two nights ago, something happened that hasn't happened in a long time.
i woke up shaking in terror...a nightmare.
nightmares aren't really that unusual for anyone. for the past year or so my nightmares have been mildly disturbing, creating the occasional night of restless sleeping and disorientation that comes with the end of the dream. i recover from them quickly and forget about them almost immediately.
two nights ago, that didn't happen. i had another nightmare related to my abuse. this one was different, though. it didn't feature my abuser or the actual abuse in the way previous nightmares did. it was mostly about one specific place.
places have been strongly linked to my memory. my flashbacks and memories were not typically of events, but rather of the places the events occurred. for example, i had a frequent flashback that was a single image: a camping site that my family visited almost every year as a child. even now i see it in my mind's eye, almost like a photograph. (i am happy to say that this image does not cause me panic or anxiety anymore.) i thought i had put all of it behind me. as with everything else, however, there are always setbacks, struggles, and frustrations that come up periodically.
this place...it was the basement of my grandparents' house when i was a kid. the place where much of the abuse i experienced occurred. in my nightmare, i was at this house. i told someone if i had the choice i would torch the house and watch it go up in flame. later, for some reason, i had to go into the basement.....forcing myself to stop every few stairs in order to calm down and keep going. when i reached the end of the stairs, there was a door to the bathroom (not where it was actually located in their house). in my nightmare, i had an anxiety attack. i made it past the door, into the main room, but i was crying, shaking. i was alone. i was terrified. i could hear my husband talking to someone upstairs...asking where i'd gone. when he realized where i was, he was upset i'd gone by myself, knowing it was hard for me. then (in the odd, disjointed nature of dreams) he was there, in the basement, holding a baby. (i knew it was our baby somehow.) i turned around and there was a strange man behind me. the man tried to attack me and pushed me up against a wall. my husband saved me. then they were both gone. i was alone again. i turned in a circle, seeing the whole basement, the laundry room that was always kind of scary when i was a kid, the stairway to the backyard that always had spiders in it, bedrooms. playrooms. the bathroom. and i panicked. i screamed.
my daughter woke me up from the dream. she cried one word. "mommy!" really loudly...then nothing. she either did it in her sleep, or fell asleep again immediately after. at the time i was alone, hubby at work, and i was suddenly scared of the dark, afraid to go downstairs, afraid to get out of my bed. i was a helpless, scared and lonely little girl again, which is a feeling i do NOT like. in fact, i HATE that feeling. it is attached to almost every dark moment in my life. luckily i was able to reach hubby immediately on the phone, and he got home shortly after to hold my hand and comfort me.
last night i turned the light on in my closet because i didn't want to be in the dark. i couldn't sleep. i make myself anxious thinking about how tired i am but how much i don't want to have nightmares. i was scared and lonely again. around midnight my little girl woke up crying about something...perfect excuse for me. i brought her into my bed, and she immediately curled her warm little body against my side. feeling her next to me, listening to her even breaths, i was able to relax. even feel a little bit of contentment. and i immediately fell asleep.
i've learned a few things about myself the past few days. i will never really get past this abuse completely, although i view this as a minor hiccup in my journey. (considering it's been about a year since i've had one of these, when they used to happen nightly, is a pretty awesome thing.) i don't like being alone anymore. my family can tell you that when i was a kid, that's all i wanted--to be alone. now, i want my husband. i want my children. sometimes i want to be alone, but usually i want a hand to hold, a cheek to kiss, a hug, a shoulder to lay my head on. just a simple physical touch has the power to make me feel safe and happy now. before it was almost threatening at times when i was in this kind of situation. i still, however, have a very difficult time verbalizing my nightmares...like i literally cannot form words to describe it, even when i physically try to force myself. the words won't come. writing them, however, is possible.
so here i am again, on my blog, my place to expel the hurt and fear and nightmares inside me. my husband is here to hold me, my children are here to give me sloppy kisses on the cheek, the love of my family to keep me safe. and my blog to let me release it all.
tonight i think i'll sleep better. without the light on in the closet. (the baby might end up with me again...but mostly because i love that soft little head and the way she clings to me when she sleeps.)
thank you, hubby, for being there for me when i'm at my worst....thank you, little ones, for loving me even though i may be the most imperfect mother ever...thank you, family, for sticking with me for 26 years of crazy....and thank you, readers, for listening.
side note: i feel compelled to say that while this house held so much horror for me, i also have so many good memories of it. that is part of the trouble i faced in therapy: feeling such mixed feelings about a place. i remember the most horrible experiences of my life in that house...but i also remember sleepovers, watching scamper the penguin, my grandmother making tuna sandwiches with lettuce and fried eggs. playing in the pasture and garden. pink flamingos, climbing the tree in the front yard, finding fuzzy caterpillars. riding my pony. birthday parties and holidays. playing in my grandma's jewelry box. the transformers. the play kitchen in the basement. the time one of my uncles gave me a crybaby to see me make a sour face and how disappointed he was when i liked it. rolling on the waterbed in my grandparents' room. the mustardy/olive green bathtub and sink in the bathroom....playing on grandma's piano. cutting up old copies of "redbook" to make collages. easter egg hunts, visits from santa, family dinners. eating hamburger patties with nothing but ketchup on them, no buns. the brown couches with blue flowers and birds on them. the hot tub. watermelon on the back porch....more than a decade of memories. i am glad i am able to compartmentalize them now. i can think about their house, the campsite, my childhood bedroom, and remember the good things without worrying about the bad.