January 3rd, 2015. I will be 50 then and frankly, I dread the flood of feelings most likely taking hold of me on that day. Fact check: I got divorced in 2003, I bottomed out/burnt out on my previous walk of life that I’m at pains of calling a “career” in the conventional sense of the word – as it was mere survival by all means at large. I did two more resolved flappings of my wings in 2005 and again in 2007 – until that wanna-be “Phoenix” ultimately all burnt in the fire called “life” (or maybe even that very term doesn’t apply in my case altogether, as it’s been survival mode for the most part of it). And in that same year I filed for partial disability after returning from my called-off migration endeavour to Canada, took another full time job as a fallback scenario and then ultimately succumbed to the forces working against me from within – a little something I shouldn’t learn until 2013, some 6 years later and going by the officially accepted term C-PTSD. These are the mere facts – and I’ve largely spared anyone the agony that comes with it, the despair, the torture of physical symptoms, the inability to even commit to a close relationship from panicking so hard at the mere physical proximity of a loved one. It’s an invisible, largely silent battle we all fight who got shackled with this brutal, merciless condition.
But – I had been better before. I truly was. I had taken on life like a bull in the ring, teeth gritted, muscles flexed, with a firm resolve to go for what I thought I wanted, needed, deserved. And most importantly: I often had fun doing that. I simply didn’t file myself under “damaged” and let’s face it: Unless you present people with what you’re dealing with and unless you’re uncontrollably shaking from an anxiety attack in a public, most people never notice or care to know anyway – right? In other words: Being in denial works pretty well as long as it’s about being a socially functioning being, doesn’t it? Just ignore the anxiety and rise above it – one time after another. And the odd thing: You might even feel a personal triumph afterwards, or more accurately: You experience yourself being in control of your life and circumstances (as much as humanly possible) instead of being controlled by the condition – right again? It’s an enormous instant gratification and loads of potential for relief and personal growth in facing and rising above your fears. As Michele Rosenthal – herself being a PTSD survivor and post-trauma coach – says about the ultimate goal of our healing process:
Ahhhh!!! Let this sink in for a minute and meditate on that large, powerful, capable, confident self – can you see it? Can you feel it? If you can’t – don’t beat yourself up over it like I used to do. So far, our story defined us. We never learnt healthy ways of defining ourselves and the world around us as our perps robbed us of that very opportunity at the opportune time – didn’t they? I don’t mean to trigger a flashback. All I’m trying to say is that yes, we can get to that place where we feel we’re being in control of ourselves and our lives (again: As much as possible for anyone).
So far, so good (is it?). The not so obvious, not so easy part to deal with is loss. Loss of opportunities we were deprived of in the past, even loss of an identity we could have had back then – and didn’t for obvious reasons. To me, the hardest setback is when the past catches up on me in one or the other way. Like e.g., when the feeling of being singled out and/or left behind gets triggered from new experiences. It takes a conscious willful reminder of the fact that those new experiences are not linked to the past – or brought about by it. That’s a humdinger. You run into something that rubs your sore spots and pushes all the wrong buttons, yet you must tell yourself that those feelings you feel don’t have anything to do with your past. Wasn’t that the definition of depersonalizing/derealizing? Isn’t it akin to that sensation of standing beside yourself and not being your “regular” self? (whatever the latter does or could have meant for “us”).
At the end of the day it boils down to this: If you really want to be free of your past, you need to “reprogram” yourself in such a way that a conscious, chosen reminder kicks in every time a triggering situation is about to fire well-trained neural pathways. In yet different words: One way or another, it seems to boil down to becoming a control freak of epic proportions. Please – by all means, correct me, if I’m wrong – I will love to hear from you!