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One of my very first blog posts about PTSD symptoms and recovery was entitled, “Are You Ready to Let Go Of Your Trauma/PTSD Identity?” It explored how tough it was for me to let go of PTSD related perceptions and behaviors. Recently, I was reminded of it again when I was talking to a survivor about her sleeping habits, and the fact that she is, finally, beginning to sleep again.
As her recovery has progressed she’s been able to sleep for longer periods of time, with the lights and television off, and without anyone else being home. It’s been very exciting for her to see her need for insomnia meds reduce. “But,” she said, “I’ve still got my prescription if I need it!”
This conversation got me thinking about my own process, and how I experienced the same slow awakening that things were getting better. And the same dependence on knowing I had things to fall back on. I got to wondering, “How much do we continue to carry around even after we know the habits, behaviors and crutches are no longer necessary?”
Along the PTSD recovery spectrum there are points when you get to see there has been a definite shift. And yet, you don’t quickly abandon habits and beliefs. You have to wait to be sure the changes stick. By the time you’re sure, you may not be thinking about the fact that it’s time to clear out the leftover trash.
Case in point: my own medicine cabinet. As I thought about this topic I realized that even I had not finished clearing out past necessities. It’s been years since I needed my sleep meds, but if you looked in my bathroom cabinet, there, on the bottom shelf, were my bottles of sleeping aids. The labels are from 2002. For a while, a part of me kept them as a reminder of the changes, sort of as a souvenir. For a while, another part of me liked knowing they were there just in case. After those reasons wore out, I just stopped noticing the prescriptions were there at all, the way you stop noticing things you constantly see but have no interaction with.
This weekend the bottles went in the trash!
It’s always necessary to be making progress and then pausing to see what needs to be let go. The benefit of this kind of practice: more clarity on the changes and how they are affecting your life. Plus, the freedom to congratulate yourself on the changes that have been made, and the spaces they leave open to fill with new and more self-defining things.
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