Last night I was kept awake by Bonfire Night revellers until 3am. Yet from 3am onwards I managed to squeeze in 3 nightmares: (1) a Pure Evil nightmare where a serial murderer is on the loose, (2) a 'moving house' nightmare (regular anxiety-generated theme) where the removal men are about to arrive but I haven't packed anything and keep finding things that need packing, have run out of boxes, etc etc and don't actually WANT to move house in the first place, and (3) an example of a flashback nightmare-in-disguise. Flashbacks - and flashback nightmares - are a classic symptom of PTSD. However my flashback nightmares have always been slightly different from the 'textbook' version.
Rather than being a frame-by-frame re-run of traumatic events they 'represent' the events. In last night's dream I was living in a student apartment. When I went to bed I found the bed was full of men (!). I was screaming at them to get out, that this was my flat and not theirs, but no-one was listening to me. So I fled to a kind of Help Desk. By this time I was in a real state, crying, shouting, etc - yet the man behind the Help Desk was completely ignoring me, serving people who had minor problems e.g. lost keys, etc.
No-one was listening to me, no matter how loud I yelled and wept, and no matter how frantic I became.
The setting was obviously nothing to do with the trauma of dealing with my son's eating disorder, but it was very clear to me that the emotions and the 'being ignored' / 'trying to get myself heard' situation was a flashback to those months when I was being ignored by the medical profession: when I was desperately trying to get my son diagnosed and treated for his escalating anorexia... when I was trying to persuade the 'powers that be' that my son needed to be seen urgently, not in 6 months' time... when I was battling with 'less helpful' advice from his treatment tea, even that I was being blamed for his eating disorder because I was an 'anxious parent' (show me a parent who isn't anxious when faced with a potentially deadly eating disorder!!!!).
And so on and so forth.
For so long, no-one was listening to me, no matter how much noise I made. And, as time went along, it became clearer and clearer to me that my son's life was at stake.
This element of left-over trauma may be something that my therapist and I could focus on at this week's EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)session on Friday.
To be honest, the jury is still out as to whether EMDR will work for me or not. Despite the evidence for its efficacy, I am sceptical. But time will tell, I guess...