Saturday, February 28, 2009

Healing PTSD: Don't Hit The Symptoms With A Hammer

Recently I read this quote in a thread on PTSD Forum:

"Telling a person with PTSD to 'get over it' is kind of like trying to heal a broken bone by hitting it with a hammer."

This is so true, isn't it?

The effects of PTSD only get worse when people who don't understand it or us start declaring what we should do about it. The metaphor should remind all of us that sometimes people watching from the outside just don’t really get what’s going on on the inside. But that’s OK. We know what’s going on, and our ability to communicate it is another value of talking.

Today's the last day of February, which means the end of the second month of our BRIDGE THE GAP PTSD healing workshop and our 2009 PTSD New Year Healing Resolutions #2: I WILL TALK.

A quick recap of the top 10 healing steps we’ve covered this month:

1 – the importance of talking in the healing process

2 – 10 reasons you don’t want to speak; and the one reason you really, really should

3 – the importance of integrating memories

4 – learning to talk

5 – tips for outlining the story

6 – putting the story on paper

7 – crafting the script

8 – learning to say it out loud

9 – preparing to share the story with someone else

10 – letting the story out

It’s not easy to begin telling our story, but it does get easier. It’s like walking: first you stumble forward and do a faceplant, then you learn to hold onto things nearby so you don’t fall. While you do this you learn how to rhythmically and with balance put one foot in front of another. You develop a level of comfort and proficiency. You begin to walk a little faster, a little farther. One day: you run great distances. That's the future for all of us.

But you don't have to take my word for it that talking and choosing the words helps. Maybe you’d like a scientific and medical reference for the value of writing out the story and then telling it; no sweat:

This TIMES ONLINE article, ‘Feel upset? Writing it down helps you calm down, scientists say’ explains that recent research findings “suggest that one of the main motivations for writing and verbal expression… is the way such activity brings peace of mind and relieves stress.” The article goes on to say that, “The research could also be medically useful, as it suggests that writing therapy could help people suffering from psychological conditions such as social anxiety disorder, phobias or post-traumatic stress.”

So there. If you ever questioned what we’re doing here, rest assured: I do my homework. More importantly though, I lived it. I’ve done it. Our traumas and healing journeys are all individual, but our symptoms are universal. The best self-healing practices are, too.

(photo: Darren Hester)

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