I’m not a psychologist. In what I share in my public blog, I am purposely a little vague; the privacy and health of others is my ultimate concern. For us, remembering traumatic experiences is no longer really helpful; we try to focus on re-training our bodies through practice for a healthy and vibrant future. We try to adapt for on-going change through mindfulness-based yoga practice. But, perhaps some more insight on my last post will be insightful.
The diagnosis of PTSD implies a diagnosable “disorder” (the D), one that doctors with post-doctoral training since 9/11 are better qualified to evaluate. The symptoms with which we are familiar are severe bouts of panic and prolonged anxiety, nightmares and lack of sleep, fear (feeling trapped), inability to function, loss of hope. The body is in a prolonged fight or flight (sympathetic nervous system) response. Human bodies are not adapted to this prolonged state of survival-required arousal; bodily functions start to shut down in order to protect vital survival functions. The PTSD diagnosis is usually caused by a particular event, or series of events, wherein your inner sense of safety and survival (or your basic core view of life) is severely disrupted… perhaps over a period of time. So much in this area of mental health has been learned since 9/11 and from the veterans of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where prolonged exposure to life-or-death stress (whether real or imagined) has caused consistent symptoms. In years past, these symptoms might have been diagnosed otherwise (mental breakdowns, hysteria, battle fatigue, psychotic behavior, manic depression, bipolar disorder, etc). It can become especially hard to heal from PTSD if it is held in the body for long periods of time (as was our personal experience); animals have an immediate “somatic experience” wherein the body shakes and lets go of the trauma. (See Peter Levine’s work with somatic experiencing, or his book “Waking the Tiger”).
In my case, it might have been the years of trying to save my wife’s life during the “breakdown” that changed my body’s nervous system. In my wife’s case, we’ll never be sure if it was the “events” in her previous life’s experiences that were triggered years later in our lives together (ie, loss of feelings of safety, feeling trapped), or our health system’s misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis (and the subsequent loss of hope), that led us to the brink of life and the severest PTSD symptoms. We just know that when we found specially-trained doctors (a miraculous story unto itself), and trigger sources were no longer present… and we “let go” of attachment of what we thought life “should be like”… things improved. For me, this “letting go” was a spiritual experience wherein I decided to “let go and put faith in the Universe”. I clearly remember that instant in time.
The overall experience put me in touch with what it feels like to lose hope… and how important it is to have hope. In my view, healing starts with a feeling of internal safety and personal worthiness… and a twinkle of hope that one feels, an internal feeling of faith that everything will be okay. It builds through acceptance and an understanding of the validity (normalcy) of what you’re experiencing and how your body is reacting (body and mind together as one). It takes time; it takes support from compassionate people; it takes building feelings of self-esteem through successful experiences; and it takes present-moment awareness to learn to build your life back up and live again, one step at a time. We found that reflective moments in nature helped us re-connect with the awesomeness of things outside of our heads, and to ultimately re-connect with our own natural feelings of positivity and wonder. Through time and practice, we build resilience, re-connect with ourselves and our natural authentic selves (the being we were each born as). This might be called learning to love ourselves again. Eventually, these feelings of love spread outwards and are more easily accepted inwards, and because of the new awareness of the value of life and feelings of true happiness, we might also have enhanced opportunities to feel more connected to all things. We might relate more intuitively to the plights of everyone and every being fighting their own battles in life.This building process, the re-programming of mind-body-spirit connections or neurological byways, are facilitated by the practice of yoga and mindfulness, in my view, perhaps also in conjunction with other energetic healing modalities.
Healing is a life-long journey of learning and adapting.
The healing takes steps backwards with judgment and negativity, and excessive stress.
So, to the point of my previous blog entry, the PTSD (or disorder) might just be the severe case (wherein one loses ability to function) at the end of the spectrum of PTS… (post-traumatic stress). PTS might be thought of as all mental health challenges we might face as we grow and try to survive through disruptive, de-stabilizing or “traumatic” events… like when we don’t feel validated, when we don’t feel worthy or good enough, when we are bullied, when we don’t feel safe or when we do not experience unconditional love, when we are otherwise emotionally, physically, or mentally abused. Or, when we live in a world of constant comparison, judgment, fear, winning and losing (and losing)… Ya know?
That’s why I think our practice of yoga is so valuable to so many! The mindfulness part is like modern-day cognitive behavioral therapy… being aware of unhealthy thoughts and judgment and observing our thoughts with more wisdom! And since trauma is held in the neurological systems of the body… body therapy is required. To me, practicing loving kindness just connects us in the present moment to feelings of peace in our bodies (our natural parasympathetic nervous system), and lets us know that everything is okay .
Okay. I’m babbling. I guess the purpose of mental health couseling and therapy is to uncover the layers of thought-processes that are not healthy so that one can succeed again. I suppose it’s our journey to learn how to peel away the layers of obstacles we’ve created for ourselves and to live our lives as our authentic selves again, whoever we are and whatever we’re “diagnosed” with. For us, our yoga practice and our therapeutic outdoor experiences have been our way of learning and healing.
I guess it all starts with feelings of acceptance and love, safety, and a ray of hope and faith… faith that we are all connected and everything will be okay and happen exactly as it should…
Some kids never have the chance to feel these basic feelings of safety and love…. Are they more susceptible to the challenges of life and to PTSD?
“Weaknesses” are only what we have put in or minds (or others have put in our minds)… all perceptions, yes? But feelings of love?
Feelings of love are real, the truth, our path to the Divine. At least in my view.
I’m not sure if this will help anyone or not… but I thought it might provide more insight beyond the previous posted article on what I’ve learned through my own personal experiences with PTSD.
All of the best to you! Keep walking forward on your individual and shared paths… one step at a time… one day at a time. Learning from living.
Evrie littl ting is gunna be aw’rite…