Help, I think Chews_Pencils gave me nightmares (longish)

Og, dammit! I think my ex gave me nightmares. Not her fault, but I think she gave me nightmares. I need advice.

Backstory: I’ve never had any ugly break-ups except one, which was six years ago. That ex, I shall call her Eats_Innocent_Souls, is the only one I’m not on speaking terms with. Generally my break-ups tend to be fairly amicable and I can retain decent friendships. But Eats_Innocent_Souls was a despicable person and messed me up so badly that I was a wreck for a good two years – such was the intricacy of her mind games. Took serious therapy to unravel that mess.

Current story: Chews_Pencils has been going through a rough time. She dumped me, but as far as that goes we were pretty much on the same page. Truly, we’d make better friends than girlfriends. However, she’s had a rough year and is too emotionally exhausted to be able to deal with any new people in her life (meaning me) and has abruptly cut off all contact with me. I’m sad about that. But if that’s what she needs to do, I harbour no grudge. (Well, okay, I was mad for a few days, but I’m over it.) She needs to take care of herself right now, and though it stings, I’m not going to push the issue. It sucks, but it’s really okay.

Now, here’s the thing: Now, there are two ex-girlfriends I’m not on speaking terms with. Because I’ve only ever really “lost” Eats_Innocent_Souls, the impact this present circumstance is having on my psyche is to dredge up the same nightmares and panic attacks from six years ago!

I used to wake up every, single day with a panic attack, thinking:
“I have to DO something! Why am I still in bed?? I should be making something of myself and DOING something! ACK!!! And just what will I do? My life is so lame! I’m a failure. I have to DO something!!!”

Logically, I always new that the panic was some stupid by-product of wounded self-esteem, because I was making something of myself. I also used to have pained, emotionally tormented dreams about my evil ex, Eats_Innocent_Souls.

…Now it’s all starting again! Gah!

I think it’s because I’m distressed about these present circumstances. And this “distress” is saying:

“Hey there, Crayons’s brain! Remember this? This weird, conflicted, out-of-control, helpless feeling is just like when Eats_Innocent _Souls ripped out your soul, microwaved it until it started to melt and then tossed it into a snowbank so it shattered from the sudden cold!”

Chews_Pencils did NOT hurt me like that. She has a fiery but sensitive soul and wouldn’t maliciously hurt anyone. She didn’t do anything wrong. But losing her is bringing this old E_I_S shit, nightmares and panic attacks, back up to the surface.

So what I need today… I need dream/waking strategies! I need to get control of my dreams to kick E_I_S out of 'em. And I need to figure out how to stave off the early-morning panic attacks. The panic attacks are freaking me out.

Suggestions?

No advice here, I just wanna say, eats_crayons, chews_pencils, sniffs_markers, eats_innocent_souls, etc…: Brilliant!

Good luck.

Sounds like it could be that you didn’t really deal completely with the trauma of the old ex, and this breakup is dredging up some of that, or some other trauma in your past, and expressing it with physical symptoms of anxiety and depression. Your feelings of helplessness are classic of depression. IANAD but you may want to see a therapist and/or doctor and work on this. These things don’t often go away by themselves any time soon.

See? Sniffs_Markers and I broke up after three and a half years, and we still get along okay. Even if her new girlfriend looks like Gollum.

And Chews_Pencils… well, I don’t know where her headspace is right now, but she will have a friend and ally in me always. Even if she nevers speaks to me again. :frowning:

But E_I_C… well that is a whole other story. You’d have nightmares too if you ever dated her.

Oh, it is up there at the top: “Took serious therapy to unravel that mess.”

Indeed I was seeing a therapist very regularly for two years.

Part of it is that the stress of what E_I_C put me through triggered the worst bipolar episode I have ever had because it was a horrendous no-win situation. Losing her was killing me, but staying with her was destroying me. The strain really wreaked havoc with my brain chemistry. It was really bad.

And in fact, I DO have an appointment to be reassessed by a psychiatrist in February.

However, if I can kcik that b*tch out of my dreams in the meantime and figure out how not to launch myself out of bed in a panic as soon as I drift out of R.E.M. sleep, I’d be mighty appreciative.

Poor kid. I hate it when that happens.

As I have NO advice on relationships and you seem to have a really good handle on exactly what’s causing your anxiety and how to fix it in the long term, let me just suggest relaxation exercises before bed, maybe less caffeine for a while, a nice hot bath and some good mood-altering music. Sort of a self-hypnosis style relaxation routine before bed to help soothe yourself.

Some people can do “lucid dreaming” things that make no sense to me at all, but you might try planning for the nightmare: imagine yourself in the situation that’s bothering you and taking the steps necessary to make it stop. Since this is happening in your dreams, I think you can safely arm your dream-self with a bat and bop the b*tch on the head. Also, since you have a pretty good awareness of what’s going through your head in that wake-up panic moment, you might take pains to remind yourself that you DID get through that, and that you will again, because now you know what steps to take.

Sweet dreams, friend.

I am a lucid dreamer. I can give Freddy Krueger the boot and have the bouncers escort him to the door to kick him out fo my dream. Unfortunately, with dreams that are more emotionally complex I tend to lose myself in the dream and forget I’m dreaming. Otherwise I’d have turned E_I_S into a sack of tar by now.

Oo, that I like better than the tar.

The weird thing is, the panic isn’t about either relationship. The panic is always “I have to DO something” – not in the sense that I have to try to patch things up with the lost loved one (though I suspect that’s also in there somehwere) – but rather in more of an “I need to accomplish something” kind of feeling.

That’s why I tend to think it’s a combination of feeling helpless (ie/ there is NO communication with either ex, and there is nothing I can do about that) and wounded self-esteem (ie/ I rejection of all communication making me feel “worthless”).

So logically, I know what’s going on in my head, but Og dammit! It’s so hard to translate that into any useful “good resting” strategy. Lemme tell ya, starting the day in a panic sucks! I could grimace and bear the nightmares, but starting every day with the irrational panic of needing to do “something” is a pisser!

Oh, I see. Well, at the risk of sounding terribly simplistic, why don’t you do something, then? Assuming you’re actually awake at this point, get up and throw something in the washing machine (if you wanna spend the night here, I have two piles of laundry you’re welcome to.) Or iron something that’s really wrinkly - there’s a real feeling of accomplishment in that!

Did you ever read the book “Silence of the Lambs”? There’s a scene in which the main character gets very frustrating news, and her instant reaction (right after her justifiable fury) is “What can I do, RIGHT NOW?” and she takes a shower, sews a button on her jacket and makes her bed. It’s not anything productive to the problem of the moment, but functioning in a practical manner and having a result she can see immediately helps to calm her. Might that help you?

Learning some deep relaxation exercises sounds like a good idea. You’ve identified the irrational thought (“I must do something”), so you’ve probably got some positive self-talk too (like “I am accomplished, I’ve done X, Y and Z”).