PTSD: Self-Talk

By way of updates, I didn’t see my therapist the last two weeks because. Family drama, another horrid medical emergency for her family. I get that. I don’t especially love it when the emergency happened in the wee hours of the morning, but rather than a phone call so I don’t drive 9 miles into town, I find out when I get there over 12 hours later and see a note on the door.

Kind of par for the course- she gave me the number to call and the name of the therapist she wanted me to see. The number was for their suicide hotline prevention and the therapist is the case manager and doesn’t see new patients.

By way of other updates, I am seeing the new therapist for the first time perhaps as you read this. I’m really nervous. It’s an hour away and Jenny has to take off work to take me. I am also not convinced they take my insurance, nor do I know what they charge if they don’t.

This appointment is supposed to take two hours.

But anyway, about this particular post. I think there’s probably a better word for this topic than self-talk. It also applies to plenty of other situations beside PTSD.

It’s about the negative stuff you say to yourself– all the ‘nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess i’ll eat worms stuff.’

One of the things I was told to do is to tell myself the counter stuff, proving this isn’t true, or reminding yourself that it isn’t true.

But the problem is some of the negative stuff, I can’t tell myself it’s not true and believe in that counterpoint. I know better because….. well, I can’t tell you that. But I am not basing that on how I feel.

There’s another little ‘issue’ of mine that the therapist made the mistake of trying to talk me out of being afraid of it. “Come on,” she said, “chances are that’s never going to happen again.”

Problem is, statistically on that one, she’s actually wrong. Chances are pretty good that it will happen again. I’ve done my homework. I rattled off a recitation of the statistics for her. She sat there open mouthed and finally just said, “Wow. I’m sure glad you weren’t in the room when I was counseling another client of mine who is afraid of the same thing.”

So I had to figure something else out, because standing in the gaping maw of the dragon of “Nobody Loves You Everybody Hates You” in the kingdom of Eat Worms is not a good time to come up with a list of ‘it’s not real’ when there really are unsurmountable logical justifications for the existence and complete reality of that dragon.

I can’t pretend those things that are triggering some meltdowns and heartache aren’t real, arent’ there, can’t happen. I can’t use the coffee filter exercise and just talk away negative stuff with positive stuff, because some of these things are as real as the nose on my face.

This hurts, it hurts so hard and so deep I am struggling with words and my head is pounding, so I am not going to edit this or fix this post any further. I’m just going to share this, in case you, too, are in a place where the negative things that crush your soul are also actually true and realistic things.

What has been helping enough to put a stave in the dragon’s mouth and escape while he’s distracted is this:

“It doesn’t matter if it is true. It doesn’t change anything to think about it.” And then I think about something else. Sometimes it’s something big and important but sometimes it needs to be something ridiculously trivial because I don’t have the emotional energy to manage to address myself to anything deeper or more important than the soft texture of the well washed cotton of a favorite nightgown, the smell of an orange peel, the sound of Enya or Big Bang.

The thing is, it does matter, it’s part of the problem. But howling like the misbegotten offspring of a banshee and a werewolf, choking on the massive, hard, peach pit of pain in my chest, those are things that don’t matter, because they don’t change anything. Over time, my therapist has come to understand this as well, that some of these things are real, they are true, and I can’t fix them.

She acknowledges that given these realities, recovery is actually going to take much, much longer than it would if those external realities were not the way they are. It’s going to be harder than it needs to be, and it probably won’t be what it could have been if things were different. In fact, some of these realities made things worse then they otherwise would have been. But it is what it is.

“Yes, it’s true. It doesn’t matter. Think about something else.”

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