big sewing needle stuck in my heel!  There was a lot of blood & no one even noticed.  After looking up the symbols I remembered, I realized the dream showed me that I need to be more spontaneous, & have more fun without relying on others to have fun with.  I believe God gave me this message in that odd dream.

If you haven’t paid much (or any) attention to your dreams, I really would like to encourage you to start doing so!  Dreams can be a very valuable tool in life.

Interpreting dreams doesn’t have to be terribly hard either.  I have no natural gift in that area, so I look up symbols online.  www.DreamMoods.com is my favorite website.  I usually write down the dream, then under that every symbol I can think of from the dream.  I look up each symbol’s meaning on that website.  Once I’m done, I look it over & ask God to help me understand what it all meant.  Works every time..

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A Long Week In A Life With C-PTSD

It’s been almost three years since almost all of the symptoms of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder manifested in my life, but I’m still learning about them & how to manage them.  It’s a daily battle.

This past week has been a rough one.  I’m not sure why, but the C-PTSD has been flaring up really badly.  Nothing happened to trigger it, although I did have a flashback a few days into this flare.  I haven’t discussed what’s happening much with anyone, not even my husband.  For one thing, when it flares up, I need to get a grasp on what is happening.  My thinking changes so much, & sometimes it takes a lot for me to recognize it’s the disorder, not me thinking that. For example, I’ve been ashamed of this flare up.  I’ve been feeling weak & angry at myself for being so weak.  Normally, I accept C-PTSD as the reaction to some very bad things that I’ve been through, but flare ups change that in me.

This morning, I was in an especially foul mood, & my husband & I talked about it.  I finally opened up to some of what has been going on with me this week  He suggested that since I’ve promised to keep my blog real, that I write about it, & hopefully someone who reads this will benefit from it.

Reading about the symptoms of C-PTSD on clinical sounding websites & living them are two very different things.  Reading about them, they sound bad enough, but living them?  Yikes.  And, you rarely see detailed descriptions of the more odd symptoms.  I thought I’d share some of the symptoms you don’t read much (if anything) about that I’ve experienced this week, so if you too experience them, you’ll know you aren’t crazy!

Lately, I’ve had more nightmares than usual.  Not even nightmares about traumatic events I’ve been through- nightmares about stupid things, such as an empty school bus parked beside my car catching fire.  I knew I couldn’t move my car for some reason, & was afraid it was going to burn with the bus.  Make any sense to you?  Yea, me neither.. lol  One night, I woke up every 15-30 minutes all night long, mostly from nightmares, most of which I didn’t even remember, but I woke up panicky.  The few I did remember though had absolutely nothing to do with the traumas I’ve experienced.  When I first read about C-PTSD, I assumed when it said nightmares happen, it was nightmares about the traumas.  Not necessarily.. I have them too sometimes, but usually not.  The nightmares are usually odd but disturbing.

My thinking has been extremely negative.  I try to be positive yet realistic, but this week, that hasn’t happened.  I’ve been beating myself up about anything & everything possible.  I’m weak, stupid, cowardly, useless, ugly, nothing but a burden to my husband.. you get the idea.  Growing up with a narcissistic mother, I used to do that all the time, but over the last probably 10-15 years or so, had gotten much better about not doing that.  When the C-PTSD flares up, though, that old habit comes back with a vengeance.

I feel like I’ve remembered every single time someone has told me something invalidating about having C-PTSD & it hurts.  I’ve thought of so many times when people have told me to “get over it,” “stop using C-PTSD to get pity/attention,” “stop living in the past”, “stop being so negative- you need to be more positive.”  or even simply showed they don’t care when the symptoms are bothering me.   Why these stupid comments pop into my mind, I have no idea..

My thinking has been very sluggish.  I haven’t caught on to hubby’s jokes, which is very abnormal for me since we share the same warped sense of humor.  Following a simple TV show or movie has been rather difficult too.  And, I encountered a narcissist, yet failed to recognize the signs I normally wouldn’t have missed.  Once they were pointed out to me is when I caught on.  UGH!

I’ve been getting very angry very easily.  It seems like anything & everything pushes my buttons.  While trying to put fresh sheets on my bed this morning, I got mad at one of my cats for getting in my way.  WHY?!  She does this every single time I change sheets.  It’s nothing new.  But for some reason this morning, this made me so angry.  I didn’t scold her, since this is a normal part of her routine, but I really wanted to for a minute there.

I’ve been extremely depressed.  I’ve always battled depression, & for years, I was fortunate enough to find ways to keep it under control.  I even wrote a book about that, called, “Baptism Of Joy.”  My first book!  Then when the C-PTSD kicked in in May, 2012, that changed.  While I’m not depressed all of the time, I once again spend quite a bit of time depressed, & this time, the usual things that once helped me to feel better don’t work nearly so often.

I’ve also been extremely anxious & unable to pinpoint why exactly.  Above & beyond the normal anxiety & hyper-vigilance that come with C-PTSD, I mean.  I’ve woken up having panic attacks several times lately.  Not a nice way to wake up!

I’ve wondered if I’m going crazy.  Definitely not a nice way to feel, especially since I spent so much time feeling this way when I was growing up  with my mother who often told me “you need help” (implying I was in need of psychological help, yet she wouldn’t take me to a therapist) & with an ex-husband who was very good at gaslighting.

I’m dissociating a lot more than normal.  I feel so spacey most of the time.  This also means I have very little focus.  Writing in this blog has been a very big challenge this week!  Honestly, when I’ve written my entries, I’ve been very unsure about how they sounded, then published them, just praying they made sense.

To try to manage these symptoms,I’ve been spending time listening to music I love, which means many songs I grew up with in the 70’s-80’s, some country & some classic & hard rock.  I’ve also been spending time with God, not even necessarily praying- just sitting in His presence.  It’s very restorative & grounding.

C-PTSD is an absolutely evil, devastating disorder.  If you live with it too, I understand what you’re going through!  You may or may not have the odd symptoms I’ve been experiencing this week (I pray you don’t!), but if you do, please know you’re not alone, nor are you crazy!  In spite of how it feels, you are a normal person who had a normal reaction to an abnormal amount of trauma!  That is what C-PTSD is- a normal response to an abnormal amount of trauma.  It isn’t a sign of weakness, low intelligence, flaws in one’s character, or poor thinking such as living in the past or being negative.

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December 18, 2013

Good morning, Dear Readers!

Last night I was thinking & praying.  God has given me a few purposes in my life..

  1. To help open people’s minds (such as with what I have learned about His immense love for animals & how people should treat them, as is the subject of my book “Pawprints On Our Hearts”)
  2. To show people the damage that can be done by child abuse.  Not only abusers in the hopes that they will change their ways, but to victims as well.  So many victims think they are crazy or have done something to deserve the abuse when nothing could be further from the truth.  Many also think the damage done to them doesn’t matter, because they believe they don’t matter.  Well, it *does* matter!  Everyone deserves a chance to be healthy & happy.  When you acknowledge the damage done to you, you can start to heal.
  3. To let people know they aren’t alone.  There are others who understand.
  4. To share what I learn about healing with other abuse survivors.

As I was pondering these things, I felt that today I should write to let everyone reading this blog post know that you are truly NOT alone!  Many people who read my work have contacted me, & have survived terrible abuse, usually at the hands of their parents.  I understand that completely!  Even if the abuse we survived was different, the basics are still the same- your parent cared more about his/her own needs than yours, made you feel unloved & unimportant, & only there to fulfill the parent’s needs instead of the parent caring for yours. 

And, if you have survived abuse, many survivors have Complex PTSD.  Just because you haven’t yet been diagnosed, doesn’t mean you don’t have it.  I had quite a few symptoms of C-PTSD my entire life- anxiety, depression, exaggerated startle response, hypervigilence, peridoic insomnia & agoraphobia- but not until the spring of 2012 did almost all of the symptoms fully develop.  Symptoms of C-PTSD may include:

  • Difficulty regulating emotions.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Forgetting traumatic events.
  • Flashbacks &/or intrusive memories.
  • Nightmares (about the traumatic events or not).
  • Insomnia or difficulty staying asleep.
  • Hypervigilence (intense awareness of the emotions of others & surroundings, looking for danger).
  • Exaggerated startle response.
  • Withdraw from others.
  • Agoraphobia (fear of leaving home).
  • Dissociation (the feeling of being outside one’s body, not being all “there.”).
  • Anger (turned outwards towards others or inward in the form of self destructive behaviors such as promiscuity or addictions).
  • Low self-esteem. 

If after reading this, you realize you have symptoms of C-PTSD, if possible, seek out counseling with a counselor who specializes in trauma/abuse.  Don’t take it lightly!  C-PTSD is a serious disorder, potentially even life threatening.  If the depression gets really bad, it can lead to suicidal thoughts.  If you get to that point, God forbid! please call 911, a loving & supportive friend, or even the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at:  1- 800-273-TALK (8255). 

If you don’t have insurance or the money for counseling, check into your local Department Of Mental Health, or churches.  Many offer counseling for free or charge low fees.  If that is still not an option for you, there are some ways to cope on your own.  That is what I have done, & while I can’t say life is perfect, I do think under the circumstances, I’m doing pretty well.  I take valerian root for anxiety, St. John’s wort sometimes for depression, & an all natural sleep aid.  I am learning to listen to what my mind & body need- if I need to go out, but don’t feel up to it, I get quiet & see how I feel.  If I’m feeling like I can handle it, I go out.  If I feel overwhelemed, I don’t go.  I will push myself to go out sometimes, but not every time I need to, because that can lead to more problems.  It can lead to greater anxiety about leaving home, which in turn makes the agoraphobia worse in the long run.  Some days, I find I need a lot of down time- I relax with a movie, knitting, or whatever helps me relax.  I have learned the value of getting quiet, & letting God speak what I need to do for that situation.  It always comes to me in the form of a knowing feeling.  Any time I have listened to that, it has helped me tremendously to deal with my symptoms.   

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