- Try to get into the habit of taking exercise during the day.
- Avoid coffee and tea in the evening – it’s a stimulant and keeps you aware.
- Avoid literature on survivors’ issues just before bedtime.
- If you’re with a partner see what help they’re prepared to offer. Will they read to you before bedtime, or give you a massage? They have their own need for sleep too, but it is worth asking what they can do to help you.
- Avoid alcohol and non-prescribed drugs. If you’re not sleeping it’s tempting to ‘knock yourself out’ just to get through the night, but it rarely works. As well as carrying dangers of addiction, alcohol usually makes you wake up to go to the loo in any case.
You may be wondering whether to take sleeping pills. It’s certainly worth talking to your G.P., as well as to any other professionals you’re involved with. Problems with sleep can also be a symptom of depression and if you’re depressed your doctor may prescribe you an anti-depressant to help you sleep and lift your mood. Doctors claim anti-depressants are very successful in treating depression. Other types of sleeping pill can be addictive and are usually only prescribed on a short-term basis. It’s worth talking to your G.P., seeing what advice they can offer, then weighing up whether any of it seems useful to you. Remember that pills alone are not the answer for dealing with abuse and are not a substitute for a good Support Team. The mental health charity MIND publishes independent factsheets on medication which are well worth consulting when making your decision.
Coping with nightmares
Men who have been abused as boys often experience distressing nightmares. The nightmares can include :
- Direct re-creations of the abuse
- Children being harmed or killed
- Scenes of death and violence
- Being chased or otherwise assaulted
- Being humiliated or put in a powerless position.
The emotion attached to the nightmare is often one of absolute terror.
Nightmares are like flashbacks and sudden unpleasant memories in that they represent the abuse suddenly breaking through into awareness.
They are very distressing and hard to get rid of. Whilst they are difficult to cope with, some guidance might be useful :
- Make sure you’ve got some ‘talking’ help with the issue of the abuse. Being able to talk about the way sexual abuse has affected you with a trusted counsellor, therapist, or friend should reduce the number and intensity of nightmares over time. Being able to share it seems to reduce the need for the abuse to ‘break through’ in the form of a nightmare.
- Whilst they are terrifying, nightmares are also a painful part of healing. It is like the mind is remembering what happened and trying to make some sense of it.
- Some people suggest that you can ‘take charge’ of your nightmare. In other words, turn the tables on whoever is attacking or abusing you during the nightmare. Whilst this may be possible in some cases it’s certainly not true for everyone. Don’t give yourself a hard time if this isn’t true for you.