Perspective and PTSD – Why it’s Off, and How to Cope

Perspective and PTSD - Why it's Off, and How to Cope by soangiewrites.com #PTSD #trauma #recovery

DOOM DESCENDS UPON THE CITY!!! or a beetle? Your brain decides.

“Mountains out of molehills. Zero to sixty like a Corvette. Glass half empty. The smallest infraction leads to tears. A slight worry grows to panic. A miserable day masquerades as a ruined life. And a reminder of a painful past event can morph into a full-fledged trauma response. Hi, I’m Angie. And I don’t always see and feel things with a healthy perspective.

I have C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). This illness affects my life in numerous ways, one of which is distorted perception. Because I’ve faced a series of traumas and gone on to develop a disorder, my brain quickly makes connections between stimuli and past events, and utilizes a set of well-worn responses to try to survive, even if I’m not in danger. Here’s an example…

Five years ago I was in a hit and run. I was a nanny, and the baby in my care was in the backseat when my car was struck from behind. This happened on a busy street flanked by restaurants, and customers came running to our aid. The baby and I were uninjured. The car was totaled. The event was shocking and scary.

Flash forward to now. Sometimes I’ll be sitting at a red light and glimpse a car approaching from behind in my mirror. With no conscious thought or memory, my stomach lurches into my throat and my heart skips a beat. My muscles tighten as I brace for impact that never comes. This is an example of a trauma response stemming from my hit and run. My eyes see an image and my brain quickly connects it to something familiar, then deploys the best responses to keep me safe. A trauma brain can be a pain in the butt. It makes sense how it’s trying to keep me alive, but hyper-vigilance is a drag, and damn, I want to calm down and heal!

It’s important to note not all traumas lead to PTSD, and not all sustained traumas, or series of traumas lead to C-PTSD. But sometimes they do, and people like me may experience prolonged symptoms from one or more experiences of danger and harm. These frequent trauma responses affect our perspective. Even when our basic needs of food, shelter, and safety are met, we can feel empty, exposed, and afraid. It’s exhausting to feel so often afraid.

If you struggle with PTSD perspective problems, the most important thing you need to know is- this makes sense. Put your hand on your heart and say “this is really hard.” Because it IS really hard! But you’re out there living in a world you perceive as dangerous, every damn day! Look at you go! Another coping skill is to talk to someone. I see a therapist weekly, and have a set of trusted people I reach out to when things look bleak. Supportive people mirror life back to us, without our trauma filter. Just yesterday I told a friend a painful story, and when she spoke it back to me, I heard something entirely different! She was seeing my story without my trauma-spin. It was valuable for me to hear her perspective. She helped me adjust my own.

If you know someone with PTSD, please understand, though it seems we are overreacting, or high-strung, we are actually doing our best to survive. We need empathy as we work to recover. Remember, to practice empathy, you don’t have to match our experiences, just our feeling. Not everyone will be in a car accident in their life. Not everyone will develop PTSD. But all of us have experienced fear and sadness, so empathy is doable. Acknowledging our pain, allowing us to share our experiences, without trying to fix us, helps us heal. When you let us express ourselves you’re doing important work. You don’t have to say anything profound, just listen, and let us have our feelings in your company. Brené Brown says, “rarely can a response make something better – what makes something better is connection.” I love that!

Perspective and PTSD by soangiewrites.com

“Stop overreacting! Not every car is going to hit you!” (not empathy)

Perspective and PTSD by soangiewrites.com

“It makes sense you were frightened. I am here.” (empathy)

PTSD is a set of symptoms that are difficult to endure. Although my perspective is affected by past painful experiences and my uptight trauma brain, I’m grateful to know what I’m dealing with, and to be on a recovery path. I’ll be writing more about my PTSD journey as I stretch my courage and I thank you for your support.

You Matter – Fighting Stigma, Sharing Stories

I have a friend learning to walk again, because she just had her third brain surgery in a year. I have a loved one who can barely sit or stand due to chronic, debilitating pain. I know people grieving deeply for lost family members. And people enduring discomfort, and uncertainties.

Struggle. It’s all around. And it matters.

Some people think their suffering is too small to express. They think speaking up is complaining. They think they aren’t worth empathy and support. “Someone always has it worse! Who am I to whine?”

I’m here today to say FUCK THAT NOISE. This isn’t the freaking Pain Olympics. This is human life. It’s messy and mucky and it hurts. I think it hurts more often than not. Our society just judges the sharing of the shit. So we’re not quite aware of the extent of common suffering.

You Matter - Fighting Stigma, Sharing Stories by soangiewrites.com

Today whether you’re hooked up to chemo, or stuck in an MRI machine, sitting on a couch in a therapist’s office, or staring at a scale… whether you’re in a fetal position, or in traction, or quietly sipping tea between sobs… whether you’re writing your heart out, or saying “Hi, my name is ___,” or biting your lip and eyeing a razor… whether you’re in a closet, or on a street, or in a puddle at someone’s feet- you matter.

You matter, and you’re valid. Your suffering counts. It’s real.

Sharing isn’t bad. Expressing isn’t complaining.

We tell our stories because we want to heal. We speak up because we need support.

I just want you to know, and I want me to know, that we’re in this together, and we can choose to keep going. Honestly, we are rockstars. Thanks for showing up.

You Matter

Some Days

Some days
It has to be enough
To simply breathe
And exist in a tender way
Eating when we’re hungry
Drinking some water
Looking up and around
At our surroundings
Without judgement

To experience today
At one with ourselves
Welcoming rather than condemning

It’s enough
We’re enough

Some Days by soangiewrites.com

Speaking Shame

For many years I have experienced moments of deep emotional pain. I believe these spells began in childhood, and still occasionally happen. It starts with some sort of upsetting circumstance, usually around relationships, or my physical health. Dark feelings descend from above, pressing my head down, bending my back, pushing me to the floor. My mouth opens to scream, but no sound comes out. Tears fight their way free from tightly-closed eyelids. My chest feels too small and my heart feels too big. My lungs burn and my ribs are a vise.

There is no running narrative in my mind, no flashback of abuse. I simply silently break under the wrongness of myself.

I didn’t have a word to describe these viscerally painful moments until 2 years ago. That’s when I read Daring Greatly, and my world unfolded. Here’s what I learned-

Brené Brown's shame definition

Shame. My cheek on bathroom tile, my silent scream, my urge to rip the organ containing my worthless soul. Shame.

Everything changed when I learned about shame. It’s not that I stopped experiencing intense emotional pain, it’s that I could name what was happening. I could tell my doctor and therapist. I could scour the web and books for insight, statistics, and tactics for coping. I became empowered in my pain. Enlightened. Able.

The first step toward healing is to see and know what we’re dealing with. Taking the nebulous and pinning it down like an insect on a board. Flipping pages to deconstruct the qualities. Gaining insight of origin, and making plans for recovery.

It’s no secret that shame is hard to experience. It is also hard to read about. Just the word can cause recoiling and judgement. Shame makes people uncomfortable. That’s why we keep it a secret. Unfortunately, shame grows in locked spaces, and gains more power over our lives. This stuff is dangerous and requires proper handling- the application of light, empathy, self-compassion, and shared humanity.

Not every shame storm drives me to my knees, and people experiences shame in different ways. But I know this- shame feels painful. It feels lonely. It feels hopeless.

Figuring out how we feel shame in our bodies is one of our first steps toward resilience. Shame isn’t a fun thing to write about, and I know it’s hard to read about. I do this because it matters, it gives hope, and it can save lives, like mine.

Further Reading and Resources-
Shame Resilience- Where To Begin

All About Shame Pinterest Board

If you don’t have time for the entire 2012 TED TALK “Listing To Shame” video, fast forward to the 9:30 mark to hear Brené talk about shame.

Brené on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah- “Shame is lethal.”

The Risks and Potential Payoffs of Vulnerability

Brené Brown defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. My week brought ample opportunities for vulnerability, and I showed up. I shared my shame stories, here on the blog, and in person. I talked about my childhood sexual assault, and asked for financial help to assist me in tending my wounds. I let people see into my darkest corner, and didn’t take the time to sweep up first.

Biologically, we are designed for caution. We are survivors, after all, and being aware of danger is in our nature. As I wrote and spoke my stories this week, I was well aware of the risks. People might recoil or run. They might be triggered into their own trauma responses. And my biggest fear? People might lash out, accuse, invalidate, and hurt me.

I saw the potential fallout, but I also had hope. People might show up with empathy, financial assistance, words of encouragement, and kindness. People might be reminded of their own courage, and ask for the help they, too, need. And I, myself, might grow my courage, by pushing against my fear. Opportunities everywhere!

We cannot wait for peace before striking out into new territory. The peace simply won’t come. We have to plow on into uncertain fields, the risks interwoven with our courageous strides. This is vulnerability. Feeling the fear, taking the step.

I’m glad I shared my stories this week. People did show up with empathy, financial assistance, encouraging words, and kindness. No one stood against me. I was honestly blown away by the displays of love and validation. Thank you. <3

Exposing our most vulnerable selves is no easy task. There are times sharing only adds to our wounds. We’re not always up for it! But I know this- we have a choice, in every moment, to act in courage. We are wired for connection. We weigh the risks and potential payoffs of vulnerability, and we decide what to practice. We decide. I find this empowering as I walk my path of recovery.

The Risks and Potential Payoffs of Vulnerability by soangiewrites.com

Healing Means Asking For Help

Asking For Help by soangiewrites.com

It’s been twenty-five years since I was assaulted in a boys locker room. My privacy and dignity were stripped away, along with the top of my dress. I don’t remember much. The color of the lockers. The bench between my legs. Blurred faces. Blood in my ears.

There was so much pressure to tell. Teachers, parents, friends, police. Tell us, tell us, tell us.

At the center of it all, I was just dying for it to never have happened.

So that’s what I told myself, and sometimes others. It never happened. It never happened. It never happened.

I minimized and shrunk my trauma until it all but vanished, along with many pounds of flesh, as I starved and whittled myself numb.

I am now thirty-seven, doing weekly EMDR therapy for C-PTSD, and physical therapy for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. Trauma affects my daily life in too many ways to list.

I long to feel consistently safe. I fight for function. I work to cope.

I am building myself back up, integrating long-forgotten pieces, and striving for a shining recovery. I love my body, and treat it tenderly. I am committed to healthy behaviors, and I model these openly for my family, friends, and community-at-large.

In September, the sexual assault survivor support organization WINGS Foundation is hosting a conference. The 3rd Annual WINGS Soaring To New Heights Conference will offer workshops for survivors of sexual abuse, and their loved ones. These workshops will include a heavy emphasis on expressive arts, developing grounding skills and body awareness, and survivor/loved one experiences.

I would love to go to this conference with my husband, and main supporter, Steve. I am fighting back shame, and summoning the courage to ask for financial assistance. Luckily the conference is local, so my only need is for two tickets, which total $138. I have installed a Paypal donation button here on my blog’s home page. You can see it on the upper right.

It is hard to share my story, difficult to speak my pain, and tummy-turning to ask for help, but I believe doing so is what will allow me to get the resources and support I need in order to heal. Thank you so much for reading my blog, and sharing this journey with me. -Angie

*UPDATE* Thanks to your generosity, we have the funds to attend the conference! Your kindness gives me hope, and your support means the world. Thank you. <3

Snapshots Of Gratitude

So grateful for the things that make my life better. Time on the lake with my youngest. Art supplies. Time in the kitchen baking delicious treats for those I love. Music, and Snapchatting with friends!

Take time today to think about the little things that make your life better. This is the practice of gratitude. It seems like a small thing, but it is a step in the direction of healing. <3

Snapshots of Gratitude by soangiewrites.com

Gratitude Posts Button

Writing about gratitude on Sundays

Soak In Starlight

Soak In Starlight - poetry - soangiewrites.com

Having a day where
Everything seems wrong
I walk barefoot in the grass
Shooing snakes away

When all clear
I shake out a towel
Lie on my back
Soak in starlight

Gonna stay
Until I feel okay
Gonna bake
Until I’m done