A Nightmare, and Trust

In a previous post I mentioned a recurring childhood dream that had come back. I had this nightmare quite a few times over the past two months or so. I spoke about it with my therapist two weeks ago, and thankfully haven’t had it again since then.

The dream is always the same, sometimes just with different characters and settings. Even though the end scene always takes place in a kitchen, the house or area is different.

It starts off with me running through a dark forest. I’m hungry, cold, lost, and terrified. There are people chasing me. The closer they get, the more their features start to change. They’re suddenly not human anymore. They’ve become monsters, and they’re trying to kill me. I find places that look safe and run into them, only to be greeted by more of these monsters. Among them are people I know or used to know. Even people I like or love.

In the final house I run into, I find myself in the kitchen. There I see someone else I know (a family member, friend, teacher, etc), with their back toward me, chopping vegetables. I feel a sense of relief, and start telling this person about the monsters and asking them to help me. As I get closer to this person, they turn around slowly, smiling. Their familiar face starts to change and distort, the smile becoming threatening and evil. Eyes glowing. I see the knife they’re holding is dripping with blood. I try to scream, but no sound comes out. This person, my last hope, and it’s gone. As this person lunges at me with the knife, I wake up. Sometimes the dream goes on, and I’m fighting this person who is now on top of me, strong and heavy. I realize that I can’t escape, but carry on trying to fight this monster off. I always wake up before I get killed.

I don’t know when these dreams showed up in my childhood, as that time of my life is fragmented, blurry, and a lot of it, forgotten. But I can certainly understand the context of not knowing who to trust, where to go for safety.

Growing up, I rarely felt safe. My parents got divorced when I was still very young, and whether I was visiting my mother on her weekends and holidays, or at home with my dad, step-mom and step-sister, I didn’t feel safe or that I could really trust anyone. There was shit going on in both households. We moved around a lot as well, and I went to quite a few different schools in different cities, each time moving further away from my mom. Back then, my dad and step-mom would tell me that my mom didn’t want me, so it shouldn’t matter. They made me believe that she didn’t really love me. And when my eldest younger sister came along, I got even less of her attention, and those words they would constantly feed me, just embedded deeper within me. It was only in my late teens that I learned the truth of the situation. So is it any wonder I have trust issues?

When I told my therapist about this dream she said that it makes sense that I would have that dream now. I’ve had a difficult time this past while, with certain relationships changing and ending. Having to build up trust in a new relationship as well.

What I’m wondering is why I have dreams and nightmares that I had when I was younger? Shouldn’t they be a thing of the past? A child/teen’s mind that changes and grows? Do any of you have recurring childhood dreams show up later in your life from time to time?

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Longing For The Feeling Of Comfort

I can’t sleep. I’ve been trying for a while now, and even though I’m exhausted and can barely keep my eyes open, I feel unsettled and unable to drift off. Usually my night-time meds have me fast asleep within 5 minutes of my head hitting the pillow, so this is quite unusual. I struggled with insomnia for as long as I can remember, but since being on this medication, it’s no longer been a problem.

“Experts” say that we shouldn’t expose ourselves to electronics before we go to sleep, and I did everything right prior to going to bed. I couldn’t sleep, so decided to rather get up and write. Maybe it will help.

Life feels off-kilter. A lot has changed and I’m struggling. It’s not just the therapy change, but things here at home as well. My uncle who used to live with us then moved out, moved back in again. Then my step-brother who had run away to go live with his girlfriend and her uncle, also came back. So for a while it was a full house. Then last month my uncle moved back out again just when I had gotten used to having him around.

I’m back at group again, but it’s all new faces. I don’t know why this affects me so much, but it does. It also doesn’t help knowing that I can only attend a few more before I’m done with the program again. So I don’t want to become used to it. Every time I go I question whether I really should be going. It’s confusing. So many things are confusing and unsettling me these days.

Even having Jasmine back in my life feels strange. Things are different. So is she. But I know that’s normal. People change. Relationships change.

I can’t get rid of this longing for the feeling of comfort. I’ve tried all my usual self-soothing and comforting tricks, but nothing is working. Instead it just seems to be getting worse. I don’t know what more to do. I just want things to feel “normal” again. I want to feel normal.

Anyway, I’m going to try going to sleep again. I’ve been having a lot of disturbing dreams the past while, and a recurring dream from my childhood has also popped up again. I’ll write about that one sometime. In the meantime I’m hoping tonight will just be 8-9 hours of blissful nothingness.

Goodnight.

The Voice Of Shame

*Another trigger warning post, with references to drugs and alcohol)*

Since that Tuesday of the “group disaster” (dramatic, I know), I’ve been struggling with that horrible emotion called “shame”. It’s been hanging around me since then. Not from the group event anymore, but in general. This feeling of being fundamentally flawed. Feeling dirty and ashamed of myself. Of my actions and behaviour both past and present.

I don’t know why I’m struggling with this so much lately. Probably just like everyone else, throughout my life, I’d have these moments. It would never last more than a few hours. But now it’s a constant. Like a demon that just won’t let me go. I either try to push it away (which we all know by now doesn’t work), distract myself, and try to focus (and be mindful) on other things, or allow myself to experience it in its entirety. But I don’t last long with that one. It’s too hard to sit with it for more than a few minutes.

If there is such a thing as “meant to be” or “not meant to be”, then what if that Tuesday was supposed to happen the way it did? That it was a catalyst for change and healing? What if it’s time now to start dealing with all the shame, and that’s why it’s coming out so strong lately and seems to be the most dominant emotion over the past two weeks? I don’t know. All I know is that it’s fucking hard, and I don’t want to deal with this.

On Thursday I was supposed to have a session with my OT. I was only supposed to have a session next week Tuesday, but I asked her whether we could have one this week as well, which she was more than willing to do. On Thursday afternoon she let me know that we’d have to cancel the session. She had to go to the doctor, which to me, is a valid reason, so I was okay with it. Later that day I sent her an email asking if it would be okay if I give her a call, if she was up to it. I would have just called and not asked whether I could, which is what I’ve done before, but I didn’t want to bother her that day as I didn’t know how she was feeling. After I sent that email, I felt this tremendous shame hit me. How could I be so selfish? We had to cancel our session, but here I was asking if I could call her because I needed someone to speak to. What kind of person am I? I could have called D, who I also trust, but I didn’t want to bother her either. So it’s even these kinds of simple things throughout these few weeks that have been adding to the fire of shame.

Along with this, I’ve been having a lot of dreams as well. Some of them are just random dreams, but then there are those that have actual memories attached. There’s even been a few things that I haven’t remembered in years. My subconscious is bombarding me. Reminding me of things that I’d rather not remember.

This morning, while still in my half asleep state (it takes me an hour to fully wake up- sometimes even two) I made myself coffee, like I do first thing every morning. But today, I added a couple of tots of liqueur to it. I didn’t even notice that until I took that first sip of my coffee. I don’t even really drink alcohol anymore. A few weeks ago, after work, I poured myself a glass of wine. I took 3 sips and poured the rest down the drain. At Jasmine’s birthday dinner, I had one Cosmopolitan (which I enjoyed- I love cocktails), and while everyone else continued their alcohol binge, I switched to milkshake. It’s also me trying to be more responsible. At our business meeting yesterday, Jasmine and my business partner had a beer, while I had coffee. But this morning, instead of making a new cup of coffee, I thought, “I’ve already made it, so I might as well drink it, or I’ll just be wasting.” The sunk cost effect in action.

While sitting outside drinking this cup of coffee, a feeling of comfort washed over me. It was a familiar comfort. And then I remembered. It was that same feeling I had when I was 20, and had started drinking heavily. When I would wake up in the morning and reach for a bottle of wine or any other alcoholic beverage I could find. It would make me feel ready for the day (or night). That I could get through it. It was soothing for me. I worked shifts, either from 5pm to 5am or 5am to 5pm. Long hours, but this job was a very different kind of job. I could even drink at work. It was actually a requirement. It was where I started smoking, drinking, and experimenting with drugs. It was also where I first fell in love. All of this became my norm. Memories, triggers, all gone. It was like I was a new, separate person. It felt like I was in a bubble, and nothing else but the job, alcohol, people and drugs existed. Even when I was at home, I was numb. Like I didn’t have a soul. I was lost. I was a mess.

At some point during this time, I had a somewhat confusing experience. A few of us from work went to someone’s house (who went away on vacation, I think). I remember us going into the main bedroom, which had a TV and huge bed. I can’t even remember the names of the people I was there with. When we left that house, and it was time to go home, I found out that we had been there for almost an entire week! It was supposed to only be a day. How could so much time have gone by without me even being aware of it? I barely remember that week, but there are a few foggy recollections. And all of those recollections are of us all in the bedroom, sitting on the bed and the floor. There’s one moment that I remember clearly though. I was feeling the effects of the drug/s wearing off… A horrible, frightening feeling, and asking for more.

I also vaguely remember someone coming to deliver pizza, and one of the guys whispering to us to keep quiet so that we didn’t get caught. I’m not sure what exactly he was worrying we’d get caught for… I have this vague memory that we weren’t supposed to be in that house… But I don’t know for sure. I can’t remember any other part of the house, except for that bedroom and the front door. Had we been in the bedroom all this time? I’m still confused about this whole experience, and what exactly happened. Maybe it’s better that I don’t know.

This part of my life went on for a few months, before I made a clean break (and had my heart broken). I was still drinking a lot, and became friends with a very bad influence. I can’t even remember how we met. A lot of things are a blur. We got up to a lot of shit. By this point I had another job (I have no recollection of the time between leaving that job and this new one), an actual “real” job, and we’d go out nearly every night. Sometimes I’d come home at 5am and have to wake up at 6:30am to go to work. I have no idea how I survived this period of my life. Those early few years of my 20’s. But somehow, I did.

My therapist knows about this. She’s the first person I’ve ever told, and she knows the details that I’ve omitted. I told her about it in the last in-person session we had before I moved to my current city. When I first told her about this, and how much I hate myself for it, the shame that I feel, she told me “you did what you had to to survive.” Those words have repeated in my mind a few times today. It doesn’t take the past away. It doesn’t excuse anything I did. But it helps me feel a little bit of self compassion, even though it’s short-lived. But I’ll take what I can get.

I’ve never given much thought to that time, and thought that it hadn’t affected me all that much. But it did. It has. I’ve realized that it’s shown itself in subtle ways through the years. This time in my life is weighing heavily on me today. And the shame is so strong. So much so, that I’ve been nauseous the whole day.

Another reason why I feel so ashamed about those years, is because I was always the “good girl”. And then overnight, I went from being the “good girl” to this stranger that I didn’t recognize. The worst part is that I had come straight from Bible College (back in the days when I was still a believer). I was a “good girl” before then, because I was so well-behaved and didn’t act out like most teenagers do. But the only reason for that was because I was so terrified of my dad, that I never did anything he wouldn’t approve of. I was always paranoid that he would find out when I did something to “embarrass him”. So I was the “perfect” teenager. He was very protective (his words- mine is “controlling”), so I wasn’t allowed to go to any parties with my friends. If I went to a friend’s place, he made sure the parents would be there so that I didn’t do anything wrong. Most of the time I had to have my friends over at my place instead. I had to wear only that which him and my first step-mom approved of and bought me. I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup or even nail polish. I couldn’t change my hairstyle or colour. I wasn’t my own person.

The two years before college, were filled with horrible events. My first step-mom and step-sister left, taking an entire step-family along with them. I lost two of my grandfathers and my grandmother (who was my most significant attachment), to cancer. My dad’s suicide attempts followed. I internalized all of it. I focused on taking care of my dad, and was closed off to myself. Then during my college year, my friend ended his life.

I guess all of that eventually caught up with me, and I fell apart. I didn’t know how to deal with it. And so began my years of trying to survive everything, while trying to forget it all. Growing up, I did what I had to in order to survive. I hid, I dissociated, and did a lot of daydreaming. I was basically a ghost. But now I don’t need to “just survive” anymore. Now’s my chance to really live.

But I’m ashamed of who I am. Of who I was. Of who I’ve become. Do I even deserve to live and have a good life?

I’ve realized that my social anxiety isn’t just about the possibility of rejection. That’s just a small part of it. The major part is the shame that I’ve been carrying. Shame over who I am. Over what people see when they look at me. Will they be able to see through all the bullshit? Can they see my “bad”?

Oh, and I eventually threw that coffee out, and made myself a fresh cup. I don’t want to go down that road ever again.

I didn’t mean for this post to be so long. But I think it’s good that I got all of this out. Some of you might not want anything to do with me after this, but I’m feeling so crap at the moment that the thought doesn’t really even bother me.

“As much as I’d like the past not to exist, it still does.”

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Protection And Running Away

This is a follow up from my previous post.

After I had written it, and gone to sleep, I had a nightmare.

Before I get into the dream, it needs to be said that most of my dreams over the years have followed a similar theme. They all involve me protecting others (or myself and even baby animals). Running away from someone, a group of people, or something (like a natural disaster).

In this dream, that person was my step-father. He was hurting my youngest little sister, and throwing her around the room. She was so tiny. Just a little toddler. It broke me seeing what he was doing to her. So I picked her up and ran. Suddenly there were other people with us who I was also trying to lead to safety. We climbed and jumped over walls and roofs, and crawled through barbed wire fences. Trying to stay out of sight of the monster who was hunting us. There were security camera’s, so it was even more important for us to avoid being seen. There were wide open spaces, which made us especially vulnerable. Other spaces were difficult to get through, as there were plants and trees surrounding us. We came across a house here and there, but I knew they weren’t safe to run into. That the people who lived there were in on it with my step-father. Every time I thought we were in the clear, I’d find that it wasn’t over, and he was catching up to us.

Suddenly a SWAT team appeared. They were helping us escape. But then we understood that they weren’t there to help us at all. They had their own agenda. Now there were more people after us. One of the guys running with us, picked up a dead snake, and told us that the SWAT team had been fooling us. Why a dead snake, and what that has to do with anything, I have no idea (some of my dreams have featured snakes- I don’t know what that represents). At the end of the dream, when I finally thought we were really safe this time, as there were normal people walking around, I realized that we were still in danger. I felt trapped.

I woke up crying. And I realized just how much my past has affected me, and shaped my life. For the first time, I can acknowledge that I haven’t yet fully dealt with it. I always tried to run away from my past. Pretending that it didn’t affect me. But now I realize just how much it actually did.

Once I was fully awake, I felt a combination of anger and deep hurt. I’ve always tried to be the protector to everyone. To take care of others. I took on that role. But who protects me? Who protected that little girl? The people who were supposed to protect her, didn’t, or couldn’t. And for the first time, I’m feeling the extent of that pain.

I could never truly connect to that part of myself until now. I’m grieving for that sad, lonely, and scared little girl. For the teen who had to deal with so much.

Those uncried tears, are finally being released. The hurt with nowhere to go, is being experienced and channeled. The secrets with no one to tell, are now being told.

It’s too painful to feel all at once. But the door has been opened, so I can begin to walk through it.

Dream: The Room Under The Stairs

It was dark. Quiet. So dark that I couldn’t see my hands in front of my face. The only sound piercing the silence, was the rhythmic breathing of someone sleeping nearby. Confused and disoriented, I tried to remember where I was, and why.

Suddenly the door opened, and light illuminated the room. It was a tiny space, and I knew it was under the stairs. The silhouette of someone looming in the doorway, confused me even more. Who was he? He came into focus then, and I could see he was a doctor, with the usual white scrubs. He told me to come with him, and that it was my daily break from the room. I got up, and saw the sleeping figure next to me. It was Jasmine. That would be the last time I’d see her in the dream. I walked outside into a long, white corridor, that seemed to stretch for miles in both directions. I followed the doctor, and suddenly he started fading. I could see straight through him, until he disappeared completely. I was left standing in the hallway of the hospital, blinking in the bright light. All around me I could see people talking, laughing and hugging one another. But I couldn’t make out what they were saying. They seemed a world away. I was experiencing derealization in the dream itself.

A voice from behind me shook me back into the here and now. I spun around, my heart racing, my eyes struggling to bring the person into focus. It was the doctor again. He told me it’s time to go back. That my time was over. I begged him to give me my phone, but he wouldn’t listen. The more I begged and pleaded, the angrier he got. He dragged me to the door of the room, and shoved me inside. I hit my head on the ceiling, collapsing onto the bed. The door closed, and everything went dark again. The feeling of being trapped overwhelmed me, and I was struggling to breath. And this time I was alone…

In the room under the stairs.

Can I Sleep Now?

I’m beyond tired.

Exhausted, is a better word.

I’ve struggled with insomnia for as long as I can remember. Even as a child, I’d struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep. When I would finally fall into a deep sleep, I’d have nightmares most nights. A lot of them were recurrent, with a few new ones thrown in now and then just to shake things up.

For almost two months now, I’ve been having nightmares almost every night. At first I remembered them all. But then it became a case of waking up with a racing heart, drenched, and in a panic or fearful state, but unable to remember the dream. Sometimes I’m completely disoriented and not even sure where I am. One morning I woke up with my hand clenched into a fist, my nails digging into my skin. It was painful trying to open my hand, and the marks it left reminded me to cut my nails before going to sleep that night. This has happened before. But I didn’t learn my lesson. Long(ish) nails don’t work for me.

It’s been 3 nights of having had hardly any sleep, even though I’ve not had much these past two months, it was at least a little better than these past few days. And boy am I feeling it now. Yesterday I was still perfectly fine. I was even in a hyperactive state. Having had insomnia as a regular companion throughout my life, I like to think that I deal with it pretty well and can cope with less sleep than a lot of other people. But right now I’m not handling this lack of sleep very well.

I went through the day feeling completely ‘out of it’. Nothing or no one feeling real. I’m not depressed. I’m just exhausted. Work was so excruciatingly stressful and hard today. All I wanted to do was come home, put the covers over my head and sleep until tomorrow morning.

I didn’t even know how to respond to an email my therapist had sent me today. And right now, I can’t even remember what I wrote back. I’ll check it tomorrow when I can actually make sense of things.

On the note of my therapist, I was planning on writing a little bit about our session from Monday, but my brain just can’t work that hard right now at remembering things. And it feels like a lifetime ago. I’ll write about it tomorrow or Friday.

My mind is so fuzzy, I’m surprised I’m able to write this post. Honestly, I’m not even sure why I’m writing it. It doesn’t even feel real. Maybe I’m dreaming that I’m writing this?

If it wasn’t for the fact that I just started my job at the beginning of this month, and am still in the probation period, I would skip the alarm clock tomorrow morning.

I want nothing more than to sleep. With no nightmares. No struggling for hours to fall asleep. No waking up 20 times. Just pure, glorious sleep.

Is this too much to ask?

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A Wasted Life. Begin Again.

I’ve always said that I don’t regret anything, because I learned from everything. But lately, I’ve been feeling a little bit differently towards that. For the first time in my life, I feel angry about some of the things that happened to me. But mostly, I feel angry at myself for some of the choices I made.

I’ve been so triggered lately by people who are busy studying Psychology, or just started their new jobs as therapists. I always love hearing their stories, their progress, and experiences. But lately I just haven’t been able to deal with it. I keep thinking “that could have been me as well”. But it’s not. They’re all so young, and I’m already in my early 30’s, so I’ve already wasted so much time. It’s going to take me longer to complete my studies, because I’ll have to do it via distance learning, so I can still have a full time job to afford it. So what would have taken me 3 years to complete (Degree), will now take me 5-6 years.

Those who have followed my blog from the beginning, and have read some of my previous posts, will know that I’ve always wanted to become a psychologist. That’s always been my dream. My dream, not something I ‘borrowed’ from someone else, like so many other things.

I went for an interview last week, and was told today that I got the job and that I start on the 1st of September. The best news I’ve had all year. I’m so happy and grateful. Granted, it’s not a job that I want to do for the rest of my life, but it’s a means to an end. Until I can qualify as a psychologist. I’ll have to do my Honours and get into a Masters program before I can practice as a Clinical Psychologist, so it’s still going to take much more than 5-6 years. But I’m going to do it. It’s never too late, right?

For a while now I didn’t feel like I have a future. I still feel like that, but I’m forcing myself to just focus on my goal. I have a dream. And that should keep me going. Even if I die before I get to reach the end goal, the journey would have been worth it.

One thought keeps playing over and over in my head like a broken record. Stuck on repeat.

I’ve wasted my life.

Everything turned out so wrong.

I can’t go back in time. I can’t change things. I’m an expert at saying to others, and to myself “at least we learn from our mistakes and all the bad things that happen to, and around us, and can use it to do good things”, but for the past couple of years, those words just made me angry. “Shut the fuck up. You’re such a fuck up.”

Who can I blame? Can I blame my ‘dad’ and certain other people who are no longer a part of my life and family? Oh yes, I can. But also, not really. Because the truth is, I only have myself to blame. I could have left, instead of staying. But no, I had to play the damn protector and worry about his well-being, even though it isn’t my responsibility. I had two opportunities to walk away, to start my own life, but I blew it. I chose to stay. I had a responsibility towards myself, but I allowed myself to think that he was my responsibility.

No more. I’m done playing parent to a grown man. I don’t have to do that anymore. He can take care of his own shit.

My biggest mistake was moving back in with him and the new stepmom and step siblings, but at the time (a few months ago), it was my only option. I got out of a toxic relationship, moved to a new city, was broke and had no job. But I can also see it as a good thing. It led me to today. I got a good job, and I can move out next year. Hopefully before the middle of the year. I just need to get through the 3 month probation period, but I’m going to work harder than I’ve ever worked before. I want to make sure that I’ll keep this job. I’m scared and nervous, but I’m also excited.

I had a really great therapy session today (hard and painful at times), and discussed all the things that had bothered me in our previous session (as I wrote about in a previous post). I love how honest I can be with my therapist about things she may have said or done that bothered or hurt me and we get to clear it up. She apologized, even though she didn’t really need to, and told me that she never means to hurt me, or make me feel like she’s judging me. I believe that with all my heart. I told her about how I don’t need tough love, I need a gentle touch, and she even thanked me for telling her that. Now she knows. I wasn’t expecting that response (even though I should know her better by now). I thought she would argue with me, or tell me that I’m wrong. But she totally took in on board, and I felt really heard.

So it’s been a really good day. And heaven knows I needed a good day after all the shitty ones I’ve been having. I’m so grateful.

So I might have wasted the earliest part of my life, but now is my opportunity for a fresh start, and I’m going to take it. I don’t want to regret anything ever again.