PTSD: Therapy Post Update

I was looking up something else and happened to come across one of my older PTSD posts, and then that led to reading a couple others (and here and here).  It’s like reading somebody else’s writing, or reading something I wrote, but about a different person.

Moving to the Philippines is probably not the best idea for most people who are struggling with PTSD, but in my case, moving is my coping mechanism, Asia is my soul-mate, and getting a break from so many triggers which were unavoidable where we lived and aren’t an issue here (American highways, for one, having to drive to go anywhere, for another) was very helpful.  Also, I have access to free EMDR counseling here and I am taking advantage of it and it’s wonderful.

I’m pretty sure he’s cried twice, and he told me that he is astonished I never  went so far as to make any kind of suicide plan, let alone follow up, nor did I resort to substance abuse, which he considers equally remarkable given the weight and extremity and sheer horror of much of the stuff I’d been dealing with pretty much from a  few weeks after my birth.  Normally, you know, I’m cynical about this stuff and tell myself, “Yeah, but you’re paid to say that stuff.” But, in fact, he is not paid. And there were several minutes where he sat nearly speechless except for shaking his head and saying something like “Wow.  While there are a handful of stories worse than yours I’ve heard, there aren’t many, and this story is right up there with  the worst experiences I have heard in my practice, and I just have to tell you that you should really acknowledge how remarkable it is that you have survived at all, let alone as well as you have.”

When I  shared some of the stuff from this post, he shook his head all over again and pointed out that very probably the depth of it all as well as the recovery time were both complicated, harder, and lengthened by well-intentioned but nevertheless counter-productive and deeply harmful responses framed as attempts to ‘help.’  When we talked about growing up with a psychopath he mostly nodded along in understanding and acceptance and then once or twice stopped me and said something like, “What? Oh, Good Lord.”  There is something quite affirming about that, because when you grow up with a psychopath your sense of normal, your standard for reality, your ability to measure it on a scale of bad to awful- that is a little warped.   Things I knew were really unpleasant and hard and I had to think through them and decide I didn’t want to repeat them as a parent myself turn out to be things that normal people don’t ever even have to consider because they are obviously warped and twisted and bizarre and who would do that? Psychopaths, that’s who.  Things you process as you being complicit in on at least some level (even though you know in your head you weren’t) are rather shocking in reality.

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Me: “I do have to admit I was a very stubborn and angry child and probably hard to deal with,” I say, without even realizing really the implications of what I am saying.

Reality: “Okay. Might we consider that maybe you had some excellent reasons to be angry and stubborn so this is not the cause, but the result?  And even insofar as it could be true, could we also consider that possibly that is what saved your life and kept you from choosing suicide or drugs to deal with the aftermath, which is what most people in similar situations end up doing?”

Me: “Isn’t that a kind of low bar?  I didn’t kill myself or do drugs. Yay, me?  It feels like something more should be required for success.”

Reality- “No.  No.  No.  Given your life history,survival is a success. It’s not a low bar.  In fact, the majority of people who grow up with similar experiences don’t manage that bar at all and their coping mechanisms  kill them.”

Me, again, because the self-blame is a hamster wheel: “Okay.  But I mean, I was a really, really stubborn uncooperative child.  I am sure it was hard.”

Reality:  Parenting is always hard.  But most parents don’t do that stuff.  And also,  however angry and stubborn you were, you understand we are speaking of a 2 year old being thrown across the room by an adult who weighs ten times more than she did and is about 3 times taller, and who had a moral obligation to nurture said 2 year old.  What level of horrible behaviour from a toddler would you consider justifies picking the kid up and throwing them? Or beating their dog with a belt in front of them to punish the child for something the child did? or …*

Me: Ummm.  I guess I can’t think of any.

Reality: You *guess?*  You see how deep this conditioning goes?

Me: I know, I know.  It’s just… I know I was really difficult.
Reality: We’re talking about things that happened when you were 2 and younger.  Some of them preschool.  Do you think any toddler or preschooler you know is in a position to assess their own personalities?  No.  So who told you that you were so difficult?  Might that person have had a vested interest somehow in making this about you being unusually difficult?

Me: Oh.  I guess you’re right.

Reality: Of course I’m right.  That’s the thing about reality.

 

*(that’s all the revelations we can handle today)


So, anyway.  Things are much better. EMDR therapy is wonderful.  I am not going to guilt trip myself for being in survival mode but I don’t need to stay there now.  I am working on “I can accept it when good things happen to me”.


Need to read more about PTSD stuff? Try these:

PTSD: An imbalance between brain’s signaling systems

PTSD in soldiers may be connected to childhood trauma

PTSD and Gut Microbes

 

PTSD: Self-Talk

Things Not To Say to Somebody with PTSD

Anxiety and the Holidays: Quick Coping Tools

Therapy

Therapy Stream of Consciousness

Knitting and crochet as therapy: http://thecommonroomblog.com/2016/08/crochet-therapy-and-projects.html

 

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7 Comments

  1. Frances
    Posted May 29, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Delighted to hear of the progress!

  2. Lisa Beth W.
    Posted May 29, 2018 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Happy to hear that things are better and that you can get such good (and free!) counseling there!

  3. Posted May 30, 2018 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    <3 <3 <3

  4. Bec Stewart
    Posted May 30, 2018 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing. I had remembered you sharing those previous thoughts and had often wondered how you were.

  5. 6 arrows
    Posted May 31, 2018 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    I’m so glad to read this!

  6. Ruth
    Posted June 2, 2018 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    I’m so glad that you are getting this help!

  7. Kara White
    Posted June 4, 2018 at 3:43 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this update. This is a real answer to prayer.

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