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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5839
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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Kate, My nightmares have been changing since I started

Customer Question

My nightmares have been changing since I started therapy 6 months ago, and since I have had issues when I am awake, the dreams seem to be less intense. But last night I had a horrible reliving one and ended up hitting my face on my nightstand (I assume) and gave myself a black eye. Why did it suddenly get worse? This stuff sucks.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

It's probably because how you deal with what happened to you varies according to what you are working through. When you work through your feelings, some days you can confront a lot of issues, gain more insight and feel better. Some days you don't make any progress at all. As you go through these ups and downs, your unconscious mind is working through the issues too. And because there are things that bother you that you may not be aware of or issues that you just touch on that need more attention, your mind tries to work through them by bringing them up in your dreams.

Also, trauma naturally brings up our deepest fears. Someone who has never been through a trauma might find it easier to avoid or even be unaware of the way it feels to survive a trauma. They may have had bad things happen, but nothing that has scared them so badly they feared for their lives. Those deeper fears are brought out in our dreams since sometimes they are too hard to face in the waking world. For example, someone who has lost their home to fire has a unique perspective of what it is like to lose everything they own. They may spend their days coping with ways to get the basics they need to live and finding a new home. But at night, their minds create dreams around their fear for their life, the possibility of losing loved ones, and the deep feeling of loss.

I hope you are alright physically. It must have been a frightening dream to cause you to react like you did. It may help you to write out your dream and try to work through it so you understand the reason behind it and gain whatever insight your mind was trying to tell you. That may help you avoid having it again in the future.


Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Physically, I'm fine. Only hurts a little. I was just surprised to wake up to a black eye. I'll just tell everyone it was from my gang initiation or something :)

The dream was the same as I always used to have -- like I was in it again. Like it was happening. I didn't wake up when I hit my face; it just hurt when I woke up, which was after the nightmare went on for some time (well, I don't really know how long -- sometimes in a dream, it seems like hours have passsed, when in reality, it's been 30 minutes or something).

It's not fair to have daytime AND nighttime issues. I was so glad to start getting some sleep, and now I'm not going to want to go to sleep. This is all so unpredictable. It's driving me crazy. I know you can't know how long this all will last, but can you give me some estimate? Weeks? Months? or just days?


Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

It depends on how you work through your trauma, S. Right now, you are just starting to deal with the deeper feelings you had about what you went through. So you may have more nightmares than you want, but it is how your mind is trying to cope with your fears. But you are also getting the best care and support for what you have been through so that will help. As you start touching on your feelings, it may trigger other feelings. Your dreams will be a good gauge for where you are in your recovery.

You may always have some dreams associated to what you went through, particularly if you feel tired, run down or have anything happen to you that reminds you of how the attack made you feel. But you will have better coping mechanisms to help you deal with them. The dreams or nightmares you have now will probably only last until you feel you have worked through the trauma as far as you can take it.

You may want to start a dream journal to help you work through the meanings behind your dreams. By looking at them closer, especially with your therapist, you can find the reason you are having the dreams, particularly if any of them repeat. That will also help you stop having nightmares because the more you confront them and explore them, the less they will reoccur because you are resolving the feelings behind them that are causing them.


PS What gang do you belong to? They must be pretty tough to get into.

TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Can't disclose specifics about the gan. I mean, I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.

Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.
That doesn't sound good! Kate