Trust and PTSD Recovery

Do you trust yourself?

I know, that’s a loaded question. Post-trauma recovery makes you question everything you ever thought, believed or believed you thought you knew. This includes yourself, right? Me, too.

It makes sense that we lose trust in ourselves, maybe not in all areas but in some. I bet there are things about yourself that you do trust. And then, maybe there are things that you don’t. I’ll give you an example from my own life: I didn’t trust that I could be strong enough to manage my post-trauma emotions. I was so very terrified of them that instead of trusting that I could and would find a way to survive their enormous intensity, I just cut them off, deadened, numbed.

You know what happened? I spent decades in an emotionless fog of deep depression and wondered why I never could get past it. Of course, I didn’t do much to try to get beyond that state because I didn’t want to stir up any of the stuff I had worked so hard to suppress. Catch-22: I wanted to feel better but didn’t trust myself to keep it together while doing what it would take to get to that better place. I spent over twenty years in this Michele-you-can’t-trust-yourself place. Only to find out later I was dead wrong.

When I finally began my PTSD recovery process I didn’t have a choice about trusting myself or not. I was an emotional and physical wreck with health issues so serious the doctors thought I might have liver cancer. (I didn’t. Turned out all of my physical symptoms were psychosomatic PTSD symptoms.) Things were so bad I didn’t have the strength to keep suppressing my thoughts and beliefs or the emotions they brought up. Everything came on full force; I had no choice but to deal with it. It seemed like a catastrophe and I cried a lot in fear that my own mind was about to permanently short-circuit.

An interesting thing happened though: I turned to others for support, I educated myself about PTSD and trauma, and I sat very still in my mind and let the onslaught occur – and I survived it. No, it wasn’t easy. Yes, there were emotions so intense that some days were really, truly horrible. What I learned, however, is that I was wrong not to trust myself. In thinking I was too weak to do the work I caused myself to lose without giving myself chance to win.

When I made it through those first intense emotions and realized I was all right, that I could survive them, I began to reassess how much I could trust myself to do the work I had to do. Eventually, I did all the work – slowly, piece by piece. By giving myself support, education, patience and trust I took the shattered pieces of my life and myself and reconstructed them so that I became whole and at peace. Even more than that: I became ready, finally, to really live.

I wonder how much more quickly I would have recovered if I had trusted myself sooner.


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