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Today’s post is an excerpt from A. E. Huppert’s terrific book (same title as this post) about healing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder.
Before PTSD set in, your amazing brain captured every sensory aspect of the traumatic incident. Like a crystalized snowflake, each thing you smelled, saw, heard, touched, perceived, tasted, thought, or felt emotionally at the moment you experienced the trauma was frozen in time. It was your mind’s way of encapsulating the horror, containing the confusion and protecting you from a life-threatening event. Over time, your mind invented creative ways to keep you from experiencing anything remotely similar to the original trauma, but not always successfully.
Why? Because the mind was so detailed in crystalizing the event, it can’t avoid bumping into any number of sensory elements resembling that original event over your entire lifetime. These are called triggers. When you bump into these triggers, it results in PTSD symptoms. Trust me—making your environment “behave” by forbidding friends and loved ones to trip your triggers doesn’t work. Triggers are everywhere! It would be impossible for anyone to avoid potentially setting off the multitude of triggers connected to your traumatic past. Furthermore, if you’re actively healing from PTSD, what bothers you one week might not bother you the next. However, asking a friend, family member or spouse to temporarily refrain from certain behavior can be appropriate, given the right circumstances. PTSD Self Help online will show you how to ask and when.
Did you know that traumatic memories are stored differently in the brain from other memories? When images of the traumatic event, feelings, sounds, smells or other bodily states associated with the event pop up to the surface of your daily living, you can be confident you’ve encountered a trigger. Triggers could be described as something that arises in the present that not only reminds you of a past event, but also causes you to feel the feelings associated with that past event. We call the present moment event a trigger because it is the catalyst for a cascade of emotional and sensory memories. That’s how traumatic memories are different from other memories—they’re linked, chained if you will, to emotional and sensory replay. Also, triggers can even happen with traumatic events about which you have partial or total amnesia.
Healing from PTSD is the gradual thawing of that crystalized snowflake, unlocking the sensory clues inside. Just recognizing those clues for what they are is often enough to dissolve the power they have over your mind and body. For this reason, the length of time it will take for you to reach your personal vision for healing from PTSD is unknown. However, you can be sure that for every day, week, month or year you put off healing and addressing the effects of PTSD, is one more day, week, month or year of running from something you can’t quite put your finger on.
Set yourself up for success by keeping these thoughts in mind:
A. E. Huppert (Annmarie Esther Huppert) is an advocate for survivors struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), author of PTSD Self Help: Transforming Survival into a Life Worth Living and visionary of The Center for Hope & Renewal – an experiential learning facility designed to empower people with a holistic approach to healing PTSD.
Annmarie’s practical, self help perspective comes from 20 yrs. studying the disorder, being a survivor herself and enjoying nearly 10 years living 100% symptom free. She partners with health care professionals, government officials and everyday people to provide PTSD education and healing as a motivational speaker, consultant, and strengths-focused healing coach. Find out more at www.PTSDSelfHelp.com.
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