Nightmares

Last night I had a nightmare.

I almost forgot it. But Eamonn, my therapist, told me to write down any since I couldn’t remember having any for a long time. Now I realize I’ve had many nightmares but do not remember them.

Normally, you have a nightmare and you remember it. Any event that causes fear or a strong emotion gets imprinted with the help of chemicals produced in the brain associated with those emotions.

My nightmare started out as a dream. I was in the basement level of a department store that was having a holiday sale on entertainment items. People crowded around the popular items. I don’t know what those items were and I didn’t care. I walked around the floor looking at the displays and exhibits. It was like a museum. There were holographs and moving sculptures. The displays looked more and more intriguing until I came across a man lying down and talking. He was inside some contraption with his head and a hand exposed.

All of the sudden his speech changed, saying “There’s a fire.” And his stage caught on fire around him, engulfing him. I was the only one there, and I went off to see what could be done. By the time I got to the next room, firefighters had arrived. I went back to the stage where the man burned. He was dead. And then I woke up.

When I woke up, I realized I had had a nightmare, but I felt numb. I started forgetting it immediately. But then I remembered that I was supposed to write it down. So, I made an effort to recall the dream before falling back asleep. When morning came, I felt nothing but was able to remember the nightmare.

Over the summer last year when I had signed up to take part in a sleep study, one of the questions was about nightmares. I think they did not enroll me in the study because I said I didn’t have any. Could it be that while living with PTSD for 12 years, I’d learned to live with nightmares by simply forgetting them? Or has PTSD caused me to be so numb when they occur that it’s easy to forget them? Has trauma burned the part of my brain where nightmares are imprinted?

The more I think about how abnormal it is to have nightmares and not remember them, the more I see how much more there is to heal. I am making progress.

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