Avoiding nightmares making it worse? Said a counsellor

Lilac98

MyPTSD Pro
I'd been having a lot of assault nightmares and thought maybe I was worrying too much that they might be real so I decided to put them to the side and focus on studying but I then had two more assault nightmares. I spoke to a random online counsellor about it and they said that maybe I was making it worse by ignoring the nightmares.
They also said this
'When we experience a traumatic or unwanted event, the memory of this event becomes stored in a different way, in a different part of our brain, from other day to day memories. Nightmares can often be a way for people who have had difficult experiences to start to make sense of what happened to them. However, they can still be very frightening. You may feel reading the following pages helpful listing coping techniques regarding nightmares:coping-with-flashbacks-new.pdf (nottssvss.org.uk)'
I don't get what I'm supposed to do if both paying too much attention to it and ignoring it are making it worse.
 
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Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
What you're going through is very very confusing, and 'crazy making'. The whole 'is it a dream or is it a memory coming back' debate is such a hard hard place to be in.
It took me a long time to work it out.
For me, whilst I was totally confused and I desperately wanted someone to just tell me what it was (a memory or a dream), underneath it all I had a 'knowing' feeling that it was real.

From what you have said previously, you remember a couple of occasions already. Those events you are sure about. These dreams are potentially new memories or nightmares based on what you have already experienced.
So, maybe reframe it in your mind. What these dreams are telling you, regardless of whether they are new memories or dreams,is that what happened to you (those two events) are things that need working through.
It's very very plausible that these are memories, given that the person you remember abusing you had lots of access to you to do more than those two things you remember.
It's also very plausible they are dreams that are messages that the two events need processing.

So shifting the focus onto what you do know for sure, and processing that, might really help?
 

Lilac98

MyPTSD Pro
How are you going with finding an actual therapist? I think that it's a stretch to say you've been avoiding the nightmares given how much you've been going over them.
@Movingforward10 I've had counselling before with a woman who deals sexual abuse for the two things I remember and I felt like I had processed them and so did she. I had to pay privately to get help and it's too expensive to keep paying. I know she thought the flashback was likely real and I think so too but I didn't fully see what happened cause I mainly just saw my arm being held down and then had physical feelings down there. My old kooth worker filled in the referral form, gave it to the people at kooth who deal with referrals and they're sending it to the mental health team and I just have to wait to see if they refuse to see me or if I get an appointment.
 

whiteraven

MyPTSD Pro
I'd been having a lot of assault nightmares and thought maybe I was worrying too much that they might be real so I decided to put them to the side and focus on studying but I then had two more assault nightmares. I spoke to a random online counsellor about it and they said that maybe I was making it worse by ignoring the nightmares.
They also said this

I don't get what I'm supposed to do if both paying too much attention to it and ignoring it are making it worse.
Well, when we pay a lot of attention to something, we tend to get a bit obsessed with it, which is never good. We frequently aren't able to look at just the thing in front of us, but we add all sorts of things to it, which are usually what ifs and maybes. On the flip side, when we ignore it, it doesn't ever go away, so will likely pop up again at some point.
 

Lilac98

MyPTSD Pro
Well, when we pay a lot of attention to something, we tend to get a bit obsessed with it, which is never good. We frequently aren't able to look at just the thing in front of us, but we add all sorts of things to it, which are usually what ifs and maybes. On the flip side, when we ignore it, it doesn't ever go away, so will likely pop up again at some point.
So the assault nightmares aren't going away no matter what I do?
 

Friday

Moderator
So the assault nightmares aren't going away no matter what I do?
That’s pretty much how dreams work.

You could practice lucid dreaming, so that when you start to have a nightmare you can walk out of the house and go fly a kite, or ride a polar bear, or whatever. Some people get very very good at lucid dreaming. I happen to be pretty darn good at it… but I still have nightmares, and also panic attacks in my sleep, and other not fun things.

Or you could see if prazosin works for you… a blood pressure medication that has the quirky side effect for most people that they don’t remember their dreams, so it’s often prescribed for people with nightmares. Doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s contraindicated for a lot of others (people whose blood pressure is already too low, people who take medication that interacts badly, etc.). Might be very worth talking with your GP about it.

Same token? You might also ask your GP for a sleep study, to see if your nightmares are being triggered by something happening physically; like feeling suffocated is often a sign of sleep apnea, occasionally a sign of some seizure disorders, some sleep disorders, GERD, etc. A physical trigger is an EASY BUTTON fix… as nearly all physical causes have very effective physical treatments (like a CPAP machine, or antacids, or seizure meds).

A complete physical is part of any decent psych diagnosis process… to rule out physiological causes… so since you’re just starting that process? You’d need to see your GP, anyway.
 

Lilac98

MyPTSD Pro
@Friday i want to be able to ride a polar bear in my dreams. I've often tried waking myself up in nightmares before (not the assault ones cause I don't know I'm dreaming) but the monsters get angry when I try waking up and go after me more. In the dream of grandad sitting on my neck I said to him, why can't you just show me this when I'm awake then he was sitting on my neck and I didn't want to try waking up cause I was scared I'd make the dream worse so I just shut my eyes and then woke up anyway. I don't often get suffocated in my dreams. Once I couldn't breathe in a dream and woke up with a blanket that I had been sleeping with, wrapped around my neck. The suffocated thing isn't generally a problem. I have low blood pressure sometimes. Its sometimes normal but I wouldn't want to make it lower. I often feel faint and have had some awkward incidents because of it.
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
i hold that dreams, in general, are among life's greater mysteries. nightmares even more so. what are they? what do they mean? the folks with advanced degrees are as mystified as the folks in gypsy turbans.

personally, i hold that when dreams are trying to tell me something specific, i understand the meanings easily. for the rest, i try to just let the mystery be.

for what it's worth
early into my psychotherapy i went through a string of assault nightmares i ultimately interpreted as my mental illness fighting for survival.
for sure, it was a horrific string of nightmares.
 

whiteraven

MyPTSD Pro
So the assault nightmares aren't going away no matter what I do?
No, I didn't say that. You develop tools to lessen the obsessiveness (I personally use mindfulness), and you make time to deal with whatever is coming up for you, using those tools and with the help of a therapist. All of what @Friday just said are great places to start. I love lucid dreaming. Even though I typically don't have bad dreams, I took a course many years ago. With practice, it is amazing how much control you can have in your dreams. Nightmares (and dreams, generally) are not at all well-understood, but there are a lot of theories. Personally, I think that what we are not dealing with in our waking life comes out in our dreams. That's probably why I don't suffer from many bad dreams or nightmares. I am constantly dealing with my demons, most of every day. Now, that has gotten a lot better...I'm managing many more spaces of "no suffering" during the day. But that came with a LOT of very hard work.
 

Lilac98

MyPTSD Pro
@whiteraven i want to get my interest back in reading and art. I sort of like doing it still but I just can't find any motivation for anything I enjoy and struggle to focus on things now. That's not helping. I don't think I'm depressed, it's like my brain just can't seem to focus on anything else. I'm still generally trying to study though.
 
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