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Nightmares - How I Got Rid of Them

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I noticed there are several threads on nightmares right now... here's one more! ;) Seriously though I wanted to answer some of the other threads about nightmares but I didn't want to repeat myself, so I started a new thread... does that make any sense? If the editors think this should get merged then that's fine with me.

Nightmares have been my worst symptom of PTSD by far. Before I started working on my trauma I probably had at least 10 vivid recurring nightmares about my trauma, each night and every night, and during naps as well. In fact I can recall several instances of nodding off while sitting on the train and immediately starting a nightmare, that's how bad it was. I used to injure myself while having them, and my throat was constantly sore and hoarse from all the screaming. It got so bad that eventually I didn't want to go to sleep anymore. I used to take stimulants to remain awake and thus not dream.

I tried everything to "cure" my nightmares. I talked about them to therapists and psychiatrists, I tried writing them down and analyzing them, I took several different medications known to help with nightmares... I tried holistic medicine too. I had a sleep study done at a hospital. I was checked for sleep apnea. I went to sleep with relaxing music playing in the background. You name it, I tried it. Nothing worked.

This is nothing new, this has been said on the forum before, but I think it bears repeating. The only thing that worked to get rid of my nightmares was working through my trauma. It wasn't a quick fix, it took several months of very hard work and I am still working on myself. But I can honestly say now I rarely have nightmares anymore. In fact, I had forgotten about the absense of my nightmares until all these threads reminded me. I maybe have one bad one every 2 weeks now.

I do sometimes still have periods of more nightmares, a couple of weeks ago I had a few more than usual. But now when I have frequent nightmares it is a sign to me that something is wrong, that there's something specific in my life I need to work on. The nightmares are a symptom, kind of like a fever or a headache can be a symptom of a bad flu or other illness. In this particular case, I was worried about my trip overseas. Once I talked to family and friends about the trip and dealt with my anxiety, the nightmares diminished again.

I'm not on any meds and I don't analyze my dreams. I just worked on my trauma, and the nightmares diminished on their own over time. Ditto with any current nightmares. I just work on whatever's bothering me currently and they go away. It's not a quick easy fix but it is simple, and it really works.
Oh wise one has spoken, and I completely concur. I think the Jedi may soon surpass the master! Damn well said Evie.... and excellent use of your experience and you just learnt for yourself another aspect of your own hard work.... you rarely have nightmares now because of the hard work you did facing your traumatic fears.
I just work on whatever's bothering me currently and they go away. It's not a quick easy fix but it is simple, and it really works.

Very true. The older I get, the more I've come to realize that the simple way is usually the best.

I never had nightmares that I remembered until I got off of the klonopin. It supresses dreams/nightmares...but you still get to deal with the physical affects from the nightmares. After getting off of the klonopin, I had them every night for months. Not sure if it was my mind playing catch up or what. But as I worked through more and more through the traumas, they lightened up and diminished. It's now become another one of my clues that something's wrong that I need to look at and deal with.

I just love hearing about how you guys have learnt... this is self management at its best, and your skills only further improve the longer you look inwards and learn from yourself. Well done.
If I had never had nightmares I would have never started working on my traumas. It would have went unspoken of until I died. But because I had nightmares it made me want to fix them. I was in denial at the time of having any issues about my rape or father's murder, and my doctor only diagnosed me with depression. So I had no reason to think I needed to work on myself.

At the time I didn't realize that nightmares were a symptom of PTSD. I worked on my nightmares by analyzing them and was enlightened that they were all about my traumas and problems. My dreams and nightmares showed me this and the light clicked on in my head, and I knew it was time to come out of denial and start healing. This led me to do some research and found out that I had PTSD. I told my new doctor this diagnosis and he strongly agreed.

Everyone has a way of fixing or healing themselves (I don't believe there is one correct way to go about it), and I worked on myself through dream analyzing, and now I rarely have nightmares. If some one healed them selves in a way I was unaware of, or even thought it was Voo Doo. Then so what! If it worked for them ....GREAT.

What ever works! I would not dismiss that approach every chance I got. I would acknowledge that it works for some people and be happy about it. The mind is complex and no one has an answer on how to cure PTSD or nightmares. The one thing we all agree on is that we need to heal through working on ourselves, and that can be done in more than one way.


You are right on. When I "talk" things out it is to process but I need to start and talking about is the start. Just talking about it won't do, but on the other hand for some going straight into "process" as the idea is too much and can scare them off. Look at it like steps instead of whole picture.

Again, you are right, you must work through it. Not just do the first step of it as talking and expect it done. Nightmares certainly do not work that way.

Also, look into current life stresses to figure out why they are back. I too take for granted when I get long breaks and am forced to look into and work on current stress to make them go away. It is the only way from my experience.

I am not anti analyze. Analyzing can help clue me in when I am unaware exactly what it is I need to be looking at and fixing. No short cuts to end them though at all but well worth the work!
Tammy, why do you highlight though "I don't believe there is one correct way to go about it" as a point? Your saying that you used dream interpretation, which means you analyzed what the dream was about and the cause of that dream! Correct? That means you did the same thing with dream analysis, being you analysed the cause and meaning to the dream, where by the dream itself really means little, more so that the dream is a representation of another problem... hence dream interpretation... yes?
"the only thing that worked to get rid of my nightmares was working through my trauma. It wasn't a quick fix......"

"You rarely have nightmares now because of the hard work you did facing your traumatic fears"

The above statements is why I highlighted “I don’t believe there is one correct way to go about it”

Dream interpretation is the result of dream analysis, but I didn’t mention dream interpretation in my post. Yes, the dream is a representation of another problem (A problem usually stuffed into the subconscious due to fear of facing it). I wouldn’t have known this if I didn’t have the nightmares to begin with. I thought nightmares were separate from my traumas/problems as many people do. You can tell them to work on their trauma, but if they think that the nightmares are different from their traumas, then they will keep having nightmares and worrying about the nightmares, and not the trauma. The cycle will repeat itself. We can tell them all day long to work on the trauma but some are more concerned with their nightmares, so it starts to get pointless.

I started with dream analysis and worked my way into self-awareness, and was able to see that my dreams were a symptom of the trauma. Healing doesn’t have to start off with working on your trauma first IMO, and then the nightmares will stop. I feel either way will work depending on the person.

Some people dream about killing their attacker (I did this) and this scares them. Maybe if they realized that death is not literal in dreams they wouldn’t be so scared of their dreams and would calm down and be able to focus on their trauma instead of thinking they are going to kill someone.

Another example, if some one dreams that they abused their child and as a result they are afraid to be around their child. If they knew that dreaming of abusing a child means that the child they are abusing in the dream is actually themselves they are abusing (by tormenting themselves with guilt over their molestation while awake) they will quit worrying about abusing their child and focus on their trauma. It’s hard to focus on your trauma if you think your going to kill some one or abuse your child…Yes?

So if a person learns that their dreams are not literal, and can quit being afraid of them first, they can then focus on the trauma, which in turn will calm the nightmares down. This is my point. It can go both ways.

I am a tad off topic here and not getting into the discussion exactly, however I wanted to interject, well done Evie for sharing all this. I know you, and I know how difficult it is for you to share your thoughts / opinions publicly. Very well done!
Tammy, I completely agree with you and I believe you only highlight the point of this thread, being the way in which to remove nightmares is to treat the trauma! I understand what you saying now though, in that all your saying is that treating the trauma is still the resolve, all your doing though is having to go and analyze a nightmare first in order to discover that the nightmare itself is not the problem, in fact it is the trauma being the problem which causes the nightmare. Your saying exactly what Evie said, instead you just had to discover this fact the hard way by doing extra work.

What you state is absolutely correct, in that the cause is still trauma, your just doing it the long way to discover it.

Whilst correct and doing it the long and hard way is what worked for you, the intent of the forum though is not to guide people the long way, but instead help others from our experiences off having to do things the long way and cut down the recovery time. This is why what you say whilst valid, is the long hard way to achieve the aim, being to treat the trauma.

I work with people who say exactly what you are saying, then when told to cut the shit out and stop doing things the hard way, they learn that they are only slowing their recovery time by learning the same thing except in a longer and more painful manner to themselves, being they now have to learn dream interpretation to understand that the cause is the trauma and nothing more. I agree that what you saying is a way to discover the same fact, but its a long way, which is what this forum aims to reduce from many.

If I added this to people I help here, then instead of them having no nightmares in 6 months time, they would still be having them in 12 months time, achieving the same thing except enduring more pain to get the same result. It worked for you and that is great, but wouldn't you have liked to know first that what you where doing was only increasing the time you had to endure nightmares? If it was me, I would have like to know the faster way....

The method still comes down to choice though, and if someone doesn't want to work on their trauma to begin with, then that is their choice and nothing anyone else says will change that choice. This is why I only help people who are absolutely ready to face their past, to face their fear, otherwise I waste my time with people who truly do not want to get better just yet, instead they want to stuff about and suffer a bit more because they are still scared to face their past fears. That is also fine, and it is fact that you cannot help someone who isn't ready to be helped.

Long way vs. short way? Short way is optimal to get a person recovering fast. Your method whilst valid and worked for you, is certainly not something I would tell anyone to go do unless I absolutely knew they where not ready to face their trauma and their nightmares where out of control. Though even then, if they are often not ready to face their fears, the majority of the time they also won't learn dream interpretation either, considering it is quite a lengthy education process by itself. Not something you can just read a book or two on and become an expert. The mind is far more powerful than that.
I totally agree with Evie and Anthony. For me it was the EMDR that really started shifting things. Its the same thing though, working on the trauma is the only way from my experience. The problem is the time it takes! You still need to sleep during the period you are working on your trauma.
Yes, I do certainly remember a lot of years with little to no sleep.... alcohol often was used for me to sleep. Saying this though, none of that time was when I was actively facing my trauma either. When I began facing my trauma to when the nightmares ceased, was merely a few months, and it was only that someone said something that I noticed I was no longer having the nightmares. I would hope that the experience here now leads others to lessen their time off painful nightmares, instead opt direct to the source of the issue.... the trauma.
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