An excellent video about PTSD

This video is a great discussion of PTSD related to the three principles of thought, consciousness and mind. Dr. Pettit clearly feels strongly that, in his opinion, his profession — psychiatry — has made things worse for people with PTSD, and actually increased our suffering.

I couldn’t agree more. I know that people go into those professions of counseling and psychiatry to help people, but I was not helped by it at all. I can’t even begin to count up the years I spent in therapy, with some terrible therapists and with some spectacular ones. But even the spectacular ones failed because they were looking at PTSD — and all other mental illnesses, in my opinion — from the completely wrong angle.

If I had understood the three principles earlier, if I had had the language to describe them and actually SEE where my anxiety, etc., were coming from, I could have eliminated my symptoms quickly. Because when I did begin to understand these principles, my life changed effortlessly for the better. I learned, most of all, that THERE WAS/IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME.

We don’t have to be afraid of our thoughts or memories, and we don’t have to fight them, as Dr. Pettit says. If we can learn to not be afraid of our thinking and recognize that thought flows like a stream inevitably toward better thinking, and we stop putting rocks in the way by being scared of them or trying to change them, we will feel GREAT. Well-being is our birthright. We are born happy. The only thing that keeps us from feeling it is our being afraid of our thinking.

A relatively easy solution to anxiety

one of my favorite places in the worldOK, as promised in my last blog post, I’m sharing a simple technique from Tolle’s “Practicing the Power of Now” that can help anyone with PTSD — or anyone else, for that matter, who ever feels anxious.

One of my main PTSD symptoms has been trying to anticipate what other people are going to do or say. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. When you live with an abusive person, you never know what will set him off. So you walk around wondering if the simple act of breathing is going to make him lash out. You watch his every move, hang on his every word, searching for a clue: is he angry? WIll he try to harm me now? Will he try to kill me now?

I’ve spent the last few months really working on ridding myself of these symptoms. Something in the Tolle audio book that has helped is simply becoming rooted in my physical body.

If, for example, I’m on the subway and I start to feel anxious about other people’s movements, I can return myself to my physical body and focus on it, instead of on my racing thoughts (“Will he bump me with his elbow?” “Will she scowl at me when I have to push past her?”). I simply start to watch those thoughts pass by, and I concentrate my attention on my physical self. I start at my feet and work my way up, noticing how I’m physically feeling.

I also focus on my breathing. I breathe consciously and notice how it physically feels to inhale and exhale.

Within a couple of minutes, any anxiety I had has passed. I can continue to literally watch any anxious thoughts and not judge myself for them. It’s almost like they’re not a part of me.

Have you ever tried techniques like this (also called “mindfulness,” I believe)? If so, please leave a comment. I’d like to hear if they work for you.

“I’m a domestic violence survivor”

I had to speak those words in a courtroom yesterday.

I was called for jury duty for my county. The last time I was called, I didn’t even go through a voir dire process. This time, I did. And there came a point when the judge asked people being considered for a spot on the jury if any of us had ever been the victim of a crime, or if anyone close to us had been.

He said, “Please raise your hand.”

For a split second, I thought about keeping my hand in my lap. But I couldn’t do it. I’d taken an oath.

So I raised my hand.

The rest of the prospective jurors left the room, and one by one, each of us victims had our turn with the judge, in front of the defendant, his lawyer and the prosecutor.

“So, Ms. Johnson, what is your story?” asked the judge.

Wow, what a loaded question.

“I’m a domestic violence survivor,” I said. “My daughter was also sexually molested by the same man, my ex-husband.”

The judge seemed startled, frankly. He didn’t say anything for a couple of beats. A man in his late 50s, slight, with completely gray hair — I figure he’s probably heard everything. His reaction actually startled me.

“Did these events happen simultaneously?”

Odd question.

“Well, they happened while I was married to him, and the sexual abuse continued after I divorced.”

“So you don’t know if these things happened at the same time.”

“They might have, sure. But I don’t know.”

“And did you contact the police?”

“Yes,” I said. It was true that the police got involved in my daughter’s situation. But not mine. I was always too terrified to call the police for what he was doing to me. Too risky.

“And were any charges filed?”

“No, your honor.”

“Why was that.”

“Insufficient evidence.”

And with that, it was over. I was not chosen to serve on the jury.

But the thing is, it’s not over. I did have to go back to the jury room today, but I was not called; I was released. My jury service is over, but my stress about that experience isn’t. I don’t say those words out loud very often — like, never. I don’t talk about that part of my life with many people. Almost no one except my family and my closest friends know the truth about me. Saying it out loud to people I didn’t know — I don’t care what their societal roles ¬†were yesterday — was anxiety producing and horrible. Not to mention the fact that just stepping into a courtroom makes me want to throw up.

I’m going to bed early tonight to sleep off this stress. Hoping I’ll feel better in the morning …

Backward = forward

Today, I started a new job, which is actually my old job that I left 3-1/2 years ago.

It’s one of the few times in my life where going backward actually means I’m going forward. How is this possible?

I’ve spent the last 3-1/2 years working in an extremely challenging work environment, culminating in a department where bullying is the norm. It’s bad enough for someone without a history of severe trauma to deal with bullying and severe daily stress, but for me, it has been emotionally and even physically devastating.

Thanks to the kindness and love of a good friend/colleague, whom I first met when I was in this role previously, I was asked to come back. Today is my first day in my new/old job, and it’s been the easiest first day ever. Familiar and friendly faces, fun work projects, nice work environment.

Honestly, it feels like I’ve been let out of prison. Or thrown a life line. Or been given a second chance. Name the cliche’, and that’s how it feels.

But the biggest reason it feels like a step forward is because now, with a really good 9-to-5 setup, I feel free.

Ironic, right? Working 9-to-5 but feeling free?

My mind is free: free to pursue my entrepreneurial goals during the rest of my time, which I’m doing actively every single day. Free to pursue my physical goals of regaining my health by going back to the gym. Free to pursue my emotional goals of (nearly) eliminating stress in my daily life and tuning in to my own voice consistently. (More on this last point in an upcoming post, something that can be very helpful to trauma survivors.)

Yes, I’m in a cubicle. But for the first time in my life, I don’t care. I feel free.

Correction: I AM FREE.