Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Where my constant CPTSD nightmares come from

 Hi everyone. Part two on my history of nightmares and what I've learned about them. I've only recently begun to acknowledge how I was abused, neglected, abandoned, exploited, parentified, manipulated, shamed, shame dumped on, marginalized and gaslit by four parents, two bio and two step. What first made me start to relook at situations were the constant nightmares I experience every single night and have done since childhood. I described them in yesterday's post. 

I've talked to a lot of people and have not yet found anyone who has had nightmares anything like mine. In my dreams, I'm constantly being expected to do things for others but I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm caring for a big group of kids and adults, having to cook for, clean up after (including disgusting toilets and bathrooms), do mountains of laundry for, in unfamiliar circumstances which keep changing. I'm also trying to get people ready for some event or trip. Sometimes I'm even driving but the vehicle keeps changing and sometimes it's not even a vehicle. But again, I don't know what or where and no one is being at all cooperative.

In my dreams, I don't have the tools or resources. I don't know where I am or who I'm responsible for. And it keeps changing. Often I've lost a child and am terrified. Children get injured and drown. Often, I'm supposed to be teaching school and everyone is disobedient and yet I'm expected to make them mind. Very confusing and shifting. 

And though I am an adult in my dreams, I'm being chided and scolded like a child (or like I was as a child, not as I would treat kids). Other adults, usually my dad and stepmom are angry with me. They shame me like a naughty child and yet still expect me to do whatever it is they expect me to do but  have not communicated with me. Often, others are angry with me too but won't say what I've done. I think it's because I've been dysregulating (coming unglued). 

My dreams are always chaotic and upsetting or downright terrifying. I never have peaceful dreams. I have variations of these dreams so often that I'm not sure if it's a memory. I did some research and the closest I can come is PTSD nightmares that shell shocked combat veterans have. No, I wasn't in a war but did live in a constant minefield with the abuse, neglect, inappropriate expectations, shaming, abandonment, parentification and gaslighting. Like combat veterans, I've dealt with extreme, bizarre and terrifying situations, beginning at a very young age. I've always felt overwhelmed and terrified. I was unprepared for any of the terrible situations my parents put me in. 

The more I look objectively at my nightmares, the more I find their basis in reality. I've been parentified by parents since I can remember. The role reversal flip-flopped to extremes. I was the parent/adult and they were the children. They left me behind, left me out and abandoned, neglected, endangered and acted immaturely and impulsively, just as if I had been the adult. But then, they would suddenly become the parents, but in a very punitive, irrational and unpredictable way.  I was expected to read minds and comply. 

When they got divorced and then hooked up with other partners, I was parentified and expected to parent those partners as well. I was also weirdly infantilized being treated like a naughty child all the while doing their work and being responsible for them. Then beginning around age 11, I was expected to parent their children, including my  mother's foster care kids who were all special needs. I slept with them and got up at night with them while she slept in the basement with her boyfriend. They made me obey people who were not my parents or indeed mature enough to be parents. I was at the mercy of four very mercurial, demanding and disturbed people. 

My dad and stepmom made me sleep their babies and get up at night with them. At one point, they locked me in my youngest brother's room so my stepmom could sleep uninterrupted. I was working and going to school. They never asked how he did or if I got any sleep. I was so tired that I often fell asleep behind the wheel driving. 

They all also expected me to juggle many family tasks that they themselves did not help with. I did almost all the housework and still my dad would expect me to "fix" anything that was upsetting my stepmom. They would gaslight me into thinking it was my fault or that I had done something wrong. When my stepfather kicked me out of house at 16, I believed that I'd done something so terrible as to warrant that, when all I'd done was to come home an hour late.

And the adults who had parentified me, were also always angry with me, it seems. They never took responsibility for their own foolish, negligent choices and frequently destructive and illegal behavior. They never admitted any wrong. Somehow it was always my fault. And I believed and internalized it all. 

I can't now, as a mom and grandparent of 59, see how I believed it. I've inhaled so many toxic fumes from the lies and gaslighting they fed me that my brain is burned out. I can't remember how I thought or even who I was. I don't recognize me. I've dissociated, split and fragmented so much and so often that I'm either a bunch of people or no one. But one thing is certain, they were sure as hell convincing. 

It didn't help that I was constantly deprived in sleep, nourishment, love and support. Unknowingly, I went around being one big unmet need. I didn't even know that I needed or that I should need things. I believed I was selfish if I even needed, let alone expected, things others took for granted. Like a bed, or a home or appropriate responsibility or a good night's sleep or care or honesty. Being a family member with all due privileges as well as expectations. Those things I had no experience with. 

What I did know was being the family scapegoat, the brunt of sexual jokes and toxic shaming. I knew being bullied, exploited, endangered, coerced, gaslit, marginalized, abused and neglected. Being made to do adult things at a very young age with no preparation, tools or training. Being taught no  coping or safety skills. Being pushed in the deep end and expected to swim. Basically, I knew from a tiny girl that what others had in the way of good things, was not for me and that what I had, in the way of bad, was good enough for who it was for. 

Given all that, my dreams do make sense. 

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