When I first started blogging I had one person who regularly read and commented on my blog--and he was about as messed up as I am, although that's probably debatable. Now that normal people seem to stumble onto my blog fairly regularly, I sometimes feel guilty exposing them to the things I feel, so even though I still fully endorse the belief that I am entitled to write whatever I wish on my own blog, the warning makes me feel better.
I received some email and one comment on my last post about dreams in general, which gave good advice and in a normal setting, would probably be very helpful:
"I find that most of my nightmares are less frightening when I concentrate on the symbols within them. Usually those symbols represent things in my life that need attention or something that I've forgotten to do. If I pay attention to those things and take care of them, the nightmares go away."
"You should look for hidden meanings in the dreams. There really is no such thing as nightmares. It's just your brain trying to make sense of life. So don't be afraid of that."
"I used to have nightmares until I found out that they were caused by not doing things I needed to do. When I quit putting off things I slept better."
"Writing down and understanding my dreams contributed significantly to my healing. In the nightmares I viewed from a child's point of view were grown-up messages of love and concern to myself for myself. And when the nightmares were replaced with pleasant dreams I knew I was well."
When I've had "regular" types of dreams (i.e., not nightmares), I have occasionally shared those with Tolkien Boy, dream interpreter extraordinaire, who finds logical meanings in them that are probably very true, but which I don't always wish to accept. Nonetheless, there is no question that dreams have meanings, and that confronting or analyzing them is worthwhile. So I appreciate the advice and suggestions offered above, but I believe I need to further explain what I'm experiencing. Perhaps, if those who have offered that advice had more information, they could give me more help in this area, especially if they have experience or expertise in dealing with dreams and nightmares.
I actually spoke at length about this with a friend last night--not because I was trying to solve the problem, but because the haunting feelings that accompany the dreams make me feel ill, and admitting that to someone who won't despise me for being a coward helps me feel more human. He had some good ideas, as well. However, on with the further explanation of my nightmares.
My fearful dreams are simply a reenactment of my encounters with my cousin. In them he continues to violate me in every possible sexual way, and when he is finished he leaves me and I am left alone to clean up and try to comfort myself. The physical pain is felt when I awake, even though nothing has occured. The loneliness, self-loathing, fear, anger, guilt...all the feelings I felt as a young girl are seething inside me. I am left with a horrifying sense that I can't protect myself, and no one else will come to my aid.
Differences between the dreams and the reality:
1. In my dreams I am an adult. And yet I'm still immobile and weak. I allow him to perform the acts that make me feel inhuman and objectified. Somehow, even as a grown-up, I'm afraid of him. How can that be?
2. The setting is not always the same. Sometimes the incidents occur in my childhood bedroom, sometimes in my current one. Perhaps I feel unsafe in my own house? I know this is true.
3. I am unable to ask for help. And in spite of the fact that I long to be strong enough to save myself, I also feel an ache inside that there is no one to help me--and I really want help. As a child, I don't remember acknowledging that I wanted someone to save me. I just remember a horrifying acceptance that no one would. In my dreams, I don't want to go through the horror alone. Even if I have to endure all that my cousin does to me, I wish for someone beside me to help me endure it and to comfort me when he leaves. And I feel guilty wishing for that, because no one should have to be exposed in any way to the things I've experienced--vicarious or otherwise. But I still don't want to be alone.
I look at my life today. Each weekday morning I get up and meet with some of my favorite people in the world, to teach them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My only qualification for this vocation is that I love the gospel and Christ with all my heart--and I love the students I teach. I spend a few hours each day advising clients how to invest and spend their money and helping them to maximize their pretax spending. I prepare their tax returns and paperwork. Then I teach students how to love music and enjoy learning to play the piano. I spend a few hours practicing. I run a few miles. I clean my house and work on learning to be a real mom someday. I think about and implement ways to keep my marriage and love for my husband strong in any circumstance. Then I go to bed and find out that I'm not even strong enough to deal with past experiences that still haunt me, and I wonder where my reality lies.
Something I haven't mentioned is that the nightmares seem to be occurring more often and with greater duration and intensity. And my ability to cope with the aftermath is becoming less effective. I'm going to have to do something about this. I'm just not certain what that will be.