above image, titled The Nightmare, was made by vingar and can be found here
cw: mention of abuse, triggers and sleep disturbances caused by trauma
Yesterday I found out that I was accepted into the trauma program at Moving Beyond Trauma. It was also the last day of my mom’s visit. My mom and I have a good relationship and we’re as close as we can be considering the man she married and who fathered her children also sexually abused those children.
My mom’s visits always come with triggers for me. As much as I love her, her very presence must remind me of my dad and the abuse. Yesterday I had a few, brief dissociative episodes and I managed to keep them contained and out of my mom’s awareness. When I went to bed last night I felt tired but anxious and I knew there might be some sleep disruption. Nightmares or insomnia. Something.
I managed to fall asleep and I slept deeply until about 4 am. I thought about getting up at that point because I know that if I go back to sleep after waking up feeling like I did at 4, I’ll go into sleep that is fitful at best, and at the worst is disturbed by sleep paralysis or nightmares.
Sure enough, I woke up about 45 minutes later in a terrible state. I was dreaming (I am a collective of children and we are physically and energetically bound together by some evil force; we cannot move, we can never escape) and awake all at once. I couldn’t move and for several minutes I tried to will myself to sit up and turn on my bedside salt lamp. I thought that might break the spell. Eventually I did that but the spell wasn’t broken and the dream continued (I am a collective of older children. We are 6 now, still bound together, and our feet are disabled by the binding that was done when we were smaller. We want to get up and run away but our feet could not carry us even if we could break the bonds). I started to cry both for the girls I was in the dream and because I couldn’t move enough to wake up. My crying became hysterical and I was pulling at my hair. My body was overheated and my tank top and underwear were wet and sticking to my skin. Ilan woke up and tried to talk to me but I couldn’t respond outside of the dream world. I’m not sure what I was saying but I know I was yelling (We want to get away but we can’t so we scream. We want the nightmare our lives have been to be over but it is never over. Years pass and we stay tied together, our bodies laid out on some kind of conveyor belt, to what purpose we know not). Ilan, to his credit, did not panic but rubbed my back and said my name and maybe spoke other words with a quiet firmness. Eventually I rose up out of the dream with the feeling that I was abandoning those children. In that half dream/half wakened state I could feel myself trying with all my might to unloosen the bonds but there were so many cords and so many bodies. My heart broke to leave them behind but I knew I couldn’t stay in that state much longer without losing my own mind.
Awake and soaking wet, hair wild like I’d run out of hell without tying it back, I laid back in Ilan’s arms for a bit and felt myself relax and the dream recede. I couldn’t stay long though. Besides needing to change my clothes, I was terrified of settling down too much while in that place where dreams have so much sway. I reassured Ilan I was ok, changed my clothes, promised I’d check on the boys and left the bedroom. I quietly opened the boys’ door and my oldest was staring at me over the top bunk. He said he’d heard me yelling, was I ok. “I had a bad dream. I’m ok now. Go back to sleep.” He seemed satisfied and laid back down.
A few times since I decided to start trauma work again I’ve wondered if I really have enough trauma left to work through. The occasional bad dreams, panic attacks and sleep paralysis felt like something I could live with. After this morning’s event I think the answer is clear. Yes, there is more than enough unresolved trauma left to warrant therapy AND this may be the deepest work I’ve done yet. In fact, all the therapy I’ve done before feels like work to strengthen me and clear a path to places even darker than those I’ve already visited.
One last note before I finish. When I came out to the living room with the intent to write about this experience, I sat on the sofa and opened the computer. I hadn’t left anything running but music started. Spotify was open and the song, There, There by Radiohead began playing. After that, Spotify played two songs by Alexi Murdoch, songs about a friend consoling someone in despair. It felt like the Universe had reached out and wrapped me in love and comfort.