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Nightmares and How They Affect Your Mind State

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So, I woke up from my afternoon nap feeling depressed - I had a nightmare that involved rats who formed faces of people I know on top of their little rat heads. I can't remember all of it, I just remember being in a car and driving around in circles and seeing these faces of people I know on rat heads. Anyway, the way I'm feeling now reminded me of how I started feeling about 2 1/2 weeks ago when I had a string of nightmares and ended up in a deep depression for 2 weeks. I'm not sure if the nightmares had anything to do with my depression, but I'm starting to make the connection.

I felt good Tuesday, Wednesday, and the beginning of today. However, after this nightmare I'm feeling like I did at the beginning of those 2 weeks - like I'm on the precipice once again of a deep depression (which for me means not being able to get out of bed).

I've read around the forum and I know that nightmares tend to cause anxiety in a lot of people, but does anyone suffer from deep depressions caused by nightmares? My nightmares are rarely trauma related, but nightmares still. Also, does anyone know a way to try and curb this process of what I think is happening - nightmares = deep depressions.

I'd love to hear how others here deal with their nightmares.

Nightmares - I hate them and have them frequently. A lot of the time I think they are triggered from some unconscious connection I may have made through something I did during the day or week. Other times if I have asthma or have gone to the dentist the nightmares or flashbacks are sure to hit.

I often get deeply disturbed and depressed as a result of the nightmares. It is like living through it all over again emotionally and sometimes physically. It always takes me several hours to break out of it - it's like a dooms day fog clinging to my skin.

The first step is to reinforce that it is a nightmare and not real!

The second step is try to figure out what triggered it? I find if I can pin it to an event or situation I feel better that I can blame the cause and not me.

Third step is distraction from the thoughts - do whatever but stay busy with mindless activity until the time passes and the distance to the intrusive thoughts has grown.

If you don't get busy and keep moving I have always spiralled down and began obsessing on the drama in the nightmare or having a great pitty party all for me.

A great idea I received from a counselor once while in the hospital was to create a "comfort box" and leave right next to my bed for when I wake from a nightmare. In this box are soothing things for me and my interests and personal stimulus that can ground me. I will list my comfort box stuff for you to give you some ideas. It does work. For me the box is a small tupperware container with a handle.

The contents are: (tactile comfort) squeeshie ball - stress balls
a baggie of sand
silly putty
small smooth round stones and sea shells
a purple feather boa from craft store
(smell) Lavender (in a baggie)
small scented candles with matches
small pine scented sachet (in a baggie)
thick goopy hand cream (lavender)
(snacks) dried cereal, granola bar, grape gatorade
(distractors) crossword puzzle book, suduko book
solotaire game, dice, dominoes, crayons,
coloring book, slinky. a rubber band
family photos, rubber ducky, pet photos, personal
affirmations written on index cards. Also cards with
questions - what is todays date, look at the size of
your hand, reminders of today!
calming pictures of landscapes or area's I enjoy from
magazines for visualization.

All this equals = ESCAPE and RE-DIRECTION from disturbing thoughts.

It really works for me.
I was just at my therapist today doing our education segment on PTSD and nightmares are part of it. She put it this way: It's our brain's job to make sense of what has happened to us and to file it where it is supposed to go. Trauma makes no sense so our brain keeps going over it again and again attempting to find a way to make sense. This is what causes our flashbacks, intrusive memories, nightmares etc. Once we find a way to make sense of it our brains will file it where it is supposed to go.

To get rid of nightmares you have to process your trauma. Sorry I don't know of any quick ways, but thought I would share how my therapist put it. It just made a lot of sense that way.

Thanks Bec, I'll bring this up with my T. Maybe I haven't accepted the past as I thought I had. I'm not sure if it will ever make sense and have a place to file it. I don't know that all trauma's can make sense but I guess you mean to place it into a meaningful frame.
The way I deal with nightmares is find the meaning in them. The subconscious mind is telling us something that needs to be dealt with.

Just like when you are awake and you have a bad memory or feeling, you face it and move on. In dreams you do the same thing. Face them, figure out what they mean and then move on. I am able to find meaning within an hour and then I'm over it.

Some of the very bizarre ones may stick around a little longer but they don't freak me out like they used to. (PM me and I will send some to you and then maybe you will see how disturbing mine were and I over came them)

Once a person practices at any given sport or new skill that they have never tried before they will be able to learn it better each time they practice it, or maybe even master it. Then the next time they have to practice the sport, it gets easier for them and they are more coordinated, and confident in their ability to be good at it. Same is true about learning what your dreams are telling you. If you stick with it long enough you may become a pro. But you will never know until you try.

I know I've said this over and over but I used to be plagued with nightmares and bizarre dreams 3-5 times a week that would linger for days and weeks. It doesn't happen anymore. I have a nightmare maybe once a month or every other month and bizarre dreams are few and far between. I've learned to control my dreams too.

For instance, last week when I was overwhelmed because I was giving my MIL a birthday party. The night before the party I had a dream I drove off a cliff and landed in murky water and the car sank. I panicked for about a second and then said the car will float back to the top and I will get out. That was the end of the dream and cars generally do NOT float back to the top.

I've taken weapons out of my attackers hands and walked away without them chasing me many times. That never happened prior to facing my nightmares. I've been in dream groups for over 3 years and every person I have spoke to that was plagued with nightmares has been able to overcome them by working with their dreams. Maybe it won't work for you, but why not give it a try instead of being upset about it.

I think most want to complain about their nightmares but not educate themselves on them, and do the work in fixing them. If you educate yourself on PTSD, the sub illnesses, and flashbacks why not educate yourself on nightmares too, because it is after all, part of the symptoms that relate to the illness. Yes, it takes time and work, but all of the time it takes in learning to heal has benefits in the end, and the pay off is worth it.

Anything worth having never comes easy. Most of you know I have a dream group but not many has been posting lately. Give up on it and I assure you the nightmares will return until you have found another way to get a grip on them, or your trauma.

Carry on!
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