As many of you will know I have found sleeping in a bed and a bedroom difficult, the fact is these caused huge triggers for me. So as a result I have become accustomed to sleeping on my sofa for what feels like forever. But slowly over recent months I’ve confessed my difficulties to my psychologist and he has begun helping me to break down the fear that has had such a strong grip on me.
We started with just actually getting upstairs and into the room, I couldn’t face staying in there more than a few seconds at first, but this slowly built up to minutes. Each day I’d visit the room I named Bertie and my task initially was to move one object from the pile of clutter. Clutter that had suddenly build up in there and I had to decide if I needed it or I could throw it away. I found this a huge challenge at first, but spurred on by my psychologist and the fact I knew he’d ask me about it at our next session, I attempted it most days.
Bertie was no longer just a room he gained an identity, an identity that I could seize hold of and build a relationship with. So each day I’d visit Bertie and I’d enter and say hello, Bertie didn’t seem as scary until I thought of him as a bedroom. My visits each day soon built up in time and I found some days I could sort out a few objects in one go. Eventually the clutter disappeared and I felt I had a room I could work with, a room that no longer felt so overwhelming and frightening.
Yet I still could not visualise sleeping in there and I certainly couldn’t visit him in the darkness of night, parts of me felt itchy and fearful just going up the stairs. I had to keep telling myself it was safe, we were safe and that the horrors of the past were no more. After sorting the clutter I had to build up time in there, so I started to go in there and just be there for ten minutes at a time. Some days I could sustain this and others I was so agitated and upset I had to leave after just a few minutes, but I was assured it was best to not push too hard. So leaving wasn’t a failure the attempt was all that mattered it would seem and we were by now doing that every day. My alters and I felt we could achieve this and some parts were great at pushing me, by reminding me to go visit Bertie.
I acquired a couple of new cuddly friends who we decided must stay in Bertie, the idea was it would be helpful to see it as a safe room, safe for them and me. Shortly after about Three months after my confession I found myself progressing into sitting in Bertie and we would watch a program or cartoon whilst in there. I didn’t achieve this every day as sometimes just going in there was all we could achieve, but we had more days of sitting than not.
Then about a month ago my Psychologist suggested I build a tent in there, I remember thinking he was a bit bonkers but tried anyway. The tent was erected about 3 weeks ago having borrowed my daughters, I’m sure people must think I’m bonkers, but I don’t care. I soon managed a couple of periods of sitting inside the tent, snacks in hand and iPad too. I made these visits to Bertie’s tent fun, after all camping is meant to be fun isn’t it.
After my recent holiday I came home and visited Bertie, I decided it was time I moved to the next step so bought an air bed. Just over a week ago I decided to set up the tent for a night time adventure, torch, snacks, magazines, blankets and extra treats. One night I went up to watch a cartoon sitting inside the tent, when I began to feel tired. I decided I should try and fall sleep inside the tent, all the while knowing I could leave if it didn’t feel right. My psychologist had told me that if I tried and it didn’t work I could easily go downstairs and back onto the sofa. He had made me realise that if I had to go in the sofa it want a failure, trying was what mattered.
So with a bit of bravado and not really assuming it would work I ventured to try and sleep, the next thing I realised it was the early hours of the morning. Tired but now awake I did a bit of a reality check inside and decided that I felt able to try and return back to sleep, which we managed to do. The next night I decided to try again and we were quite stunned when we were successful once more.
That’s not to say that some nights since then haven’t had some difficulties because they have, some nights I’m having to spend quite a bit of time reassuring myself. I’ve had some disrupted sleep and have found myself stressing in the middle of the night, but so far we have managed to remain in the tent. Now over a week on and we haven’t slept on the sofa and boy it feels good, I’m not being too pressured though. So if we have to sleep downstairs some nights that’s okay, in fact it’s more than okay it’s the trying that counts.
This week in my therapy session my psychologist suggested I might want to start looking for a bed soon. In fact we have now set a date well a month, by which I need to try and be settling into a real bed. This may not sound like a great deal to many people but for me beds have been a place of nightmares, horrific body memories and trauma, so sleeping in a bed it’s a big deal. Though I’ve set the date I know it’s an approximate measure, if I don’t make it that’s not a failure either, but strangely I actually think we will achieve this.
I firmly believe that by breaking down the steps into tiny manageable chunks I have desensitised myself and built up stronger coping strategies. It’s been and continues to feel manageable, it doesn’t feel as scary neither does it feel too overwhelming. Currently I’m enjoying camping in Bertie, it’s not something I’m use to doing so it is quite an adventure. Bertie isn’t such a frightening place anymore in fact he is just a room with walls and a door, yes being there might trigger memories, but I know now that’s all they are. Memories of the past which took place in a room located far away from Bertie, far from this place I now call home. Coming to terms with the past isn’t easy but for the first time in my life I don’t feel afraid of the bedroom in fact it’s as safe as any other room. Now I just need to go bed hunting and I intend to make that an adventure all of its very own.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2015