TW: Birth trauma, nightmares, PTSD
Today has been eventful and emotional. I had my second online CBT session by text. Unfortunately, anyone that knows me knows that my brain works at 100mph and texting therapy was just making me more anxious. I would watch the minutes go down on the clock feeling like time was escaping and like I would never have enough time to fix things.
At about 10 minutes in I started crying, a lot. I felt trapped in questionnaires and like I would never get help. Luckily One of my best friends Dave called and confirmed it was time to ask for face to face support. The CBT therapist was amazing and has referred me for face to face and so the waiting begins again.
This week has been full of both love and anxiety. I’m so lucky that I have an amazing bond with our 5 month old Harper and we get to see family and do classes together throughout the week. But I also ended up in A&E with chest pains (likely anxiety) and unable to go into the hospital, because of PTSD from her birth, so instead waited outside for 2 hours.
I dream of being in a hospital every night, even if what I’m dreaming about has nothing to do with hospitals, that is always the setting. I actually wrote a blog a couple of weeks ago explaining it all that I have yet to post.
Today I just wanted to share the nightmare that I had 4 weeks ago. One that I feel sums up how I feel perfectly but in a rather abstract way. I’m not entirely sure of the reason I’m sharing. Maybe it helps to share, maybe I hope it might make others feel less alone.
I’m fine, I will be fine and I’m so happy. Anxiety and mental health just has a funny way of making this life a rollercoaster.
Somewhere in the universe…
Weeds and concrete – 20 weeks later
I have woken from a dream tonight that was uneventful and extremely significant, terrifying, and detailed at the same time. I woke at 2:30am, it is now 5:30am and after lots of Google searches on post partum haemorrhage and retained placenta I still can’t sleep because I cant shake this awful feeling of dread.
I have had a couple of nightmares recently that have lasted what feels like minutes and that have been relatively uneventful but terrifying at the same time, enough to shock me awake.
My dream was based in theatre. No one spoke about why we were there, my body felt fine and yet invaded at the same time. I knew something was going to happen, something needed to happen but I didn’t know what. I wasn’t told and I didn’t ask. I just sat and waited for them to prepare.
In a theatre room.
Outside the room was derelict weeds and concrete as far as the eye could see. No buildings. An old abandoned wasteland in the middle of an unspoken or acknowledged tragedy. It looked like what I can only describe what it must be like to return to Chernobyl in present day. It felt unbreathable outside of the dirty smeared windows that spanned the entire left side of the theatre room. Despite that we didn’t acknowledge it. It almost felt deceitful. Like I was somewhere ‘other’ not where I was supposed to be but unable to talk about it.
One of the midwives was washing her hands in the basin to the right of the head of the ‘bed’. I use the term bed loosely, it was a slab of smooth silver with mental legs and steps. We kept talking about how damaging hand washing was but how necessary it had become. Particularly in her role as a lung disease surgeon. Which of course left me wanting to hold my breath. It was spoken about as if it were something highly transmissible but something we just had to forget about and move past as we both shared the air in that small space. Covid.
I felt alone in that place because I was alone. Not only was I in a theatre without my husband or baby, I was alone in the world, the world was shut for business and life due to the pandemic. There were no friends there were no family. Come to think of it there were no doctors in that room which only furthered my anxiety about what we would do when it all went wrong. Subconsciously my mind remembered being pregnant and having a baby in a real pandemic.
I badly needed the toilet which would delay things if I left the room. The more I process it I realise I couldn’t leave the room. I was trapped there because all that existed was the room. The doors were not real, no one was coming in and no ones was leaving. I was not ever leaving. I offered to take one of the cardboard dishes and go in the corner of the room. The midwife confirmed that would be a good idea. In my actual story (not in my dream) and reality I hadn’t been allowed to leave the hospital until I had been to the toilet twice in a kidney bean dish and done at least 500ml each time. (Yes very dignified). I went multiple times before they were happy for me to go. Constantly drinking jugs of water. I actually asked if I could have 2 jugs at one point so I could just get it done and get out of there.
Had that experience in reality caused me to become trapped in my dream? That place was the only place I could exist in, outside of the unbreathable air and concrete weeds beyond the window. Yet it did not feel like a safe place to be. There was no where to run and no where to hide.
The room itself was clean but old. Like a scene from a theatre room decades ago. Everything was sterile and nothing was friendly or inviting. The walls were plain and empty. The tools were freshly polished and clinical. The room was empty and full at the same time. All I could see clearly was the metal bed, the metal basin on the wall and the midwives. A majority of the rest was not visually blurred but mentally. I knew there were lights and tools. But no door and no anaesthetic or drip.
Strangely, and rather, un inkeeping with the scene, the midwives appeared trust worthy. They were friendly and smiled the whole time. It was a strange dichotomy between their experience of reality and mine. Almost like there weren’t really there, just in my imagination. I was actually as I had felt all along, alone.
So much happened in that short time that seemed to last a life time and yet it was just that, short. The concept of time in my dream almost didn’t exist but as I woke it was likely less than 5 minutes; the parts I can remember.
I half expected to see a deer outside the window with 2 heads or a distorted malformed face.
As I write this I am now wondering if I were dead and I can feel an actual physical pressure in my stomach as that realisation hits. My dream had me trapped in some sort of limbo, an alternate world that I could not escape. On a plane where time did not exist and neither did my material surroundings.
I balanced in a dystopian tragedy, closing in on me, protected only by the thinly veiled walls of the theatre room.
And whilst I felt like nothing was happening, I wasn’t afraid but somewhere, some part of me was terrified and screaming. I can only relate that to the calmness displayed by the medical staff in my actual reality. Whilst I was experiencing a post partum haemorrhage, they were extremely quick moving but calm at the same time. The fear atomised and filled the air we were breathing but the team were immune. Part of me wonders if that contributes to my confusion and inability to let go. Like a deceit was taking place. The rational part of me says thank goodness they were so incredible and knew exactly what to do.
That theatre room is a box. A small box of concrete in a world where nothing and no one else exists. I can see that box from the outside as though I am looking down on it from the side, hovering in that heavy unbreathable air. I am trapped in that box, on that cold table. Surrounded by the smiling faces of strangers that don’t actually exist.
I don’t think I have actually left that room in my dream. I’m still there but I’m awake. There is a part of my consciousness trapped in that room that can’t get out. (And she probably still really bloody needs the toilet). She is alone and surrounded by haze. Her only reality the metal bed, the metal basin, a handful of midwives and those dirty windows that span the entire length of the left side of the room. Looking out into the expanse of weeds and concrete.