Friday, February 6, 2009

Healing PTSD: Learning to Walk – I mean, TALK!

My trauma occurred in 1981. I was 13 years old. Understandable I might not have the coping or language skills to communicate my thoughts, emotions or experience. Understandable I might sink into silence.

Fast forward to 2005. 24 years have gone by. I am 37 years old; I still cannot speak about what I endured. There’s something wrong with that, don’t you think? Oh, I’d made a little progress by then: I could stutter out that I’d been hospitalized with a rare allergic reaction to a medication, but that’s it. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye when I said it. I talked too fast, explained too little, left people only with the vague understanding that something catastrophic had occurred. I didn’t like seeing the pity in the eyes of the person listening. I didn’t like the rubber-necking questions that came from those who just wanted the gory details. I didn’t like hearing the words out loud. Also, while I felt different from those around me, I didn’t want to highlight that fact.

And then, of course, there’s the issue that I myself didn’t want to hear the story or examine the details or get too close. I had spent my life trying to run faster than my memories. Why sit down and line them all up in a row?

WHY??? Because that’s what we have to do so they stop chasing us! Memories gain power when we try to shield ourselves from them. They feed on our fear and grow fate on fate and our desperate attempts to deny what we experienced.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Again and again I get back to our inherent strength. WE ARE SURVIVORS! If we could endure our traumas, surely we can learn to endure, conquer and control those memories that most frighten us. It will not be easy. I struggled for a long time to build a coherent story and be able to include those moments that left the greatest impression on me. This is where cognitive behavior therapy and building up the strength of your subconscious becomes helpful.

Being able to tell the story enabled me to bridge the gap between the power of my memories and my own power; between the power of the past and the power of the present; between being wracked with PTSD symptoms and becoming PTSD-free.

Begin taking back your power today. You do not have tell yourself the whole story from beginning to end in one session. You do not have to delve into all of the deep details. The BRIDGE THE GAP healing exercise today is just to make a simple outline of the following: What events led up to your trauma, and what events occurred during it.

That’s it. A quick in and out into the realm of the unspeakable. The goal here is to begin developing the ability to go near the memories (and if you can already tell the story, the details you leave out) and recognize their human existence. They are not magical beings. They do not have the power to destroy you. YOU hold the power to turn them into dragons or toads.

(photo: ificutmyhairirelandandwills)

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