Tips for Managing PTSD Related Nightmares
There is a tremendous amount of trauma and stress when a person has a severe chronic illness like IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). I have written about that a good amount on this site (know there are a lot of articles on the site about trauma/ptsd/mental health🙂 ) so I don’t want to bore you with the why.
Plus, if you are someone who has a form of IBD (Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis) or are a loved one of someone with the disease, you don’t need me to talk to you about stress and trauma. Heck, you’re an expert! An expert in something you wish you were naive to (or is that just me?) but still, someone who doesn’t need me to explain why stress and trauma can often accompany inflammatory bowel disease.
The mental health impact that living with a chronic, invisible illness like IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) can cause is insurmountable in so many ways. The emotional toll alone can wreak havoc on both the patient and their family/close friends. There are a lot of great articles on this website that I highly recommend you take a look at if you are someone who is feeling alone, or like the emotional toll that your disease is taking on you is just too much. I have been there and reading other people’s experiences about mental health (something I never thought I would EVER feel comfortable doing myself) calmed me. It made me realize that it wasn’t me who was the problem. It was my disease and the way I responded to it was very “normal.”
Anyway, the reason I bring this up today is because I have been having a slew of bad nightmares lately and it got me thinking about ways to “snap myself out of it” for lack of better wording. Those of you who experience or have experienced PTSD related nightmares know that it isn’t the norm to just wake up, get out of bed and continue on with the day you had planned as though nothing happened. Sometimes we can, depending on the severity. And for some people, there is no choice so we just have to move forward with the day. But even though the tasks are being completed, it doesn’t mean that your brain and body aren’t reacting to the trauma you were forced to relive the previous night.
Some things I have found to be helpful are:
Have a good cry if you need. Letting go of those emotions can be helpful and healing. There is no shame in crying!
Talk to someone. Someone close to you or a professional. Sometimes the very act of sharing with someone will remind you that you are not in that place anymore and it was only a dream. Even though it can feel like you are reliving it.
Focus on pets. I focus on my dogs. Animals are the epitome of innocence, goodness and unconditional love. Sometimes just being near one or watching an animal can snap you back into the moment. They are also great for reminding you that there is a life outside of illness.
If possible, take a shower. I know that isn’t an easy feat when you are in a flare up, recovering from surgery or just downright don’t feel well. Doing something in that department such as brushing your hair, brushing your teeth, washing your face, or changing clothes (even if it is just a different pair of pajamas) usually helps me somewhat.
We are all different in the way our bodies and minds cope with all we have gone through and continue to experience as a person who suffers from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). I hope you know that you are far from alone.
As an example…
I received a message from someone who said he/she was panicking because he/she could smell the hospital scent even though he/she was at home. I told this person that it happens to me often and I believe it is a symptom of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Once I mentioned the fact that 1) I have experienced the same thing and 2) that I did believe it was due to his/her PTSD, although I am not a medical professional, he/she felt a bit better.
Knowing you aren’t alone and understanding the reasons why you think and feel and react a certain way is crucial to your overall wellbeing. Feeling like a freak or crazy for experiencing what people who go through trauma tend to go through is an awful feeling. It can make you feel hopeless, especially when you don’t know anyone else who gets it.
I want anyone reading this to know you are not crazy. You are not the only person who experiences this kind of thing. You are not weak for having an emotional reaction to life with inflammatory bowel disease. You are just the way you should be. You are human!
I do highly encourage connecting with someone else (with the internet nowadays, it does make it a bit easier) because it truly changed my life. However, I also know that it has to happen when YOU are ready. No one can force it. Trust me, my parents tried. ; )
Have you discovered any other ways to kind of snap out of PTSD related nightmares? I would love to hear them!