Dream-triggered PTSD: how dreams can affect real life

You know that feeling when you have a cold and don't feel well, when daytime feels dreamline and nighttime is full of vivid reality? It makes it hard to know, with certainty, that you are not dreaming during the day and that you are not living another life at night.

I used to have nightmares constantly. And when I had one of those "vivid-dream" colds, I'd have nightmares about my dad, and then live through a nightmare, then go back to sleep for more nightmares, and lose track of the days of the week or the time of the day because nothing felt real. I didn't feel real.

It's like an extreme version of disassociation, and I had it again. I'm still getting over the dream/life confusion, actually.

This time, though, I dreamed about hospitals. About rehabilitation centers. About feeling like I'm recovering after having had another mental breakdown.

Of hiding under bridges, escaping getting booked into a psych ward that also was a jail just in time before the door locked.

Of my dad being physically abusive, grabbing my daughter by her neck. Of me verbally sparring with him as he yelled at me, while I tried to protect my siblings. I wondered how witnessing this would affect them. Not well. I dreamed of my mom being resigned to this life, resigned to dad being this way.

I dreamed of being in a place, after having a mental breakdown, where everyone was so caring and kind even as I felt trapped into the long-term facility, it was a nice place to be to recover from my illnesses--even as my anxiety remained high.

And when I woke up, I was still stuck in that place, anxiety revving like a car stuck on black ice, for the rest of the day. For the rest of several days, because more dreams kept the RPMs high. I want to run, to escape, to avoid that. I want to be normal, yet the dreams leave me feeling like something is still wrong with me, something abnormal, something I still need to recover from.

It left me on edge with church. With therapy. With work. With my family. I feel so guilty, but about what? About not being good enough?

I keep having periodic anxiety attacks, because I feel like I'm a child again, stuck at home again. All because the dreams picked up my psyche and ran it through the abuse cycle again.

At least they're not full-blown nightmares for the most part--just bad dreams that stick with you like a skunk spray in your daily life.

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