Background on the Flashback/Images/Nightmare Aspect
A week ago, I discussed The “Inability to Focus” Aspect: Living With and Healing From Trauma on a Daily Basis. That discussion can be found here. Today, I will be discussing The Flashback/Images/Nightmare Aspect: Living with and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis.
This discussion has three parts to it. When I compare myself to others whom I have talked to, they present themselves differently, and so I deemed it necessary to explain them separately. As far as the nightmare aspect is concerned, my experience has been that there has been very few trauma nightmares. When the nightmares do occur, they are usually because I have fallen asleep with the television on, and a horror movie happened to come on, and that movie turned the dream into a trauma nightmare.
Also, at our last residence, because of the vaulted ceilings, you could hear everything that was going on no matter what room you were in. It gave the impression that we were in closer proximity than we really were. During this time, the sleep deprived trauma symptom was at its peak. I would either wake up every 45 minutes to an hour, or fall asleep at 3 am, If my son was playing a war game on his Xbox, then that would also set me off into a trauma nightmare.
Because of the way that my brain is wired, whenever I go to sleep, I have to be careful of what is playing in the background because it will become part of my dream. The game would cause me to dream of something violent, wake up with trauma-induced fear, my body stiff as a board, clenched teeth, and unfortunately my mouth filled with blood from biting my gums.
It would normally take a long time to go back to sleep after this. I would end up telling my son to turn the game volume down. The very few times that this happened would usually involve me praying desperately for God to take away the trauma fear, and to give me the sweet sleep that he promised us in Proverbs 3.
What I do have a lot of is what I call trauma dreams. What I noticed is that when I am unable to process the trauma, i.e. grieve it, then the trauma will show up in my dreams where I am able to process it. Usually what happens is that I will wake up with heavy grief, remembering the dream, and then grieving some more.
The weird thing about what I call trauma dreams is that there isn’t always one theme that the dream is about. Sometimes there are five different things that I need to process subconsciously, and the dream will mix all these different things together.
Trauma flashbacks usually occur through triggers. These triggers can be weather related, smells, sights, sounds, tastes, and even touch. Basically, triggers can involve any of the five senses. The triggers aspect is discussed in more detail here.
About a year ago, I made some bean and cheese quesadillas that were pretty good. At least, I thought they were. However, my kids were only able to take a few bites. The quesadillas triggered memories of an earlier time.
When I was working at a toxic company for six months, I overheard the boss mention one word. That word sent me into a tailspin of flashbacks in regards to an extremely traumatic situation that happened with my ex-husband. This situation of bullying was going on while my grandmother was in the hospital dying. Basically, you never know what will trigger flashbacks.
As the spring and winter approaches, these also bring the flashbacks on. This is because my eyes are very sensitive to transitions in the brightness and darkness outside. I go into this blackout aspect more deeply here.
I am not sure of how many people deal with this aspect. Where most people have violent nightmares, my trauma comes forth as violent images in front of my face. What I have noticed is that these images will also emerge if my brain is having problems processing what it is seeing.
It can be as small as a simple fight or argument. Sometimes I am able to tolerate it. However, if the movie shows a lot of it, then I will see images. A few months ago, I was watching a Netflix movie that reminded me of my ethnicity, and growing up in the black church and community.
The content started becoming questionable, and I knew the Holy Spirit was trying to signal to me that it probably wasn’t a good idea to continue. My confirmation was when a violent fight broke out between a man and a woman, and then the trauma images came forth. The next thing that I knew, I said, “Okay. We’re done. Thank you Lord for confirmation.”
If there was anything in this discussion that resonated with you, feel free to drop me a line below.
Have a blessed rest of your day!