Need Advice With Nightmares Please

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I'll try to be succinct.

Last year I became friends with a 32 yr old Alice who had and was still suffering abuse in every dimension at the hands of her parents and their affiliates since ages about 7.
She had run away numourous times, but due to medical issues she usually ended up unconcious in ITU and her parents would be found and she would awake with them at her bedside and all would start again.

She is now completely safe, living with us under a new identity and most of her fears have left her. Alice is doing superbly both socially and educationally and has blossomed in every way except her sleep.

She has truly horrific nightmares and I have spoken to several psychologists and EMDR and hypnotherapists etc and noone can advise us on the way forward.

Each nightmare is an event that happened to her during her terror times. There is just no way she will discuss the content with us or anyone else as she is too ashamed and upset to do so but will spend all night picking through it and trying to sort it out in her mind

We have learnt that if she only sleeps for up to 40 mins she doesn't have a nightmare at all. So all last term whilst at college she would have a succession of 30 mins naps overnight and make do on minimal sleep of a poor quantity ( but shes used to extreme sleep depreivation anyway) and it allowed her a welcome break from the nightmares but now one of her 2007 goals is to get rid of the nightmares.

If a nightmare is split into 10 segments, on sleep 1 she'll get the first segment, on sleep 2 she'll have the first and second segments, on sleep 3 - back to segment 1 , 2 and now 3 added in etc right to the end when she gets a run through of it all and then it vanishes never to reappear and onto another actual event.

When she started to avoid these in July she stopped part way through a nightmare, one night in September she was soo overtired and accidently fell asleep and didn't manage to wake up in 30 mins and went straight back to the beginning of that same one. She then avoided them again for 4 months until Jan when again she has returned to that very same nightmare again and plodded through until the end this time and as customary, it's gone and onto another event.
It's really like there is a spool of these inside and she has to work her way through them to clear them but noone I can find has experience of these sequential dreams. Anyone ????

I know that she spends an inoordinate amount of time picking through them sorting out each segment before the next sleep and very occassionally if she hasn't done this thoroughly she gets a repeat of the last sleep again rather than getting the next segment added on.

As you can empathise, this all extremely time consuming and incredibly distressing as it's all as real as though it were 'for real' again every night and it takes quite some time to come round each time.

Day time flashbacks are only now extremely rare and not of any significance any more and also her confidence and self esteem are doing really well.

I would be grateful for any suggestions or experiences of how we can manage/accelerate this healing at home.

Many thanks

Dealing with that bump in the night.

:think: I am afraid that most of us here have these same issues. Getting completely rid of the intusive thoughts, nightmares, and restless sleep when one can get some sleep is some what of an individual thing. Some and when I say that, a large percent never get rid of them totally. However, we can usually get to a point that we can go for a period of time with out them. For some it will get to be the majority of time and for others it will be the rareity. For most in order to get to this point, it takes comming to terms with the trauma/s in order to begin to gain healing and relief. This happens sooner for some and it can take longer for others. If you are starting to get the idea that there are no set rules to PTSD, then you are getting the right idea. Yes, I know this fact is hard to swallow, but it is the truth. You should also be aware that if she does have PTSD, then there is no cure rather just finding the best way to deal with the traumas in order to gain some peace.
For me it has taken facing what happened, being able to talk more openly about it, to realize that most people who understand PTSD will not see me as a person that they don't want to be around because of the things that took place. I have also had to get some medications to elieviate some of the pain and anxiety so that I could then concentrate on doing what I needed to, in order to come to somewhat of a state of inner peace. Untill I was able to do this, there was no relief from any of the intrusive thoughts, night sweats or nightmares.
When dealing with PTSD things change on a minute by minute basis. So gaining this young ladies trust in order to get her to talk is going to be the a big step. It may be necesary for her to talk to someone that she is not around all the time. On this site there is a place to write down their traumas that can be private or public how ever the author wants it to be. If she could join this forum, she would have the oportunity to talk to people that she would never see, this can be a real asset to some people in this situation.
No matter what happens I hope for the best. If this site becomes a part of that process we will do our best to support her and be there for comfort. All said I wish you the best of luck and a lot of patients in dealing with her.
Ranger ,

Thank you for your time and helpful comments.

Do you have these segmented, sequential nightmares too ?

I think we're very fortunate that she's done so very well in every other way and is fully functioning in daily life with college and is so cheerful and optimistic apart from just before or for some time after a nightmare.

There is no anxiety or sweats and no strong intrustive thoughts apart from those linked directly to the nightmare.

She talks very openly about her previous life in general but not about the events in her nightmares.

She's a delight and inspiration to have at home as part of our family now and we have all learnt a great deal from her.

I wish you well with your recovery too.

Hi Sintra, welcome to the forum. There is one way, and one way only in which to stop nightmares. You must deal with the trauma that is causing them.

The nightmare is the symptom, the cause is the trauma suffered. Her subconscious is telling her that all these negative emotions still exist, and none of them have been dealt with, hence the symptom of nightmares. To rid the symptom, you must rid the cause. To treat the symptom is to only apply a bandaid to the problem, not fix it once and for all. Bandaids come off in other words.

Yes I have had nightmares in series on to many ocasions to count I can tell you that I wouln't wish that sort of thing on any one. It is a somewhat common ocurance.

Thank you,

I have nightmares too, sometimes i don't even have to be asleep just close my eyes and its reccurring again. I think that because it was such a terrible thing to happen, your mind finds it hard to let go of it and feels the need to focus on it because it is a life altering moment.

I aslo think that she is extremely lucky to have you, you are coming here asking for answers when another person may have just left her alone and abandoned. But you are wonderful, i hope you can find your answers here :)
Thank you Ranger, Anthony, Terry and Shazarabbit for all your comments and advice.

I've had a good chat with her about what exactly she is doing when she says she's thinking about each segment of the nightmare. She's picking it apart, going through the emotions again and trying to see it from a new perspective, how she thinks that it would be viewed by her new family and friends, losing the fear that it may sometime reoccur again for real, and seeing it from a position of strength as an adult and not as a brain washed child forced to participate or simply accepting that they are reasonable punishments for having an untidy room etc and also seeing her perpetrators for what they are in reality and trying to let go of the ' a parent would never hurt her child so I must have deserved it '.

Would this classify as ' dealing with it ' 'or coming to terms with it'

Shazarabbit, Shes part of our family now and a complete joy and of course I will move heaven and earth to help her.

I appreciate all your help as its all very new to me and I'm trying to learn as much as possible.

Many thanks

If all she has in her is going into coming to terms with what she recalls dreaming then she is doing pretty well. If she is really disecting it and examining the emotions she has and able to look at it differently and really feel that way afterwards then you can't ask for much more and is doing very well. I hope she can keep doing that. A lot of us normally need guidance to help us do that. If she can pull herself apart and the emotions on her own she is very smart and very strong. You should be proud.
Veiled is correct. She has helped me with several things that it appears this young lady has figured out how to do on her own, that is a down right impresive thing.

So in short, yes this is GOOD.
Update on nightmares


Life has taken another of its sharp turns.

Alice was doing ok going through her episodal nightmares. Horrid and time consuming but each was was clearing to then move onto another real episiode. Still sleeping only an hour before the nightmare kicked in and then unable to rest any more once she awoke and maybe disassociated before coming round finally in a very distressing way.

2 weeks ago we were all involved with a fatal RTA, a motorcyclist died having hit our car at speed. It was just awful and involved fire and a whole host of horrible events that I won't go into here.

Alice and I were first to the body and just dealt with him and those others round us who were injured.

Eventually we went home shattered but she was able to do her normal 30 mins naps to avoid a dream, as we didn't think she needed one of those as well aftre teh RTA and I sat up with her to make sure. A couple of nights later she said she was ok and would go back to sleeping properly and back to continue the dream that had been in progress.

When I went up at 5am, I actually woke her up and it transpires to both our surprise, that she'd slept through the night, with segments of the accident replaying, but no sign of her childhood abuse dream.

That is how she has been for nearly 2 weeks now, sleeping through. She is still on channel 2 - (the accident) instead of channel 1 - (her background). These current dream are no longer a direct replica of the accident but now have fictional threads like having an accident in London with a bus and someone putting striped hankies on all the wounds ...

I have no idea whether this will hold or as time goes by whether she'll clear this trauma and revert to her previous abuse ones or whether somehow this has overwritten what was there. As horrid as this is , it's certainly preferable as she gets good quality rest for several hours, doesn't get hurt herself and is not left with all the vivid physical symptoms and mental emotions of her previous life after each episode of a channel 1 nightmare.

It's also improved her relationship with my partner as now he realizes what she has had to manage each and every day, all consumed with memories as he's been having 24/7 flashbacks and nightmares but these are now rapidly subsiding for him.

If anyone has any comments or experience of additional trauma and how it affects previous ones I'd be very grateful to hear their views.

All I can say is it normally adds to it and I would suggest counseling ASAP to treat this trauma before she suppresses too much. Have it processed and gotten through as soon as she can.

I was witness to a car accident right after my symptoms were beyond control. I was on my way to the pharmacy leaving the hospital from one of my "episodes". I was able to work through it rather quickly seeing the dead babies since it was a recent trauma that was giving me nightmares. The sooner one gets addressed the less work involved later down the road.

I am happy she is sleeping but this trauma is in the forefront. If she can be treated properly it will not do the same damage as the previous. That way once it is out of the way she can go back to addressing her other ones. Good luck.
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