Last time I spoke with Therapist we talked about my nightmares. He asked me what happened in those. I said I didn't know. I didn't want to know. This was my lecture from Therapist:
"We've talked about this before, Sam. There are lots of reasons nightmares occur. Sometimes there's an external cause like being too hot or too cold or eating something that causes stomach pain or distress. But most often it's because there's something we're ignoring - something our brains want us to know or do or discover. As long as you ignore the nightmares, they'll probably continue. And that means you're not sleeping well, which means you're not going to recover and gain the strength necessary to deal with your insanely complicated life. I've been honest with you - I could not go through the stress and physical things you've had in the past few years without completely losing it. I don't think most people could. I don't know how you've managed to maintain your strength and sanity though all of it.
"However, you've been telling me now for about two years that the fatigue is getting to you and that you're very tired. This means you're vulnerable, and even if you are a little bit superhuman when it comes to enduring crap, at some point you're going to reach your breaking point, and my guess is that will happen when nothing is really going on - when things have slowed down and there are no suicidally depressed children, Darrin has a job again, and no one is broken or needs surgery. That's when you'll lose it. And it will be a simple matter of not getting enough sleep, or recuperative sleep, for a very long time.
"A lot of people who deal with nightmares keep a notebook by their bedsides. They simply jot down a few sentences about the nightmares when they awake. Then, after a few days (or even longer), they look at the things they've written and piece together what it is that their subconscious is trying to tell them. I think you should try that. And I think this might be a really good thing to focus on. I'm worried about the fact that these nightmares have been bothering you for more than a year now, pretty much without breaks. That's a long time, Sam."
So last night I didn't do the thing that I haven't been telling Therapist about where I actually CHOOSE not to remember my nightmares. I know the content. I always know. But who, in their right mind, wants to look at the details of the things that caused PTSD in the first place? I think most people want to forget, and to have different facets of it paraded through their dreams every night is miserable. Choosing to forget seemed a good course of action. I've gotten so good at it that even when I awake, drenched in cold sweat (or just before that happens so I can leap out of bed and spare the sheets), I have no idea what the nightmarish details are.
But I trust Therapist most of the time. So last night I shut off the forgetting mechanism and let the nightmare be acknowledged. I awoke early this morning, nauseated and upset. I didn't jot it down on a notebook. I don't need to. I also have no idea why it's relevant or what my subconscious is trying to tell me.
I spent the night with an older version of my rapist cousin. We were in a room with other family members and some of my friends. He sat alone and seemed to be trying to come to a decision about something. Then my dream slipped through a moment of time, as dreams often do, and he was sitting on the arm of my chair, talking to me. I was filled with the love and delight that I felt as a child whenever I was with my cousins. We were friends. We played and laughed together. I had no real reason to be afraid of David. Those feelings were mixed with the loathing and anger toward the man (and he appeared as a man in my dream) who raped me, who was sitting next to me and chatting as if we were old friends.
I moved to a couch with three other people. The dream slipped again and David had squeezed in next to me. Everyone on the couch made room for him. I felt panicky. He wouldn't leave me alone. But I said nothing.
When the dream slipped again I was in an empty house. No furniture and bare light fixtures exposed torn spots in old wallpaper. I knew David was there somewhere. I was upstairs. I couldn't hear him.
It would seem I'm still afraid of that man. But really, I'm not. The truth is, I don't believe he will ever approach me again. And should he decide to, I'm very good at telling people not to bother me. I would have no qualms letting him know that I have no desire to spend time with him at all. And should he press the issue, I don't believe I would have a problem defending myself.
I think the nightmares I've been having aren't about David at all, really. I think they're more PTSD related. As I contemplate the dreams, the feelings I have about him are annoying, confusing, and upsetting, but I think the really upsetting part is that I feel abandoned. My family is present in the dream, as are my closest friends. No one says anything when David approaches and follows me. They make room for him as he invades my space on the couch, and in the end I am alone in an empty, abandoned house, with my rapist cousin.
Do I really need people to protect me still? Does it bother me that I feel I fight this alone? Why can't I own this? I don't need anyone to help me. I've done the physical work necessary to keep me safe. I've done the mental and emotional work to move beyond the state I was in 10 years ago in regards to this. I've come to terms with the fact that I am not really a priority in anyone's life but my own. I understand all this and I'm okay with it.
So why am I still having nightmares? And maybe I'm misinterpreting all of it. Maybe there's something I'm missing?