Wednesday, February 25, 2009

PTSD Healing: Preparing to Speak, Part 2

By now you’re thinking about with whom you’re going to take this next step in healing and share your story. How’s it going? Have you decided who it will be? What are you thinking as you mull over the choices?

One benefit of beginning the talking process is that it will help improve your relationships with friends and family. I know if I had talked earlier it would have really saved my family a lot of grief. They could see I was suffering, but they didn’t know what was wrong or how to help. (I could see I was suffering, but I didn’t know what was wrong either. Talking gave me a way to figure it out.)

Another point: my erratic and aggressive behavior often made my family feel like they were the problem and so a wide gulf was often created between us. Not a nice way for them to spend family dinners, vacations, and holidays. Especially vacations and holidays. I ruined many.

It’s hard to live with and love a person with PTSD – we are foreign to people who are not suffering and they are foreign to us. The only way to bridge the gap between them and us is with words.

[Note: Maybe your family is the problem. All the more reason to find someone outside of it with whom you can share and find support for healing. Later you can heal your family relationships if you choose. Even that will come down to words.]

You can prep people before you tell your story by showing them this article, 'What I Wish My Family Had Known About PTSD'. A guide for friends and family to understand us, this article explains the basics of our PTSD experience and how they might relate to every part of it.

Now that you’re imagining to whom you might share your story, take that thinking a few steps further and consider:

1 – The best time for this discussion. What would provide the right circumstances for this type of conversation? When will you have some private time you can invite someone to sit down and listen? Look at your calendar and choose a day that you will have time to prepare and center yourself (for example, by doing some breathing exercises or meditation). Speaking about our trauma can be stressful; choose a time you will not feel rushed, and a time your listener can give you his/her full attention. Also, choose a time you will not need to go or be anywhere afterward so that you can gently unwind from this conversation, perhaps with some more breathing and meditation techniques.

2 – The best place for this discussion. Do you think it will be easier to discuss this in the privacy of your home? Which room will make you feel most comfortable? Think of every room in the house and decide which one will make you feel most relaxed. Or, you might choose to have this conversation in a public space. Sometimes, when we’re out of our personal environments we are more able to view and act objectively and in a controlled emotional state. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS CONVERSATION IN THE ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH YOUR TRAUMA TOOK/TAKES PLACE.

3 – The best way to tell the story. First, let’s say this: You do not need to be perfect in how you get the story out. The more you tell it, the easier it will become. I stuttered a lot when I first began relating the chronology of events. I couldn’t think of words, I lost my place; I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say or how to say it. You have a script – take it with you. Break it out into bulleted forms or put large spaces between paragraphs so you can refer to it if you get lost. Second, let’s say this: You do not need to be perfect in how you get the story out. Even with all of our preparation we can’t always tell the story without stopping and starting to gather our thoughts and control our emotions. That’s OK! There are no points or awards for perfection. Healing isn’t about being award-winning in our communication; it’s only about communicating so that we begin to find and receive the help we need so our struggling eventually ends.

In opening up we must be in a situation in which we feel safe, secure and believed. We must decide the level of detail we desire to share. In choosing the person, place and time, make sure that all factors will come together so that you are feeling comfortable and prepared for what you are trying to do.

Lastly, remember this: I suffered in silence for 20 years. As you know from your own situation, those were not happy years and I missed a lot of life because I was not willing to dive into what was wrong and come out the other side. Don’t make the same mistake. Be brave. You can do this. Open your mouth and let the words and emotions and past come out. Let the past come out so that the future can come in.

(photo: revod)


kumarmahi said...

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Michele Rosenthal said...

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