‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Saturday, January 17, 2009

'Dark Night' Aftermath Report

This morning I let Anastasia sleep in late...really late. I figured she needed sleep, if even to help her process whatever was going on for her last night. When I woke her at noon (yes, noon) she responded to me in her baby voice -- a sure sign that she is needed extra nurturing and cuddles. I crawled into bed with her and just held her and sang while she rocked. She not only rocks at night but pretty much whenever she is feeling vulnerable. So, she rocked and I sang the song that makes her feel better, while I ran my fingers through her hair.

" Mom I had a really bad and weird dream last night, but I don't want to tell you about it." Now, knowing my daughter, I knew that this meant she did want to tell me about it but was embarrassed or ashamed.

" You know you can tell me anything and I won't laugh or get mad or think you're crazy. You can tell me if you need to." I tried to affirm.

" But it's really embarrassing and I don't know what it means."

After some gently nudging, she said she would tell me the dream if she didn't have to face me while she told me. "That's fine." I told her. She rolled on her side and continued rocking while she relayed the dream.

The dream involved her being in a huge, sterile house - with lots of rooms, that sat high up on a hill. (This sounds something like her orphanage, by the way.) This home, in her dream, was the home of her best friend Julia, whom she grew up with in the orphanage. In the dream she was visiting Julia and was in a bed in a large room. She looked down to see that she had a huge erect penis. She described it as being almost two feet tall. It was bright red and "very scary". It was sticking out of the covers and it would "not go down". While she lay there feeling scared and exposed, a small dog with sharp teeth came in the room, rushed on the bed and ripped off half of the penis. She said she screamed from the pain, and then she saw the dog holding the half-penis in its mouth, and raw meat was squirting out of the bitten end -- "like raw hamburger", she said. Then suddenly two men were after her and Julia, wanting to murder them, and they had to rush out of the house and parachute off the hill to get away from them. Then she woke up.

Now, I won't even pretend to know what the dream means, but my gut tells me it is tied into her behavior the last few days, and last night. I'm wondering if some of the sexual abuse she experienced happened in January and this is causing the anxiety, sadness, clingy-ness and bad dreams of late. I know we are very cyclical creatures. I know I personally tend to revisit past traumas around the same time they happened, and not usually consciously. I'm grasping at straws, but that's what I'm thinking is happening with her.

Today we spent most of the day at my friend Julie's house, helping her fix her computer. Anastasia was abnormally quiet the whole time, wanted a blanket, and wanted to stay cuddled on her couch in silence the entire time. This is not the norm for her. And all morning before we left for Julie's, she spoke in that same baby voice. I just let her. I could tell it was something she just needed to do, so I tried to mother her more, baby her and hope I was giving her what she needed.

If there are any dream analysts out there, I'd love to hear your thoughts. She does not often have sexual dreams, and penis imagery only usually comes up during times of great stress - hence my guess that it is abuse related.

So, things here are calming down a bit now. It feels like this few days of dysregulation are coming to a close. I'm guessing, from past experience, that she will be back to her normal self before the weekend is out. I wish I knew better how to guide her through these tough times. I wish I could just experience them for her, but that's sadly never going to happen.

Anyway, feel free to chime in with your thoughts. I'm curious to know what others might make of this dream. I'm going to go hang out with her and the animals on the couch for awhile. Peace.


  1. Like you, my first thought was abuse. Bless your poor daughter. It's very common for abuse survivors to totally blank their abuse from their conscious minds but it can, and often does, come through in the form of dreams, night terrors and other subconscious behaviours. as you've also guessed sometimes it does rear its ugly head around the tie of year it took place. As i've said before, thank the Gods that she has you to help her through this nightmare. Your behaviour and responses to her words can make all the difference to the start of her recovery. As she see's that you aren't horrified or repulsed by her admissions (she probably blames herself for at least part of what happened, however wrong that is)that in itself will be such a help to your girl. I know that if anyone can help that precious girl then you are the lady to do that. Good luck, to both of you xXx

  2. How completely horrifying!! It sounds definately abuse related to me - and probably more like a flashback. Obviously it isn't a direct flashback, but elements of it probably are. And, it's very likely the subconscious seeking some healing. When stuff like this happens with my son, I often GENTLY ask him if anything like that ever happened to him in real life. Most of the time the answer is a horrified no...at first. If it is, I just leave it alone and move on with life. But, there have been times when he's actually told me about similar real events. He doesn't usually tell me about them at the time I ask, but he'll come to me later on and tell me about them. And when he does, the nightmares greatly diminish.

    I can always tell when my son is cooking up a new "trauma bomb" to share with us because he, too, gets really disregulated for several days before. The nightmares also increase as well. This is actually typical PTSD behavior.

  3. Anonymous1:02 AM

    I certainly am no dream analyst by any means nor do I have truly have any idea about the meaning behind her dream. I wish I did, and, of course, I wish I had a magic wand to make all of her pain go away. However, understanding a bit about PTSD myself, I do know that "anniversaries" can be and often are heart-wrenching times for survivors. Whether that repressed pain comes up in the form of flashbacks, nightmares, body memories, depression, anxiety, etc., sadly, it is often bound to take a toll on the person/people who deserve it least. I am so impressed with Anastasia's ability to process her dream and to explain to you what happened. While she did readily admit she was embarrassed, overcoming that embarrassment and shame and telling another human being (you, her mom), what happened is truly incredible! Like the above post mentioned, with you, there is hope! The pain your girl went through will likely never go away, but your comforting, compassionate, non-judgmental stance on her feelings and dreams will truly make all the difference in the world. I know...

  4. Hey, your poor daughter's dream sounds absolutely horrible! I have a book called 21st Century Goddess. And it has a section on dreams and understanding them. Hope this can help.
    for Rape it says: Rape is a deeply personal violation. Dreaming of it suggests that you may be feeling robbed of choices or negated as a human being. In a dream, rape has very little to do with sex. It is about power, control, and anger. If you are a rape victim, the traumatic nature of this experience may cause you to have a dream like this from time to time as a way of helping you process the experience.
    for House (You said that your daughter dreamed in being in a building of sorts) it says:
    Houses usually symbolize our emotional and psychological selves. All of your experiences, stages of development, and parts of your conscious and unconscious life may be represented by a house in a dream.
    ~so, I dunno if that may further help you understand and interprete your daughters dream, but I hope that helps!! :)
    Wishing you and your daughter the best,

  5. Anonymous5:27 PM


    I hope you and A are doing well today, and I hope that each January will get a little better for Anastasia..


  6. I pray things improve each day for Anastasia. I know nothing about dreams, but I know you will do your best to comfort her and help her.

  7. Oh Keri...I think all your instincts about her dream are correct, and I too wish I had that magic wand...sending you both blog hugs and prayers...

  8. My heart is breaking for Anastasia...and for you. Its so difficult helping our kids rebuild their lives, but I want you to know you're doing a great job. Anastasia has come so far in her journey...you're helping her heal, one breakdown at a time.
    We're praying for both of you today...for strength and wisdom. ((hugs))

  9. Anonymous12:23 PM

    Nightmares are a normal manifestation when trying to come to terms with the emotional response to trauma. There are some techniques that might help your daughter with the negative self-talk however. I know because I am learning them myself (I am a woman approaching 60). I will share these with you in case you think they might help. First, she needs to name the negative talker so that over time, she learns that it is NOT HER. I call mine "the judge." Then, you can help her acquire ammunition with which to talk back. You might give her some written lists - "My mom loves me because..." "I am a good person because..." "my friends love me because..." "My siblings love me because...." When the negative thoughts start coming, she can stand up, put her hand out and say "stop Judge" (or whatever name has meaning to her) and start to read the lists out loud. Maybe you could put your painted flag approach to use and put some affirmations in her room. Anyway, you get the idea. Also, letting her talk it out is excellent - I have an adopted niece who experienced early sexual abuse, and her counselors have advised us all to let her talk it out in whatever way she needs to, and to avoid reacting with emotional shock or judgment (even though I want to kill the @#$*% every time I hear it!) Anastasia has a wonderful mother - best of luck to you both.


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