When Nightmares Become Reality

Growing up I can remember watching movies on the Lifetime Channel.  I could watch them because all of the plots seemed so bizarre and foreign to me.  Except for the one where a mother was killed by falling logs during a logging truck accident.  Ever since that movie, I've had nightmares about logging trucks and am petrified of them.  Ask my husband.

And then one day, while pregnant with Dinomite, there was a logging truck accident right in front of my house.  We lived on the main highway.  Every ounce of my being shook, as I called my husband at work.  I couldn't begin to describe how I felt in that moment, when my nightmares became reality.

When Nightmares Become Reality
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Little did I know, that the logging truck incident was just the beginning of a long list of Lifetime movies that would play out in my life.

After Bulldozer was born, I was told by my doctors, not to have anymore children.  I was okay with that then.  There were always other options like adoption.

When Bulldozer was six months old we felt the impression that a little girl was waiting to come to our family.  We researched all of our options.  In the end, we felt inspired to adopt through the foster care system.

The process to become certified foster parents took about nine months.  And then the waiting began.  I would be cleaning or putting the boys down to nap, when I'd be hit with these overwhelming feelings of sorrow and anxiety.

What was happening to my little girl, so that she could eventually come to our family?

I was overcome with emotion every time.  In my head, I couldn't begin to imagine what she was enduring, nor did I want to.  But I couldn't stop thinking about it.  I wept and grieved, praying fervently for her.

Things I had only known as nightmares were reality for my daughter, and I could do absolutely nothing to stop them from happening.

And then she arrived as a foster baby.  Her mother surrendered her rights quickly.  She was safe and she was ours.  But it wasn't that simple.  Permanent damage had been done before she came to us.  Our daughter had Reactive Attachment Disorder and PTSD.

Adjusting to life as a parent of a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder was very difficult for me.  Looking back, those first few years were the darkest times I can remember.  Her screaming never stopped.  She experienced night terrors.  Every day seemed like a constant battle, with her refusal to let me care for her.

When I'm stressed, I don't sleep.

Parenting a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder is the most stressful thing I've ever done.

Sleep was not happening.

My daughter eventually grew from an infant to a toddler, and I thought times would get better.  I still had hope they would anyway.  But as her speech improved, she could communicate.  And with communication came descriptions of flashbacks and memories of incidents from the past.

One wouldn't think a child so young would remember.

But they do.

Always.

Every time she spoke and shared more information about what happened to her, I lost it.  Since when do nightmares become reality in our home?  How can this be?  This isn't happening!  But it was.  There was no escape.

Oh, how I wanted to sleep.  I wanted to enjoy the innocence of sweat dreams.  But there was no innocence left.  Nightmares weren't even nightmares anymore.  Nightmares had become reality.

And so I stayed awake.  There was only one thing that could ease my mind, and that was watching medical dramas on TV.  The only thing I could think of that was worse than what my daughter was telling me, was medical trauma.  I would watch episode after episode of Grey's Anatomy until my eyes literally fell shut, receiving a maximum of about 4 hours of sleep each night.

This went on for years.

And it wasn't just me.  It was her too.  Every time she'd close her eyes, she'd have these vivid dreams of what was, or worse, what might happen again.  We began to see paranoia in our daughter.  She worried all the time and was developing OCD tendencies.  She wouldn't sleep, It was too scary.  In her case, medicinal intervention was necessary.

In my case, we had to stop living the drama that came with being foster parents.  Because not only were we hearing about past accounts from our daughter, we were living them every day with foster children we were caring for.

Until you live that lifestyle, you have no idea how many of your nightmares are reality for so many innocent children.

It took two years to recover from those experiences, before I was able to sleep at night.  I had to simplify life in as many ways as I could.

I'd like to say the stress lessens over time, and nightmares go back to being nightmares, but it just gets worse.  Except now different nightmares become reality.  These new ones involve the safety of our family because of Reactive Attachment Disorder.

The only thing that helps me endure it all is love.  I love my daughter.  If it takes every fiber of my being to help her overcome these nightmares that are reality, I'll do it.

It's also that love that helps me sleep at night, even on the worst days.  I need the courage and the strength to get up and do it all over again tomorrow.  Without sleep, I don't have that.

 I can't watch Lifetime movies anymore.  Heck, I can't watch a lot of movies anymore.  They're too much of a reminder of when nightmares became reality.  But I can finally sleep, and so can she.  We'll take the progress!

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This post is part of a monthly series called Parenting Children with Special Needs.  If you'd like to read more special needs posts, be sure to visit the links below!
Parenting Children with Special Needs

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Surviving Night Terrors | Grace and Green Pastures

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