I’ve always had a pretty vivid imagination and would tend to have nightmares at times of stress. Since losing Isobel, my nightmares have become crazily detailed with intricate plot lines that seem to span hours of time. They aren’t recurring in the sense that it’s the same storyline over and over, however there does tend to be a theme of death or imminent death and me either being powerless, or trying desperately in vain to stop it from happening. This theme is apparent even in my normal dreams where I’ll be trying to make a phone call and repeatedly press the wrong button on the keypad or I’ll be trying to drive a car but from the back seat.
My normal nightmares don’t bother me too much, if they gets too intense I can wake myself up and I don’t tend to be upset after them. On a number of occasions however I have had lucid nightmares, where I know I’m having a nightmare and yet I can’t change it, stop it, or wake myself up. If my other dreams feel like hours, these ones feel like days of pure torture. I am paralysed, completely unable to act, I scream but don’t make a sound. I know that it’s a nightmare and that it’s not real but the feeling of being trapped is so real. Sometimes I think I’ve managed to wake up but then the nightmare starts again and I realise I’m still asleep. These dreams are horrible and when I wake up my heart is racing, my body filled with tension and my throats feels raw from screaming even though I haven’t really made a sound. It takes me a few minutes to accept that I’m awake now and it’s over. Then I don’t want to close my eyes again or go back to sleep. Simon is normally woken up by my gasping and we have a cuddle and I have a cry.
I was chatting to a psychologist friend about the most recent lucid dream I had last week. We were talking about the sense of powerlessness in the dreams and how that of course connects with Isobel’s death and my inability to do anything to save her. We were talking about different trauma therapies and how it might be helpful to see a therapist to help me process this a bit more.
I was imagining myself being free of nightmares, these trauma symptoms being gone and it made me realise that I still feel like I deserve these symptoms. In connection with my beliefs of my own responsibility for not saving Isobel, some part of me thinks that having to experience these distressing dreams is a fitting punishment. In a strange way, my ongoing emotional difficulties are also my ongoing connection with Isobel. If I’m fine, if I have no more distress, then is it just like Isobel never existed at all?
I know this doesn’t really make sense, or at least only makes a kind of sense. Which makes me realise just how complicated people and minds are!
I’ve been googling lucid dreams and I think the strategy is to learn to control the events of the dreams so maybe that’s something to work on! Any one else suffer from nightmares? Any tips?
These are some of the photographs of Isobel that we have in our living room, there is another single one on the TV unit and another in the hall. So far, we don’t actually have any pictures of Theo printed out or on display!
My mum asked me recently if I could print her this picture of Theo as the ones she has up in her house aren’t her favourites and she liked this one. I found myself feeling really angry, and not understanding why until I thought about it later. My mum and dad only have one picture of Isobel in their house and mum deliberately picked the one below that you can’t really see Isobel in. My dad has said before that he doesn’t feel comfortable seeing pictures of Isobel so I think mum has avoided putting one up because of him and maybe other visitors too.
Even though I understand why, I am cross that one of my children is good enough to be displayed by their grandparents and one of them is not. To me, they are equal, but this photograph issue and so many other things remind me constantly that to the eyes of others, Theo matters and Isobel does not.
I feel angry and sad that we don’t have more pictures of Isobel. Even though we took literally hundreds of pictures in the four days we had with her, if there aren’t already more pictures of Theo, there soon will be. Our house will be filled with images of Theo, in different poses and clothes, different places and seasons, getting older and older (I hope!), but there will never, ever, be any more pictures of Isobel. Those hospital photos, that one babygrow, that look of pure trauma on our faces, are all we will ever have. I think I’ve resisted putting up pictures of Theo because I don’t want him to overtake Isobel on our walls, in the same way a mother with two living children wouldn’t have significantly more pictures of one than the other. I also have more of a need to see Isobel’s face in pictures, as I can see Theo’s adorable wee face any time.
We are moving house soon, we are buying our first house (how I feel about moving from this one may be another post). I am definitely going to put up some pictures of Theo when we move. I just don’t know how I will feel when we have more of Theo than of Isobel.
I’ve been very involved with Baby Loss Awareness month this year. As well as completing Capture Your Grief, I did an interview for a local newspaper, had an article published on Still Mothers that was shared on Facebook over 1000 times, attended the screening of Still Loved where my husband spoke on the Q and A panel and presented my therapeutic retreat proposal to a SANDS committee to successfully secure funding.
As wonderful and worthy as all of that is, and as much as I love being able to talk about Isobel and share her story, it is really draining too. The flip side of every experience of speaking out or sharing something is that ache in my chest, that sick feeling in my throat, the sadness that I am doing this because my baby died. I swing between embracing this life that I’m living, and feeling extreme resentment that this is my experience. I move between the numbness of it almost not seeming real and the gut wrenching reality slap that it actually happened. And in lots of ways is still happening on a daily basis.
There is no doubt that many things are easier than they were last year. I’m sure to people on the outside, I seem back to my normal self a lot of the time. And that’s not a wholly false perception. I feel so different than the old me but yet more recognisable to myself than I was last year. I’ve gotten used to having part of my mind always thinking hard thoughts and to being intermittently swept away in sadness or anger or guilt. I know now that the intensity of those feelings will always ease after a while and that I can cope until it does. Sometimes I’m afraid to say things like this though, because I worry people will think I’m better and although I’m not quite sure why, that scares me.
I think this description of grief is excellent. It’s not something I will ever be finished with, but it is something that I can absorb and still live a meaningful life while carrying. I’m both sad and relieved that Capture Your Grief is over for another year. I am thankful to everyone who shared their hearts, who read my posts and to Carly Marie for creating such a beautiful outlet for our thoughts and feelings. Until next year…