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Posts Tagged ‘PTSD’
I just had a lovely interview with Luke Hayes, of MyRecovery Disaster Resilience Radio. We discussed helpful ways to prevent and overcome post traumatic stress around natural disasters, that are increasing in frequency and intensity around the world.
1) Be prepared. Don’t think it can’t happen to you (denial). Have food and water items stocked. Know what kind of disasters could happen in your area. Make a plan for a quick evacuation. An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of loss later. We don’t think and plan well in the midst of crisis. So plan ahead!
2) Know where to find help. Form a community organization. Familiarize yourself with local assistance such as Red Cross, shelters etc. If your community does not have such assistance consider forming a group yourself. People have much less trauma when they feel looked after by their community.
3) Practice control over your mind and emotions now. The first technique I teach my patients about PTSD is a single pointed meditation. Focus on one object for 3-5 minutes at a time. Most of us have flabby mind muscles. This exercise strengthens our ability to focus in a crisis and its aftermath while staying calm. It is easier to keep the mind calm when we have practiced at it ahead of time.
4) If you have severe trauma after a disaster seek help. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Response) is a powerful modality that involves eye movements that dissipates traumatic responses. It seems to work best on those who did not grow up with tremendous amounts of trauma. The results can be surprisingly fast and powerful.
5) Restore yourself and your body after the crisis has resolved. The body is profoundly affected and in some cases permanently altered by trauma. The endocrine system and central nervous systems may take weeks to months to heal fully affecting appetite, weight, autoimmune responses, mood swings, sleep patterns, libido and other aspects of human life. Most people tend to underestimate the results of trauma. Take the time you need to get help and heal yourself. It may take some time.
You are valuable. You are needed. You deserve to heal!
This is a somber and historic day. A powerful, wealthy, well connected and protected man as been brought to justice for preying on the most vulnerable of victims. These former victims have found the personal strength and community support to stand up and support their rights and protect the community from the darkest of predators.
We all know this has been happening. Some of us have been victims of pedophiles abusing positions of power and privilege. But, until today, they have walked free, rarely even brought to trial.
As a therapist I treated many victims of sexual predators. It may surprise you to learn that less than one quarter of my patients’ perpetrators were ever publicly accused, prosecuted or convicted. Most of the victims/survivors were still carrying the secret when they came to therapy. And there’s a good reason for this. Of the perpetrators that were convicted, most served a vastly inadequate sentence.
One of my patients was abused all of her life by her father until the courts could no longer ignore the mountain of physical evidence. He was convicted for sexual abuse after years of rape and served….wait for it….one year. Yup. One year. He went into jail when she was 12 and was released when she was 13. Needless to say she had a serious (but uncompleted) suicide attempt shortly afterward.
This is not unusual. When I worked in protective services in Massachusetts, it was well-known in the protection community that there were certain judges who would never prosecute pedophiles. They always released them with a warning or a light sentence while others were locked away for years by other judges. Why? I’ll leave you to figure that one out.
There are many predators in high places. Jerry Sandusky is only one, and only the beginning. In the past, these guys (and, yes, they are mostly guys) have been able to operate with only the slightest anxiety of ever being caught. Today all of that changes. Forever.
Predators, you have been put on notice. Your time is coming.
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I was fortunate to have Stephanie Potter of KBOO’s show Recovery Zone, in Portland, Oregon interview me yesterday about healing from stress and PTSD. The show is 30 minutes long and features three different callers with excellent questions. I had a blast doing it and am thankful for a chance to help people go deeper in their healing process. Click here, for a link to the downloadable interview.
Maybe you have seen the discussion in the media lately around whether PTSD is a disorder or an injury. It is an injury.
Psychological trauma affects the entire body through the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis. As we discussed before, (see The HPA Axis, Trauma and You), this axis governs the body’s entire endocrine (hormonal) system. This is not in control of the victim, any more than bleeding and swelling is for the victim of a beating. PTSD always involves injury to the body’s mechanisms. Always. This is one of the reasons the disorder is so painful and so hard to describe.
I have come to believe that all symptoms of PTSD are related to these disturbances or attempts to ‘heal’ the disturbances.
Let’s take an extreme symptom, cutting or self-mutilation. We know in neurology that pain in one part of the body cancels out pain in another part of the body. This is a joke with my acupuncturist. Some times a painful needle will be inserted and he’ll ask how my symptoms are. I’ll answer, “fine, now that all I can feel is your painful needle!”.
So, in a strange kind of way, cutting can be “adaptive” for forms of extreme trauma by managing through diversion and re-routing of pain signals, which then gives the victim a feeling of control.
Avoidance is another one of these symptoms. People with PTSD go to great lengths to avoid (or scare off, if it’s a person) reminders of their trauma, sometimes resulting in strange “phobias” or behaviors. That saying, “you always hurt the one you love” goes twice for PTSD sufferers when their partners inadvertently trigger them. We need to learn when our PTSD injury is manifesting and make ourselves safe in ways that don’t injure our relationships.
When medicine embraces the physiologic basis for PTSD, sufferers will finally gain the help that they need to heal from this profound HPA injury.
Last week my sweet kittie went missing. After a few very sad and anxious days, I realized that this event tapped into an outmoded deeply held belief that I did not realize I was holding. That belief is:
If I love something or someone too much, they will abandon or abuse me.
Sound familiar? It should. It is one of the most common beliefs of people raised in traumatic environments.
We all have core beliefs, about ourselves, about life, about love, about why we are suffering. These beliefs largely lay unconscious in our psyche, like a filter that colors everything we see. We don’t question these core beliefs because we do not know they are there!
People who live with PTSD have core beliefs that arise out of their traumas (and sometimes precede them). We do not choose these beliefs. In a sense they choose us. The purpose of mind, evolutionarily speaking, is to make sense out of a random set of stimuli, the environment we live in. Without mind, the world would be an inchoate mass of incoming information. Mind sorts, slots, and makes meaning of sensory input.
But it is also largely automatic and unconscious.
Our mind selects meaning similar to other messages we have been given by our families, our schools, our communities, our religions etc. Most of the time we are completely unaware of this process, just as you are unaware of your breathing right now. Think you’re aware? How many breaths have you taken in the last hour?
Right! Same with the mind. Our minds think and make meaning but we are largely unaware of the process.
So what does that mean for the person with PTSD? Well, traumatic stress ups the ante on thoughts. Our thoughts tend to be more highly charged, faster, more automatic and more intense when we are stressed. Sometimes they are helpful and help us survive. Other times not so much.
This thought that came to me: If I love something or someone too much, they will abandon or abuse me, it could have first arisen in my childhood, or maybe several lifetimes ago. But it has persisted, lurking in my mind like a malignant dustbunny. Once I became aware of the thought, I felt my body start to release. These thoughts, like shadows, melt away in the light of awareness. Do I still feel sad she is gone? Yes. But I no longer suffer from the underlying guilt and anxiety that went along with my unexamined core belief, which puts me in a much more functional position!
Now it’s your turn. What core beliefs do you have that may be holding you back from healing yourself?
1) Strengthen your “mind muscle” through meditation or mindfulness practice. Meditation is not “making your mind go blank”; it is focusing and calming the mind. The mind is like unruly horses, once you are in control, you can direct the mind where you want it to go. Otherwise it runs away with you (and often into flashbacks). This is the single most powerful aid to healing PTSD.
2) Eat whole, nutrient-rich and easily digestible foods. Our digestion suffers tremendously when we are stressed. PTSD is whole body event that depletes our energy and nutrients. Cut back on sugars, caffeine and alcohol that tax the body and especially your adrenals.
3) Find ways to safely tell your story, even if it is in a journal or through art. Finding your narrative and being heard are immensely healing.
4) Safely release held feelings. Crying is necessary, and sometimes so is shouting. Go fight with the ocean waves, run, hit a ball, or watch a sad movie. All are helpful. Holding intense feelings in becomes toxic over time. So release!
5) Learn to comfort yourself. You have been deeply wounded. It is OK to focus on yourself during this time of healing. Comfort is always healthy and never creates further problems. In other words drinking alcohol is not comforting but avoiding. True comfort involves activities like: being out in nature, taking a long hot bath, getting a foot massage, listening to your favorite music, redecorating your space etc. If you need to wrap up in a large blanket and stare off into space, that’s OK. Balance comfort with necessary activity.
I feel for you and your suffering. I hope this helps!
I’m happy to tell you that The Trauma Toolkit: Healing PTSD From the Inside Out is now in bookstores across the United States and is shipping from online booksellers. I had the privilege of finally holding my own copy this week. In celebration I am giving away three copies to the first three readers who link to this blog and comment below. Please be sure to send me your address privately if you see your name in the first three comments! Here’s to healing from traumatic stress! Blessings, Sue
Hi all. Today I am pleased to tell you that one month out, the Search Inside function has been activated for The Trauma Tool Kit: Healing PTSD From the Inside Out. Quest Publishing has been quite generous with their sharing so you can begin reading now! Click on the book cover to the right of this post to go to Amazon’s site for the book. My greatest desire is that this book help you overcome your traumatic stress and PTSD. Blessings, Sue
My husband is a cardiologist. He and I have a friendly competition about who can get rid of chest pain faster. If there is nothing he can do he refers his patient to me or another practitioner. Progressive relaxation, twice a day, for 10 minutes a session usually takes care of unexplained angina in under 2 weeks.
If you have taken a yoga class or been in hypnosis or therapy chances are you know what progressive relaxation is. You start at your feet, imagining deep relaxation, warmth and heaviness and then slowly move that focus up the body. The exercise can take as little as 5 minutes or as long as 45 minutes. Sometimes people fall into a restful slumber. In fact progressive relaxation is excellent for insomnia!
I practice progressive relaxation every morning when I wake up. If you have stress in your life (and who doesn’t?) you might be surprised at how much tension you are holding in your body coming out of the sleep and dream state. It resets my body and mind for the day ahead.
It is one of of the best tools for dealing with PTSD and traumatic stress. It is mental floss, which,like dental , is good to practice regularly one to two times/day. You can find videos and CD’s that will talk you through progressive relaxation. Next time you are feeling stressed, give it a whirl (but not in your car!).
Have a wonderful holiday weekend!
Yesterday, I was saddened, as were many all over the world, to hear of Whitney Houston’s death in a hotel, in a bathtub. Alone. The airwaves filled with moving tributes and loving words before, during and after the Grammys, where her life and talent were celebrated. I couldn’t help but wonder if Whitney knew how much she was loved and respected. She had a successful life, yes, but she also had a 15 year long traumatic marriage where she was abused and hurt repeatedly.
Those of us with PTSD know that we can feel swamped with overwhelming feelings of loneliness, grief and fear in our darkest moments. It is easy to pay attention to people who hate us and harder to connect with our core feelings of self-love.
The media is awfully hard on people, except when they are dead. When stars die, they are painted in the rosiest light possible. While alive, dirt is dished because dirt sells stories. By reading these stories and salacious websites we all contribute to their suffering.
I wonder what if? What if Whitney had heard all of these tributes before? Before the medications and the bath and the lonely hotel room. What if her life had been filled with kindness and kind words? What if we all refused to participate in mean talk, mean TV, mean internet parodies and shows? It is easy to think that we are removed from each other. But what if we are not?
In my experience, most people’s lives are filled with private suffering. Meanness can push some over the edge. Love, inclusion, compassion and understanding can be life saving. Who could you support today with kind words and thoughts?
If you are feeling low, down, shamed or not worthy, know that there is love in this world. It may be hidden from your eyes, but it is there. Today I send kind thoughts your way. I hope you will do the same for me and for your brothers and sisters out there struggling in a world where it can be hard to feel valued. Take good care, each and every one of you.
I’ve just put up this poll about ways people handle extreme stress or PTSD. When you are triggered, where do you go for relief? What’s most reliable for you? You can check more than one answer. If your favorite treatment is not on the list, please share it for others in the comments section below! I look forward to seeing your responses!
Love and Blessings, Sue
I was happy to see that our cousins across the ocean are so open to working with traumatic stress in a variety of ways. I had the pleasure of meeting with David Marteau, the head of substance abuse treatment for offenders in London, England. He felt that the complementary therapies “showed real promise” for helping with traumatized people.
Here at home the military is increasingly turning to alternative therapies for PTSD in their personnel. The great thing about the American military is that they are intensely pragmatic and great at following protocol. Treatments that have been researched by the Pentagon and/or used to date include: acupuncture, aromatherapy (yes, really), yoga, reiki massage, relaxation techniques, mindfulness. The Ft. Bliss Restoration and Resilience Center has an integrative model that has treated dozens of officers with multidimensional holistic treatments. They went from a 10 percent redeployment rate of officers with PTSD to a redeployment rate of over 60 percent for those who completed the program! Complementary therapies work!
We all have those days! When your traumatized brain is not quite up to life, take some time for restoration and recuperation. You may not need to announce to your boss you are taking a mental health day, but take one anyway! Anything you can do to calm down your mind and relax your body will help you cope and function better. Stay tuned for more blog posts on how to do just that!