It’s In the Fineprint (Severe Trigger Warning!)

I have started this blog a few years back, then repurposed it in recent years to focus more on my attempts at recovering from complex PTSD. I have read into the literature and other blogs on the subject quite a bit, I’ve watched probably hundreds of hours of YouTube videos, both from researchers as well as from similarly affected individuals, like e.g. Rachel Hope on Amber Lyon’s Reset.Me

I’ve listened to and read what other self-directed travelers, like e.g. K.C. Callis or Michele Rosenthal, shared with the rest of us to lend a hand in healing. I’ve talked to some of them personally, talked with doctors in hospitals, with case managers of my health insurance company, therapists, friends and family. I’ve carefully monitored my behaviour and my physical responses in certain situations. I’ve done my best to claim as much control as possible and to restore a sense of faith in the ability to protect myself should the need arise. I’ve been putting myself on a fairly regular routine of eating as consciously as I deemed fit and working out. I kept myself busy with trying to find even better angles to healing myself. Because I have to do this largely on my own for a number of constraints put on me given my disability on account of this in 2008.

Seven, almost eight years have passed since I learnt for the first time that at the root of my many problems, issues and diseases, the many failures, both in my professional as well as personal life, there may be something called “trauma” (and preverbal at that as I learnt through Rachel Hope). I never stopped reaching out for specific help in regards to some still residual – and apparently persisting – physical manifestations, which I have next to zero control in managing.

Prior to this rigid focus on the remainders of outcomes from early-on trauma, I have been doing my very best to not only manage my life, but get as much joy from it, too. I had two careers, I had many relationships – where unfortunately none of them lasted, although I’ve come close with my last relationship of 10 years that led to a marriage in 1997 and ultimately … to a divorce in 2003 -, I had friends, buddies, friendly co-workers etc. From the outside, I guess my life must have looked pretty normal – until 2007, that is, when out of the blue the physical symptoms of anxiety became so pronounced in the workplace that I had begun to be afraid of losing it one way or another and became dysfunctional. I had worked from home for another two years with a gradually decreasing productivity level, but somehow still squeezing out enough productive work of me until my disability case got approved in 2008. I had thought for this to be a safe haven that would allow me to collect myself, regroup, ideally get the help I still require and then come back to part time work, eventually a life of supporting myself again. I was naive… and had to learn the hard way that the system is not your friend (contrary to what I have been raised and trained to believe like so many still do).

All those years later, when I still have to admit to myself that it is hard for me to even just tolerate the physical proximity of other people, let alone enjoy it or even go into the realm of intimacy – I have not had any romantic encounters since 2003 -, I also have to admit to myself that I’ve taken my own “healing” as far as it seems to get prior to my dropping out from society in 2007/2008. In short: I seem to have already managed on my own to take it to “as good as it gets” for me. I don’t seem to get access to the burgeoning new treatments like e.g. MDMA-assisted therapy just yet, which are in the process of collecting solid data on so they might get MDMA-assisted therapy approved as a legal treatment in 2021. But there’s a glimmer of hope: One affiliated research facility agreed to put me on a waiting list for phase III trials some time in 2016/2017. But frankly speaking: I can’t be sure any longer as to whether or not I’m going to make it until then (I’ll try to press on, though). I have been living with this incredibly limiting condition for no less than 50 years and taken so many beatings – figuratively and literally, too – that I’m not sure whether there is anything left in me that’s not broken. And even if I disregard my personal dramatic feelings for a minute here and simply focussed on becoming as productive as possible again – ideally finding me a good job at some point and becoming able to support myself, which is my primary goal here, at this point and after this long a hiatus, I can’t be sure I’ll be given the opportunity. I think, I’ll figure out something, but let’s just say things have not exactly become easier in that area.

But the real kicker is this (and hence the title of this blog): No matter how much resolve, courage, kicking-myself-in-the-butt day in, day out I might still manage to muster – I hit an invisible wall as soon as things come to … well…. everything that makes us human: Relationships. Feelings. Emotions. And navigating this entire territory of human emotional expression. Worse, I am likely to find myself getting bullied again like I was in the past for not responding in generally expected and accepted ways. How so? Well, Michele Rosenthal stresses the importance of immersing ourselves in activities and situations that let us restore a sense of control over our lives. While I tend to agree on this, I may have obsessed over this in the past and thus probably annoyed the hell out of my peers, be it at work or just about whenever, whereever. Noone enjoys hanging around someone who gets “anal”. This is just one example, where my need for feeling safe and making sure of it will have overrode social codes, the latter of which I can’t have been too aware of – until I’d get bullied. That’s just one example. Naturally, the list goes on. (On a sidenote: I wasn’t OCD with everything and all the time. For reasons I today no longer can wrap my mind around, I do remember times, when I would be a lot more serene, relaxed, almost cool and willing and capable of living in the moment. For reasons equally hard to identify today, I seem to have lost that …. shall we say “innocence”? – or at least the lack of (unhealthy) apprehension.

As far as relating to other people: When you observe human behaviour long and hard enough, you might arrive at the insight that every human being’s senses towards one another are incredibly fine-tuned and kick in instantaneously as soon as you have an interaction, no matter where or to what end. In yet different words: I used to think that only the more sensitive ones would sense my … shall we say “aberration”? ….in terms of navigating the emotional realm. But no. Actually, in terms of feeling the other person out and this in the context of needing to decide very quickly whether or not this other person is a threat, we all can rely on our primordial fear response system as one that’s working incredibly fast and realiable – and has secured our species’ survival for so many hundreds of thousands and even millions of years. So, literally everyone is a survival expert when it comes down to that.

And right “down there”, at the most primordial level of our brains – there lives trauma and its outcomes – and also our ways of coping with unprocessed traumatic events which typically become compartmentalized and fragmented when overwhelming an individual’s nervous system. From my own experiences and the not-so-small amount of personal research I’ve done over the past years, I’m led to believe that “coping” is a myth. Because non-traumatized people are very likely to always sense the aberrant behaviour in a traumatized person – and this for reasons of their own conditioning into what is or isn’t a “normal” response to whatever stimulus. To put it very bluntly, almost brutally: There is no such thing as concealing a non-conforming response by “coping” or making it look as if it hadn’t happened or were something else. People will notice and mercilessly hold you accountable for it. At least, such is my personal experience.

Hence my conclusion today: You can’t circumvent real healing. And from my own experiences, I’m afraid I’d have to say that you also can’t heal yourself on your own – at least not in severe cases like mine, where your sense of physical integrity was so gravely impaired from early on (b.t.w. I see similar outcomes in victims of rape; I’d assume a similar reason applies with them: A sense of basic trust, a sense of basic intactness is taken from them violently and – often for good. In other words again: I can try to act normal all I want – the truth of my being impaired apparently always came through in one or the other – and often detrimental – way).

I so hope, I can get accepted into this phase III trial and thus not only hopefully end this living nightmare, but more importantly contribute to this incredibly important research and the process of getting these novel treatments approved for the general public as soon as possible. Until then – I think I’m going to carefully experiment with plant medicine in order to get to carry on and – survive. Why I still hold on? No idea. Survival instinct? Being fixated on “crossing over” to where I deem the rest of us to have lived all along? Wanting to belong? You tell me…

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