Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Something Strange is Happening; Or, Groovy PTSD Healing

I woke up this morning and the temperature was in the 50s! Clearly, when I moved from Manhattan to Florida I didn’t go far enough south.

But that’s not the strange thing that’s happening. The strange thing is this: During my second decade of PTSD my physical symptoms became so severe that at times I was completely bedridden. My body was wracked with pain. My organs malfunctioned. I was weak and weary. The brain fog was almost impenetrable. The depression almost insurmountable. Hope completely unfathomable.

Whenever it was plausible, I forced myself to carry on despite the extreme physical and mental pain I was in daily. I pushed and pushed and pushed myself until I collapsed. Summers were the easiest season to muddle through. The heat, the humidity, the warmth of New York City crept into my bones and subtly energized me.

And then the fall would hit and the humidity would evaporate and immediately, my body curled inward upon itself. It always began in September: the leaves would begin to turn and the days would develop a slight chill and right on cue the aches and pains would increase and I could feel my body cowering as if from a physical blow. The muscles contracted and tensed. I was incredibly fatigued and everything ached as if I’d just completed a triatholon without training. My head hurt, my eyes hurt. Beyond insomnia I looked like I hadn’t slept in 20 years. I stayed in this state throughout the fall into the winter and until the first few days of spring when my body seemed to begin thawing at the same time as the earth.

I guess I should divulge that my trauma happened in September. I guess I should say that I’d had a really wonderful summer before it occurred. I guess I should mention the fact that I had no pre-existing physical ailments that would be worsened by weather.

I’m embarassed to tell you, it never occurred to me that my reaction to the cold weather (more accurately: the season of my trauma) was part of PTSD. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t like the cold, but now we get to the strange thing that’s happening:

I went for my first hypno a little over a year ago on October 10, 2007. Right away that night a slew of my PTSD symptoms ceased – insomnia, nightmares, anxiety, etc. (For more on the effects see the post ‘After Hypno, Part 2’). It took five more sessions before I felt PTSD-free. The interesting thing is that I didn’t know how free that could be. I thought that the relief of immediate symptoms was all it would be; a lifting of depression, an absence of flashbacks, an elimination of triggers – you know, that sort of thing. But here I am all this time later and I’m still discovering new nuances of freedom.

For example: it is 50 degrees and windy today (and has been for the past few days) and I am not, at this late hour of the day, still in the bed. I am not dragging around a pain-riddled body. I am not deep into a head fog. In fact, I feel terrific. My thinking is clear and I am full of energy and while the cold is annoying and I miss wearing my flip-flops, that’s all the cold is: annoying. A simple atmospheric fact. It is not translated into my own physical or mental condition.

Interestingly, my hypnotherapist, Laura, and I never discussed the cold or my physical symptoms because of it. I took it for granted that my body was weak. That’s it, end of story. But that was not it. My body is not weak. My body was not betraying me, it was speaking to me, and I didn’t understand the language.

So, here’s the beauty I’m finding about healing: When we get to the bottom of our PTSD, when we root it out at the core, other suprising healings spontaneously take place because our bodies and minds want to be free. They want to be healthy and they will, with the proper support and guidance, do the work.They will strive toward joy. All we need to be free is the right attitude on our part – the full commitment to wellness even when we don’t believe it can be achieved – combined with guidance from some hand who’s either been there or knows how to do that.

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