Anxiety & Nightmares as an adult

Opening my eyes slowly, trying to force myself to believe that it was just a dream, that I’m safe, the children are safe, we’re all fine. Fine is something that I will tell people I am for the next few days but I’m not, the lingering sensation of abject grief or fear is loitering at the back of my mind, like my brain has been pumping iron and created its own muscle memory. Memories of something that never occurred but felt so real it was and is overwhelming.

I wouldn’t consider myself a huge sufferer of adult nightmares, they are crushing when they want to be but they don’t come every night, they don’t invade my soul all the time, but when they do I find them so damn debilitating. The very worst ones are always linked to something that is possible, however unlikely it’s possible. It’s never a vampire or a horror movie scene, as scary as that might be, I could cope with that. I could open my eyes and know that my brain had been skipping days at the gym because the memory would fade almost straight away, sometimes even met with a chuckle and “how silly”. No my nightmares are intricately linked to a web of anxiety and intrusive thoughts that plague me by day, but they aren’t overwhelming like the nightmares. Cheating husbands, one of the children going missing, one of the children being ill or worse. Last night was the “or worse”.

When I’m locked in a really bad nightmare I find that it drags, like a low budget movie, I’ve only been asleep for a maximum of 5 hours and yet the nightmare spans months upon months of despair or fear. Toby being ill, Toby not making it, Toby coming back as a spirit that only I could see that eventually I had to let go of because everyone was telling me I’d lost the plot. See what I mean? Intricate, excessive and bizarre but just enough rationality – it’s always possible that one of our loved ones could die, we never know, it’s always possible that a mother whose child has passed away could imagine him with her still. It’s a breakdown beyond a death. It’s horrifying.

When I wake up I feel myself torn in between reality and the dream. That fear and stress lasts all day, sometimes longer, it brings me to tears and makes me feel horrendous. What I can’t pin down is that there is no rhyme or reason for nightmares in my case, I don’t have to be overly stressed, I don’t have to be unhappy or have seen something disturbing on tv. It’s not a food I eat or something that I’ve been drinking. There is nothing that the old wives tales tell us to avoid that causes my nightmares, they just creep up and BOOM. They are there.

Beyond the nightmare itself is the reaction of those around you, after all, I’m nearly 30 now, it’s about time I learnt that it’s *just* a dream right? Anyone you speak to will tell you that “oh yes, nightmares are rotten aren’t they?” and then that is that; there is very little understanding of how very hard they really can be and how they leave you feeling. If you tell someone you were ill in the night they would ask you if you are alright now, which of course, doesn’t happen when it’s a nightmare, it’s assumed that you will be.

My own nightmares are one of the reasons that I never play down the kid’s nightmares and I always ask them to tell me what they dreamt, explain to them and reassure them that it won’t happen and then curl them up with me in bed for a cuddle. I’m lucky that Adam tries to do the same with me knowing how they can affect me, he’s never once complained if I have woken him up at 3am with a nightmare, but I feel like I’m genuinely lucky in that.

Do you suffer with nightmares?

12 Comments

  1. frances hopkins
    October 8, 2018 / 7:46 pm

    I forever having horrible nightmares, I feel I have to tell someone and then it won’t happen

  2. Hayley Colburn
    October 7, 2018 / 9:39 pm

    I get exactly the same happen to me, no rhyme or reason and but I do find that on the nights they come, they come over and over, say I wake after an hour and have had one of those gut wrenching nighmares, I’ll then have another when I return to sleep, this will continue through the night until I think “sod this” and get up. It then plagues you for the rest of the day, that rotten knot in your stomach. You’re so not alone, not that it will bring you any comfort knowing others suffer the same, but its good to know people understand what you are going through, and I sure do. You have my upmost sympathy x

    • Harriet October 8, 2018 / 8:31 am

      Back at you lovely, it’s awful. Sending you all the positive vibes! x

  3. sandy ralph
    October 7, 2018 / 12:56 pm

    oh they can play on your mind for days if not weeks afterwards, I hate them and feel for you with this

    • Harriet October 8, 2018 / 8:32 am

      It’s hard isn’t it? x

  4. lesley renshaw
    October 7, 2018 / 9:45 am

    The part where you wrote “When I’m locked in a really bad nightmare I find that it drags, like a low budget movie, I’ve only been asleep for a maximum of 5 hours and yet the nightmare spans months upon months of despair or fear” and “When I wake up I feel myself torn in between reality and the dream” really resonated with me as I’ve had this for a fair few months now. I suffer from anxiety and we’re going through a particular bad time at the moment so I think this has a lot to do with it. It’s gotten so bad that I spoke to my GP recently and they’ve suggested changing my SSRIs, as this can be one of the side-effects. I’ve been on mine for quite some time so maybe the effects have changed. It becomes really draining after a while and although I’m tired, I really don’t want to go to sleep cos I know I feel no benefit in the morning. Often wake up feeling ten times worse. Speaking to your kids about their nightmares is a good thing. I do think when they start to have an effect on your day-to-day life, that’s a good time to speak to a professional and see what’s going on. I hope they go away soon – they really are a nightmare x

    • Harriet October 8, 2018 / 8:33 am

      Sending you a big hug, it is incredibly difficult to cope with and very few seem to understand xx

  5. Herbert Appleby
    October 6, 2018 / 9:53 pm

    The reason why everyone is jumping to the gym to push up their egos and push out those nightmares.

  6. Christina Curtis
    October 6, 2018 / 9:24 pm

    I suffer awfully with nightmares and anxiety sometimes I wake up more exhausted than when I went to bed.

  7. Rebecca Whatmore
    October 6, 2018 / 6:26 pm

    Great blog. I have nightmares occasionally and wake up and think it is real. They are horrible. Also hate the ones where you are falling off the edge off a cliff or have an exam and haven’t revised for it!

  8. Lisa King
    October 6, 2018 / 6:35 am

    I have nightmares quite often and it can leave me feeling strange for the rest of the day sometimes

  9. Shell
    October 2, 2018 / 7:57 pm

    I know exactly what you mean, when you can’t shake them off, because while the dream was, well just a dream, the feelings and emotions you get with them are very very real! I dreamt our house was broken into the other night but it was all very real time with us actually getting out of bed (in the dream) to come face to face with the intruders. Not looking forward to a night alone at all as I can’t seem to shake those dreaded feelings off!

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