Writing is one of my best defenses against the darkness that can lay in wait as I go about working to live a life free of PTSD symptoms. Too often I allow things to get in the way, like a computer with an issue, or the recent holiday weekend that gave both my husband and myself plenty of opportunity to visit with trauma inducing relatives. There was no way to avoid facing the very great temptation to sink back into old ineffective ways of dealing with such things.
As I step back and look at my recovery over the last three plus years, and his, it’s clearer every day that it is a process that moves forward a little bit at a time. Step by step, day by day, we get stronger, more resilient, more solid within ourselves, more solid in our relationship. Always, however, there are, what I like to consider as opportunities to strengthen our resilience, to go deeper and unearth any lingering misconceptions or to heal those not-quite-yet-healed broken places.
Over the last weeks I have discover that, indeed, I have become more resilient. I bend when the wind blows, sometimes so far to the ground that I think I’m going to break…but I don’t. I have tools now. I know what to do when the craziness threatens to overtake me. I no longer live on the edge of hysteria with that feeling that any minute I’m going to lose it somehow, break into tiny pieces, or curl up in a ball and die.
Instead, I go inside of myself. I breathe in the quiet place I have discovered there. No matter where my body is, it is there, waiting, ready to take me in, comfort and restore me and keep me safe. I always find strength and comfort in this place where my soul lives. Always. I need no thing from outside of myself when I am there. I need only to rest, to stay, to breathe and know that there is enough strength within me to survive anything.
After I have rested in my inner sanctuary for a time, when I can, I carry it forward in another way. I might run a hot bath, for instance, pour some Epsom salts in the hot steamy water, light a few candles, plug-in one of my favorite audios (usually something by Clarissa Pinkola Estes) and climb in. I run the hot water just enough to keep the bath comfortable and I sink down into the arms of one of nature’s greatest gifts and as I do I consciously continue to breathe deeply and slowly, aware of the warm moist air as it washes over, around and through me. I close my eyes and listen to the loving lilt of Dr. E’s voice as she weaves her words into my hurting places. When it is time, I climb out of the tub, dry myself off and slowly move back into the world.
Every day I become a little more certain, and trusting, about the necessity of creating a new life in order to let go of the old one. It doesn’t seem that it’s necessary, or even possible, to go back and fix the person we became as a result of the past. I’ve spent way too much of my life trying to understand how I got to the places I found myself. It all seemed such a mystery in spite of the years of research and therapy. I’ve come to understand that the underlying impetus for my desperate attempts to understand, was not just that I wanted to rid myself of the pain, though of course I did, but I believed I needed to fix myself. My basic, fundamental belief was that there was something very wrong with me. I was flawed, broken, not right somehow, and I needed to do something about that.
But, I am not broken. At my core I am whole and perfectly imperfect like every other human being on this planet. I never needed to “fix” myself. I needed to love and accept myself. The need to fix oneself carries with it a sense of shame and embarrassment that siphons life and courage from us like a giant vacuum cleaner. We do not become cleaner and more acceptable to ourselves and the world, we become depleted, empty and vacant.
Though my mind continues to look for understanding and knowledge of the ways of the mind and the psyche, my sense of self no longer rests in that place. It belongs to another dimension entirely, and always has.
Dorothy Sander July 2014