DD distressing dreams/?memories - any experiences...?

(12 Posts)

DD was deliberately injured at 22 months and left with a 32% scald injury. She has no conscious memory of this, but has at a few points talked about dreaming of a man shouting (the perpetrator was a man) and a child screaming. That's all the dream seems to contain, but when she tells me about it it makes her cry. Could this be a real memory - albeit unconscious...? Or could it be an imagined thing that she's been thinking about and so it creeps into dreams...? The third option could be that it is an attention seeking thing - similarly real or imagined as DD has a tendency to want to be 'felt sorry for' - harsh this may sound I know, but before anyone jumps on me, it is a feature of DDs attachment disorder and something we just know about and deal with. She has had a few episodes of this such 'dream' over the last couple if years (she is 13) but it only seems to be an issue when she is struggling with something else - recently its been friendship stress at school. I am almost certain that when these settle again the 'dream' will miraculously disappear and not get another mention - for a while. I think it is a (generally unconscious) way of her saying, 'I need looking after a bit at the moment' As a result of this part of our parenting journey, I've let her tell me about this dream but not asked too much, kist let her talk and have been fairly low-key in my reactions. I've explained that although it is distressing, it is just a dream and that it cannot hurt her. I've also suggested some calming strategies for if it does happen - waking herself up, getting a drink, reading or listening to music for a few minutes, etc Has anyone else had any aspects of this such situation before...? Specific to adoption/trauma etc, I mean...? Should I be more concerned? Is there something else I could or should be doing? My stance is that distressing (or even made up) as it is (could be), it is only a dream and there is not much we can do to prevent or fix it. It also feel unhelpful to start analysing this dream - at face value it seems fairly straightforward as an unconscious memory becoming more conscious but it may actually not be that at all - and it is unhelpful to dwell on it. In writing that sounds so harsh, but I guess it's a survival technique for me too hmm Any (adoption/trauma specific) thoughts would be welcome... Thanks. MPD

amazingmumof6 Mon 14-Jan-13 00:33:32

yes, at 22 months it is probably a real memory, very traumatic, sadly deeply ingrained!

- my earliest memory from childhood was looking at my, opening and closing them and passing one hand in front of the other back and forth whilst looking at the ceiling at the same time.
when I told my mum about it she was astonished she remembered me doing this when I was a baby, lying in my cot - she used to watch me do it! I must have been no more than 8 months old (she reckons about 6 months) coz then I learnt to crawl and would never lie down unless asleep!

sorry, I know it's not about me, this is just to illustrate that we have very early memories and something that traumatic will certainly stay!

of course she might use it as attention seeking, but without knowing her general behaviour and specific problems I'd probably take the approach that it is genuinely disturbing her, rather than a conscious tactic (as you said)

it could definitely haunt her dreams - her mind is trying to deal with it, but it's just too big a bite too chew so to speak
.
I'd be more concerned and would definitely seek professional help instead of deciding it can't be fixed!
I'd say it is worth analyzing and as she is very much effected by it she could potentially benefit from counselling (gp can refer you)

amazingmumof6 Mon 14-Jan-13 00:34:59

I meant to say "looking at my fingers", somehow deleted it, now sentence looks odd, sorry!!

I have no words of wisdom but I couldn't read and not post to say your poor dd, what a horrific thing to have happened to her. It makes me want to believe there's a hell for people who do things like that.

misspollysdolly I am so sorry to read this. I read it when you first posted it and wanted to wait and read and think about it. I am very new to this and am not yet an adopted. So I only give my opinion.....

I think you should take this dream seriously in that you should seek some help for her to deal with and process the dream, the reality of what happened to her and also to learn to cope with other things that come up. The fact the dream re-surfaces when she is stressed seems to me (a total lay person in these matters) very natural. Whether it is a real memory (which I personally think it may well be), or whether it is based around what she knows about what happened, I don't know. But it is real in that it appears, it bothers her and there may well be something a skilled counsellor can do. I really hope she will get some help and perhaps as you mention that you too find you need a survival technique for this, that you will also get the help you will need to deal with it. Maybe things won't get better but I think they might. There seems to be new evidence that dealing with past trauma in a certain way does help surviours of trauma.

I am not yet an adopter so I know that you have been living with this trauma and so, of course, as your DD and I feel slightly embarresed to be repsonding as I am not yet an adopter! I did try looking at a couple of sites when writing this but I won't bore you as it is all very amateur stuff and I am sure you have explored this at some point but please do ask me if you like. It is a total novice talking to an adopter so I feel embarressed giving my views but I just read your post and wanted to respond.

All best wishes.

gallivantsaregood Tue 15-Jan-13 12:36:56

I roo would suggest seeking help. My sob( nit adopted but continuously traumatised for 5 years with frequent, long and horrible hospital experienced) has started seeing a clinical psychologist to help him deal with his fears and anxieties. It seems memories and feelings can be stored in the wrong kart of the brain and then when something triggers a memory the person feels the way they did at the time of the event. A bit like PTSD

He is having CBT and EMDR. The EMDR helps to separate the memory from the feeling and reorganizes them to enable the person to retain the memory but without the over whelming emotion. Maybe worth asking about?

Re anxiety in general I am scared of spiders. How scared I am when faced with one is usually a gois indication of my general stress level. Mire stressed I am, the more scared of spiders I am......

I hope this can be resolved for your DD. Xx

amazingmumof6 Tue 15-Jan-13 13:15:03

just out of interest can you tell me what the acronyms CBT and EMDR stand for, please?

I'm guessing PTSD means post traumatic stress disorder

and of course sorry to hear about your son's difficulties, I hope he'll improve.

Lilka Tue 15-Jan-13 13:47:16

yes, PTSD is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

CBT is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

EMDR is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, which is a well reagrded therapy for PTSD and related issues. Both my elder children have had EMDR, and my eldest has had Trauma focussed CBT as well. They found both helpful, especially the EMDR

MPD - I'm sorry your DD has been through this. I think it may well be a real memory as children can sometimes keep hold of memories, especially ones with powerful emotions like fear attached to them, from a very young age, even if it's not a fully conscious memory but just a sensation or similar. However obviously i don't know DD and of course it may be made up or attention seeking given her AD. I agree with amazingmum that these things often show up when general stress is high anyway.

I think what you're doing now is fine. My daughters have had distressing nightmares as well as flshbacks, although the memories are much clearer as they were older, and frankly you do have to pull back a little sometimes, because you have to look after yourself as well as them. You can't parent effectively otherwise, you wind up suffering with secondary trauma/PTSD yourself.

This kind of thing isn't something you can fix by yourself, so i think giving her strategies to deal with it in the home is a good idea (I've done that myself), as is keeping things low key when it happens and dealing with it calmly and quickly

What outside help is she having? Is she in therapy or has she accessed any in the past? Either PTSD based or Attachment based or Play therapy etc

goshua Sat 19-Jan-13 13:41:18

Sorry to here of your childs distress PTS is all too common, there may be other
pre underlying problems significant other than what you discribe. We have been fostering for over 37 years seen many babes/ children placed. Early interventions is the answer ,patience, understanding and love things will get better.
If we know history even if a child is placed at birth too seven months we can
and do start inteventions , these go a long way too pevent future secondary problems. Unfortunatly there is very little training of PTS in this area and post
adoption. Sure things will get better for you both in time.

gallivantsaregood Sun 20-Jan-13 16:02:04

Thanks Lilka smile

nkf Sun 20-Jan-13 16:06:10

I don't know what you should. I just wanted to say that it sounds to me as what you are doing is very kind and sensitive and you sound exactly what your daughter needs. All the best.

Mum2G Mon 21-Jan-13 10:07:48

I am not yet an adoptee but am a psychologist with some knowledge of trauma and I agree that it sounds like CBT, EMDR, or some other therapy (eg; counselling, hypnotherapy) would be beneficial. If the memories and their effects feel real to dd then I believe it would be be more helpful to treat them as such and act accordingly rather than not.

As Italian mentions, evidence does indeed suggest that traumatic memories need to be acknowledged and responded to in order that suvivors of truama can move on. Support can then focus on addressing any PTS and developing coping strategies (for you all as a family).

I hope you are able to get get some support with this, best wishes

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