PTSD The Gift That Keeps Giving
I experienced the first of many remembered ‘switches’ between identies last August. I can only tell you that it is often so subtle as to be unnoticable, or so unmistakable that in hindsight, it seems odd it wasn’t picked up immediately.
There are very clear triggers. One time in a playful moment, my husband picked me up unexpectedly higher than he ever had before and I experienced an immediate meltdown of all of my learned defense mechanisms. My response was primal. Being held even for an instant while I was reacting in such an immediate and animal way caused a furter escalation of my panic, and nearly injured us both. This chain reaction response was easy to spot and quickly defuse because my husband is a loving man, skilled in quickly creating warm and safe spaces for me to be.
It is not realistic to expect people to be as quick to understand the needs of someone who is experiencing the physical effects of PTSD. It doesn’t have to have an understandable reason for showing up. It’s a frightening return to an experience you can’t see, but for which you are suddenly experiencing all of the physical and emotional responses. It is not only physically and emotionally overwhelming, but it is socially overwhelming. It’s embarrassing to lose control in a way that shows your emotional wound. It’s infuriating and often humiliating to feel so much around people who are feeling no increase in stimulus. It is crushing to see looks of fear, pity, or disgust, instead of compassion. There at times when it’s so grieviously misunderstood that it creates an actual problem. Sometimes a serious one.
My psychiatric admission forced a few silent structures out of the shadows and into immediate integration. Seeing myself react in these unexpected and forceful ways confused me and created another layer of shame about what was happening to me, and how serious the consequences had suddenly become.
It is the most basic of our human rights to be free, and a right many take for granted. It is a luxury to feel free when you have been misunderstood, silenced and held against your will. It is unwise to feel safe when there are clear indicators that PTSD is not getting any better without knowledgable and compassionate help.
The structures that emerged following those grim days were rage and persecution-based, and they really created some unpleasant months. I realize it is necessary to incorporate the essential skill of learning to be angry and civil at the same time. Difficult times in the system help us learn to master complicated emotional responses, and stop habitual reactions, but they do nothing to soothe a lifelong problem of being misunderstood and feared. The very skills I have to learn to work through the problem reinforce my need for space with others. I can’t get seem to get the services I need without escalating, and at that point, I am in danger of getting my rights removed in my northern rural area.
My daily success is because I refuse to give up on myself, and not because I have any other guidance than what I can draw to myself. There was no precedent in my life for integration of this level of rage, and for its natural release in time, and I often didn’t recognize myself and how I was reacting to life. The rage had a mind of its own and wanted others to make sure it was heard. It found great outlet in the sour and hateful human being that I was then, and sometimes still am. It is not easy to relearn how to properly feel and express emotions, particularly when the emotions are considered negative. It is my constant understanding that there are no negative emotions, only the release of limiting beliefs. I can’t imagine it is pleasant to encounter me when I feel this way.
Rage offers the gift of allowing emotion to engulf me and burn down my fear of anything but having my voice heard. It demands expression only because it has not had an opportunity in the past. There is a warrior in rage that moves forward with conviction, unafraid. It is the fuel in the fire of truth and justice (in my mind), and the expression of refusal to blindly accept the unexamined beliefs of others.
When this emotion is focused with truth and common sense, it is a fierce weapon in the self protection arsenol of the system, and makes a valuable asset. It takes conscious awareness of old habits to remind the self to constantly choose the higher path of any emotion, which will help achieve understanding and balance for the collective.