Finding Peace — Manuscript Post #3
The nightmare was always the same. I don’t remember when I first experienced this nightmare, but it was when I was very young. The nightmare always began the same way. It was dark, the sky was a very dark blue, not black. I could see myself on the porch of a house. I could feel a low frequency throbbing in the distance. I couldn’t see any light, but I knew a pulsating light was coming towards me from beyond the horizon. As the pulsating light and throbbing noise approached, the light from each pulse moved farther up the sky, nearer to where I was.
As the light and sound came closer I became more anxious. I couldn’t run away, whatever it was could not be escaped. As I looked into the sky, watching the flashes of light become closer and more intense, I could see the stars in the sky. Sometimes the stars looked like they were made of Plexiglas, stuck onto the deep blue dome of the night sky.
I never tried to go inside the house or move away from what was coming. I never tried to hide or escape. The flashing light would fill the sky, completely enveloping me. Just as I thought I couldn’t stand it anymore, the scene suddenly changed.
Before I had been outside and the world seemed more or less realistic. Now I saw a two-dimensional world. A bundle, like a bale of cotton, floats in front of a grey background. The bundle appears to be a pencil drawing and I can feel that the bundle is under a great deal of compression. It vibrates and twitches as I observe it. This scene lasts a much shorter time. And suddenly I am awake. I always woke up from this nightmare sweating, my breathing shallow and rapid.
The nightmare always started and ended the same way. It always went through all the same stages. It was strangely consistent. I always woke up sweating, heart racing, exhausted and terrified. I was often afraid, as I tried to fall asleep, that the nightmare was coming.
The nightmare stopped when I moved away from my mother.
I haven’t had the nightmare since, but the memory remains. For many years I wondered if it would return, or what other nightmares might be coming. Reading this, you may well think this is a pretty stupid nightmare. It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t seem to tell a story. I agree. This nightmare was a symptom of what I was experiencing as I grew up. Different people will have very different symptoms and you can say that my symptoms are so strange that they aren’t relevant to anyone else.
At the same time, I think my symptoms are identical to those of other people. Mine are identical because they are just as unique and hard to understand as theirs, and perhaps yours, are. This is part of the isolation and loneliness that I have experienced. You will feel, as I did, that I couldn’t tell anyone about my nightmare because no one else would understand it and therefore they would think I’m crazy. As I (and you) keep our nightmares secret, we isolate ourselves. We worry that there is something wrong with us because we have this nightmare that we can’t explain. This nightmare affected me many years before I went to therapy, but it is an important part of my background that led up to my needing therapy.
–Fear, Shame, Guilt (FSG)
For many years before I had the explicit symptoms that brought me to therapy, I felt afraid, ashamed and guilty about many things. When my symptoms did present themselves, they caused me to experience fear, shame and guilt. These feelings prevent people from seeking help, the help that therapy provides.
I never told anyone about my nightmare. After I stopped having the nightmare I still thought about it. Why did I ever have such thoughts? What caused it, would it return, would it get worse? I wondered what was wrong with me. Normal people don’t have such strange nightmares. It must be due to something I did, or something I didn’t do well enough. I never told my wife about it. I didn’t want her to think I was messed up in some way. I didn’t want to worry her. And so I wondered about it, even though I was no longer having the nightmare.
When I first had symptoms I was afraid. What was happening to me? How bad was this going to get? Was this it or was there more to come?
When I have symptoms now I feel bad because, after all the therapy, I still have symptoms. Sometimes I still feel bad that I can’t control this. I now know what the causes are but I still get upset. I fear that someone will notice that I am having symptoms. I would be embarrassed if someone knew I was having symptoms.
I felt guilty about the cost of therapy. The money spent on my therapy could have been spent on something else. I felt guilty needing to take money from my family to treat my symptoms. I should have been able to deal with this on my own.
I was afraid to seek help because it might lead to my needing medication. Since I had known persons that were medicated, and they seemed pretty messed up to me, I was afraid of where this would lead.
I was afraid my children would be embarrassed that I was in therapy. I didn’t want them to worry about what was wrong with me. I didn’t want them to think there was something wrong with them, something they had inherited from me that would cause them problems later on.
I felt guilty that even though I thought I had contained my issues, perhaps I had said or done things that had hurt them in some way. Things that would cause them to have issues later on. I worried that when they were adults, would they have symptoms like I had. I worried that my children might be experiencing what I experienced as a child. I felt guilty that I might have caused them some pain because I hadn’t done enough to prevent what I was dealing with from affecting them.