DEAR ABBY: I am a 37-year-old married woman with a problem. My mother committed suicide when I was 18, and I have never dealt with my loss. The day after she died, my father bagged up all of her possessions and gave them to charity. I tried talking to him about her, but he told me she was "gone" and I had to move on. I guess I have just put my pain on the back burner all these years.
For the last five years or so, I have been sleepwalking and having horrible nightmares about my mother's death. My husband tells me I carry on conversations with him, but that I am not really "there." I also take baths when I'm technically asleep. On one occasion, I woke up behind the wheel of my truck in my garage. I don't know if I went out driving or not, but the thought terrifies me.
I am afraid I will hurt myself, or possibly others, in my zombie-like state. Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated. -- OUT OF IT IN LAS VEGAS
DEAR OUT OF IT: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the tragic loss of your mother. The first thing you must do is ensure that your husband has the keys to your truck at bedtime.
Then, contact your physician and ask for a referral to a sleep disorder specialist for an evaluation. Some people experience the symptoms you have described as a side effect from certain sleep-aid medications. However, if you are not taking anything, you may have a treatable sleep disorder.
After that, ask your doctor to refer you to a licensed psychotherapist who can help you deal with the emotions you have kept buried all these years since your mother's death. Once your feelings are out in the open, you will be able to deal with them -- and discussing them with a professional will help you more quickly through the process.