Monday, June 8, 2009

Healing PTSD: Why We Don't Want to Seek Help

For the past 3 days I've been posting about my experience at the 20th Annual Trauma Conference in Boston. It's got me thinking about how we PTSDers view the professional clinical world, plus how we do and don't utilize it, and why we have a love/hate relationship with the people we should be relying on for help.

Let's go back 28 years. Before I even left the hospital after my trauma I had shut down to the perspective of the outside world. Sure, my parents made me speak to a shrink before my release; I ignored the poor woman and got nothing out of our encounter. When I got home, I focused on moving forward in space even while I looped backward in time.

Years went by. My PTSD symptoms kicked in big time. My mother took me to more therapists who didn’t recognize my symptoms as PTSD. These encounters pushed me further into my own isolation. I trusted professionals less and less. I fell into the dark abyss more and more.

When my PTSD symptoms became physical the situation was the same: no one recognized what was truly wrong with me and the collective inability of about 30 doctors and specialists to treat me forced me further and further into silence, despair, distrust and skepticism.

More years pass and I finally do get my PTSD diagnosis and what happens? I don’t want to seek anymore professional help. Why?

  • I don’t believe I can be helped.

  • I believe I can heal better on my own.

  • When things don’t go well, I begin to believe I can’t heal at all.

  • Since they failed me so often in the past, I don’t trust professionals in the present.

  • I don’t want to speak about what happened, is happening, or am afraid will happen.

  • I’m afraid I don’t have the words.

  • I’m afraid of how overwhelming the words will be.

  • I don’t want anyone else in my head.

  • I feel safer in my isolation than I feel in the exposure of connection.

  • I believe only I know the truth.

  • I believe only I know what’s right.

  • I believe only I can understand my experience.

  • I don’t believe anyone can say anything that will lighten my load.

Great. I have a lot of beliefs that keep me imprisoned in my own head and isolated in my pain. I decide to read and educate and inform myself about PTSD. My scientific absorption rate isn’t exactly that of a sponge. I read slowly. I’m in a fog. I have trouble concentrating. I can’t focus. I don’t understand all that I read, nor do I recognize the implications of what I read or how this information impacts healing. I learn more and more about what is wrong with me and less and less about how to fix it. I’m committed to going it alone and I’m in hell.

I look back on all that now and wish I’d had the clarity of mind (a PTSD oxymoron, for sure) to understand these things:

1 - all of the help I’d had before hadn’t been properly informed; I needed a trauma trained therapist and an internist who understood PTSD. It was my job as someone healing to doggedly seek these people out; to contact one and then another until I found the people appropriate to help me. If one or two people couldn’t help me that didn’t mean no one could, it just meant I hadn’t yet found the right person or combination of people.

2 - these people who can help do exist and deciding not to look for them severely inhibits the speed of our healing. Deciding to stay in my shell, holding onto my fear and anger, hurt no one but myself.

In my decision not to seek help I sentenced myself to far more pain and anguish than I needed to because:

To be continued in Wednesday’s post…

(Photo: Solea)


Anonymous said...

I gave up.

It was difficult to pluck up the courage to go looking for help and to find the energy to do that.

I didn't want to admit perhaps even to myself how tough things were and felt like I needed to 'tough it out'.

I really didn't have the energy to try and convince someone else that things were bad.

I requested help via my GP (that's how you do things in the UK) and nothing came of it. He suggested I would need to chase up the request to make it happen. I really didn't have that level of energy available to me to do it.

It might have helped because doing it how I did was definitely the hard way to do things.

Anonymous said...


Several professionals didn't want to help at all - my case was too difficult for them since it was an ongoing situation.

That sucked!

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