Updated: Feb 24, 2019
I have a recurring nightmare about my ex-husband.
For many years, it occurred on a nightly basis, sometimes more than once a night. I would wake up crying in terror on the floor. Sometimes I would wake up tangled in my sheets, fighting for my life or upside down in the bed. Sometimes I would wake up dripping with sweat, nauseated and would have to run to the bathroom to vomit. A few times I even wet the bed (embarrassing, I know).
It took me a long while to realize I had PTSD and that this recurring nightmare was a flashback. It awarded me many years of no sleep, total exhaustion and the inability to shake the anxiety related to abuse survival.
The nightmare is always the same. Always so real. Always taking me back to that horrible place of fear. The place that was so hard to escape from. Always leaving me shaking, with anxiety levels through the roof for several days.
As the years since my divorce passed, the nightmare has become less frequent. Now it occurs mainly around my ex-husband's communication attempts and my stress levels. Even though it happens less frequently, the effects are still the same.
My ex has been texting often about the children the last few days. I've been stressed about the holidays and about not having my children with me. I'm worried about their safety. I'm worried about finances and some other things.
It's been several months now, longer than it's ever been, since the last time I experienced the nightmare. I thought may be I wouldn't have it anymore. May be I was finally over it. May be I wouldn't have to relive the terror yet again.
I had the nightmare again three nights ago. I woke up as I was falling out of my bed.
In the dream, per the usual, I was apologizing over and over for my short-comings as a wife. Begging him to forgive me as he put his hands around my throat, strangled me and held me against the wall as I fought for my life. His seething words of hate burning into my heart.
Me crying in agony as my throat was crushed and as I continued to beg him to love me, his wife, and to chose me over his many lovers. Him laughing at me and flaunting all the texts on his phone from the many women who wanted him; photos of breasts and other pornographic images shoved in my face.
His foul, alcoholic breath burning my nose as he sneered at my tears, yellowed teeth showing in a disfiguring snarl. In my nightmare, one of his many lovers is always present. She always stands there to the side and laughs wickedly while he does these things to me; taunting and calling me names.
The setting of the nightmare is always the same. It occurs in the kitchen and master bedroom of the house I previously lived in with my ex-husband. The locations where the abuse occurred most often.
Three nights ago, the dream changed for the first time.
At the peak of the nightmare whilst he strangled me, my ex-husband suddenly let go of my neck and walked out of the door into the backyard. He seemed to be in a robotic state.
On my kitchen table, next to the door, a laptop sat open with photos of him and a new woman on the screen. These were not the pornographic images I was used to seeing. It was not the lover who stood beside him while he hurt me. These were photos of he and a different, yet familiar woman posing as if they were a family.
I ran out of the door after him, crying out his name. As I knelt down in the grass, begging him to love me, to choose me, I looked up to see the most beautiful meteor shower in the night sky. It was absolutely amazing.
At that moment, I realized we were no longer in the house we once shared. We were at my current home, a place my ex-husband has never been; a place that has never been in my nightmare.
I cried out to God in my dream while kneeling in the grass. I asked for Him to take control and to save my ex-husband as I watched stars shoot across the dark sky. I praised him for His beautiful creations and His awesomeness.
I looked at my ex-husband who was sneering while leaning against the fence and asked him to acknowledge the awesomeness of the Lord and His creations. I begged him to look up at the meteor shower and wanted him to be as awed by it as I was.
I wanted him to see the beauty in it. I wanted him to change, to feel the pain I was feeling. To feel love and to realize I wanted him to be ok. He looked down at me, smiled and said, "Your God doesn't exist" and walked out of the back gate.
When I awoke falling out of my bed, it wasn't from me chasing after my ex-husband as usual. It was because for the first time ever, I was walking away from him.
The events in this nightmare were so clear. I thought about them repeatedly for the next two days; trying to interpret their meaning. I'm almost certain God was communicating with me.
I felt as if the Lord was preparing me for the inevitability of my ex-husband finding a new love interest (hence the photos on the laptop in my dream). Revealing to me through the meteor shower that He is powerful and in control of every situation, and through my ex-husband's words, "Your God doesn't exist" that my ex-husband does not possess the capability of change.
He was indicating my new home is a place of peace, where my ex-husband does not belong. That I cannot save my ex-husband, only he could choose to save himself. He was showing me that the best thing I could do was turn my back completely and walk away without looking back, keeping my focus on the stars shooting across the sky. On Him, His beauty, and His awesomeness.
Standing firm in my faith that He has amazing and beautiful plans for my life. He is all I need. He was reassuring me I am on the right path.
In the days since the nightmare, I have come to realize the Lord giving me the strength to walk away from my ex-husband in the dream seemed to sever all the remaining ties bonding me to him. The ties causing the nightmares, anxiety and continued feelings of worthlessness.
It was powerful.
My faith and reassurance that the Lord will guide and protect me is usually intact during the day, but at night, when I am most tired and emotional, it weakens. When I have a nightmare, it affects me even more so. This time, I didn't wake up with the anxiety and accompanying emotions I normally experience. I woke up feeling as if I had won. I was at peace. A feeling I've been craving for years.
I'm praying that will be the last time I ever have that nightmare. I've been praying for years for God to make it go away; that He will give me rest and relief from the fear and the flashbacks as I follow His plan for me. That He will sever any remaining ties that allow for continued abuse from my ex-husband, even in the form of a nightmare.
I am faithful that the Lord has heard my prayers. I am faithful that relief has been given and that I will no longer be affected by fear and this recurring dream. I take to heart His commands to not be afraid and His encouragement to trust Him.
When you lie down, you will not be afraid. Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet. Proverbs 3:24
I will both lie down in peace and sleep. For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8
For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. Psalm 91:11