Saturday, September 7, 2013

Facing the nightmares of the past

Note: a very mild trigger warning for rape survivors, skip the first paragraph. 

A few nights ago I fell into an eerie, physical terror. It took hold with a strong sensation of being pinned and assaulted as I fell asleep. The sensation of forceful hands was still on my skin like a tangible presence even once I woke completely.

Needless to say I didn't sleep well for the rest of the night. The dream was as vivid as if it had been a real event, even the next morning.... Then I realized that it was actually something from the past that I'd managed to forget. There were a lot of those moments back then.

After the near-sleepless night and a day filled with waves of dizziness and tension, I was afraid I'd have another nightmarish night.

Years ago when the source of the dream was my daily life, I didn't trust the few people I could have turned to for help, thinking they'd push me away. I smothered my feelings and managed to forget ... nearly everything. I don't have many memories of those years, positive or negative.

But over the last few years I've been practicing trusting my friends. In the last year I was even able to ask for encouragement during my struggles, instead of waiting till after they were through to talk about it.

So I talked about it with a friend who has been visiting for the last couple days, appreciating how she let me talk when I wanted to talk, then distracted me from the problem when I was ready to be distracted. But when her family returned to the hotel for the evening, I was still wrapped in tension.

Ree and Mica were not yet online in their respective time zones, and I thought about messaging a few others, but they weren't available yet either. My kids were safely in bed, and I was on my own.

Usually, I'd huddle down with a book and hope to dream about the story instead, but this time another idea kept nagging for attention.

If only I could talk to Hawk for a few minutes ... it would be enough to calm me.

I sat there and fought through my fear of rejection.... The truth is if I'm going to call him my friend, I have to treat him as a friend. And that means trusting him and reaching out for help when I have a hard time, just as I hope he would do with me.

This is the sort of thing I need friends for.

So I texted and asked if we could talk for just a few minutes so he could help me process something that was haunting me. My hands shook as I hit send. The screen filled my entire vision as I realized I'd actually done it.

A couple minutes later my phone rang. I jumped a mile, since I had the volume up too loud.

It was so hard to let the words out as I explained about the dream, told him how it was messing with me,... and that I was hoping, since his voice calms me so well, that maybe he would talk to me for a few minutes about his day or something and help me.

His voice was so gentle. He asked a few questions to understand what had happened, then just said, "I understand what dreams can do." Then he told me about his week, that he felt like he was coming down with something, that he was planning to take a walk once we finished talking.... I wanted to cry it was such a relief to listen to him and feel concern for him instead.

When I laughed at a funny moment in his story, he paused for a moment. "It's good to hear you laugh." He always calms me. My emotions settle and I'm able to think more clearly for a day or two after.

I had told him I'd only take a few minutes, so moved to end the conversation as he finished his story  even though (I believe) he would have stayed on the phone with me longer. I could easily think too highly of him, this is clear. I'm a 'little' idealistic when I like anyone.

So far he always overwhelms me by surpassing my small hopes for common courtesy with genuine kindness and compassion. It was so healing to reach out fearfully and find our friendship sturdy, strong enough to keep me from falling apart.

I chatted with a few other friends that evening, letting them know to check on me and see how I'm doing, and catching up on their lives. When I fell asleep I was calm and not a single dream remained with me when I woke yesterday morning, feeling rested.

Trust is difficult.

It's easy to break friendships when they are founded on false fronts, masks, or idealized views of who someone must be. It's easy to decide this breaking is inevitable and never trust anyone in an attempt to prevent it.

It is worth the pain of breaking my heart to discover the strong relationships. I won't know their strength unless I give them a chance to break. The surprising thing, though, is how very strong I have found my closest friendships to be.

I couldn't have imagined this when I lived trapped in fear.

I needed to write this event out to face it ... which is why I'm sharing this. I was actually mid-composition on comparing my past and present views on friendship when the dream yanked me into this post instead, so that should be up soon.