This blog is part 2 of a 3 part series
How do I give myself an advertising campaign while I’m asleep? I ask my hypnotherapist at our next session.
A fortnight after my first hypnotherapy session, the night terrors began. Dreams so scary, the only way to escape them was, was to turn on the lights and get out of bed, completely waking myself up. Each time I woke covered in sweat and a racing heart.
I’ve been implementing my new advertising campaign, as the therapist suggested in our last session.
Now when I’m tired, instead of moaning about it, I state, I’m resting, I’m having a rest now give me some space. It’s a backflip on my previous public relations message: “I’m super tired, my brain hurts”.
My new mantra is, I’m resting, my brain is healing.
My family go along with this, the new campaign catching, when I look particularly tired they tell me, Looks like you’re having a very RESTFUL day.
Yes, I’m having a REALLY RESTFUL day. I confirm.
And we smile at each other at the use of this forced positivity.
By using this scripted language, I’m reframing and reprogramming my internal dialogue to shift my focus onto the things I can do for myself instead of rehashing my symptoms.
These are old psychologist tricks, cognitive behavioural techniques which I would have found a breeze but until having a brain injury didn’t realise their power.
This practise has reminded of power of the brain. With these new words, I found new confidence in mind. I am able to get through the day without too much negativity.
During the day, I was conscious of my thoughts and could monitor and edit them, inserting my advertising campaign when a negative through came through. However, at night, it was a different story, I was at the mercy of my subconscious.
My dreams are the worst kind, they last all night I have to wake myself out of the dream, sometimes I can’t do that. I tell my hypnotherapist over the skype call. I haven’t slept through the night for over two weeks. I am wired and tired.
During these nightmares, I relived some of my deepest darkest fears. Fears I’d stuffed away in the back of my subconscious years ago and never really thought about.
Now my brain was unhinged, I was unable to stop the flow of thoughts in my mind. I had lost the ability to monitor and alter my own thoughts. My mind became an endless stream of fearful consciousness.
Fears that when I had a healthy brain I could consciously prevent from coming to the surface. I felt like my brain injury had pulled up the deepest darkest fears, fears I never thought about, fears I never even knew I had. Life became a frightening, a never ending nightmare.
What are these dreams about? My therapist asks, looking concerned.
They all have a similar theme. Being invaded, hunted down, an evil thing trying to kill me but I can never get away. I’m being chased around my apartment, hunted down like prey, I shut doors, lock windows, but they still get in. They climb up the walls, squeeze through gaps in the windows. They are trying to kill me. I can’t fend them off. They are desperate to get at me.
I’m scared, terrified. I’m under attack, I can’t stop it. I am alone in protecting myself from this evil force, no one is there to help me. I’m fighting back, but the evil overwhelms me. The hunt continues on until I am killed or I manage to wake myself up.
Your dream last night, what was trying to kill you?
I take a breathe in before answering. I picture this evil thing in my mind. I feel silly, pathetic even, for saying this outloud.
Kittens. Hundreds of kittens.
I breathe out and wait for my therapist’s reaction. I hate these evil kittens for keeping me awake all night, robbing me of my healing sleep.
The therapist stares at me intensely through the computer screen. She’s right there with me, she knows the kittens are real. I had nothing to worry about telling her. I sense, she gets it.
Get ready, she commands, close your eyes, you are now going under.
Is the butterfly still in the cave? The therapist asks.
Yes. I reply. She’s stuck there, lost in a dark tunnel.
Is anyone else in the cave?
I can’t see, it’s very dark.
Look a little harder.
Nope, I’m all alone, and scared – oh, wait.
What is it?
Something, I see a figure of some sort.
Can you see the hedgehog?
Yes, that’s what it is, a human sized hedgehog.
The hedgehog has found the secret door to the cave. She explains. He has bought a light. He shines the light on the butterfly. She can see the way out. The hedgehog is here to take her away from the darkness. The hedgehog holds her in a hug and takes her away. His spikes protect her from harm. They walk out the cave together.
Mindful meditation is a state of awake, being aware of your thoughts. The instructor explains.
I sit cross legged on my yoga mat. I am at a meditation class for the first time.
… this is different to straight meditation which is a trance. She continues. During this class you will be aware of your thoughts the entire time.
Great, this will be torture. I think. I needed a break from my thoughts and now I have to sit here and BE MINDFUL of them. I came to class because I wanted to gain more control of my thoughts and train my brain to control what was going up there.
As I close my eyes, my hands started shaking, trembling, my breathing becomes shallow again, all unconsciously. Now my arms numb from loss of circulation. I have no control over any of this.
I worry about sitting here watching my thoughts, as the instructor put it, I worry what my mind had inside it. I thought if I let my stream of consciousness go, I might see all my fears play out in front of me, just like the nightmares.
The instructor guides us through a visualisation and then left us for five minutes with our thoughts. I remember the kittens. I breathe. I see you kittens. I breathe again. I’m not afraid of you.
I remember how my dreams are intensifying each night, I only find relief by waking myself up.
The night before, I dreamed an axe murderer broke into my house. He chased me around every room of my house, until I was cornered in the kitchen. He raised the knife in front of me. I pleaded with him, please don’t do it, spare me, I’ve done nothing wrong. I couldn’t reason with him. He wanted to kill me.
Without mercy, he stabbed me in the face. I managed to wake myself with heart pounding like a drum, sweat pouring off me. I turned the lights on to determine what was reality. Am I dead? Nope. Ok, that didn’t really happen. This is real I tell myself. I am here, I am safe. I am alive.
If your mind wanders, bring it back to the present. I hear the instructor pulling me back to the present. I focus on being here and now in the room.
In my mind’s eye, I see the axe murderer. Breathe, that was NOT real. I try, but I can’t stop the scene of my violent death playing over and over again.
My body feels numb all over, my circulation slowing, my legs now numb and cold. I realise I’m holding my breath, I’ve forgotten how to breathe. This class was meant to be a simple one, sit on the mat and focus the mind. But in truth, I can’t stand to be in my body.
I’m not safe in my sleep, the kittens find me, I ponder, I’m not even safe on the yoga mat, the axe murder returns. I can’t trust my mind. How will I ever feel safe again?
Continued Part 3 – next week