Thank you for this amazing service. I want to seek your counsel. I got divorced 7 years ago. He was cheating on me with another woman who he then married.
My father got multiple strokes in the same year...and has been bedridden and statue like since then. I suffer from moderate to severe depression and panic and anxiety attacks. I am taking medication for this.
For the past few years I have been dreaming about my ex husband on an almost nightly basis. In the beginning I classified them as nightmares...as he is associated with much negativity in my life. It increased my anxiety to a degree where I'd do my best not to sleep. Now...after years of this, it still upsets me, I still suffer from insomnia, but I guess I got used to it.
I can still function with these images in my head. I thought I was over this...also have been in a few interesting friendships which might lead to a future partnership. These failed.
In my dreams I am either working as a maid for him and the woman he cheated on me with, or I am using his lodgings, my old home, with my family with or without his consent, with or without his presence.
My aim writing to you is to see if you can help me with this. I tried face to face counselling but I don't feel it was successful and I am not inclined to go back. Can't afford to actually.
Thanks for your time.
In this counseling answer:
Build A Support System.
Maintain A Journal.
Establish A Healthy Night Time Routine.
Sister indulging yourself in activities that give your life meaning is very important, to help you move forward in life.
Visit a psychiatrist and take a second opinion for your medication.
Sister, last but not the least, hardships are a part of this life.
Assalamu Alaikum Sister,
I am sorry that you are going through this difficult phase of life, and it does seem daunting that you are having dreams about your ex-husband even after a long time.
From what you have mentioned in the post, I gather that you may have associated symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from your ex-husband’s infidelity and divorce. Further, your father’s health must have made it even more stressful for you to cope with the situation.
Build A Support System
In order to cope through this difficult time, it is important that you have a support system. If you are not comfortable making a lot of friends, you can make one or two close friends who you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings with.
Having a support system makes it easy for you to get out of your past. Sharing your feelings with someone makes it easier to lighten the burden you are carrying from your past as well as from day to day life stressors.
Maintain a journal
If however, you do not feel comfortable sharing with friends, make a journal and pen down all your worries, anxieties and stressors in the journal.
However, I would suggest that you maintain two journals, one for your worries and all the negative things that happen in your life; and another one for the positive things in your life; things you are grateful for; and things in life which you would like to have in your life.
Maintaining a positive journal will help you focus on the positive things in your life which you are grateful for, as well as those which you want to happen in your life.
Once you have a list of things that you would like to achieve – make actionable goals and steps to help you achieve them. This would help you to find meaning and purpose in your life.
Don’t lose hope
Sometimes, the pain a person goes through is so huge; that it is hard to let go of it.
Going through divorce is a huge trauma – because it renders the whole existence of a woman as incomplete or damaged.
From their early teens, girls are groomed in a way that they have to be married and go and live in their husband’s home. The idea becomes so ingrained in girls that they often lose their own identity, to become someone’s “wife”.
It is essential that you separate yourself from the identity of a wife or a former wife. Know that you are worthy and successful even if your husband turned out to be what he was. And it was absolutely not your fault that you had to go through this divorce – no matter what your ex-husband said, or what the society says.
You also mentioned that there were potential people who you might have considered for marriage; however, things didn’t work out. Sister, know that the right person will find their way to you when the time is right, and when Allah SWT wills.
Establish a healthy night time routine
For the bad dreams, it is absolutely essential that you have a healthy night routine. A healthy night time routine could be anything that makes you feel peaceful.
You can go out for a stroll after dinner (if it is safe), or do other relaxing activities such as giving yourself a foot or head massage, listening to soft music or recitation of the Quran, meditating or saying two rakat nafil prayers.
Indulge in activities that bring your thoughts to the present, instead of thinking about the past.
You mentioned that for a long time, you avoided going to sleep for the fear of bad dreams. It is important to know that the more you try to escape or avoid an emotion, the more forcefully it comes to you – and while you are trying to avoid it during the waking hours; it comes to you in the form of dreams; because dreams are the language of the unconscious mind.
There may be repressed fears, for instance you may be feeling as though you are a burden on your parents – which may lead to such dreams. However, make it a point to do this during some time during the day, instead of at night or when you are going to sleep or nap.
Understand your emotions and fears, where they stem from and address them accordingly. Sister, there is no fear that can not be conquered or dealt with. It is just that we tend to magnify our negative thoughts to such a huge extent, that the situation starts feeling out of control.
Check out this counseling video:
Find a hobby that makes you Feel alive
Sister indulging yourself in activities that give your life meaning is very important, to help you move forward in life. Find any activity that you enjoy doing and do it consistently, everyday or every other day.
It could be anything as simple as taking a walk in a park, sitting in nature, painting, writing, reading etc. Further, you could try learning a new skill – which you can utilize to earn money from; working from home. Anything at all that gives your life a sense of direction, purpose and meaning.
Visit a psychiatrist
Sister, you have mentioned in the post, that you are taking medication for depression and anxiety, that causes panic attacks – if you continue to have these dreams, it may be helpful to visit some other psychiatrist and get a second opinion on the medication you are taking.
Perhaps they will be able to give you some temporary medication that you can take when you are unable to sleep. However, I would still emphasize that you try to incorporate a healthy sleep routine as mentioned above.
Life in this world is a test
Sister, last but not the least, hardships are a part of this life. Life in this world is wrought with worries and problems. And the reason for these hardships is that Allah Subhanahu WaTala wants us to get closer to Him, through prayer and supplication.
It is indeed Allah, to whom we and our lives belong, and to Him shall we return. In the Quran, Allah SWT says,
“Do people think they will be left alone after saying ‘We believe’ without being put to the test?” [29:2]
However, who connect to Allah SWT and persevere during the hard times, Allah SWT rewards them manifold in this world as well as in the Hereafter. May Allah SWT make things easy for you. Ameen.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees are liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.