A journal of healing

The Cycle Completes

And the circle completes it cycle. That is how I was feeling today. After I wrote last night about this situation with my step-daughter, I felt a bit of relief. I find writing is a great method for me to purge and cleanse. There is a definite cycle that people quite often employ who are survivors, suffer with PTSD or have had a heightened constant negative experience (which is a fluffy way of saying a crappy time of it). One of the reasons I like writing, other than being able to share and teach, is that it maps out the cycle for me. I know I am usually in the height or coming down depending on what I write. I do not share well with conversation.
So let me explain. Think of yourself driving along in a car in a dessert area. There is nothing but flat terrain and little change in scenery, except a mule or two. Is this not the epitome of life, especially the mules? You are driving along on autopilot, disengaged from the sensations of the road, the occasional breeze, the monotony of the sand and the absence of an oasis of shade or water. All of a sudden, you blow a tire. You expect it because it is part of life. But you have had tires blow out way more than the normal person and once or twice, you were almost killed because you could not steer the car. It is nothing you have done like buying cheap tires. You are just genetically predisposed to blow tires.
So this event should be something you can handle. But because it has happened so often and with different outcomes, you react violently. Perhaps one time you were stranded in the snow. Maybe once you did not have a spare. More often, someone saw you being vulnerable and took advantage of you. One time you were robbed. One time you were in a very bad part of town and you were alone. That one time you were raped.
But on this road trip, you are actually prepared with a spare. You know how to change the tire. The weather is nice and the road is empty of traffic. You have mace and you have a cell phone. You should feel safe.
But it does not matter, because your body, mind and soul have been trained to react to the worst case scenario. You immediately become hyper-vigilant looking for predators. Your body goes into a pattern of flight, fright or freeze. For me, I become immobilized. And when this happens, I also get very angry. And the combination causes me to tense up my muscles and then that causes great pain. This is the first part of my cycle and from what I have studied, it is not uncommon.
Before I started working on all this, the period of being heighten after a trigger could last for a while. The cost on me physically has had a huge impact. I could not think clearly because my thinking wiring was being rerouted. That caused frustration and fed into the anger. The physical turning in of my body was another indicator. My legs turn inward and I curl my toes in, much like an infant does when frightened. My whole body curls inward. I keep my arms and hands very close to my body most of the time and I slouch terribly. Take a look around and you will see this is a classic posture for many people. I bet if you asked them there is a story attached. We of course do not do that. But health care providers should be aware of it.
It takes awareness to move out of this pattern. That is what writing does for me. There are a ton of things people can do to move onward. I also employ meditation and sitting as much as I can outside to get grounded. I found that trying to explain myself does not work well at all. There is a gap that does not get closed with talking about things. But by putting my thoughts down on paper I can rearrange things most times to make sense. I am often reminded about my inability to articulate clearly. I laugh, but in truth, it really hurts. I wish I could be garrulous and loquacious when speaking, but I physically cannot when I am either excited or agitated. I also find I do not remember what I have said and that is sometimes frightening. I find when I write, I often look back and think I wrote that? But then there is proof.
At some point, there is a coming down from the heighten experience. When I was going through therapy, this cycle was so pronounced, I called it a face plant. I would come off this high (and I use that loosely, because it is not a pleasant feeling) and I would crash. Sometime the crash left me desperate and very depressed. Think of a sine wave. For every up there is an equal low. Eventually these highs and lows became less. A “normal” person would bounce back faster and have less distance in the poles. I still bounce but not for as long and not so dramatically most of the time.
Back to the road trip and the blown tire: I have exploded into a series of nonsensical profanities that makes sense only to me. I may pound on the steering wheel causing me to hurt my hand. This reaction will continue for a while. Eventually, the reality of the situation will set in and I will do what I have to do. This often happens in a disengaged state. I shut down and function in a zombie like state. My posture is curled in and I present a defeated appearance. When I am in a conflict with someone else, I acquiesce in order to move on. This is also the time where I would engage is self-flagellation. (I originally wrote the word self-flatulation and laughed. Pure Janese!)
Slowly, and usually through some form of purging like writing, I settle back down. This would be when I changed the tire in my scenario. Hopefully it would be successful because if not, the cycle would not complete and escalate right back or even become worse. If I do calm myself in some manner I usually find clarity. I usually can see the resolution. I often marvel at how apparent it was and why I had struggled to find it. And it is because there is truth in the saying of not thinking clearly in the eye of the storm.
Often, after something happens and I go through a cycle, I end up at the end holding on to guilt and shame. This is a huge topic and not for tonight. I will end with my gratitude for those who have taught me methods of getting back to solid ground quicker. I would love to hear from others what works and what has not for them. I think it is imperative that people who have gone through similar transitions share so that we can support better and more effective treatment for people who have gone through developmental trauma or have PTSD.

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Comments on: "The Cycle Completes" (1)

  1. Wow, you are articulate. Such an excellent explanation of what you experience. I too have had a very hard time voicing what simmers inside. Using phones or writing a letter worked better, but your input made sense, that things that happened added to my inability to speak out loud what I needed to say. Not being able to made me feel as dumb as my mom said I was.
    When I read ‘self-flatulence’ I laughed outright and had some… : )

    Though this is an upcoming chapter in my book, I heard so much from others about PTSD that I posted it ahead of the other chapters awhile back. http://wp.me/s4Qpte-ptsd

    Thank you for this post. Really great analogy. I like things put in a way so that I can understand.

    Like

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