Nightmares and Cognitive Flexibility


I have not slept well since getting to Hilltop.  I have had a couple nights where I have been totally emotionally wrung out and thus crashed in that “I can’t cope another minute with the stuff in my head.” But even then, I have been having nightmares pretty much nightly. So far, only one time was so bad that I woke up in “freeze.”  (And lemme tell ya, it is hard to ground yourself with the usual, “I am in my bedroom with dh. I am home. This is now. There’s my door/closet, etc.” When you aren’t actually home.) But mostly, it’s just nightmares.  Something unusual is that I wake up from having them and then fall back asleep.  But in the morning, I can’t remember the nightmare at all.  Usually, my memory is pretty detailed and the emotions are fresh.  I am not sure why it is different here.

The nightmares indicate that things are getting stirred up, which likely means they will get worse before they get better.  I am ambivalent about this since nightmares are almost run-of-the-mill for me anyway.  I guess it depends on how bad they get and how much they trigger the intense fear and “freeze” response.

A lot of my therapy so far has been my therapist collecting history data from me…With bits of real therapy mixed in. Basically, when I can’t tolerate the real therapy, I switch back to the interview part.  My therapist….Guess I will call her Meg.  Meg points out that I am avoiding when I do this, but I usually allow the conversation to loop back around whatever the sticky topic was and we end up talking about it.  I just need some pacing and some distancing.

But, the data collecting is not easy either.  Talking about my life history just points out exactly how it sucked.  Like, it is no wonder that I am totally fucked up.  I pretty much never stood a chance at having a normal life.  Someone, I don’t remember if it was here or if it was the AT commented to me that likely the issues with my parents and attachment and the relationship disconnected probably even started when I was a baby.  You know what it makes me think of….That Little Me video.  Like did anyone every really want or love me?  Or was I just always second best and an afterthought?  I can ask these questions, but I refuse to let myself feel the answers.

Cognitive Flexibility

Last week, a huge thunderstorm roared through here.  And by huge I mean HUGE.  The power went out for about 24 hours and things were all disrupted in terms of our schedule.  They also moved us to another building about 20 mins away because we didn’t have AC in our usual buildings due to the lack of power.  I did not do well with the disruption.  I didn’t have a sense of balance here yet, and I hadn’t made any friends yet, and I was feeling isolated and like a misfit and judged and body shamed.  I was just in so much pain and then they disrupted the status quo by moving us.  I held it together for a while in the other building and then had a melt-down. And as is par for the course of my life experience, I really had no one to support me.  One of the Direct Care people did get me to talk a little bit, but I was so closed and guarded that mostly I just shredded my tissue and avoided looking her in the eye.  I couldn’t really even allow myself to accept her comfort.  Sometimes, I wonder if this is a punishing behavior on my part…Or as a new concept Meg has tossed out there…the idea of re-enacting old patterns. Come to think, the AT also has talked about it, but with just a little bit of different verbage.  So, probably I am punishing myself in a way….because even though I desperately wanted support when I was growing up, I never got it.  And if I didn’t deserve it then, then I must not deserve it now.  And I didn’t deserved it then because I was somehow bad, and that belief hasn’t changed….I don’t know. Something is trying to connect about this in my head, but I am not quite getting there.

But, I have totally digressed.  Last night, we had a big thunderstorm. And the power went out.  And thus we are again transplanted to the other building. This time, I am rolling with it a bit better. Yes, the place is familiar so it isn’t all new and so bad. But I am also in a little bit of a better place so I am able to be a little more flexible.

I Want To Feel Safe

The thing about having a trauma history is that I get to have trauma dreams (some are just disturbing/upsetting dreams and some are outright nightmares) all the time.  There is never any rhyme or reason as to what dreams will be most upsetting.  Sometimes, the sexual danger is just implied and the dream has me wake-up in heart-pounding terror.  Sometimes, the sexual danger/violence is more overt and I wake up feeling disgusting and dirty, but not in terror.  And sometimes it flip-flops.  I don’t know how my brain decides what kind of dream it will be…but it doesn’t really matter.  Terrified or disgusting, it is not the way I want to feel when I wake up.

Yes…Last night, I  had one of those dreams.  I woke up feeling disgusting and used and super depressed.  I hate being tormented in my sleep.  And I don’t want to take that stupid nightmare medicine.  I hate medications.

Lately, I have having dreams where I am kidnapped and/or held against my will and raped.  And in my dreams, the raping is not always penile penetration…Nope, my nightmares are taking me into darker territory.  And I hate it.  I told the AT that I was having kidnapping/rape dreams and he got his super compassionate look and said something to the effect of, “I am sorry you are experiencing that.”  And I was annoyed.  I don’t want him to be sorry.  I don’t want him to care.  My response was a shrug of, “It doesn’t matter.”  (Of course, if it really didn’t matter, I wouldn’t have brought it up.)

I never have dreams that are literal re-enactments of my trauma. I don’t know if such dreams would be better or worse.

So, this morning when I woke up, I just wanted to be dead.  I didn’t want the feelings I was having after the dreams.  And I wanted to self-harm.  But I have the triple safety contracts…Which makes me feel trapped and without options.  I distracted myself by spending probably 15 minutes body checking over and over….Feeling for the bones on my hips and my ribs and my collar bones, taking comfort in the fact that they are more prominent.  And then when I finally dragged myself out of bed, I restricted what I ate.  (Which, as everyone keeps pointing out, is self-harm, but I don’t think it counts.)

It was an ugly start to my day and though my day has improved some, and at the encouragement of my PNP, I did eat more (but still restricted) I am still tearful and stressed and feel pretty disgusting, which would be almost tolerable, except that we have to go over to my mother-in-law’s for a barbecue this afternoon.

I am so sensitive about who I eat with and what I eat and my eating schedule…This meal at my MIL’s will be super painful.  I am taking my own food so I know it is gluten free/vegetarian and that it meets my meal exchanges for lunch.  And if she is put out by that, she can piss off.   But of course, I won’t tell her to piss off.  I will smile and be the perfect daughter-in-law and endure until it is time to go home.  Let me tell you, after 20+ years, I have the perfect-daughter-in-law act down to an art.  It sucks every bit of energy out of me, but it is how I keep myself safe and deflect the selfish narcissism of my MIL.

Ummmm….I have no idea where I am going with any of this.  I guess I just needed to do a brain-dump.  Anyway, I am tired and emotionally raw and now I have to go be social and perfect for a few hours.  I just don’t feel up to the task.





Easy Come, Easy Go

And then my mood drops like a rock.

Last night I had nightmares.  One of them jolted me awake and I tried to keep my eyes open so that I wouldn’t fall back asleep and slide into the same nightmare.  The nightmare was about trying to keep bad guys out of my house and trying to close the windows and lock them, but of course they wouldn’t close. And there was stuff about the bad guys and my dogs getting loose and all sorts of weird and scary things happening.(This is the one that really jolted me awake.)  Another nightmare involved hanging onto rocks that were absolutely vertical, but craggy and right above some really deep and murky water.  I was terrified of falling in the water and I was clinging to the rocks and couldn’t move.  The dream transitioned to me on top of the rocks on the sandy beach and I knocked over a guy’s motorcycle, which made him really mad and he chased me.  I ran into buildings and tried hiding and then ran into some place with piles of clothes and blankets on the floor. I was going to try to hide under them, but suddenly my dog was with me and I couldn’t get us both covered in time.  There was no resolution, the dream sort of ended with the menace of being found.

Another nightmare was much more scattered and included a part about me helping a woman with her babies.  I was washing them in a sink because she didn’t know how to.  I couldn’t get the water warm enough and it was spilling and sloshing over the edges of the sink.  The littler baby slid under the water and I didn’t notice right away, I pulled him up and he sputtered a bit, but was okay.  Then I was drying them off  and dressing them and handed the little one to his mom and while I did that the bigger baby pooped, but was diaperless because I hadn’t gotten to dressing him yet. And he was playing in his poop and just covered in it. So, I had to bathe him again, but the water still wouldn’t get warm enough.  At this point, I had a huge mess of water and poop and towels around the sink and on the floor.  I had to take the baby back to his mom, who at that point was somewhere else….Which meant I had to leave the mess and I knew I was going to get in big trouble for leaving the mess. I tried explaining (not sure to who) that I would be back to clean it up…But I was terrified of getting in trouble.

Lovely, eh?  And baby dreams….I haven’t had “save the baby” dreams (in this dream, educating their mom how to bathe them was saving them, as well as keeping the little baby from drowning) in a really long time. It was one of my constant nightmare themes for years.  What is going on in my brain?

When I woke up this morning, my thoughts went pretty much immediately to suicidal ideation, urges to self-harm and intense self-loathing and shame.  Looks like everything is back to normal in my world.

And this is why I never count on my good mood lasting.  Because it never does.

Today, I see the nutritionist.  After the weekend I just had, I would rather crawl under a rock than go see her.  And then in the afternoon, I see the AT.  I am not sure I am up to emotional upheaval today….Or I suppose, I already have the emotional upheaval, I just don’t want to deal with it or really deal with anything today.




What if….?

What if……?

Okay…I woke up this morning with a thought.  Usually, when I wake up, my thoughts are kind of dreary especially depending on my dreams.  Even though last night I had some unpleasant sex themed dreams, I did not wake up as dreary as usual.  As a matter of fact I woke up thinking about a dress.  My dress.

Now, this probably flies in the face of yesterday’s post about Femininity. Sort of anyway.  I do not wear dresses. I especially don’t wear skirts.  I never feel pretty in dresses and/or worthy of wearing dresses.  And I never feel worth the expense of dresses. But…..Comic Con.  The local Comic Con is at the end of August and I have been pining over a dress for months, like since January.  And my want for this dress has been pretty constant and it is perfect for Comic Con. PERFECT!


So…I waited and waited and waited for the dress to go on sale and a week or so ago, it did.  So, I pounced. Ordering the dress was kind of an issue because I had no idea what size I would need.  And I had to break one of my ED Recovery Rules and measure myself to find out. (Weighing and measuring fuel ED urges.)  But I measured anyway and then I ordered two dresses. One that fits my measurements now and one a size smaller because <ahem> since restricting is never far from the surface, I wanted to make sure I had a dress that fit properly at Comic Con.

Yesterday, the dresses came.  I tried on both and the dress that fits my measurements fits PERFECTLY.  Like it was tailored for me.  And you know what?  I felt amazing in the dress.  I love how pretty it is, how nicely it fits and how it looks on my body.  And I even love the little bit of twirl to the skirt.  And as I looked in the mirror, I thought that my body looked pretty good in the dress.  Yup, I actually entertained a positive thought about my body. (And maybe I will be brave enough to post a picture of me in the dress someday!)

When I woke up this morning, I was still feeling a bit giddy about this amazing dress and how it looked on me and how pretty it is.  And then…(I tell you, I am on a roll)…I thought, “Well, what if it isn’t just the dress that is pretty? What if me being in the dress is part of what makes it pretty? What if I am pretty?”  This is kind of an earth shattering concept and one that at the moment, I don’t buy into.  But….then I was thinking about how I think my body is disgusting.  And then…Then I had the beginnings of what is perhaps an epiphany.

What if it’s not me that is disgusting and wrong?  What if the sexual abuse was disgusting and wrong, but when it happened I was to young to differentiate?

Yup.  That’s something to think about.

And then I thought about this and thought maybe I would post it again:



Nightmare and More Loose Ends and Breaking The News To Ds


Last night, my nightmare graduated to the kind that has me wake up in heart-pounding panic and full freeze mode.  Once I had gathered my wits about me, I ran through my grounding techniques telling myself, “It is now, not then” over and over. And then I ran through…that’s dh in the bed beside me, I am in my room, ds is in his room, it is now, I am warm under my covers, I have to pee…Orienting myself to sensations, time and safety.  (Therapist #2 did a fantastic job training me in this process for orienting myself to present after nightmares.)

So, out of the past three sleeps, I have had three nightmares.  I am not happy about this. I hope it settles down ASAP, especially with the progression to the night terror/PTSD nightmare.

More Loose Ends

I harvested two of the lettuce gardens and cleaned both of them and the beet garden.

I gave the big dog a good nail trim yesterday.  The little dog hates nail trims, so I only got two of her nails done.

I think maybe I need to make a checklist of things to do! Let’s see

  1. Call and re-defer student loan
  2. Check in with Case Manager
  3. Get chicken food and shavings
  4. Clean out chicken coop
  5. Deal with house plants
  6. Harvest last Aerogarden <sigh>
  7. Deliver items to various people (bag to L, soakers to J, diaper cover to SS)
  8. Freeze up a handful of dinners for dh/ds
  9. Start refrigerator bread dough for dh/ds
  10. Get a few items of clothing (more underpants, a couple of t-shirts, pajamas, maybe some capris…it will warmer where I am going than here)

That’s the list for the moment. I am sure it will change over time.

Breaking The News To Ds

Last night, we had a family conversation about my eating disorder and impending residential treatment.  Ds was absolutely non-plussed by the whole thing.  He didn’t seem worried and he didn’t have any questions.  So either he has inherited the Heidi stoicism or he is just not worried.  I did sort of lay it out factually…and was calm and clear.  Calmness begets calmness.  I’ll check in with him in a day or so and see if he has any further questions/thoughts.

Nightmares and More Loose Ends


I took a nap yesterday morning (I was feeling pretty crummy physically) and had a hum-dinger of a nightmare.  I dreamed that I was walking with some people up a paved street.  It was dark dusk, where you can still sort of see, but not really because it is so dark.  There was also a daycare walking with a group a children.  A group of three-ish young men appeared. They were very shadowy in the light, like I could make out their form, but that was about it.  They snatched one of the kids, maybe a little boy?  Me and some other people ran over to see what we could do to help.  There was a pool of light from a street light on the ground and in the middle of it was the child’s arm, it had been torn of his body.  There was a lot of blood, and a blood trail leading away.  I wanted to find and rescue the child, so I was running after the trail.  So was a man.  I was going carefully to not mess up the blood trail (because it was evidence) but the man was being sloppy and stepping in it.  People (or maybe me?) kept yelling at him to not contaminate the evidence.

The blood trail looped around trees and went through snow and was in the street and lead to an alley.  The alley was narrow and dark and led to some stairs which went up three stories to some dilapidated apartments.  There were look-out guys up there, so I and the man ducked against the front of the building to hide.  We could hear the footsteps of the kidnappers as they made their way up the stairs and through the building.  I peeked around the corner again and there were all these men set up as sentries to guard the apartments.  I was trapped against the building and really scared.  The kidnappers were looking out the windows for us, but couldn’t see us because we were directly under the windows.  And then the dream faded away.

It was not a night terror/PTSD dream, it was a plain old nightmare.  But I haven’t had a dream like that in months.  And I haven’t had any “rescue” themed dreams in…years?  I used to have dreams about children in danger (usually sexual danger) and also dreams that I called “rescue the baby” dreams all the time.  And I haven’t had a kidnapper dream since late summer.  It was so intense!  I am impressed that I am so stirred up that my nightmare hit three of my re-occurring nightmare themes.  It covered children in danger, “rescue the baby” and kidnappers.  My poor sub-conscious.

The dream kind of threw me into an even higher anxiety state.  So, eventually, I emailed the AT for some support.

Then last night…Another nightmare. I will spare you the lengthy description, but the theme of last night’s was that there were these monsters that infecteded people and animals with their parasitic babies.  You couldn’t tell who was infected until they vomited the larvae.  It wasn’t safe to go outside because the monsters might get you.  And it wasn’t safe inside because you didn’t know who was colonized by the parasite. Anyway, I was hiding with a small group of people in a house, but we weren’t safe.  And there was a fire element to the dream and maps and an apparent resolution, that in truth was false (as revealed by the map.)

Not exactly restful.

More Loose Ends


I don’t know if I have ever mentioned my indoor gardens, Aerogardens.  I take a lot of pride and pleasure in growing them and eating what I have grown.  I had a garden of beet greens and I still have three of salad greens and one growing cherry tomatoes.  I know that the amount of care they will need when I am gone is not going to fit into dh’s schedule, nor do I want to add one more task to his list…So I will be harvesting them (not sure about the tomatoes yet).  Last night, I clear cut the beets greens. L  Next, I will wash and sanitize the garden and put it back on the shelf until I get back.

Today, I will clear cut the two less vigorous salad greens.  It is kind of painful destroying all of my work.  I hate seeing them go.

I also found Blossom’s diaper cover and got that finished. I will have to drop it off at their house sometime during the week.

I am not feeling very patient waiting for something to happen. I just want the insurance stuff to be finished, the facility’s assessment to be finished, the doctor stuff to be finished and an admission date.  I don’t like this in between part at all.  It exacerbates all of my anxiety and is more disrupting than if things were just settled and I had a clear timeline.

Rough Night


Rough Night

Last night was so bad in terms of nightmares, that I eventually just gave up on sleeping and got up, even though it was obscenely early.  And most frustrating of all, is that I have no idea what triggered such a bad night.  Yes, I had Art Therapy yesterday, but it was a “light” session and I didn’t feel at all pushed or challenged or like I was going to be thrown by the session.  I don’t think Art Therapy was the trigger….And honestly, my whole day was good.  <sigh> It’s like I can’t catch a break.

The first nightmare I had was the one that resulted in the most extreme reaction.  I was dreaming that I was in a car (I think I was driving) with Social Strawberries, Pixie and dh and I think ds. We were on a road trip somewhere and trying to decide if we needed to stop at a rest area and use the bathroom. Pixie assured us that she did not need to pee…But SS was unconvinced since it was a long time until the next rest area.  I said that I could used a stop (I didn’t urgently need to pee, but figured it would give a chance for Pixie to go.)  SS agreed that she could stop too.

Then, I was in a large public bathroom that was sort of like a locker room and it had a second room in it that was where the toilets were.  I was alone and standing on a ladder doing something (I have no idea what.)  The bathroom was dark…like almost pitch black kind of dark….Which gives me a vague idea that I was changing the light bulb…but I don’t remember…I could hear noises in the bathroom like there was someone there, and I kept looking but couldn’t see anyone/anything.  I called out, “Hello.” but no one answered.  And I kept doing whatever I was doing on the ladder.  I was getting more and more anxious because I kept hearing something, but could not see a anything because it was so dark.

Then, something happened in the dream…but I don’t remember what…and I was terrified and that’s when I woke up.  And I woke up in that paralytic panic, where I cannot move, and can only barely think, and I have to pull myself back into my body and slowly get my body to start to respond to me so that I can move and think and orient myself to when/where I am.

After I fell back asleep, the nightmares continued, but none of the others induced the paralytic panic.  I dreamed about kids vandalizing our home (when we lived in the apartment) and that they were relentless and terrifying.  And I dreamed I was fostering a baby, but people kept putting her to bed in weird places and I couldn’t find her and then she was outside with some people and they wanted to do some sort of surgery on her…And I was in a panic that I didn’t have the authority to consent to the surgery and that if they did the surgery, the baby would be taken away from me and I wouldn’t be able to adopt her.  The surgery they were going to do was on her genitals…And I was really upset about that…Nobody was going to mutilate my baby!  And then I had another dream….that there was an old actor and he was recruiting girls to be in movies and so that he could train them…except he was really recruiting them to sexually abuse them and/or rape them.  Only…he had slight dementia, so he had only a vague awareness of the fact that his behavior might not be acceptable.

Now, I just feel exhausted and raw and frustrated.  Why do I dream this stuff?  Sometimes, I wish my trauma-brain would just leave me alone!



Nightmare and Off My Game


Yesterday, I was telling the AT about my sleep disturbances, I haven’t slept well in about a week. He asked me, “Are you having nightmares?”  And I said, “Not any that I can remember, but I am really not sleeping well.” I had wondered if maybe I was having nightmares and not remembering them.

Last night, I had a nightmare and I remember it. <sigh>  It was long and convoluted, but it involved dead people, bad men with guns and nefarious plans, and me trying to rescue my friend’s siblings (when they were children) by rushing them into a “safe room” in their house….Only, they wouldn’t listen to me…..It was stressful and anxious and I knew we were all going to be killed.  There was also a sexual predator aspect to the men with the guns and that compounded my anxiety of needing to collect the kids and getting them to safety.

So, I am exhausted this morning and already a bit hyped up.

But…..That’s okay…because today is going to be a good day!  They didn’t need me at work today.  Dh is playing hooky and we are going out to breakfast and then just doing whatever makes us happy.  And..I am going to enjoy the time with dh!

Off My Game

I am really, really struggling in therapy right now. I kind of feel paralyzed by my fear and anxiety about forging into unknowns.  And I am frustrated and disappointed in myself for not trying harder.

The AT is kind and patient and has made it clear that he is going to walk with me on this path and that I will make it.  And I hear him….but I can’t make myself believe him…That is to say, I really wonder sometimes, will I actually make it?

He quoted the following meme, I kind of dismissed it when he said it…but since then, I have been thinking about it….Actually, yesterday gave me lots to think about.


Another Therapy Monday


Another Therapy Monday

Woke up from a nightmare in the middle of the night completely frozen.  I had to re-orient myself and give myself permission to move.  It took me a long time to fall back asleep and I feel like when I did I was guarded and didn’t really let myself sleep deeply again.

I used to have the nightmares under control until I started Art Therapy.  Now, they are more or less a constant…Sometimes, like last night, worse than others.

Now, it’s another Monday.  What should be on the therapy docket for today?

Thursday, the Art Therapist threw me a curve ball.  He asked about my relationship with my parents.  This is not a topic we have delved into much and I was not prepared for it.  It would be helpful if he could give me a two-week heads up on tricky topics….Then I will be prepared.  But Thursday, I kind of froze and didn’t know what to say.  I stumbled a bit and didn’t say what I wanted to say.  And of course, the AT followed up with wanting to know about feelings related to my parents.   I think I have finally figured it out…he’s not going to let go of the whole feelings thing.

So what am I gonna do about it?  Feelings are complicated and I don’t do them very well.  What I need is a crash course in feelings….What they are, how to feel them, what they mean and how to name them.  That ought to be easy, right?

Anyway…at least today, I am marginally more prepared for further discussion about my parents.  And phenomenally unprepared for more discussion about feelings.

Happy Therapy to me!

She Says, He Says and Nightmares

She Says, He Says

Yesterday, I talked about how I found it hard to write a letter to my “innocent” child self…So hard that I was unable to do it. I also have a bit of an issue with the concept  that there was actually an “innocent” child self before having trauma et al.

The only way I have been able to deal with all the bad things that happened to me as a child, is that I have built a belief that I was somehow intrinsically bad/tainted/wrong from the very beginning…That I actually deserved to be ignored by my parents and emotionally abandoned by them (while they favored and gave significant attention to my sibling) that I deserved to be sexually abused, that everything bad in my life has been my fault.  When I think of it that way, then it all doesn’t seem so unfair and it hurts less (well…except for believing I’m tainted…that’s kind of hard to deal with too.) I’ve held this belief for decades…Perhaps even stubbornly held the belief as it has been a lifeline for my coping skills.

But…the Art Therapist doesn’t see it that way.  And he is challenging my very fragile house of cards.  And I think he might be right…But I just can’t shift my thought process.  I think if I try to, I might emotionally implode. And if I can’t shift my thought process without emotionally imploding then I certainly can’t write a letter to my “innocent” child self (Yes….I will be stuck on the Art Therapy Fail for a while.)

I guess this is something I will have to hash out more with the Art Therapist, but I need to wait two weeks before I do it.  He is going on vacation next week and I don’t feel like stirring up big things before he goes.


Of course, I think things are already a bit stirred up as last night I had a nightmare.  I used to have nightmares all the time but that has gotten much better over the past 3 years or so.  I actually used to very vividly remember all the dreams I had, until I started taking Fetzima (an SNRI).  For some reason, for me, a side effect of Fetzima is that I don’t remember my dreams…I can sometimes grasp little wisps of them, but usually even the wisps vaporize before I can catch them.  But last night, I woke up with my heart pounding from a pretty vivid nightmare.  The short version of the dream, was that I was trying to help a man  into my house, but he couldn’t get in (he had crutches and I had stairs) and he was frustrated.  I waved him down the driveway to come in the back door and as he made his way down the driveway, these GIANT black dump trucks came down the driveway to dump gravel.  As the man approached, the dump truck raised it’s bed and in so doing crushed the man…I heard him screaming and then he was silent.  And that’s when I woke up.

Interesting….Trying to let a man in, having barriers, then when he gets to close, he gets crushed….On the heels of the first part of my post, it almost seems like a trust kind of dream about the Art Therapist.  I will have to share that with him next time I see him.