Category Archives: dreams/nightmares

Dear De

Dear De,

I dreamt about you last night. You were happy in your new job, and your life. I can’t remember much else about the dream, but we connected again in it. I caught you up on everything since we ended, and you let me in on some basics about how you were doing. 

It was nice to reconnect, even if it was just a dream… 

Peace, 

Sam

It’s weird. I don’t often dream about my therapists, but De seems to pop up in them more than most. I think it’s because I feel like I helped break her. I know it was a combination of the job, a lack of appropriate supervision/professional supports, and a lack of effective self-care while she worked in such a stressful position, but I was part of the job… so, yeah. I helped break her. 

I still feel guilty around it. 

What if I hadn’t been so open about my struggles? What if I tried harder at the techniques she presented? What if I’d made more of an effort to keep myself together? What if I’d have not given her access to my journals? What if I’d have been a better, less demanding client? What if…?

Ultimately, I know it was her responsibility to keep herself balanced and supported. I know that quitting work at the sexual assault counseling center was part of her self-care. I know it was her choice, rather than something she was forced into… yet I feel guilty. 

I think my guilt partially stems from my own experiences of burn-out in the field. I let my own experiences build up so much that they broke my defenses. I definitely feel guilty about the way I left my clients at the domestic violence counseling center. They had no notice, no termination, no chance to either say goodbye or run from the experience. I took their choice away. I took my choice away. I let myself fall apart too much before I finally was forced to pull away… I left because I landed in the hospital again (and again, and again). I could no longer function in the basics of my life, forget about in an intense and emotion-filled work environment…

De never got to that point before she realized she needed out. I’m grateful for that. 

I guess I dream about her more often because I worry about her more than other therapist’s I’ve had. I need to convince myself that she’s happy and thriving, even if I don’t know that for sure…



Emdr (TRIGGER) 

Did some emdr kinda spontaneously on Monday. I was really struggling with some intrusive memories/body memories, and Dr C had extra time. 

We aimed for my resistance to emdr, and to deal with the fears around it. That quickly progressed to the body memories. It was fragments of things flooding in and washing each other away just to come back in a few minutes. It was intense. I think I was dissociated through some of it because we worked on re-centering and returned to the fear around exploring these memories. 

One of them was really weird. I think it might have been a memory of both the dissociative experience and the abuse melding together. It was similar to a strange dream, where impossible things are happening, and I’m at once experiencing them and watching them. I was at once floating in the ocean feeling the sun on my body, and being molested in a bed… 

It was incredibly intense afterwards and I kinda freaked out. It was the longest I’ve sat in Dr C’s parking lot after a session (almost 50 minutes) trying to center again. I’ve text her a lot since then. I feel like I might be pissing her off. 

Part of the emdr also covered the self-harm. It feels like the shame and guilt around it are gone, but at the same time, there’s a fear of the consequences. I guess that’s good. I want to destroy the parts of my body that remember the abuse, but I also want to avoid the hospital. 

I made another appointment for later this morning to process this with her. I felt like I was bothering her too much through text. I’m also hoping that seeing her in person and talking about this will help set my mind at ease about the process. I’m starting to remember some of this discomfort and turmoil after the first round, and I’m starting to remember that it passed in a few days. It’s been a bit better this morning. 

I had a really weird dream/memory/thing last night (another thing she said would be normal and expected). In it, I was a kid curled on my bed trying to sleep (similar position to how I was laying in bed last night, so I’m guessing the position was a lead-in to the memory)… it was another impossible situation though. There was a snake moving around the backs of my thighs and found its way between my legs. It felt very strange, not what my pet snakes feel like when I hold them, so I’m guessing it was something my understanding substituted for what was actually happening at the time… it reminded me of an article I read a few years ago that described the arrest of a man for animal abuse and assault when the kid said the man molested her with his pet snake. I think the man told the kid his penis was “his python” and so the kid kept calling it that… it’s quite difficult to make a snake do something it doesn’t want to, and a snake has no interest in worming it’s way into tight body orifices… 

Anyway, so… yeah. I’m waiting for time to pass before I have to leave for my appointment. My body is still shakey from my lack of sleep, and probably also from everything the emdr has stirred up… I wish I had the availability to do that intensive emdr now, but I have to be at work for the next few weeks… I might dissapoint my boss and end up needing coverage soon if I stir up too much. I’m trying to be available out of a sense of obligation to help out (staff vacations need coverage, and one of the main customer service reps is leaving for a full-time job after my boss gets back from her own vacation), but maybe I need to be a little less available. I have the option at this point not to work at all and just concentrate on my therapy. In theory, I should take the time I need to help me alleviate my symptoms… but at the same time, work is a good distraction. I didn’t exactly plan to be less available when we are already under-staffed, so I shouldn’t feel guilty about needing to say no, but I do… L and I need the extra money to help fix the car situation… and I have a huge thing about helping out, even to my own detriment, when someone needs it (especially someone I like/respect/care about). When I first started working there again, I was a bit better about maintaining my boundaries and not taking on too much. I’m falling back into that need to please everyone. I can see it heading to a huge disappointment when I finally find the courage to say I can’t cover too much… ugh. 

If I could find a way to just do therapy super intensley until I got to a point where I could get a handle on the symptoms and triggers and side-effects, then I could be a real, functioning human again. Insurance has limited that though. They don’t want to pay my therapist for more than one session a week. They don’t want to pay for an iop or php because I’m not in crisis (and if I was, they would want me inpatient first)… it’s frustrating how little they help when the whole reason I have them is because I struggle with mental health issues enough to make regular functioning near-impossible… there’s hope though. I just switched to the basic Medicare, which I’m lead to believe covers stuff easier than the crappy advantage plan I was on… starting September 1 st, coverage for therapy should theoretically be easier. 

There’s a tightness in my chest from all of this… Maybe I will ask Dr C about trying an iop as adjunct to the emdr we are doing. Maybe medicare will pay for it in hopes of getting me to a place where I can get off disability and get back to a real life. I just wish there was a close trauma iop or php… Maybe I could get into that place in Boston this time around (I was too acute 5 years ago when we first tried it. I landed in DC because their program was able to do crisis stabalization).
Sorry this was so disjointed and scattered…


Nightmares

I think it was here that I was talking about bad dreams vs nightmares (how I rarely consider anything I dream a nightmare because it doesn’t really scare me as badly as a nightmare should)… Anyway, I would definitely consider the dream I just woke from a nightmare.

In it, I was driving slow through a parking lot looking for a space. One of the cousins in L’s family was walking there with his kids. The oldest kid (still only like 5 in the dream) stated running around as they were walking. His parents tried to redirect him to be careful because of the cars, but they missed grabbing his arm as he ran by. I gritted to slam on my brakes,but they didn’t work. I hit the older kid before I simply slammed the shifter into park to avoid hitting everyone else… the kid ended up being ok. He had to go to the hospital, but he was ok. The rest of the family (in true dream style) just bounced off my car like marshmallows when it got close. I got in trouble for hitting the kid, but my punishment was to drive somewhere with the maintenance guy from my job (he was a Marshall or something like that in the dream). We drove through my Facebook feed, and everyone either hated me for being reckless, or the parents for not keeping better control of their kids… then part-way through the feed, as I’m sobbing because I hurt a child, a former boss sits down with me to do art therapy. I’m still crying hysterically and feeling shitty… then the dog woke me up.

Anyway, aside of realizing that in the dream, I managed to make it all about me and my emotions around having hurt the kid, it was definitely what I would consider a nightmare. It Feely like I couldn’t escape it, and like I had caused an insurmountable amount of pain for others. I couldn’t shake the feeling after I awoke either. It helped wiring about it though. For some reason, simply thinking about it as a dream doesn’t do much, but being able to write it out and see how impossible it is helped process it as a nightmare rather than reality…

It’s also an effective reminder that I need to finally change my brakes. At the last oil change, the mechanic suggested changing them within the next 3000 miles. It’s been about that long…


Weird nightmare, and how do you describe a flashback before you know what one is?

Woke up from a weird nightmare:
I think I had been at work or something, but it was a congregate care setting. We were trying to hide from nuclear bombs, but the places we were hiding weren’t good enough, so between bombs we would switch up hiding places. At one point I saw an old lady confused and not really hiding well, so I pulled her with me under the sink. That wasn’t a good enough place, so we moved again after the bomb. The last place we picked was under some blankets. The dog that had been under there (a rottie I know from work) that we went to hide with, moved and went out into the open. The stranger I was with and I both screamed for him to get under the blankets but he refused. Then the bomb flashed outside. As the flash was fading, aliens dressed in military uniforms used a tractor beam to pull anything living, and out in the open,  out of the apartment. The dog dissappeared in the tractor beam. I stopped screaming, but the woman beside me kept screaming for the dog, so the aliens started to notice her and started to come over. I held my breath and tried to get her to stop, but she kept screaming for the dog. The aliens hadn’t exactly seen her, but they were almost at us… and I woke up.

Couldn’t go back to sleep after that. I had to keep repeating over and over that it was a dream. Funny how your brain can forget that, despite how absurd the dream may be… there wasn’t even any cold medicine I could blame it on last night.

I certainly had no hesitation in calling this a nightmare because I woke up afraid, but other times much scarier and more gruesome dreams don’t make any emotional dent, so I simply call them weird or scary dreams… I guess that’s a good thing though, right? (The few “nightmares”). The less-absurd dreams, the ones that might actually happen in real life, and make sense that way, I simply consider them dreams. It’s the off-the-wall, can’t-happen-due-to-laws-of-the-universe type dreams that I have an easier time calling nightmares. Oh, there’s also the flashbacks and memories that happen in my sleep, but I don’t often remember them in detail. Those I’m just left with emotional echos in the morning, so they don’t count towards anything. If I happen to remember them and they leave an emotional echo, then I might call them a nightmare, but lately I label those for what they are: flashbacks.

Before I know what flashbacks were, I used to call them “daymares” because they were as scary as nightmares, but they came while I was awake… I knew they weren’t happening at the moment, but I couldn’t escape them either. Weird how we can make sense of things any way possible before we really understand what’s going on… I remember trying to describe daymares to some people along the way, but not really knowing how to explain it. I’m sure at some point I tried to explain it to a therapist. I didn’t think they were true at the time, so I described them as something imagined/made-up. They were real scenarios in that they were not outlandish like nightmares often are (like tonight’s was). They were “normal” in terms of “laws of science” kinda things. I wonder if anyone I described them to thought they were hallucinations, or if they guessed they might be real. If anyone told me at the time, I don’t remember. I do remember some people looked at me with pity when I described them…