Friday, June 12, 2009

Getting Rid of PTSD Symptoms: Seeking a New Kind of Help

Can't help myself from looking back over the past week and recognizing how important it is to revamp our ideas of who to consider when we're seeking help. It's easy to get stuck in the rut of thinking only clinicians, therapists or trained practitioners can help us. But there's a whole world out there! Help can come in many different forms and from many different sources, from neuroscientists to dance instructors. We have the opportunity to seek help openly or privately in just about any area, aspect or outlet we can think of.

Which means we need to think. We need to approach healing not only from a clinical, DSM IV viewpoint but from the creative view of the whole person. We are more - so much more! - than our PTSD. Developing other areas of ourselves empowers the healing process. It reconnects us to ourselves outside of trauma; it helps us develop a post-trauma identity which gives us the strength we need to eschew the past. Sometimes, seeking help means finding a new therapist. And sometimes, it means finding another perspective from a source that doesn't know our story.

David's answer to my question about our own ability to heal our minds means we are not doomed to live with an imbalance between amygdalic and hippocampal activity. The neural pathways can, without a doubt, be shifted, rerouted and rewired - not because we are more or less damaged than someone else, but because that's the way the brain is programmed to perform. And also, because we have the power to use our minds for this.

I sought help for understanding a concept and received a Get Out of Jail Free card: PTSD is a creation of the power of the mind, which means we can use that power to create healing, too. If our psychological experiences can affect our healing, then we need to consider how we can create experiences that fill us with joy and thereby balance out, reverse, and negate the effects of trauma. (Who can help you do that? What friend, expert, regular person has experience that can help you evolve as a person outside of your trauma? What have you always wanted to do that would bring you pleasure; who can help or teach you to do this?)

Neurofeedback seeks to retrain the brain by activating and exercising specific areas; experience can do that, too. We must take an active role in creating our present and our future - in helping to rewire the brains we find so draining.

It all boils down to this: when we reach out and seek help - in the form of education, experience or therapy - with and from the right people with the right sources, experience or proper training - we learn things that impact our perceptions and lead to new thoughts, ideas, healing possibilities, actions and eventually, healing itself. Even where I am on the healing spectrum I have questions about my experience. Even for me, seeking help in understanding and framing my journey is a useful exercise.

David gave me the gift of knowledge - a gift, like all on the healing path, I would not have gotten had I not sought it out. As survivors there's the impulse to accept PTSD because we don't have the will or the means to counteract it. But that's an enormous error on our part. We all have to participate. We need to engage. We need to ask the questions. We need to seek the help. We need to move through the fog with a hand outstretched and our voices echoing.

Identify one person outside the clinical realm you could approach for help in combatting PTSD. Always wanted to learn guitar? Find a teacher. Want to become a stellar quilter? Find someone who runs a quilting group who can hook you into the community.

The goal is to find someone who can give you what you need beyond therapy. What person can you engage in an exploratory conversation? Who can you sign up with to develop a new skill that will reconnect your body and your mind, or distract you enough to get out of your looping mind for a while? Choose a non-clinical person to approach for help, then start plotting how to introduce yourself.

[Note: This can be an entirely private activity. As I did with my dance instructor, you do not have to tell anyone why you are seeking the help you do. I told Bill I simply wanted to learn to dance. Only I knew that by learning to dance I was making a desparate attempt to save myself from a life of PTSD.]

(Photo: shmilebliK)


Donna said...

A few months after my trauma, and just a couple of weeks after my medical doctor suggested a PTSD diagnosis might be appropriate, I bought a bike and learned to ride. It wasn't a conscious decision to seek healing or joy. I was looking for a way to connect with my husband, and biking was something he enjoyed. Sometimes you have to listen to your gut. Even though it seems like all you can see are the nightmares, flashbacks, and anxiety, your brain is trying to find a way to help you heal. It may appear irrational to other people. My parents thought I was out of my mind to try learning how to ride a bike at 36, but it was the right choice. When I was biking, I wasn't thinking about the bad stuff. It was another outlet of normalcy to focus on during those dark days.

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