How I Healed (PTSD and Me)
The grief of having been raised with the idea that competition is the defining mark of one’s identity and that worthiness comes from winning, led me to the deeper understanding of life that I now have. I was unwilling to accept the anxiety levels that accompanied a life of illusionary greatness.
In many ways, I found peace before I knew what it was. The evidence appeared in creative works of art, stories, poems and parables I wrote, and in thought patterns I adapted to get through competitive situations without succumbing to the immense pressures of being judged. Of course, there were many unfortunate scenarios that deeply affected me and kept me lost in a fog of mental anguish for many years; but the hints of peace within popped up like eager prairie dogs in an otherwise vast dessert of hopelessness. When they appeared, I recognized these thoughts as positives, and I held on to them, adding them to my list of growing, permanent survival tools.
As I developed I lived with two conflicting life patterns.
The trained competitor who gleaned self-worth from victory, and intense loathing from anything less than perfection; and the peaceful seeker of truth who had much to give and share with others.
Going through life in this way was confusing for me. The confusion led me to look at my situation closely and I began sharing my thoughts and feelings openly. This gave me an opportunity to find that so may of us live with these same kinds of debilitating judgements about ourselves. So often, it is not even recognizable to us as a deficit. We confuse, self-depricating thoughts and words with humility, over extension of our own energy to others as kindness, agreeing with things that are clearly not our point of view as cooperative.
When I recognized these patterns, feelings and habits in myself I sought to improve them. I did very well because I was as honest as I could be in my evaluations, and I became aware of the importance of not judging every detail of my improvement or lack thereof. I did so well, that it appeared to the outside world as if I was a very well balanced individual, and many people began coming to me for advice about the issues in their own lives.
My life vastly improved, I made tremendous life-altering decisions including escaping my abusive marriage. It was a joy to begin raising my children with a healthy, balanced mentality; but things still lingered. I experienced moments of deep sorrow, especially after comments or situations that caused me to plummet into very defensive modes of thought and speech. I handled big crisis such as my sons death with grace and strength far beyond what could be considered normal; but the slightest unwelcome comment could cause me great pain and I would retreat in to silence.
Help for these left-over issues came unexpectedly. After having been ordered by a judge to attend a “victims of domestic violence” course during the process of court hearings with my x-husband, I opted to find a valid therapist for my children, so they could have professional support after all that had happened. As it turned out, I learned quite a lot in the class, and then ended up leading the class and speaking to large audiences on the subject of self worth.
The major key to my healing, however, came to me through my children’s therapist, Frank Capatch. As fate would have it, Frank Capatch is a respected leader in the practice of EMDR, a scientific based therapy for PTSD patients. He lives and practices in the subdivision closest to mine on the Big Island. After sitting in with my children for many sessions, Frank suggested I come in on my own. He recognized many things about me and pegged me as, “highly intelligent, talented, creative, vibrant, determined, deeply aware, and traumatized with severe PTSD.” Frank predicted that we would be able to work through my case in about 2 and half years.
In addition to attending sessions with Frank, I began listening to and reading the teachings of Eckhart Tolle. I appreciated that his concepts, while spiritual, were not religion based. I found that the system of discovering and living in the present moment went hand in hand with my PTSD therapy, and I recognized that I had discovered some of these practices on my own, at a very early age. I just didn’t KNOW that I had collected these particular tools or how to apply them to my real life outside of competition. Now I do.
Seeking professional help for the lingering issues in my life is the greatest gift I have ever given myself and my family. I still see Frank although he has officially graduated me from PTSD work. We have recently created a powerful presentation with David Kazmierczak, combining information about the EMDR technique, my personal case history and my works of art, for psychiatric professionals, social workers and those who work with traumatized children. Our first conference was an incredible success, deeply touching and teaching those who attended.
Now and again, I see the patterns of my life-long struggle pop up. It is always noticeable to me right away, and I don’t get angry at myself for it. I just look at it as an observer would… and then I move on.