Wednesday, March 18, 2009

PTSD Healing: Time to Hit the Road

When I was diagnosed with PTSD I interviewed Holly, a family therapist who specialized in trauma. I wanted her to educate me about PTSD. One of the things she suggested was that I join a local support group. This was about 6 months after my PTSD diagnosis. There was NO WAY I was joining a group. I didn’t want to reach out. I wanted to burrow in, remain alone, and figure out what the hell was going on. I was afraid of the group scenario. I was worried I’d be caught off guard, unable to formulate words, and overwhelmed by the emotions of others. You name it I thought it was a reason to stay in my cave.

On the other side now, I can see how wrong that was. I’ve learned how much better it feels to connect with people who immediately understand and get me. I was foolish to think I had to go the whole healing road alone. Back then I wasn’t ready to reach out, but I should have pushed myself to do so; it may have allowed me to heal more quickly. Definitely, it would have given me a forum to address what was going on inside my head, which at the time, I would have given anything to get out of.

Timing is a big issue in healing PTSD. We need to do what feels right to us in the moment; we need to feel safe in every sense in order to progress to wellness. But feeling safe and going outside of our comfort zones are both part of the healing process. It feels safe to stay outside of the pack, but it’s more healing to run with it.

How do we know when and what to do? In my experience, PTSD healing has a dual track: you have to approach it on both the conscious and subconscious levels. So, there has to be a balance of those aspects that guide your way. Your mind will know what you need to do that will be good for you. You’re reading and researching and thinking; this means the conscious part of you seeks wellness. Following that instinct should become easier the more you practice allowing your thoughts and instincts to inform, decide and choose your actions.

However, your subconscious mind houses all of your emotions. As the dominant 88% of your brain the subconscious mind is very powerful in motivating everything you do. How you feel about what you do affects how and whether or not you do it. This means if the subconscious mind is opposed to healing it can really hamper your actions.

There are four possible scenarios here:

1 – the conscious mind is willing but the subconscious isn’t

2 – the subconscious mind is willing but the conscious isn’t

3 – the conscious and subconscious minds both are not willing

4 – the conscious and subconscious minds both are willing

Reaching out to the PTSD community and the support people in your world can help in all of these situations:

1 – in the supportive network of a good group the subconscious learns to relax, let down its guard and engage in a positive and safe experience

2 – by learning what it means to be a survivor and a part of a survivor community the conscious mind can drop its negative preconceived ideas and learn to form positive, healing associations

3 – by participating in a supportive and positive group the conscious mind learns to engage in the healing process while the subconscious learns to believe in the possibility of healing

4 – how we approach an experience has a lot to do with what we get out of it; when we’re clear in our intention to heal on both the conscious and subconscious levels the process incredibly evolves

Which one of the four scenarios applies to how you think and approach the healing process? Think about this today. Observe your actions, reactions, thoughts and feelings about healing. Is there an imbalance in your intentions consciously or subconsciously? If there is, identify where it’s coming from and make some plans to rebalance. What can you do to ease the strain on either the conscious or subconscious level?

Sometimes we have to go outside our comfort zone in order to find a new comfort zone. Engaging in a community, online or off, can help with that. Certainly you must approach reaching out at a pace that feels right for you, but don’t let conscious or subconscious barriers interfere with moving ahead. Healing must take place at a speed with which we’re comfortable, but there has to be movement nonetheless!

It wasn’t until after I healed that I began to reach out. Big, BIG mistake. Once we define our emotional boundaries and learn how to maintain them we’re ready to take ’em for a test drive. Go on, you’ve got the tools; it’s time to hit the highway!

(Photo: Desolate Places)

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