At the start of the week, I built up the courage to talk about my own experiences with sexual assault.
However, because of this, I have had dreams about it all week. These dreams tend to make me feel how I did when I the incident occurred and it really affected my sleep, I would start to get scared to fall asleep. All post-traumatic nightmares are different for everyone, mine are usually people I trust the most touching me without my consent and then lying to myself and everyone else.
I used to get them fairly often and they stopped after a while, although, evidently, they reoccur when I discuss my experiences. I get the same ones about my childhood every so often too. I wanted to discuss this today as I feel as though this is a massive part of the healing process and it can be very hard to manage at times.
Before I had a step-by-step plan, I used to force myself awake until I fell asleep without trying. I would do this because every time I closed my eyes, I would unintentionally picture previous nightmares and they would not leave my mind. If I woke up from a dream, I would also stress a lot and be very affected by them. I would be in a bad mindset and my mood would be low as it would be on my mind. After a while, I found a plan to get back into a better state of mind and calm myself.
Here is what I do…
Immediately tell myself it was a dream.
This may seem like an obvious step, but I find it so reassuring when I remind myself over and over that it is only a dream. This makes me feel much safer as I am telling myself that it is not happening right at that moment, and I am okay. Some dreams can feel very real and so it helps to ground me by making me think of reality.
Ask myself why I think I had that dream.
I always ask myself this to make sure that I am looking after myself, this means that I can take the time to understand and process my feelings. It means that I will be able to understand as to why I am feeling the way I am which is a very important thing in the healing process, I will learn what triggers me and I can try and learn how to avoid it. I can also learn if certain months/seasons affect it and if certain environments do too.
I know that I will be unable to sleep immediately because I always fear that I will dream of it again. Because of this, I need to distract myself to ensure that it is not on my mind as that will continue to put me in a low mood or get me in a panic. I like to have a book by my bed that has a positive storyline. Reading this diverts my thoughts and makes me feel better when going back to sleep. I see it as wiping the slate in my mind and rewriting it with the storyline of the book I am reading. This way, when I go back to sleep, I can think about different possible endings of the book instead of the dreams that I have been having.
Try and go back to sleep.
This seems scary at the time because the last thing you want is to dream it again, chances are, once you have processed the emotions and understood them, you will not dream of it again that night. Once the slate in your mind has been rewritten, you are able to think about other things that have no relation to the traumatic event.
Work on your healing process the next day.
There are reasons as to why you dream of certain things, take the time to listen to your mind to help you along your healing journey. Keep using the tips that you have been taught, if you haven’t been taught any then try to do your research.
I am in no way a professional, these are just things that I do to help ground myself and calm myself down, I hope that they work for you too.