If you have ever been a victim of a violent act, a traumatic event or a life changing and horrifying act of nature you know what the term PTSD is. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is no joking matter. While it is different for each person and given the trauma itself, it is nothing to take lightly. As someone who has been an abuse victim, I feel that I have one of the most common side effects. Ongoing PTSD Related Nightmares have sadly robbed me of sleep, quality sleep and comfort at night for many years now. I know I am not the only one who deals with this side effect, and so thought I would share a bit about my own journey and solutions to possibly help someone else.
ONGOING PTSD RELATED NIGHTMARES
It doesn't take a degree in psychology to understand why those who have PTSD will have nightmares. Our subconscious often pushes trauma into the back until we are relaxed and then allows it to come out. Nightmares result as a part of your hidden fears. While you may be like me and able to put on a good front and work through the daily struggles resulting from your past trauma and fear, once your body relaxes in sleep your mind takes control and you find it difficult to overcome and beat that fear down.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR DREAMS
I have never been one to think dreams have meanings, but I also cannot discount the fact that some types of dreams involved things your subconscious wants you to acknowledge or work through. For those with recurring dreams related to their PTSD it is obvious the fear and trauma involved is still at work.
Make Note Of Recurrences. If a specific location, person or action is happening in all of your dreams, take note. It is significant to your healing and something you need to accept, change or forgive.
Accept The Dream Is Not Real. When you wake up from a nightmare you are often overwhelmed with the fear that it will come true. Accept that the dream is not real, but a subconscious way for you to deal with residual issues from the trauma. Focus on the steps you have made toward healing already and let go of the fear of it becoming reality.
STEPS TO GET RID OF NIGHTMARES
Determine What You Are Actually Afraid Of. Determine what in the nightmare is actually the fear. Is it the location, the person(abuser), the abuse or event itself? Often nightmares include similar circumstances but different people or locations. Perhaps it is the act that is the fear. For me it has been the person. While I have had what would otherwise be pleasant dreams, that one individual showing up - even in a non threatening manner can bring about extreme fear.
Face Your Fears. Maybe you just need to go back to that location, walk it over and realize it can no longer hurt you. Maybe the action of abuse is something you feel defenseless against and you need to learn how to defend yourself. If it is an individual there are a multitude of things involved. Sometimes you need to literally face them and share how you feel. Other times legal actions must be taken. Sometimes you need to move to a place where they are no longer a threat in your life. For me it is a little of all. I have taken legal action. I have talked to that person and confronted them. I have forgiven them. Yet, I still find the need to move away a very strong final step toward helping me heal.
Journal Your Dreams. After a nightmare, take the time to write down the details. You'll often find recurring things that you can then pick apart and decide why they are always a part of your nightmares. This is a great method toward learning what is really causing the fear, and how you can combat it in your lives.
Determine Your Triggers. Are these daily or just periodically? If they are only periodically occurring, then you are very likely being triggered by certain things in life. Start watching, taking note and making changes to help remove the triggers from your life. Going to Walmart in my hometown is my number one trigger. Something so normal has become a health hazard for me.
Seek Professional Counseling. I cannot stress enough the need for counseling post traumatic events. Not only will you have an objective party to help you sort things out, but you can find safety in letting things out to someone who isn't closely related. Professional counselors can also provide you with other proven methods of easing the problems. Things like sleep therapy, prescription medications for depression, anxiety and sleep can all help. These however, are things a professional should be determining for you since they have the medical knowledge to know what would work best for you.
I have suffered with ongoing PTSD nightmares for over 4 years. My nightmares can be violent and horrific at times. Other times they may seem normal and calm, but the person who appears there watching is the fear factor that takes a pleasant dream and creates a nightmare from it. I have tried a multitude of things to overcome this problem. At the end of the day, I still struggle. Not as often but they are still there. I am slowly overcoming the side effects of PTSD in my life. You can too.