If you wake up in a panic
Waking up panicking after a nightmare is a terrifying experience, so :
- Be kind to yourself immediately afterwards. Make yourself comfortable. Take whatever relaxation measures work for you.
- Try to remember that having the nightmare, as painful as it is, is part of remembering and healing.
- Decide whether you need to be on your own right now.
- It can be good to talk about how you are feeling. If you’re with a partner who is willing to be woken then tell them what is happening and how you feel. Ask them for what support you need whether it is a cuddle or a cuppa.
- If you’re on your own, is there anyone you can ring to talk it through? Consider using the Samaritans if you’re feeling desperate. Try to tell a supportive person as soon as is practical afterwards. Sharing the nightmare is a way of breaking the isolation and getting support with the terror of it.
- Be gentle with yourself for the rest of the day. Be prepared for the nightmare to leave you feeling more vulnerable.
Nightmares are terrifying. When you experience such fear you can feel vulnerable. This does not make you weak or unmanly. Nightmares are a part of the process of recovery – an unpleasant part. It takes courage and strength to experience them and reach out for support.
CONTROLLING PANIC AND SUDDEN DISTRESS
Starting to remember and deal with your abuse can lead to distressing feelings. These include :
- High anxiety and panic.
- Sudden memories of the abuse forcing their way into your thoughts.
- Flashbacks, in which you seem to relive the abuse.
- Suddenly feeling that you’re a boy again, feeling as you did at the age you were abused.
- Suddenly seeing, hearing, sensing or feeling something/someone which/who isn’t actually present.
These distressing experiences may recur throughout your recovery, but they can be a particular feature of crisis. When you experience them you can feel out of control. They appear to come out of the blue – but usually there is something which has triggered them. A trigger can be anything that reminds you of the abuse, for instance :
- Becoming a parent, reminding you of your own childhood.
- Having a child who reaches the same age as you when you were abused.
- A sight, smell, sound or touch that reminds you of the abuse. Anything that reminds you of the abuser.
- Seeing something on T.V. or in the newspapers about sexual abuse.
- Medical procedures and examinations which involve people touching you or seeming to have control over your body.
- Any contact you still have with the abuser.