Sleep, Dreams and No Sleep-PTSD

November 29, 2012

When I first came home from Vietnam, of course I was excited and somehow just expected that things would revert back to the ways things were when I left.  I moved back in with my parents, since I was still single and jobless I had a little money from military separation but my parents wanted me to save it and enjoy myself and take some time to decide what was to be my next step in my life.

With no real responsibilities except to work my way into readjustment to civilian life, staying out late and drinking was the number #1 activity. I would come in late, or early may be a better term, drop into bed and sleep.  Since there was nothing really to get up for I’d sleep in.  It seemed like I was always too tired to get up.  My days were sort of turning upside down.

My parents, I guess, were encouraging me to do whatever I needed to do. I’m not sure if they sensed something or not. When I would finally get up, I would have nothing that had to be done or to accomplish so I had plenty of time to think  and remember.  The days were filled with nothing except looking forward to getting out, getting drunk and trying to forget. Then the cycle would repeat itself.

When I started to be concerned about all the drinking I was doing, I tried to curtail it by going to bed earlier and skip some of the night life activities.  It was then that I started having difficulty getting to sleep.  My mind would go back to memories of Vietnam that I really didn’t really want to think about but I couldn’t get some of the images in my mind.  Getting to sleep was a problem.  When I would finally get to sleep, my dreams, many times, would startle me awake.  My personal dreams were not so specifically about the War, as I recall, although the way I would awaken seemed to indicate that there was something terrible in them.  Sometimes I couldn’t even remember what it was that I was dreaming, which was even worse.   I would suddenly open my eyes, jump up and feel my heart beating at triple time. Upon awakening I was on the alert and I couldn’t come down off this feeling of panic.

When I realized it was just a dream, I’d then try and go back to sleep but I would toss and turn and never really get a good night sleep.  In the morning I would be so groggy that I sometimes couldn’t even get out of bed.  So my PTSD depression was jerking me around.  Sometimes all I wanted was to get the relief of my eyes closed and could barely keep them open but I was always afraid of the terrible awakenings.  I couldn’t get to sleep dreading the dreams.

I always had heard that sleep was the way the body had to rejuvenate and repair itself to face the rigors of being awake.  Sleep was something that I both craved and feared. Sometimes the dreams were so vivid that I could swear that they were real, more specific dreams about my time in Vietnam.  When I awoke I was so thankful that they were only dreams. Did you know that doctors say that sleep deprivation can lead to insane behaviors? It is one of the tortures they use on enemies captured in War.

Alcohol honestly seem to help me sleep.  Not just a drink to calm me down but drinking so that I could simply collapse and not think about anything.  I must stress that alcohol is not a good answer.  It disturbs your sleep patterns and ultimately does just the reverse of what I wanted the desired effects to be.  I understand the allure of alcohol and drugs and why this is a serious side issue for PTSD sufferers.

The longer you wait to address your PTSD feelings the harder they are to break.  Here I am 40 years later and some of my PTSD still sometime creeps into my otherwise normal dream World.  You are not alone with these feelings and there are thousands of us who suffer to varying degree with PTSD.  This unfortunately is now your new “Normal” and you need to understand it and get tools and help to fight your personal battle with PTSD. PTSD will not go away on its own.  You need to take action.  Someone once said, “The pain is the same, it is the circumstances that are different”

It is still free to blog here and it will start your PTSD healing process.  The light of day is the best disinfectant.    It doesn’t matter what you say.  You are taking only a baby step.  Your voice will become clearer the more you are willing to try.