Friday, February 20, 2009

PTSD Healing: What Lies Beyond the Words

Three and a half years ago I sat down to write out my trauma. I’m a writer, after all, writing’s what I do. I turned on the computer, I adjusted my seat, I fiddled with the lamp. I opened the window. I sat back down at my seat. I stared at that annoying flashing cursor. I decided I needed a cup of coffee. I went to the kitchen. I scratched Baylee’s belly and waited for the water to boil. I stirred up a great aromatic blend. I went back to my desk. I sat down. I stared at the blank screen. I decided I needed a cookie to go with the coffee. I went back to the kitchen. On the staircase, I passed a new book I’d bought. I sat down to read a few pages.

Do you see where I’m going here? The will and desire to heal are not a straight line. We will be pulled toward healing just as we’re pulled toward not healing. Healing is frightening. Healing asks us to go into the dark believing we’re going to come out into the light. What we must do is have faith that the healing process will bring us to a better place.

Not that faith is an easy thing. Pulling together our thoughts about our trauma and the healing process can bring up new stuff we weren’t (and, thank you, didn’t want to be!) aware of.

I’ll show you what happened when I started writing. I had just moved to Florida from New York City and bought my first house...

A lush tropical garden of weeping French hibiscus, bougainvilla, jasmine, huge red lobster and white birds of paradise surrounds our patio. It is the perfect place for me to stalk the past. While the humidity curls damp tendrils on my neck, I’m slowly beginning to look at events, recount facts, develop a chronology; mine my memories with deliberate consciousness. In the end, there will be something that resembles a plot with characters, conflict, climax and resolution. I will have followed the proper academic protocol for story writing, but will it get me anywhere? Are Charcot and his cronies correct in thinking that telling the story heals trauma? More recently, is Horowitz et. al. correct in assuming that the “repeated replaying of upsetting memories serves the function of modifying the emotions associated with the trauma, and … creates a tolerance for the content of the memories”?

When I am through with this very thorough reconstruction of events, will 1981 seem inconsequential? Will I be able to see myself after all? Or is this just another way to honor the trauma because as I get going and get the swing of laying out the facts, telling the story seems pretty damn easy compared to examining, exploring and exposing the deeper meat of it all, aka, Those Things We Don’t Discuss About Trauma.

It’s so much easier to breeze over the flow of time than to discuss, for example:

The acute and sudden sense of overwhelming powerlessness.

My surprise at being so powerless; the seismic shock of that surprise.

The internal and external measures I took (and continue to take) to accept that shock.

How acceptance of shock causes an identity to splinter.

The disorientation splintering brings.

The ways in which disorientation forces the sculpture of an unrecognizable self.

How much that new self is not an entirely comfortable place to be.

How frightened I am that no place will ever be comfortable again.

How I no longer trust myself, anyone else, or anything in the universe at all.

How difficult it is for me to talk about any of this.

How much I want to speak but can’t.

How distressed I am at this unexpected absence of words.

The fact that I am lost. I am overwhelmed. I am afraid.

Doesn’t sound like things are going well, does it? But a wonderful thing happens when we begin telling the story: We start looking beyond the facts and see ourselves and what’s really driving us. We start understanding the why of PTSD instead of just living the what. We begin learning what it will take to heal.

The past 3 weeks of focusing on the I WILL TALK healing resolution has brought you to the point that the words are moving out of the dark of your mind and into the light of the world. This is a terrific accomplishment. This act of bridging the gap between you and the rest of the world will lead to a new level of healing.

Next week we’ll start looking at strategies for choosing the 5Ws of telling our story – the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the right person, place, time and method for bridging the gap between the story controlling us and us controlling the story.

Over the weekend, take some time to 1) finish revising your trauma script, 2) practice reading it aloud to yourself.

Freedom is coming, friends. Let your words lead the way!

(photo: lotusfee)

1 comment:

Destress Yourself said...

Thank you Michele,

truly a pad of paper, or a computer, can be our best friend if we let it.