I am doing a ton better than last week, I am pretty much stabilised and back to my usual up-and-down Borderline self. Out of hospital, back to work, back to life. However, one thing is different and it’s seriously unsettling: Nightmares.
For the last week or two, I have been having vivid and suffocating nightmares almost every night, then waking up in a confused and panicked sweat. The themes of the nightmares have been related to events of my past, and in them it feels as real as though I were awake; there is nothing dreamlike about them, so it’s hard to differentiate from reality.
I am wondering if as I approach trauma therapy (EMDR), even though I haven’t started the reprocessing part yet, talking and thinking about traumatic material in itself is having an impact on my subconscious already?
From what I’ve read, traumatic memories are held unprocessed in the brain alongside the attached emotions and physical sensations. During sleep, the brain continues to try and process the memory until it is resolved. That’s why people often feel a sense of clarity upon waking, when the brain has done its job of processing unresolved information successfully.
However, if a traumatic memory gets in the way, it often blocks that resolution. People will experience nightmares that they wake up from in the middle, before the brain has had the opportunity to process it fully. The emotions and sensations linger and can last well into the day. So although healthy nightmares lead to effective healing, interrupted nightmares mean that the healing process is disrupted. The nightmares continue, and it is a vicious cycle.
Maybe it has to get worse with EMDR, before it can get better?