Tuesday, December 23, 2008

PTSD Healing, Part 2: Getting Over Self Doubt

Continuing from the idea of yesterday’s post that we cannot just lie down and accept PTSD…

It’s June, 2006. I've been trying to self-recover PTSD for about 8 months. Before that, I’ve been trying to recover (from some undiagnosed, how-is-it-possible-no-one-noticed-the-PTSD-signs mental ailment) with therapeutic help for about 5 years. Anyway, the point is, I thought I was moving in the right direction. I thought I was dealing with things head on and making progress and seeing what was wrong, working to understand the source and untangling the crossed wires. I thought I was on the road to wellness.

And then all of a sudden I wasn’t.

It happened just like that. I was in the side yard of my parents’ house throwing a ball for Baylee. He raced up and down the yard, diving in and out of the bushes, having a high old time and loving life. June is beautiful in Florida; my mood should have been as sunny and vibrant as the weather and as elated as Baylee pouncing on the ball. But the nightmares were getting more and more violent and the insomnia getting more and more gripping and there, in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon all of a sudden my mother comes out to chat and I am sobbing and wailing, “I can’t do this! It’s too hard! I’ll never be free!!”

To which my mother replies, in her calm, sage voice, “Yes, you can. And yes, you will.”

I hate when she says that. It leaves all the burden on me. It doesn’t allow me to melt into a pool of butter and just accept what’s come down. And what does she know, anyway? How can my mother possibly understand what it’s like to live with PTSD? How can she even begin to fathom the struggle – to cope and/or to heal? How can she know the hell that is my foggy head?

She can’t, but it turns out, she didn’t have to. I think it’s probably almost better that she didn’t/couldn’t because the last thing we needed was two people agreeing on my breakdown. It was important we still had at least one person who believed I could recover.

That day I didn’t appreciate her support in any meaningful way. I just kept saying over and over, “What am I going to do if this is what my life always is?”

And she said the appropriate things and tried to comfort and soothe me and that’s just the way that day went. And the next day. And the next day. And the day after that because sometimes the road to healing takes a detour and you end up driving around and around the same geographic area desperately looking for the turn that gets you back to the main road.

It took me a couple of months. I thought about it all the time, but I flat out quit trying to heal. I allowed myself to get lost in my own confusion and despair and I sat in it like a child who won’t get out of the tub – the water is dirty but that’s still where I wanted to splash around.

Let me just say, I think those times are necessary. Out of confusion comes clarity. Out of misunderstanding comes education. When we question, when we feel we fail is when we’re close to making a giant step forward.

This push me/pull me aspect of healing is all a normal part of the wellness process. If healing was handed to us it would not be ours; we would not own it in the end. The struggle to heal is part of us owning ourselves, of overcoming the trauma and the out of control nature of the subconscious, and finally in that victory knowing we have won.

There seems to be a rash of the “I can’t do it!” virus going around these days. I don’t know, maybe it’s the holiday season just gets us down and interrupts the fragile wiring. Yesterday a woman wrote to me, “the C-PTSD seems to have taken over and be robbing me of myself…. the C-PTSD is beating me.” And over the weekend a man responded to my idea that we can focus our angry energy toward healing by saying, “You're lucky you can do that… A person can only fight for so long and you get tired and want to give up.”

With those thoughts how can we heal? And the sad part is: those thoughts make us believe we are right, healing is not an option, and then we don’t realize it is our own perspective that closes the door on wellness.

Our thoughts affect our emotions, but our behavior can affect our thoughts. If we allow ourselves to completely give up we will begin to believe we cannot heal. If we allow ourselves to think we are defeated we will feel that to be so and -- that will become our truth. But the real truth is: PTSD is not some foreign entity; it is ours. We provide a home for it, we are the genesis of it. PTSD is nothing more than the subconscious mind out of control. Which means, there are methods of reigning it in, even on the days this does not seem possible.

The trick is to keep trying. If one therapy does not work, we must try another. We cannot expect things to change over night. Once I began my PTSD healing it took 3 years for me to work out all the kinks. There were several times I was confused and overwhelmed and despondent, but that's the way this goes!

It would be nice if healing came of its own accord and all we had to do was initiate and then sit back and wait. Unfortunately, the ultimate healing is hard fought for and a little skittish, but it can be done. We cannot lose hope and we can’t ever stop reaching toward freedom. We must continue to believe and make the effort until….

(photo: Mind Meld)

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