Friday, June 7, 2013

PTSD - Who Me?

When an idea for a blog comes, I’ve learned to jot it down immediately and a little description of my intention. Otherwise, by the time I start to write I have no idea what I was thinking. Too many middle-of-the-night, writing-in-the-dark, indecipherable-scribbles have taught me to get up and go to the computer to make notes.
For several months, I’ve had a document called “Healing from the Numbness” on my desktop. I’d planned to talk about how many of us used numbness to cope with the constraints of the abuse. Our abusers trained us to let go of our desire to pursue the things we enjoyed and instilled this habit in us by linking pain to any attempt we made to thrive. We learned to go numb, saying, "It really doesn't matter, anyway." When we left the relationship, the habit remained. Many of us have said, “I don’t know what I like anymore. I don’t know what to do with my life.” In my blog, I’d planned to talk about rediscovering our gifts and talents. About coming alive, reminding ourselves that we can go out to lunch with friends, see a move, take a painting class, be spontaneous. Especially, do things to show ourselves that we can set and pursue our goals and be rewarded not punished.
Somehow I could never get myself to write this blog. Other ideas seemed to stand up and wave their arms at me like eager kindergardeners, “Do me first!” They shouted. It was a good thing I waited, (a divine thing, as in, it was meant to be) While what I’d been thinking of writing is valid, the numbness concept for me has expanded.
Over dinner with a girlfriend one evening, I told her how after a speaking engagement it seems to take me longer and longer to shake off the darkness of my abuse experience. The heaviness, that once faded in the few minutes it took me to drive home, was now lingering for about 3 days. During this time, I had a hard time concentrating on anything, felt excessively tired and had to push myself to get things done. It felt like my brain had numbed out and refused to function. My husband, noticed the change in me.
My friend, a therapist, looked at me over a forkful of pasta, and said, “Were you ever treated for PTSD?”
When I left my ex no one knew about PTSD. I never considered that it was a problem for me. Really hadn’t been, so I thought. Good grief, the terrifying nightmares stopped about 25 years ago! If my ex does show up in a dream, he’s innocuous and I feel no fear. When I remember or talk about something that had happened, I'm not filled with fear or feel like I’m reliving the experience, but say to myself, “He did a cruel and terrible thing to me. It was not okay. That was then. This is now.” Didn’t that mean I had it licked?
My friend referred me to a therapist who works with those struggling with PTSD. I was tested. While talking with my therapist, I recounted a recent incident where I felt trapped in a car with an enraged driver - the trigger that change things. Being an advocate of touching base with a mental health expert as needed, I’m in treatment and discovering more about this numbing-out coping mechanism. 
At first I was stunned that I found myself in that car at that moment. Yes, and a little angry with myself. But, honestly, we can learn to recognize clear signs of danger and back away from people who are potentially violent. However, we can’t assume that everyone who shows signs of stubbornness, narcissism, anger (or any of the unflattering traits we all possess to some degree), are going choose a dangerous response under stress. Apparently, I’d forgotten that. This incident reminded me that all of us can find ourselves in an uncomfortable situation. People are going to act out, unexpectedly. When it happens we shouldn’t blame ourselves for not seeing some sign, just move ourselves to a place that is safe. We can learn techniques to prevent one episode from sending us back into the darkness. Then celebrate how far we’ve come. We saw it. We faced it. We didn't take responsibility for what happened. We put the blame where it belonged and sought help from a therapist- if needed, then moved on.
There is alway more I can learn about the affects and effects of domestic violence. I’ll be sharing insights as things progress. Stay tuned...
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