Posted by: Marie | February 10, 2010

(246) Guest Post: PTSD (Power) Balance

Post #246

Guest Post

Today, I am honored to publish a guest post written by Michele Rosenthal, who is the founder of Heal My PTSD, LLC. Michele is a self-empowered healing coach, speaker, blogger and mental health advocate. To join the FREE self-empowered healing workshop on her blog, visit the Heal My PTSD, LLC, website at www.healmyptsd.com.

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Tipping the PTSD (Power) Balance

Living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is like spending every hour swinging on the long arm of a pendulum: you feel safe, you feel at risk; you feel secure, you feel in danger; you feel at peace, you feel anxious; you feel in control, you feel powerless; you feel happy, you feel devastated. In this state of movement, how can a survivor ever hope to find balance? It might seem impossible, but consider this: Finding balance is all about the choices we make.

After a life-threatening illness so rare none of my doctors had actually ever seen it, I finally emerged from the hospital one very traumatized thirteen-year-old girl. That was in 1981. For the next twenty-four years I clung to the PTSD pendulum. I swung between silence and rage, fear and safety, hating myself and loving myself, destroying my body and taking care of it. Oh, yes: and in my clearer moments I strove for balance, I strove to be ‘normal’.

PTSD, however, always seemed to be stronger than I was. And then one day I decided to tip the power balance and take back control. Traditional therapeutic methods weren’t getting me very far in my PTSD recovery. Alternative methods moved me forward a little but didn’t permanently relieve my symptoms. It was time to do something drastic.

Photo by Martin Chen

I decided to look at the idea of PTSD and the balance of power differently than I had been. For years I had been living with the assumption PTSD was calling the shots and there was no way to change that. But then I thought about it this way: Every day I was accepting life in a state of the deep, dark PTSD abyss. I needed to change that. I needed to change my mind.

I decided I would choose what state I desired to live in. I believed that in any moment we can change our state of mind just by taking an action. I decided I needed to do something to change my state to JOY, even if only for a small amount of time each day.

In the beginning, joy felt like a foreign concept to me. In the PTSD state, we’re not used to feeling joy or even thinking it’s possible. But when I thought back over the previous 25 years, there had been times that a certain experience had broken through the PTSD fog and uplifted me: dancing, for example, made me transcend to an enormously blissful state. I decided I needed to dance A LOT.

In order to tip the PTSD power balance in my favor – in order to find a better balance in my PTSD experience – I committed to making the shift toward balance myself, a little bit each day.

I found a local dance studio and signed up for one class every day of the week. This was not an easy action to take. There were days I was so depressed I couldn’t imagine going to a dance class. My body hurt, I didn’t feel social and I didn’t want to leave the house. But I did go because in healing PTSD and finding a new balance, we must make the effort ourselves. We must invest in our future by doing what feels unnatural and difficult in the present. We must take back the balance of power from the past so that we can live again with a feeling of freedom, excitement, anticipation and joy in the present.

It took a few months of this commitment for the results to kick in, but the more I stuck to the schedule the easier it became. My PTSD symptoms decreased. I began to look forward to those daily moments of joy. I began to live in the present and anticipate the future in ways I never had before. Eventually, I was able to resume the process of healing because an interesting thing occurred: The feeling of joy gave me a new strength. The feeling of joy tipped the balance of power between me and my trauma; it made me more powerful and PTSD more powerless. The energy of joy inspired and helped me to construct a post-trauma identity, which became critical in my healing success.

Today, I’m 100% PTSD-free and there is a new balance now: the balance of happiness and peace, serenity and joy, present and future.

I’ve leapt off the PTSD pendulum at last. You can, too. It all begins with the decision to change the power balance in your experience. And then, with the action of doing something you love.

What brings you joy? How can you add that to your daily or weekly schedule? What’s one thing you can do today to tip the PTSD power balance in your favor?


Responses

  1. This post is an insult. You imply guilt for failure here for those of us who aren’t able to just say oh, okay, no more of this now. You speak from
    a place of trauma that is nowhere near what some others haw suffered thru. You additionally make no mention of the neuroscience of complex PTSD or the concomitant dissociative disorders that so often plague people who have suffered through repeated, sadistic childhood sexual abuse.

    Your experience is what it is and I’m glad that it worked for you. Bu don’t you dare blow that pixie dust crap at me. I am
    not at fault. My issues cannot be smiled away.

  2. @Splinterdones – I appreciate and respect your perspective and I agree: no guilt for not being able to say, “Poof!” and it all goes away. I wasn’t implying guilt in any way. I struggled for 25 years before I was even diagnosed, and then several more before I found freedom, so I know very well how deep and long the struggle goes.

    In a short post on a blog I can’t address all of the very pertinent issues you bring up. We all are individual in our healing journey and in the experiences we have. In this small space I was only suggesting the role our own attitude can play, and how we can try to take some actions that might help support our quest. If any of it works for you, great. If none of it does, that’s fine, too. We all find our own path. I wish you great success in finding yours.


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