Monday, February 2, 2009

Healing PTSD: Ten Reasons Not to Talk About It; And the One Reason You Really, Really Should


So, here we are, into February. Welcome to the month of my birth and my original motivation to heal my PTSD (I was determined to be PTSD-free by my 40th birthday).

The second month of the year means we’re onto Resolution No. 2 on our list of 12 Healing PTSD Resolutions for 2009. For the next month we’ll focus on the following healing resolution: I WILL TALK. So, exercise that jaw, warm up that tongue, for the next four weeks your quest to progress healing depends on how loosely you let the language flow.

I know this isn’t easy. By the time I was released from the hospital my lip lockdown had already begun. I could not talk about what I had experienced – for so many reasons:

One, I was overwhelmed by what had happened during my illness and could not effectively process all of that emotion at once.

Two, I was overwhelmed by the ferocity of the emotions themselves. I had never felt so strongly or fiercely and didn’t know what to do with the near-to-crazy feeling that kind of emotion brought on.

Three, I was terrified by what had occurred and could not assimilate that continued feeling of terror into a normal minute.

Four, I was so very afraid of trying to speak about what I thought, felt, experienced and endured. Letting it all stay cooped up in the dark of my mind seemed safer than letting it out into the light of my new, moving forward day.

Five, I was on the brink of a great psychological meltdown. I was certain that trying to examine everything would bring on an episode that would completely annihilate the thin thread by which my sanity was hanging.

Six, I didn’t have the vocabulary for explaining how I felt or what I had experienced.

Seven, I didn’t know how anyone would react to what I had to say. I thought people would be … unable to embrace the fact that, for example, I had experienced leaving my body.

Eight, I wanted to pretend my illness had never happened. Simply, I wanted to exit the hospital and leave behind – as my parting gift – all of my memories, thoughts and experiences. (A nice idea; it doesn’t work.)

Nine, I thought moving on was strong. I thought moving beyond trauma meant not having to talk about it. I thought being brave meant immediately letting go of the experience, which included eliminating any impulse to have a chat about it.

Ten, I thought talking would keep the past alive. Silence, I thought, would kill the beast. (Little did I know…..)

So there they are, ten of the mistaken thoughts I believed immediately following my trauma – ten of the misguided thoughts and beliefs I carried with me for the next 25 years. (And oh, what lovely, fun, happy-for-us-all years they were.) The more I stuck to this “Don’t speak!” line of thinking, the worse my PTSD became. The worse the PTSD became, the more I stuck to this thinking until the vortex of the cycle became so intense my whole world crashed. And then I rebuilt it, word by word.

But that doesn’t have to be the way you accomplish healing. There’s no reason for you to crash and burn before you begin to heal. YOU can see the error of my ways, find the similarities in your own thinking, and make the changes now that are necessary to put you on the right path.

There are many more reasons why you won’t want to talk. Feel free to list your own in the comments section below.

And then, begin to accept that for all the reasons you don’t want to speak about your trauma, here's the one reason you really, really should:

There is no way to heal if we remain in isolation, or if we allow our silence to isolate us.

This month your goal will be to break your silence – and if you’ve already broken it, to amplify your voice. Get ready, people. You'll be surprised by the sound and strength of your own voice.

(photo: Pascale PirateChickan)

14 comments:

Roman General said...

Happy birthday, my birthday is on the 17th, my oldest is the same and my youngest is the 14th.

I think this is a really good post revealing the inner workings of one who has PTSD. I still struggle on a daily basis the desire to just curl up in a ball and stay there. Dang ol' getting hungry gets me going though.

Barbara said...

Happy birthday--I just turned 40 myself! I totally relate to your reasons for not talking about PTSD, but want to heartily affirm your reason FOR talking about PTSD. It is nothing to be ashamed of. I wish you all the best on your healing journey.

Elizabeth said...

Dearest Michelle,

You articulate your thoughts and feelings so well. This truly must have helped your process.

Happy Birthday! My son's birthday is this month as well.

I am glad to know you. And thanks for being patient with me.

Elizabeth

little sheep said...

happy birthday!

i think one reason i have trouble talking about it is cuz i'm embarrassed to talk about some of the stuff...

~LS

Anonymous said...

am i weird for wanting to talk, to say dammit this crap happened to me; i did not imagine it, ask for it or deserve it but it happened and i want it to heal and take back seat and quit hogging so much of my brain and health. grrr

multipixie

Michele Rosenthal said...

Multipixe --

You're not weird at all!!

We SHOULD speak.

We NEED to speak.

In order for the wounds to heal we must put them into language, express them, and relegate them to the past. Sharing the burden can do a lot to lighten the load.

Michele Rosenthal said...

littlesheep -- I know what you mean! For over two decades I felt too self-conscious to tell anyone that during my trauma I'd left my body and come back. But we learn things about ourselves and our experiences when we find a trusted person with whom to practice choosing and expressing the words.

Marj aka Thriver said...

Hooray! What a powerful post! Would you consider letting us use it for THE BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE some time? I know a lot of survivors deal with this issue and this post could be so helpful for them.

healandforgive said...

Thanks for sharing a powerful post!

For me, "speaking" unchained me from the past.

Michele Rosenthal said...

@healandforgive -- speaking does have that power, doesn't it? for me, it was speaking with a pen that did it -- saying the words out loud was too tough, but with a pen and paper I could really explore how/what I thought/felt and find the words to properly express it. There's no ONE way as long as we all find A way. :)

Marj aka Thriver said...

Thanks for letting us use this for the 22nd edition of The Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse. Good stuff!

Michele Rosenthal said...

You're welcome, Marj! It's a good carnival -- lots of meaty posts. Thanks for tipping me off about it.

york.sarah said...

I am scared to talk because I am afraid that nobody will believe me when I talk about what has happened to me. I recently had to report something that was going on. I am just scared to death to talk. My therapist last week told me to think about the idea of possibly writing during our sessions rather than talking. Hopefully this will work.

Michele Rosenthal said...

@York.Sara -- I know what you mean, talking can be so scary! But if you have a therapist you trust then it's a great way to begin bringing the trauma down to size. And, if you develop a good rapport with your therapist you should be able to trusts that he/she will believe what you have to say. Writing is one of my favorite ways to begin putting language to pain. I used it all the time myself. Good luck! Every step you take to heal brings you one step closer to freedom.

BTW: the blog has moved. Come join us at http://blog.healmyptsd.com!