More rambles on healing, nurturing and the like – Part Two

Michelle over at Heal My PTSD runs a program to, you know, do stuff like heal PTSD. I could follow the instructions for the program, but that sounds too sensible. Better to do what I always do when I have new electronic equipment or some IKEA furniture: get all the pieces out of the cartons and arrange them all over the floor; pull out the instruction booklet; open it. Then go make a cup of tea and have a cigarette. 😉

Seriously, there’s a lot in Michelle’s blog that speaks to me. Things like healing being about “conquering the past and creating the future”, being good to ourselves, accepting ourselves, being patient and accepting the roller coaster…. sound familiar?

Michelle has an exercise called “constructing a post trauma identity” which asks you to:

  • Imagine yourself without trauma – Who might you have been without your traumatic experience?
  • Imagine yourself without PTSD – What could or would you do or have done if PTSD didn’t get in the way?
  • Identify traits and characteristics you would like to possess – What kind of person would you like to be if trauma and PTSD were stripped away?
  • Identify and develop goals to move you forward – What activities can you engage in that will evolve you toward the person you imagine?

Imagining myself without trauma is just not possible for me. The “trauma” has been in my life for as long as I can remember. It caused me not to develop in the way I would have otherwise, so I can’t imagine myself without it. I don’t know who I am without it – then, or now.

I can imagine myself without the PTSD; without all the little things I thought were just idiosyncrasies or “weirdness” on my part, but which I now know are symptoms of something bigger. Things like hitting the roof whenever I hear a loud noise, or when someone touches me unexpectedly. Or like being unable to accept anything nice someone might say about me. Or believing that people aren’t all, in some way, laughing at me or out to get me. Or believing that I’m not inherently bad and people only hang around with me out of pity. Or weirding out with odd flashbacks in my head at the strangest of times.

Hard to imagine these things gone, but I’m starting to believe they can be. For example, most weeks I no longer shake uncontrollably (like a 7.0 earthquake!) in my therapist’s office.  And since I moved into my new house, I haven’t had to check the doors and windows multiple times before going to bed. And I don’t rush to the window to see who’s coming to get me every time I hear a noise. And even when I’m triggered, my “messy” state seems to be shorter than it was, and I’m more able to at least know that it will pass, even if I can’t actively remember what to do to make it so. These things tell me there is life without PTSD, even if I’m still not quite sure what replaces it.

As for traits and characteristics I’d like to possess, if I close my eyes I can imagine:

  • Being confident and happy in who I am – mentally, physically, spiritually – in every way you can think of
  • Not being afraid when I walk into a room full of strangers
  • Having a balanced life in which I pursue a range of activities – for work and play – all of which make me happy, and which don’t strike me down in terror at the mere thought of them
  • Not being scared to go out at night and not worrying endlessly about what I’ll wear or how much people laugh at me or … you know the story
  • Not being too scared to stand up for myself
  • Being able to look after myself (properly) and not feel guilty
  • Being emotionally healthy
  • Being kind and compassionate and caring, and able to demonstrate that towards myself as well as share it with those around me

Gosh, with my eyes closed, I even live in hope of getting to a place where I can contemplate having a relationship. That’s weird and hard to say, but true. I’m not sure I can imagine a place where that will actually happen, but I try not to dismiss it. My therapist reminds me sometimes of all the things I said I’d “never” do, but have gone ahead and done anyway. Part of me hopes the relationship thing is in the same category.

As for goals that might get me to these places … I’m not really sure what they are. When I do know what they are, they strike terror into me. It all feels like a vicious circle at the moment, but that’s something to work towards, I guess.

Some other things led me to this point in my thinking, too. One was reading Irvin Yalom, noted psychotherapist and writer, and how he’d point clients to an awareness of their own impending deaths. Draw me a timeline, he’d say: Where are you now in this line that represents your life from birth to death? What are your regrets for the last 10 years? How can we ensure that you won’t have those regrets 10 years from now? Good questions.

Another was an email newsletter I subscribe to at work in which the author described the horror of losing people close to her this year, and asked the all important question: if it was all to end tomorrow, did I truly live my life? No, I haven’t.

The other thing I’ve been reading is a book my therapist recommended. It’s an Australian book (woohoo!) called Change Your Thinking. It’s very CBT, but full of really easy, neat ways to, ummm, change your thinking. LOL.

The last sections of the book (again not following the usual order of things) talk about attaining happiness, balance in life, etc. I found it helpful a little while ago when I was being dragged under by the quicksand of my depression (here and the follow up here). I also found it helpful yesterday when the darkness of the pit threatened to overwhelm me again.

But I digress. The point of this is to say that there’s a scarily helpful section at the back of the book that asks you to assess how balanced your lifestyle is in five key domains: work/daily activities; health; mind; leisure; and social support. The first time I browsed this list I was scared half to death. I realised very quickly that my life isn’t balanced at all. For a Libran like me, that’s a DISASTER. Needless to say that I’ve been too scared to go back to the list, but I will.

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17 thoughts on “More rambles on healing, nurturing and the like – Part Two

  1. Hi Kerro,

    There is a great book called “Finding Your North Star” that I love. It is how to one tiny step at a time figure out who you want to be. I love this book. I found it long after I had already done this process nnd it was disappointing to know that there wasn’t a book out on the topic soon enough.

    Another book that is not as in-depth is “I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What it Was” by Barbara Sher. Both books can help someone try to help them identify the real things that they will love. They are not about abuse, healing, or survivorhood, but in a way finding yourself and what you want in your life and to do with your life is a huge part of healing.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.

    Kate

  2. Thanks Kate, I LOVE the North Star book. I was able to read and excerpt through Barnes and Noble and promptly downloaded the full eBook. Thank you! It’s like this book was written for me (and you)… like the one book I’ve been searching for for AGES. Thank you! 🙂

  3. Once again thanks for the links. I went to the PTSD site and just the first part hit me – powerless – that’s how I often feel about the abuse. Powerless at the time and powerless to make the therapy go faster.

    Oh and another book I can get – I love books.

    OLJ

  4. Thanks for the link to Michelle’s site. I wish I could do these “homework-like” activities that you seem to support and many others do to. I somehow seem not able. My therapist has given me assignments for the past many months, and I don’t think I’ve done any.

    My “system” of working seems too messy. There are certainly a lot of ways one could learn to help with some of the problems we encounter. But I seem so unable to do those.

    I did put into one place about 6 books I want to read. They’ve been on my “list” for a year. I hope to get to them.

    Somehow I keep thinking I can do more to heal more and make life easier.

    Thanks for the reminder! 🙂

  5. Hi Paul, thanks so much for dropping by. I admit that I am a compulsive homework do-er, but I do find it much easier when the material actually speaks to me. I have a number of other books that have been sitting in a similar pile for months…

    Don’t beat yourself up about the homework, I know you are doing everything you can to heal. May be ask what it is about the homework that’s stopped you from doing it? Is it that it’s “homework”, or is it the material? Do you not want to go into whatever it is, because it’s too hard emotionally, for example? Or have you moved past the point it’s asking you to explore?

    All of those things have been true for me at various times. But when something comes along that hits just the right spot at just the right time, well, I can’t stop myself… LOL

  6. Thanks Kerro. I think for me, it’s that I somehow feel it’s like I’m in school and beneath me. When really it isn’t. My therapist calls it “my resistance”.

    I just wanted you to know that I do read your blog all the time, it’s in my RSS feed, but don’t comment all the time because sometimes I don’t know what to say. But, I do appreciate how hard you work. I especially liked your discussion about eating. I followed those closely.

    Paul

  7. Paul, I feel the same about some of the books in my pile. Rather than seeing them as “beneath me” – I’ve now started seeing that I’m past that point in my healing and the book/homework is dragging me backwards (or perhaps I’m just not ready for it and I’m also resisting). That’s why it’s made such a difference to find things that speak to me at the right moment, if that makes sense.

    Thanks for reading, I do appreciate it. I’m glad you liked the discussion about eating. I will come back to that… one day. 🙂

  8. Heady stuff Kerro, by the way do you really realize how different you are now. I can hear the hope and stability and it is very strong, it sounds permanent.
    If you are inclined please continue posting on how you grapple with this stuff, especially the balance issue. I was also born under the sign if the scales and balance is my daily quest 🙂

  9. @ Phoenix dear (that doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? LOL) it’s good to see you here. Thanks for dropping by. In answer to your question, no, I don’t think I really do realise that I’m different now. I still feel the same, in very many respects.

    I’ll keep posting on my daily wrangle with balance. All of us born under the sign of the scales grapple with this, daily. I don’t think I’ve yet met one of us who has it mastered but hope we can share some of the journey together. 🙂

  10. Hi Kerro,

    It is a great book. Even though it is not about healing from abuse, it is about finding yourself and who you are and what you love and what you want. It is the greatest guidebook step by step when you don’t know how to get to the next step it is there. I recommend it all the time. I’m glad that it is the right book for you right now.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.

    Kate

  11. Pingback: In which I complete the checklist … or Yet more rambles on healing, nurturing and the like – Part Three « Kerro’s Korner

  12. Hi, Kerro – Thanks for posting about Heal My PTSD! I like your answers to the exercises. Something that struck me: you can’t imagine yourself without your trauma… I couldn’t either when I first tried. It took me a while to realize the trick: we can’t look at ourselves from before trauma and then try to fast forward to some imagined self without it — that movie simply doesn’t run!

    Instead, we have to look at ourselves NOW and decide who we would want to be in the future if the trauma didn’t inform each and every moment.

    So, the question becomes: who would I like to be if I wasn’t a trauma slave?

    Re: goals — I think all of the really important healing work does strike a chord of terror! Healing challenges us to look into the great abyss and not fall in. It also demands we let go of coping mechanisms, thought processes and survival techniques that are really harming rather than helping us — even though they are often the very things that make us feel safe.

    To me, Complex PTSD actually applies to the healing phase of it — the more you struggle to heal the more complex it all seems. And then there comes a day when you feel a shift; a shaft of light enters the darkness and you feel…. one day it might actually be possible to find your way to freedom. And then the viscious cycle breaks, and the next step comes a little more easily and little by little you come to know just what all the struggling has been for.

    Keep hacking away at it! Healing will come. 🙂

  13. Michelle – thanks for commenting. I have seen the shaft of light, I just wish it would stay on. It seems to flash… on an off… on and off…

  14. A technical question – I subscribed to follow up posts and it still says I am subscribed, but I haven’t received any of these. Anyone with more technical expertise know what I can do?

  15. Pingback: The little book… aka Part Four in my treatise on healing « Kerro’s Korner

  16. Pingback: Meandering Michele’s Mind: Can’t Healing Happen Any Faster?? | BRIDGE THE GAP Healing Workshop | Heal My PTSD, LLC - Your source for symptoms, causes, and treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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