I thought he had left my dreams. While his physical form is no longer present, he has taken other forms now. Ever since I started my current relationship, he shapeshifts into the form of my partner, Eric. I have awoken, my heart racing, to those familiar feelings of fear and inadequacy.
In these dreams, Eric gets that smug, snide grin on his face. The grin that says “you’re a fool for ever thinking you or your feelings mattered.” He will lie, conceal things, and make it seem like he is going to leave me, but never say it out loud. He just creates those feelings of insecurity so that his grasp remains around my neck.
In these dreams, I am chasing him around frantically, trying to convince him of my worth and begging him to talk to me as though my very existence depends on his love and acceptance of me – just like it did in my abusive marriage. Somehow he finds a way to sneak into my life again and again. Each time I need to take deep breaths and remind myself that it was just a dream, that Eric is not my ex-husband, and that I am safe.
Yet sometimes that is not enough. Sometimes I need to process my dreams and the feelings I am having with Eric. It is almost as though saying it out loud gives it less power over me – gives my ex-husband less power over me. Other times all it takes is reaching over and placing my hand on him. His warmth tells me he is near and that I am safe. Eventually, my breath slows and I drift off to sleep again.
I continue to come to the realization that even though I am healing and have made significant progress over the past six years, my trauma will likely impact me for the rest of my life. When I say that however, it is not in a self-pity kind of way. Rather, it is more like a matter of fact. As if saying, “I have the flu.” It sucks. No one wants to have the flu. Yet sometimes we get it and when we do, we give ourselves grace and practice self-care. I know I will get the flu again, but maybe this time I learned that soda crackers, ginger ale, and Epsom salt baths make it easier to cope with. I can take this experience and knowledge with me so that it isn’t as debilitating the next time I get the flu. So yes, my trauma will likely impact me for the rest of my life, but so will my resilience.
Photo: Flickr – Mildiou