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PTSD Survivors Speak: A View of Healing in Process, Part 1

Posted Jan 13 2010 12:00am

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 • •

acceptance-fernando_graphicsI met Marty in an online PTSD group and was immeidately struck by his proactive, self-empowered attitude toward healing. Of course, I jumped at the chance to have him share what has helped him. Today, Part 1 of his ongoing path to overcoming PTSD.

I have been diagnosed with Chronic Pain from a wreck, plus PTSD and Social anxiety.  Healing has been a cumulative or incremental march toward normalcy.  It is littered with many trials, errors and adjustments. 

The first piece of advice is to be your own quarterback in the game of PTSD.  No one cares as much as you and wants results.  We are the ones suffering and we are the ones who will heal ourselves.  Healing comes from within for me.  The more knowledge you have the better direction you can steer your path.

Some of the basics are reading.  Know the process of PTSD.  Know the mechanism and the cause.  Research the different therapies and medications.  Do not rely on someone else to do this for you.  Do not be afraid to change or question what a therapist or doctor is doing.  All healing is personal and the techniques will affect everyone differently.  Do not be afraid to go outside the box.  Some of the new therapies are excellent.  Lastly, do not give up on some therapies to early.  It took a long time for some of this trauma to come out and will take time to heal.

A daily routine keeping a journal to see what will transpire week to week is important. Take stock and see if you are in victim stage.  If you are reliving your trauma or feeling sorry for yourself you are in victim mode.  It happens to all of us.  Just be aware that you need to be in the moment of now.  PTSD has a way of making us unplug from society or people at times. I dedicated myself to certain goals every day.  It did not matter how I felt, my routine was foremost on my agenda.  Healing is subtle and slow.  Most of us cannot see the small changes happening as we tackle the disorder.

The biggest difference between those who heal and those who stay suffering is activity.  You have to move and you have to work at it.  I firmly believe that PTSD is a disorder that will continually repeat itself unless you change something.  How much have you changed so far?  Exercise and diet are important.  Exercise can flush the nervous system and impurities and expand the lungs.  It is a great stress remover and great for focusing us on something but our triggers.

Reading is important and can help out tremendously.  All of us must find a way to deal with our thoughts.  This is the main issue to improve in my mind.  Our mind is malleable and capable of making new connections and healing on its own.  Our trauma is stored in the amygdala portion of the brain.  It stores things in image form with deep emotional attachment to them.  This part of the brain is not accessible from the conscious side.  You cannot outthink or rationalize the content of the amygdale.  Some trauma is also stored in the body.

CBT was counterproductive for me because it tried to control the thoughts.  This made them grow.  It took a while before I found ACT or acceptance therapy.  Acceptance is the exact opposite of control but the path to gaining your life back.  It was difficult accepting the thoughts without any emotion or energy.  Our impulse is strong to control to protect ourselves from the danger our nervous system senses.  So, I learned to be with my thoughts and observe them on their own merits.

Around this time meditation was introduced to me.  It was mindful meditation, defined as quieting the mind following the breath and looking inward.  The old axiom of know your body is correct.  I would sit and explore focusing my mind on my breath and on my triggers.  One day my triggers went off while meditating and I just relaxed and let it fire up to its full strength.  I was scared but after it calmed down, I realized I had won a big battle.  I had experienced the full force of my PTSD and panic and could handle it.  PTSD never had its same amount of again.  Every small success was celebrated and it gave me more resolve for the difficult times.

So my path now is a combination of acceptance and meditation.  My practice deepened and sitting with thoughts and emotions began to heal my psyche.  The thoughts were peeled back like an onion.  I explored my anger and found fear beneath it.  I found a scared little boy who was beaten but beautiful.  That little traumatized boy was integrated into my psyche and finally I reached a tipping point.  One day my nervous system flipped back upwards and my mood was relaxed.  From then on life was better and starting to have periods of happiness.

Part 2 of Marty’s story will post next Wednesday.

The opinions expressed in “PTSD Survivors Speak” are solely those of the author. To contribute, contact Michele.

(Photo acknowledgement on Flickr.)

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