Archives for posts with tag: nightmares

…I slept so poorly that it is already time for work, somehow, and I’ve not written a word. It’s odd, and sort of… “old school” for my experience of self. A byproduct of decision-making at the edge of my comfort zone, most likely. My brain attacked me in my sleep, through my dreams, and by way of troubled wakefulness, throughout the very long night. I remember this, from other times in my life.

I breathe. Relax. Commit much of the morning to connection with my Traveling Partner, and meditation. I forget to write. It is what it is. What is it? Well… for one thing, it is already time to begin again. lol

I’m awake. It’s 1:37 am.

I’m not awake for some wonderfully cool reason, like a late night out with friends, or not yet home from a concert, or anything like that. I’d intended to be sleeping, and until some moments ago, I was.

I woke abruptly from a deep sleep, heart pounding hard and beating very fast. I felt short of breath, and fearful. Panicked. The world was quiet, so I could pretty safely assume whatever woke me was internal, rather than external. I didn’t struggle to find a solution to my racing heart and gasping breath; I immediately, gently, eased myself into a very comfortable relaxed position, and began slowing and deepening my breathing, and soothing my consciousness; there was nothing obvious to be so frightened about. I started letting that go, first, with firm reminders to remain in the moment, there in the darkness of a space that, after 4 months, finally feels more or less familiar, most of the time. I turned on a light. I sat up. I continued to support myself with soothing practices. I got up and took an antacid for my very acid stomach and quietly cursed my acid reflux. I got a glass of water and added some Calm to that.

Over the next few minutes, sitting down to write a few words, using even that to help me “sort myself out” in the quiet hours of night, I sip on my glass of water, and feel the chill of the room start to play a part, too, cooling me down.

It’s been a long long time since I let myself make any effort to “figure out” a waking moment like that one. I just don’t do it any more. It’s like digging at a scab, just barely gratifying at all, and definitely not actually helpful, just very compelling. So, I don’t. Because doing so wasn’t useful in a positive way, and it tended only to mire me in a whole assortment of shitty crap loitering in the dark corners of my consciousness waiting for a chance to be weaponized and turned inward. So… I don’t know what woke me. I don’t know why I woke so frightened and overwhelmed. I don’t know what the anxiety was about. I have made knowing such things not a priority of any sort. And… since I’m not “picking at that sore”, the fear and anxiety are already dissipating. With practice, not hours – minutes. It is 1:51 am. I may actually get back to sleep at some point, soon. 🙂

I’m still feeling restless and weird. So, some yoga next. Just postures that promote relaxation and calm. I keep the lights dim. Each small practice picked up along the way has value right now. One by one, I step through the most relevant practices I have learned over time, and I feel myself begin to calm, to become relaxed, to settle down through and through. I’m okay, right now. It’s enough.

I think I’ve mostly come to terms with the likelihood that some portion of my symptoms of PTSD may linger for the remainder of my life time… I sure feel more able to deal with them, generally. Even two years ago, a night like this might have evolved into something more serious, lasting days, destroying my sleep, eroding my judgment, damaging my relationships… this seems better, not perfect. There is no “perfect”. I’m not “cured” – but I am far better at caring for myself in such moments. That’s something pretty wonderful.

I finish my water. Run this post through spellcheck. Then, head back to bed. 🙂

 

I woke abruptly, disoriented in the darkness, and suddenly aware that today is Friday, one more work day left this week, and the icy certainty I had shut off my alarm and gone back to sleep, oversleeping some portion of the work day, gripped me fiercely. I took a deep relaxing breathe, then another, and let myself wake enough to look at the time through bleary eyes. It was hard to process what I saw. It said… 11:23… pm. Wait… 11:23? How is it not daylight? P.m? Did I sleep through the entire day and beyond? That wasn’t making sense for minutes. Then I understood. Just a sleep disturbance. I went back to sleep relieved not to have shot out of bed as if fired from a cannon to careen around the room pulling on clothes clumsily in my haste to exit the building. (I have so been there!)

I used to have those weird ‘lost in time’ dreams not-quite-a-lot-more-often-than-rarely. If I were sharing the night with someone else, their sleep would be ruined, too, because in my panic I would usually be verbalizing my stress and anxiety – and I had serious baggage around “time”, in general, back then. A panicked shrieking freak out over having ‘overslept’ a work shift, or an appointment time, that resulted in me being both entirely irrational and completely inconsolable until I recognized my mistake about the time would ensue, guaranteeing no one could feel calm enough to return to sleep with ease. Last night was different; I never even got up, and returned to sleep. Granted, my sleep last night was restless and disturbed, but I did sleep, and I do feel sufficiently rested.

I’m glad it’s Friday, though. I’m clearly ready for the weekend. lol

Practicing calm, renders me calmer over time, less reactive. I like it. It’s a change for the better. I enjoy the recollection of my disturbed sleep as if it were a good report card.

The view from the office.

The view from the office. Perspective matters; it looks very different in the picture than it does when I am just looking at it.

I spend more time than usual meditating this morning. It’s a lovely quiet morning for it, the rain quietly continuing to fall outside these walls, beyond these windows. I recall the rain shower that drenched me last night, soaking me, and leaving me to step through puddles in sodden jeans the rest of the way, happy to have waterproofed my winter coat – because it too was quite soaked, in spite of that. I smile with amusement at being taken by surprise by the sudden down pour; I’d been watching them pass through town all day through the big windows in the office. I am fortunate that I enjoy rain. However much I do enjoy rain, though, I was glad to arrive home to a hot shower and dry clothes.

The view as I headed for home.

The view as I headed for home.

The morning commute had been so different from the drenching soaking aggressively windy rain storm that took me by surprise on the way home. I had strolled in through the peculiarly mild weather, hood back, hair loose in the breeze, feeling the misty rain on my face with a big delighted grin that lasted the entire 1.97 mile walk across town to the office. I felt free and whole and eager to embrace the entirety of life’s experience, looking at the world through rain-spattered glasses. I know, I know – not especially “grown up”… on the other hand, how silly would it be to arrive at death’s door regretting things like not feeling the rain on my face, or the wind in my hair? I will certainly have my regrets in life, but I’m doing what I can to embrace and enjoy the simple pleasures, so easily within reach. I’m still routinely taken by surprise how much they matter.

The view through a misty morning rain.

The view through a misty morning rain.

I think about my Traveling Partner. I’m hoping to see him tonight, this weekend, dinner on Valentine’s Day, after work. I take a moment to appreciate being so well-loved. I think about his eyes, his smile, how much he cares for me… I think about how delightful it will be to have a little place of my own, and to enlist his help on projects to make it more mine, more livable, more a home than a house. Daydreaming about love, smiling, sipping my coffee.

Today is a good day to be fully where I am in life. If it isn’t where I want to be, it is nonetheless where I must start to go somewhere different. If it is somewhere I enjoy, then I’d be foolish not to enjoy the moment. I am okay right now, and that’s enough. 🙂

It’s been awhile since I was awake in the wee hours. I woke in tears with no recollection why I might be crying. I got a drink of water and ‘checked for monsters’ (walked through the small apartment quietly drinking my glass of water and assuring myself all is well). I went back to bed. That was more than an hour ago. I wasn’t going back to sleep, and the tears just kept sliding across my face. So.

It’s been a long while since I was awake in the wee hours. It wasn’t so long ago that it was a frequent thing, destroying my rest, throwing me off-balance, and fatiguing me well beyond any healthy sustainable point. I’m glad it isn’t every night any more. I’m appreciative that it isn’t even every week; it’s become quite rare… But I’m awake now. Tonight I am not sleeping through the night.

The wakefulness itself causes me no great stress. The feelings of insecurity and doubt, on the other hand, drive anxiety. On top of existing work stress, and common enough life stress,  I add stress in a valued, critically important (to me) relationship that suddenly feels far less secure than I generally take it to be. I am unsurprised that I am awake, or that I am overcome by waves of emotion attached to the thoughts about my experience: sad, insecure, doubtful, angry, hurt, frustrated, disappointed… did I mention sad? I did not get out of bed at 3 am to ‘enjoy’ the experience more intensely; I got up to reduce the intensity. I was not finding much success with distracting myself and getting back to dream land lying there in bed. My thoughts kept carrying me back to sad.

There is no miracle pill for sad wakefulness, or the tears that won’t quit at 3 am. There are a great many practices that ease my suffering, though. I get up and do some yoga; the focus on my physical body, and easing physical stress feels good. I drink a glass of water; crying makes me thirsty. I meditate, nothing fancy, no soundtrack, no light – just sitting in the stillness, in the darkness, focused on my breath, no timer – just time. I write. With just a few words in the night, I pause the flood of emotion to look at things from a more abstract observational perspective, giving myself a little distance from the hurting, and a chance to ‘edit the language’ as I see it in text on page instead of lit up boldly in the chemistry of my brain. It actually does make a difference [for me] to take the time to remove or change the adjectives and adverbs, correct the syntax, re-evaluate the thinking. So much easier to do that seeing it in written words [for me]. I read my experience from the edited perspective. I read it again. I am no longer crying.

Tomorrow is a work day. I haven’t set myself up for success there by being awake during the night – but being awake during the night and crying generally has an even less desirable outcome, emotionally. I feel valued to take the time with myself to ease the suffering I am experiencing, however much I can. I am definitely having my own experience. There is no lover here to hold me in the darkness and tell me everything will be okay – and maybe it won’t be. It generally will be, though, for at least some values of ‘okay’.

Small stressors keep piling up. The loss of aesthetic beauty of my wee home. The loss of day-to-day quiet here. The increasing tension and discontent in the workplace. The increasing insecurity and doubt in an important relationship. The lack of personal skill at coping with it when solitude becomes loneliness. The loss of intimacy and physical contact in my every day life. The chaos brought to my life through the exterior work being done in the community – it’s actually stressing me out to see paintings stacked differently for the convenience of contractors, or to see the A/C just sort of …sitting, no good place to store it, and such a small apartment. Lingering bitterness – not over old hurts themselves, but over the lack of being understood, the lack of consideration – or even awareness. I guess this is when I get to put new emotional resilience to the test, and find out whether all of the time and practice invested in emotional self-sufficiency will be enough to survive on. I’d like to thrive. It’s on my list of nice things to do for me. Maybe another time.

I feel very alone right now. Oddly, I notice the ticking clock – and realize there is no additional stress to being aware of the sound of it. I find some comfort in that. It’s a small thing, but it is meaningful that the ticking of the clock does not cause me stress, or anxiety. You know… sitting here in the darkness, at 3:34 am, that’s enough. It’s at least something – it’s incremental change over time. I think I’ll go back to bed.

It will be dawn soon enough. I will begin again.

It will be dawn soon enough. I will begin again.

I woke during the night, in a panic. Drenched in sweat, shaking, heart pounding, sobbing – a nightmare. I still have them, although they are far less frequent. I am immobilized while I get my bearings; my bedroom is hung with paintings that remind me I am safe, and are characterized by the use of glow-in-the-dark paints, too, so that in the literal ‘darkest moment’, I am still illuminated softly by love, by hope, by inspiration, and all manner of gentle reminders that life is quite a separate experience happening outside The Nightmare City. I remember to take deep breaths, and fold myself into a comfortable cross-legged position (I can’t quite manage Lotus posture unless I have been doing yoga for some minutes). I meditate for a few minutes until my heart slows, and the trembling stops. I check the clock – I managed only about 90 minutes of sleep before the nightmares hit. It happens. It used to herald hours, or days of nightmares to come.

How will I

How will I “find my way home”?
“Daytime in The Nightmare City” 10″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas with glow, glitter and micaceous oxide. Indoor light, charged. 2014

I got up long enough to get a drink of water – a childhood ritual of wakefulness that still soothes me – and walk calmly through my small home; there are no places for monsters hide, here. I am quite safe, even within this fragile vessel if I allow myself to be aware of how much of content of my conscious mind is chosen, and created. I am not empowering my nightmares by considering them in detail after I wake, and they slowly dissipate. (Seriously, they do. It does require literally letting go of thinking ‘about’ them; thinking about them in the moments after waking only gives them significance and power.) I think of my traveling partner, sick at home, hopefully sleeping. This, too, helps calm me. I don’t focus on the distance, or that I can’t just crawl into his arms for comfort – I breathe, and consider him sleeping comfortably, himself, safe and undisturbed, and allow my own feeling of security and safety to continue to build on the awareness that much is right in the world, in the quiet of night, here, now. I am okay in this moment.

I stand in the twilight of my kitchen, lit by the walkway light just outside my window, filtered by the closed blinds, and finish a second glass of water and smiling, thinking it would be likely to wake me later needing to pee. I don’t give that another thought, instead feeling the cool water in my mouth, and enjoying the awareness of indoor plumbing and running water, and being in the moment. That’s another thing I find very calming after bad nightmares; savoring the awareness of the comforts of life, whatever they may be. Don’t they have more real substance than a nightmare? 🙂

I returned to bed, filling my thoughts with things that feel good, but perhaps not intensely so…things that would be gentle on my consciousness: clouds drifting across a blue sky, soft autumn breezes, the sound of peeping frogs, memories of fireflies… I woke at the sound of my alarm, feeling rested and undisturbed.

It has been rare for me to have just one nightmare, and follow that with restful sleep. Incremental change over time is a thing – and  yes, there are practices to practice and verbs involved. I expect my results will vary. Hey, my results do vary and there are verbs involved; living in the midst of stress, drama, and turmoil resulted in nightmares almost nightly, and weeks of disturbed sleep at a time, and terrifying isolation because there was no safe outlet for discussion, with no particular emotional support available, interrupted by just days of restful sleep. Yes, the choices matter – and they are not always easy ones. I now live alone, because at least for now even living with other people presents enough additional stress for me that I find managing my symptoms more challenging, and they are far more likely to flare up (much of my PTSD is related to trauma in the context of relationships, and domestic violence). (And no, I’m not saying everyone with PTSD should live alone – that’s ludicrous; I’m just one person, making my own choices, and following my own path. This is what I need for me. I don’t even know that this is what I will ‘always’ need – since ‘always’ is incredibly unlikely, ever.)

Even though I am having my own experience, I'm not really alone in this; music reminds me how much of this experience is really shared.

Even though I am having my own experience, I am not alone.

Turns out to be a lovely morning. I’ve got my favorite playlist on, because sometimes the demons need to be reminded that I’m going to bounce back, and I need to remind them they don’t tell me. lol Yep – the songs on my playlist aren’t just catchy tracks that I enjoy dancing to – they tell me stories, remind me of truths, and help me drive my demons back. Mornings after nightmares are best with music. 🙂 [Your results may vary.]