It happened again last night. Sometime before 5am, in the serene lull of predawn, I was woken by yet another nightmare.
Next to me, the bed felt empty, but this time he was still there. Sitting on the edge of the bed, engrossed in the glaringly bright screen of his phone, desperately trying to force the horrendous impressions of this nightmare out of his conscious with something – anything – distracting and mind-numbing on YouTube.
“Sorry, did I wake you?”
You see, it wasn’t my nightmare.
He came back to bed, and it was all I could do just to hold him. It wasn’t enough.
It’s so simple when the kids wake from their distressing nightmares: a warm soothing cuddle, and then let them snuggle up while I gently remind them that it was just pictures in their head, that nothing in their dreams can hurt them. That thinking nice thoughts will help push the scary ones away.
I can never say this to my husband. We both know the hard truth of PTSD. Those images already crushed him the first time around, and yet they will continue to invade and hurt him over, and over, and over again.
Thinking nice thoughts is as effective as crying on a bushfire.
Time passed too slowly. The faint twittering of birds eventually announced the approaching new day. And still we lay there, neither of us sleeping.
It was still not yet light when he got up. When sleep doesn’t happen, he often escapes to the beach, to the surf. It’d be nice to think all that salt water could wash away his constant intrusions, clean his mind. But no amount of salt will ever be able to heal this wound.
Time dragged on. I knew I wouldn’t sleep now.
Would he return home any time soon? Would he be gone for the day? There’s no way of knowing. But there is one thing we can both be certain on…
Today will be a bad day.
And I also know it will drag on until very late in the evening. He will stubbornly push through the fatigue. He will defy sleep – where more nightmares are sure to be lurking – until sleep takes him, kicking and screaming.
(original post published 19th April 2016)