In the field of the Posttraumatic Stress Disorders, a long-term condition of post traumatic stress is known to be a ‘stable’ disorder, in the sense that it will remain the same, will not mend on its own, without intervention of some kind. This is a really important and fundamental piece of information that all survivors of trauma need to understand. And, while it will not recede and mend without intervention, it may and frequently does get worse, if the survivor’s lifestyle involves situations of high stress or lack of physical or emotional safety.
People who suffer with PTSD often do not realise that their states-of-being are symptoms of PTSD, but they instinctively attempt to ‘manage’ their symptoms of high anxiety and reactiveness by creating real and psychological ‘walls’ around them, keeping the world at bay and retreating into a real and psychological ‘cave’. Their life choices become restricted, as so many possible options are felt as being unmanageable. So many of life’s possibilities pass them by, and so much of their potential is wasted. If the damage was done in childhood, relationship difficulties are nearly always part of their profile, and the likelihood of ending up alone or lonely is much higher.
All of the strategies mentioned above have the secondary effect of worsening the survivor’s PTSD, creating a positive feedback loop (i.e., the apparently self-protective measures have the opposite effect of increasing PTSD symptomatology). The situation requires the input of some other kind of strategy that can turn this painful trajectory around.
The three symptom clusters of PTSD are intrusion of past traumatic memories into the present, hyperarousal of the nervous system, and the automatic response to these two clusters – avoidance, shut-down and dissociation. This last cluster is the reason that most PTSD sufferers are not able to ‘pull themselves up by their own shoelaces’ or carry out a self-help program of healing on their own. For many, especially those with Complex-PTSD, the dissociation and defence systems are just too strong to be able to dismantle without outside help.
A Survivor’s Arts Therapy narrative of entering the Therapy Process
My past is the gale force, ripping and shedding,
from cloudy unknowing, approaching the source . . .
Divisions’s the source of the maelstrom,
for man storms in my core –
demanding this polar convergence –
restatement of natural law.
Fathomed, deep, and Ocean’s bride,
Her treasure, suckled, secret pride,
In sorrow hid
and fear revealed,
Surrender not she’ll not be
Buy back this Past! It’s offered
Exchange your virgin bride for
-But ravished songs
of desperate wrongs
are not, so, ransomed easily.
(to her therapist, the day before therapy recommences after the first Christmas break)
I have become dry
from too long immersion in the sun,
my love. The sleeping waters
that fulfil my longing to be touched
have drawn near to my crazed-quartz shore.
. . . Long ago the She of dreaming
feared your coming as a tidal wave,
a drowning wave, such foam of fear,
all intent on exposing the covenant
and ripping away the skins
It has not been so.
Your waters and the healing salt therein
were but the swell and promise
of the coming tide,
riding the energy of moon surf
and campaigning the long-dry gradient
of my shore bound sea-sand splintered
with abandoned shells.
. . . Through orbits of enrichment you came and went.
With each flowing in,
and each drawing back,
my sea-walls shifted –
their ebb-time come –
and through the sifting and falling
appear long forgotten rocks,
jagged, oceanic volcanic,
and I cry for my feet
sore and bleeding.
always, always you washed against my feet
and eddied in unremitting urges
upon the gravity slope of my beached self.
And so – in the fullness – am I summoned by moon-call
to welcome the mighty tide,
to be trembled by the sonorescence
of its incoming tread,
by silent injunction to be awed,
irresistibility angered, tenderness humbled.
always, always with infinite tenderness
washes the mighty tide against the rippled edges
of encrusted selves.
When tomorrow comes, and moon-tide thralls the deep,
I will take my faith and march in sandy particles
down to the sea.
More on The Healing Journey
Essential Issues in Trauma Therapy