Today has been a really long day for me due to not getting much sleep after my night terrors this morning at 3:30 a.m. It’s not something that I think a lot of victims or survivors discuss or talk about since a lot of us feel as if it is something we have to work through alone. However, in my case this morning – I tried to be okay after my nightmare, but I felt so powerless, numb and defiled again that I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I’m not going to into details about my night terror as it is still really raw and draining for me to even be writing this blog tonight. The most important people in my life know, and I’m keeping it to that for now.
I will tell you how it can effect the mental, physical and emotional aspects of a survivor after having a nightmare, in hopes that it may educate some individuals on how to properly handle a similar instance with one your friends or family members, if they happen to also be a Survivor.
The first thing I felt last night when I was able to finally wake up from my nightmare was an emotion that I haven’t felt in years…..powerless. I haven’t felt powerless since the assault occurred, yet when I woke up last night – I felt that powerless and being unable to control anything. I laid in bed for a bit thinking I could calm myself down, which did not happen. I ended up crying and trying to walk to my mom’s room. This however, did not work for very long either. Since I felt powerless and defiled and weak all over again, my legs decided to give out on me during my walk to my mom’s room. I had to crawl the rest of the way before I bursted into tears on her floor. I felt paralyzed.
For individuals that have suffered a traumatic event, nightmares can be completely different than those of an individual that hasn’t gone through one. When a survivor wakes from such nightmares, we have a harder time depicting whether or not it was memory, or real or not real at all. Deep down we know that it is not real, but it can feel so real in the nightmare while it’s happening – that our subconscious tricks us into thinking it is.
Another thing we think about is other triggers or anything that may have set us off in media or on television lately. A nightmare for a survivor of Sexual Assault could happen due to any stressful situations, triggers, stories on the media, and so on that could potentially trigger or cause the subconscious to do this to us. This may leave us drained emotionally, physically and mentally, as it did for me today to a point that you can become depressed.
The trauma of sexual violence may lead to nightmares. These are more than simply ‘bad dreams’. You may feel that the attack or an aspect of the abuse is really happening to you in your sleep. This is very frightening. If you experience nightmares regularly, it is likely that you will be apprehensive about sleeping.
In the case of my nightmare last night, I couldn’t stay strong, I couldn’t stop myself from crying or wanting to curl up in a fetal position. All I wanted to do was cry, because that’s all I felt like I could do. I felt like I was paralyzed again, like I was during the assault. I also realized that I couldn’t keep it to myself, and who better to go cry to than your mom? I know a lot of individuals think that keeping it to yourself is better, but trust me….it is never okay to let your subconscious eat away at you slowly.
You need that support, you need someone to listen to you, or just be there so you can cry on their shoulder. It’s okay to admit that sometimes you aren’t strong. No one is strong everyday, but when you can admit that you need help – that’s when you are the strongest person.
Another thing people who haven’t been through a traumatic event such as; sexual assault should understand that even if we ask you for help, we also need time to recover in some cases. We may seem okay on the outside, but on the inside we are still fighting the fear of being powerless, reliving the memory of the assault, and other issues or emotions that may be going through our minds after the fact. Today was full of random crying, and the feeling of numbness for me. Thankfully, I didn’t have to be around many people today. The people who are close to me also know that in my own time, I will be ready to socialize. So don’t force us to go out if we don’t feel like. We understand you want to help and make us feel better, but going out isn’t always the option we want to take. Take the time to watch movies, or shows that we love to watch, sit with us in quiet until we are ready speak, or do your own business and check in on us occasionally.
Many of you take days where you like to be lazy, and we (survivors of Sexual Assault and other traumatic events) take Mental Health days. It’s been since 2011-12 since my assault happen, and I still need Mental Health days (typically it’s in August-October) once and a while. This gives me time to recuperate and prepare myself for my classes, work, or social events that I have going on the next day or later that week.
Everyone needs their “Sunday”, “Relaxation Day”, “Lazy Day”, or whatever you like to call it, to recuperate and feel well enough to go out in public or any kind of socialization. It’s just necessary for someone who has previously been assaulted, and have flashbacks, nightmares and so on; to have a Mental Health day or Take Time For Yourself day. It allows us to have time to process those emotions, thoughts and what-if’s, and put them in our “box” or whatever our therapist suggests, or that we deem to put those memories and emotions until we are ready to deal with them again.
This does not mean that after this Mental Health day, that we will be 100% ourselves again. It does mean that we will slowly be ourselves again, but give us time. Everything with sexual assault takes time as most survivors know. So please be patient and compassionate when we ask for your help. We trust you wholeheartedly when we tell you we need help or support, and you may be that person’s person. Trust us, respect the time we take to recover from any triggers, flashbacks, nightmares or anything that was related to the assault, and just be there for us in any capacity that you can.
In The Ashes,
The Rising Phoenix
P.S. I’m not sure if it will be next week or the week after that, but I am having a guest write on my Blog. Don’t miss it!!!