The Signs of PTSD
Remember when you are reading this list to put your internal critic outside of you--- maybe far away in an oasis in a desert. And remember not to criticize yourself for being self-critical---just say ooops! And recalibrate towards an atmosphere of self-acceptance.
Having the leftovers of painful events is not your fault (PTSD-- post traumatic stress syndrome). You were doing the best you could to survive/connect at the time. The more standard leftovers are: flashbacks, nightmares, few or no memories and self destructive behaviors such as substance abuse. Those are the ones you see in movies. Some less recognized ones are: numbness, insomnia, loss of a sense of future, loss of interest, loss of sense of “who I am”, chronic pain and feeling ‘out of body’. Some painful feeling states are; hyper vigilance, anxiety and mistrust, shame and worthlessness, irritability and depression and general emotional overwhelm commonly called flooding.
There you have it—human beings have been resourceful in finding ways to stay alive even if that life has scars. I have found that the dissociative aspects of PTSD have been the hardest for me to deal with: a de-coloring and narrowing of my life in order to avoid the “no go” zones of activities that might trigger me. Everyone is unique in their patterns but we all have a lot in common too.
Learning about my nervous system and its extremes (fight or flight and submit/ freeze) and how it feels to be in the functional zone; what I call the ‘window of possibilities’ (what is often called the window of tolerance) was super important to my growth and healing. There is a lot written about this and I will reference a few resources below.
In order to get a solid understanding of what PTSD recovery looks like, it is also important to hear other peoples’ stories that have had similar problems/ptsd as you do. This decreases the isolation feeling (common in ptsd) and often gives us new ideas on how to “get out” of the trap and re-learn how to be fully alive in our bodies and minds in full color!
Books worth checking out:
My book “Note by Note” is a good reference for medical trauma, musical trauma, and the perspective of a survivor and a therapist as well as bodymind techniques for recovery.
Stephanie Foo’s book “What My Bones Know” is a good resource for understanding the difference between PTSD connected to one incident and complex PTSD which is connected to repeated traumas. Also good for survivors of physical abuse
Janina Fisher’s book, “Transforming the Living Legacy of Trauma” Which is a practical workbook for deconstructing trauma and is a good resource for both therapists and clients.
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Kristi Magraw is known for having developed a unique synthesis of Eastern healing (Five Element theory) and Western ways of working with the mind, called the Magraw Method, which she established in 1979. This method uses metaphoric language and release techniques to help people heal physical and emotional pain.