I’ve been in touch with Dr. Schmidt since 2009, if I remember correctly. She had appeared in a 4-hour TV documentary on depression and PTSD. Right after watching the documentary with my breath being held, I researched her contact info and was thrilled to find that she operates in my vicinity (Munich, in this case and I live about 40 mins. out west from the city). All the more disappointment when my phone call with her ended in her turning me down for treatment!!! And this on the basis that at that point of my own research into my history I was left to assume that the residual, neurobiological – and hence physical – outcomes of my PTSD had been caused by very early events in my life that happened in the infant stages, where neurobiology maintains that this is prior to developmental stages that support active and conscious memory. In other words and to put it simply: I had believed that the originating trauma happened at a time before I could remember it and so I was shit out of luck, to put it quite bluntly. Based on this assumption and my reporting thereof, Dr. Schmidt didn’t think that there was any angle from which standard trauma therapy would prove efficient in my case. Again – shit out of luck doesn’t even cut it… I was devastated!
However, since I had to learn to be tenacious to the point of masochism only to survive, I wasn’t ready to let things stand in this bleak a place. And so I continued to investigate into my own history, into developmental psychology and all sorts of approaches that explain how memory is accessed. From mere despair I even opened up to concepts of the spiritual in order to hopefully find an angle there, which I might be able to use for my recovery. And I did something else, of which I believe to have yielded me hints and emotional “markers”, which I now believe might turn out to be crucial cues for further treatment – if they’ll accept me in, that is! I would voluntarily seek exposure to feelings that got me in closer touch with my own long suppressed trauma content or rather its emotional outcomes.
In order for this to make sense, I need to create some context at first: I had established a certain fixed routine in my days, which I’d use as “anchors” in the world out there and to replace missing internal, emotional rooting which didn’t get seeded (enough) in me due to an at least partially dysfunctional upbringing (partial neglect, severe verbal and emotional abuse, some mild physical abuse, too). A part of this routine included treating myself to a nice meal in the evenings, while enjoying a movie along with smoking and quite a bit of drinking at the time. Truth is that I was up to one entire bottle of red wine every night, sometimes followed by several shots of hard liquor. Since I’m also suffering from hyper-uricemia, the fairly heavy inebriation resulted in debilitating and very, very painful joint inflammations that eventually produced almost complete immobility to the point, where I was barely able to make it to the bathroom in time, let alone go visit a doctor for treatment. I had to be treated at home, since my foot was so swollen, I wasn’t able to put a sock or shoe on. At one point I was really stuck at home and on the verge of becoming a full fledged nursing case. And this at 47…. go figure.
Anyway, the inebriation helped to once again unlock the carefully hidden empath aspect of me. This would eventually produce major meltdowns and breakdowns, which sometimes had me in a crying fit for hours. The intensity of these emotional breakdowns had me understand that clearly I had touched upon something else than mere compassion for a – fictitious of all things! – character on screen. I hence concluded that the particular movies that had this effect on me must have had something to do with my own unprocessed emotional issues and residual outcomes of trauma, both single occurences as well as the prolonged abuse going on during my upbringing. (On a side-note: This is why I consider myself to be a survivor of both PTSD and C-PTSD, where the jury of medical experts is still out on deciding on whether and how to distinguish the two and whether they’re two distinct outcomes along a spectrum of disorders and emergent co-morbidities).
So now I had an emotional “GPS” of sorts, as I keep calling it. I would keep exposing myself to such experiences on a semi-regular basis, say every other week or so. And I kept at it for a while, until one day somewhere from my unconscious certain distinct images would resurface that took me all the way back to my first weeks on the planet and to that time, when I was treated for maldigestion at the pediatric hospital near my birthplace. My mother informed me that they sent me there two weeks after I was born and on account of my being unable to hold down food. (It wasn’t until 42 years later that another doctor tells me, I’m dairy-intolerant… and since I was fed with formula instead of being breast-fed, I naturally and quite expectably threw up the food my system had been incompatible with from the beginning. I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around the idea, what my life might have looked like, if I had known about this sooner… ). The images that would come back revolved around me as an infant in a completely alien, if not hostile environment. After all, I was there alone with strangers, my parents allowed to come visit once a week for an hour or so, but never allowed in – I would only get to make eye-contact through a glass pane, with them frantically gesturing towards me inside. (On another side note: It must be from this experience that later on I would choose for activities as coping strategies, which involved lots of exposure, like e.g. being a performing musician. My young psyche must have “figured out” or “concluded” that survival depended on those two familiar faces reappearing in that window in order for me not to be doomed for death. Because the hospital stay involved intrusive exploration and examination, like two spinal taps, with one being in the area of the upper vertebrae in order to tap cerebral fluid to be examined for a potential infection. There was tube-feeding for weeks – major warning for graphic content, if you follow previous link!!! – and whatnot… In other words: A torture-like situation, which I was left at in total helplessness and with the uncertainty of whether or not I would make it out alive… This would clearly overwhelm anyone! Much more so a newborn infant…)
Another thing that seems to have helped for these images and feelings to resurface from the subconscious bodymind is hypnotherapy, which I am happy to be treated with by a doctor, who has also become a friend over the years. Both these approaches – following my emotional GPS and having gotten trained in inducing mild trances – seem to have released bottled up emotional content from the very early, initial past of my physical being. I was surprised at the visual clarity with which these images would come forth: Complete sequences including all sensory input like voices, ambient noise, smells, feel of textures, the lighting situation etc. – it was all there and present!
By having dug up these early memory imprints I now have access to the prerequisites of standard trauma therapy. Hopefully, they won’t turn me down again and that I’ll eventually receive the treatment I’ve been needing for … well, all my life. Wish me luck!
update: They indeed turned me down again – and for good! Unbelievable…