Thursday, May 14, 2009

Meandering Michele’s Mind: The Most Negative Voice of All

Reeducating family can be tough – an enormous job where we have to overcome negative reactions, assumptions, comments and perceptions. I was corresponding with someone about this today when all of a sudden it hit me: the most difficult person to educate in my family was… me!

I’ve written before about how avidly I fought my PTSD diagnosis. As if dealing with the symptoms wasn’t enough, I complicated things by hating myself for the fact the diagnosis described and fit me, and that I couldn’t just overthrow it all with a willful flick of the wrist.

While I was lucky enough to have a family who was respectful of my diagnosis and the healing journey I needed to take, I was the one saying to myself,

Why can’t you just let it go?

Get over it already!

How tough is it to stop thinking about the past?

How long is this going to take??

How is it possible you need more therapy?

I beat myself up, berated my emotional and psychological state, banged my head against the proverbial wall of healing, and in general made myself more miserable than I already was because I demeaned myself for needing help or taking my time to sort things through. Whew! Healing is exhausting.

While we spend a great deal of time lamenting family reactions, today I’m thinking about our own reactions to ourselves. The more unkind we are to ourselves the slower we will heal. Almost more than anything we do for ourselves we need to cultivate a spirit of generosity. While we’re figuring out our healing journey is a time to give ourselves room, to make demands that we actively engage in healing – but not demand how quickly we achieve it. To tell ourselves it’s time to look forward, but not smack ourselves around each time we steal a peek back. Recovery requires a safe place; our own minds need to be the first element of that space!

I’m thinking back to an evening I wailed to my mother that I would never be free, that I was lost and incapable of finding my way back; that I just didn’t have the strength and was sick of being in my own head. It was about a year after my diagnosis and I was just done. Things were not going well, physically or mentally. I had no idea how to move forward, no energy to figure it out, and felt doomed to live the PTSD way forever.

My mother listened empathetically, and then refuted everything I said. She believed in and supported me. She told me to hang in and continue trying; that freedom was worth struggling for and it might be closer than I thought. She reminded me what she had always taught us growing up, Live the questions.

We don’t have all the answers when we’re in the PTSD blackhole. We feel we should. We want to and wish someone did if we don’t. But we can’t let our own negative thoughts about ourselves and our inability to instantly heal get in the way of our continued progress. We have to live the questions of healing, and treat ourselves the way a loving parent or friend would: with dignity, respect, understanding and a generosity of spirit. My own healing took off when I stopped trying to force it or denigrate myself for how long and circular that process seemed. I healed faster when I was nicer to myself. Not soft on myself, but nice.

Albert Camus wrote, Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present. We can’t give our all to healing if we’re battered by the voice that’s in our head.

Be generous, be generous, be generous….

(Photo: Spongita84)


Anonymous said...

i love this post~ very helpful and resonant. thanks, michele!

Michele Rosenthal said...

@mountainmama - Isn't it funny sometimes how we see everyone else's flaws so clearly and forget our own? Always good to do a self-check once in a while. :)

Acorn said...

Kia Kaha
('Kia Kaha' is an expression in the Maori language te reo Maori meaning 'stay strong', it is used as encouragement when the going gets tough.)

Anonymous said...

sheesh, i wish i could forget my own for once! :)

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