Thursday, April 9, 2009

Meandering Michele's Mind: It's All About Attitude

It doesn’t do any good to know the facts, stats, symptoms, and causes of PTSD and just stop there. While we may feel helpless, muddled, hopeless and flattened by the weight of PTSD, it is, in the words of a psychologist friend, ‘eminently treatable’. And not just in the ‘let’s control the symptoms way.’ There is more to be done in recovering from PTSD than just striving to stop flashbacks. There is a life to be recovered and a future to be lived. We have survived. Are we now going to be undone by our memories and an overactive, overprotective subconscious? Hell, no!

My friend Tom Wootton has a fabulous attitude about recovering from Bipolar Disorder – it’s one I think every PTSDer should adopt. Tom says,

I am dedicated to the concept that recovery does not have to be limited to 90% of full function; true recovery means doing the hard work that brings you to 150%! I strongly believe that we can turn our 'condition' into one that becomes an advantage instead of an 'illness' or a 'disorder.'

We should approach healing PTSD like this, too. Our job in recovering contains two major elements:

1 – Conquer the past – Reduce our memories to their rightful size; get the subconscious to stand down; release our grip on the meaning of our trauma and its impact on our lives.

2 – Create the future – Enlarge our participation in the present; focus on whom we will become; reach toward our own personal concept of a future in which we are whole, productive and making meaning come out of our trauma, instead of looking for or finding meaning living in it.

For each of us our traumas are individual, which means the healing path will be, too. What is universal, however, is our approach and the necessity of the right attitude. What is your attitude toward healing? Are you conquering the past and creating the future? Or are you living in the past afraid of the future?

Don’t worry if you answer positively to the second question. That was me for 25 years. Only when I realized how afraid I was (of myself, my circumstances, my memories, their power, my weakness, my (in)ability to cope) – and that I had to overcome that fear myself, and that it was up to me to take an action, and that healing was not anything someone could do for me – did healing actually begin. Which is not to say that it happened right away! But changing my attitude changed my ability to find the right resources, do the right work, and make the slow progress healing requires.

My mother always taught me that courage is a choice. Healing is, too. The root of PTSD lies in the imprint trauma makes in our minds, which means there is always hope we can use our minds to lessen that imprint. While healing is not easy and the path not a direct route, I believe we can use the very power of our minds that is hurting us in ways that will set us free. This begins with having the right perspective about healing; it begins with imagining that we can do more than cope, that we can, in fact, put the demons to rest and find release. That we can be, in Tom’s words, 150%.

In living with PTSD we have two choices: 1) we can accept, 2) we can seek. What are you choosing?

(Photo: Langdon)

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