Disorders and Treatment
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Question: PTSD can be so overwhelming; how did you find the strength to take control in the ways you have?
I began healing and finding my own strength the instant I experienced trauma, though I was unable to conceive of what was occurring in this way, until recently. The traumas I experienced annihilated the “me” that I was. They literally shattered my sense of self and destroyed what I knew of the world. I felt reduced to a glob of formless goo with no shape or form, no boundaries, and no definition. It took me years to realize that this was much like handing a potter a clump of fresh earth. I could mold according to my visions of what could be, utilizing the center and spirit of who I am, untouched by the trauma, and now no longer bound by previous environment, experiences, parenting, etc…
Initially though, I think my strength came from a basic, physiological need to survive. Once I had escaped the physical experience of the traumas, I drew strength from an internal “auto-pilot” function. I kept going, kept fulfilling my responsibilities, kept trying to function exactly as I had before. This provided a false sense of comfort, routine, and competence for a short time. When I realized I could no longer continue “out of necessity” and in a mechanical fog (because of the increasing intensity of my symptoms, which made it nearly impossible to function at all), I turned to strategies I had used to comfort myself and work through difficult periods in the past. These too, failed. I fell into an incredible despair and sense of helplessness, drawing strength from the only choice I felt I had left….the choice to end my own life. Then I realized that I could not make this choice, because it would mean eliminating choice for others, and sunk deeper into despair. At that time, each moment became an agonizing attempt to force my way through what felt like quick dry cement heaped to my ear lobes. Each shove only immobilized me further. It seemed as though all of my choices, faith and power had been stripped from me. I had no strength that I could identify.
I called out in desperation. My husband and my therapist provided strength, courage, comfort, support, and encouragement for me because I could not locate any of these resources internally. After depending on others for what seemed like far too long, I began to see hints of resiliency, courage, and strength within myself. Actually, my husband, my therapist, family, friends, and others had verbalized these qualities as belonging to me long before I gained this awareness. It was perhaps, in part, because of their ability to see and bring to my attention the good in me that I discovered my strength. Perhaps it was also because it has existed all along and had merely been shrouded by the overwhelming nature of trauma.
Owning, continually affirming, and believing in my own worth, goodness, and power has reinforced and increased my fortitude. I survived, triumphed, and have become more beautiful and full of life!
I recently visited the city where I was traumatized. I had to work not far from the towering 16 story building where the trauma occurred. While I drove down the street I observed that that building quite literally overshadows the entire city. I was also reminded of how powerful and untouchable the individuals that perpetrated the trauma are, in stature and reputation. As I sat in the presence of that building and remembered those individuals that once caused me to tremble and repeatedly re-live the horrors I experienced, I arrived at a new experiencing. I am BIGGER than they are!
A culminating choice has been the act of surrender, of letting go, in a much broader and more spiritual sense. During the traumas, and throughout the course of my healing, I have prayed and cried out. I worked to forgive, to accept my experience, to let go and surrender. I have praised and given thanks, all in varying degrees. However, a very real and visceral, active decision to let go of the trauma and who I became in the presence of it, to stop looking back, and to focus on moving forward has occurred recently. I know that if I continue to fear, to turn and look behind, to hold on to what is familiar I limit and eliminate possibilities in the future. This requires that I step off the edge into not-knowing-ness, that I trust and have faith and that I surrender to that which is greater than I. I am still afraid and I am aware that when I open myself up to the goodness that exists and that which I know intuitively, versus that which I see, that the result will be grander and more magnificent than I could have ever imagined.
Question: Why do you feel it’s important to manage your PTSD/recovery in the self-empowered ways that you are?
Healing, in all forms, is important. At different points in the process of healing, different methods or tools prove more helpful. I am now able to be more independent and directive in my own healing. I have come to a place where I am able to recognize what I need, what best meets that need, and how to continue to heal. I learned to do this by seeking out assistance from members of the healing professions (physical, psychological, spiritual and holistic healers), being a part of support and self-help groups, reading voraciously, utilizing a wide variety of healing tools, and working through those things I was struggling with. Being able to manage my healing proactively and in self-empowered ways is important to me because it gives me a way to say “I can and have reached many of my healing goals. For me, being proactive and self-empowered also means a desire to help others and offer back some of what others so graciously gave to me. I am tremendously grateful for all of the people that encouraged, supported, and empowered me in my healing. I am hopeful that I can also offer encouragement, support, and empowerment to others. For this reason, I continue to participate in support and self help groups to share my experiences, I participate in PTSD research, and I have begun writing with more depth and publicly. I now go about my daily life, on most days, without intrusions related to the trauma. It is no longer necessary for me to make weekly or even monthly appointments with healing professionals and I am able to fully enjoy, experience, and participate in each moment.
Question: What are the benefits of being so clear and organized in your management?
Organization provides a sense of structure, routine, comfort, and clarity in healing and in life. It allows me to define my self, my dreams, my values, my goals, etc…. so that I can make choices effectively and in a way that is consistent with who I am, what is important to me, and what I believe. Organization gives me power. It allows me to manage and manipulate time, responsibilities, and material things. If I am organized, whether in my healing or in my every day life, I feel less burdened and pressured, things flow smoothly from one to the next and I can enjoy what I am doing with less distraction and concern. For me, this means listing those things that I want and need to pay attention to and ensuring I have allotted time to do so. It means prioritizing, eliminating things of less importance, and being true to my self and my beliefs in my decisions. This fosters a sense of integrity and genuineness, of competence and mastery.
Rather than suggest links, I will suggest a few of my favorite books. Books seem to hold a magic and power that electronic sources do not possess.
The ideas contained in this post solely represent the perspective of the author. To contribute to ‘Survivors Speak’ contact Michele.
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