Hello From Inside
There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
~ C.G. Jung
The first time I consciously remember experiencing the effects of PTSD, was nearing the end of a daily 6k walk around my rural area. I walked to waste time when the kids were at school, and to relieve stress. My husband was working out west, and we were still living in Ontario. The decision to move accross the country hadn’t registered consciously yet, but it was coming.
I had gradually begun to alienate myself from my group of friends, and by that time I don’t think I was having much social contact at all. I was becoming more and more isolated, and beginning to favor my thoughts over my reality. I was unwilling to notice the mounting evidence that my ability to take care of everything was rapidly coming to an end. All my life I had pushed so hard to get from one milestone to the next, I was unaware that my old defense mechanisms and blind pursuit of success were rapidly creating blockages I would eventually be unable to avoid.
I avoided truth in every area. I did not want to see that I had created a life that looked good from the outside, but was little more than layers and layers of false identities that began to dissolve upon closer scrutiny. My Borderline Personality Diagnosis had yet to be realized.
I had no idea who I was, what I liked, or how many ideas I had been carrying around that were not my own. I was not encouraged to formulate my thoughts, and the authority of others had long ruled my behavior and ability to think for myself. My role was to to what I was told, and I adopted it fully, eventually finding ways to become quite indespensible.
I did not know how invested I was in finding my identity by making others happy. I people-pleased myself to death. I smiled when I wanted to grit my teeth. I gave more and more of myself in hopes that others would begin to offer something back. I did the jobs no one else liked because it made me valuable. I gravitated towards people who were unable or unwilling to create authentic connections. I showed up whenever and wherever I was needed.
When I didn’t get what I was looking for in these relationships, I didn’t speak up or try to make a change, I just moved my life in a different direction, and tried my luck somewhere else. Eventually, I ran out of directions and my mind and body began to have a showdown over my refusal to accept reality.
The physical fireworks were pretty spectacular. My first head-on PTSD experience dropped me to my knees with what felt like a 4 chamber explosion in my heart. I visualized each chamber ballooning out and popping in fast succession. There was nothing going on around me, no catalyst to spark a reaction, but suddenly I was operating from a consciousness of survival, carefully watching my physical vehicle for signs of death. The change was immediate, and there was no warning.
When I rose from my knees, a fury descended upon me like a tornado and swept me across the sidewalk. When I hit the pavement, I remember seeing a neighbour I knew really drive right past me. I had a single focused idea: He purposly ignored another human being who was clearly in distress. This made me enraged beyond words, and I still can’t say why. I remember experiencing the moment from many different perspectives. In one way I was blindsided and speechless, watching myself react to this physical event in such a unfamilliar way. From another perspective I was shocked and awed at the amount of power moving through my rage-possessed body. It was like being burned alive with anger, every injustice and abuse represented in a rising wave of power and fury. It was neither scary nor exhilerating at the time. I was just trying to get through it. From an entirely other perspective, I thought I was having a massive heart attack. While I don’t recall any pain, I recognize that my memory often sanitizes or eliminates frightening experiences if I don’t work on actively recalling them. I do not remember if I was in pain. Perhaps I was too shocked to notice.
In this experience, the ability to recall many viewpoints gave weight to the suspicion that I sometimes experience things from more than one structural perspective. To use an analogy, there is only one driver able to operate the vehicle, but there can be many passengers inside experiencing the event from different viewpoints, both physically and psychologically. The critical difference in this car is that any passenger can morph into the driver and move the vehicle in a new direction.
Another way to think about it is to imagine there is always versions of yourself present in your current moment. Everything you have ever done has brought you to that place, and some of those ‘yous’ are responsible, and want a ‘seat’ in the theater created by their actions. Some structures do not enjoy sitting in the theater watching their productions, because it makes them feel guilty, or sad, or uncomfortable in some way. I believe this is the key to identifying any problematic structure, allowing the structure to self-identify, and then become self-aware, self-accepting and willing to integrate with the collective.
It was these clues that led me to suspect there was something seriously amiss with the way my mind was working, and no amount of denial was going to hide it. Later that day I narrowly avoided being taken to a hospital by refusing to get into a vehicle. I intuitively knew then that you don’t have to be violent, or acting-out to have your rights violated in a hospital room or doctors office, so refusal to comply in a polite and coherent way is the best strategy. Learning to understand my own mental health, and treat myself with kindness and respect throughout the process, while avoiding having myself involuntarily committed, has given me strategies for reclaiming my sanity and my balance, and confidence and resiliency to be my own most effective advocate.
I may not have access right now to the help that would make my healing easier, but I can do everything in my power until that day to be ready to take advantage of the help I find, and ensure it is more easily accessible for everyone who needs it in the future.