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I think, this can be a true life saver for everyone suffering from (C-) PTSD, anxiety, depression. And it doesn’t require medication.
On Friday night, I had written a longer blog along with this video. For some reason, it vanished into the recesses of the server cloud at wordpress.com – or I was too drunk at the time to actually hit the “publish” button and closed that text window prior to saving. I don’t think this was actually the case as far as I remember, but maybe this was the universe’s/internet’s funny way of saying that my blog post sucked to begin with… 🙂 So here I am, trying to capture the thoughts and sentiments again that were sparked by this clip. First off, upon watching above linked video, I realized without a shred of a doubt that Dr. Maté is right. What he says about pain and the role it plays in an addict’s life resonates strongly with me. How am I being an addict? Well, I think, I’ve become an addict to food by way of recurring bouts of binge eating accompanied by the “bright” choice of washing said food down with fairly sizable quantities of alcohol. (they feel sizable to me, as my constantly overclocked, overheated, overcharged nervous system – a “gift” from a lifelong existing C-PTSD as I learnt in 2013 – doesn’t require large amounts of any substance to produce even wilder modes of altered consciousness). So in admitting to the fact that I have become addicted to food and quite a bit of alcohol, I just mean to say that I think I get the “addict” part of his monolog here (and since I am aware of the health risks coming from that behavior I think about replacing these choices of self medicating with cannabis, which I believe to go easier on the system according to the research I’ve done on it – and maybe even produce some welcome positive side effects in regards to physical and emotional health). The urge to soothe the pain by overeating and then slipping into a quite comfortable sedation, the latter amplified by alcohol, is a way of using these substances as a pain killer – or to drive out utter depression from sometimes feeling completely void, empty, destroyed inside. At those times, the feeling is that the sentient part of me is irreversibly shattered. (By now, I think I have come to understand this as a false assumption brought on by lingering outcomes of experiences from my early and later past growing up, which seem to have dominated my inner monolog and thought process for … well forever. But realistically speaking, for as long as I can feel anything, if even just for fleeting moments, the sentient part of my being can’t be dead. I try to remind myself of this during times of severe distress serving as an anchor for not losing sight of the goal and perspective).
When I had sat down that night to link to the video and add my personal comments, I had gone through a series of strong, negative emotions that brought me to the brink of completely freaking out with red rage over spending a couple of days at my former home. I say “former home”, because I feel that I have made a new home for myself where I currently live – and I think I did so more or less consciously, because that former home never felt much like a good home to begin with. For reasons too mundane to go into detail about, I had to accept help with money from family in recent years and in order to make it acceptable for me in some way, I tried to talk myself into the idea that this might also be an opportunity to regrow a relationship that has wreaked havoc on my very being from pretty much the get-go. So I guess I’m saying that spending those two, three days there exposed me to XXL-sized triggers, the nature of which I even believe the Buddha to have driven beyond any measure of impulse control, not to mention preserving the “sweet spot” of that heartspace of balanced and centered awareness. Needless to say that I have to make quite the effort to get more control over my life and my actions and decisions again, if I’m not to keep betraying myself completely and thus sabotage any serious attempt at healing the still lingering, deep wounds from the past and their outcomes. But I’m digressing.
Emotional loss and trauma – I think, I can say from plenty of years of personal, felt experience that Dr. Maté nails it here. There were brief moments in my more recent past and in an attempt to heal myself all by myself when I gave myself permission to feel that loss, be with that pain of having lost true connection with my former caretakers from early on, brought on by being seperated from them and then later for all the abuse that went on and prevented me from expressing the true nature of self or even getting seen and maybe even loved for it. Those things definitely didn’t happen in healthy ways and it became never more evident to me than over those recent few days.
I mention these things, because – quite naively – I believed that if I could access this deeply rooted pain over isolation and loss, and feel it and let it come out, a natural consequence would be that I’d thus release that pain from my bodymind. But I now have to admit to myself that this was indeed a short-sighted approach. “No man is an island”, the saying goes and I had to find out that this is true. In order to truly release the still largely unaddressed and unprocessed pain from my earliest days on the planet, someone has to be there with me when I’m with my pain, as Maté points out from his experience as a therapist. Apparently, it doesn’t suffice to just feel that pain and then let it come out (in quite violent emotional break- and meltdowns that sometimes lasted for hours). Apparently, the witnessing part is an important component I had overlooked and which seems necessary to experience some sort of natural bonding that should have happened much earlier and feel a sense of connection with someone in order to truly have a healing effect. And the other aspect I realize about this loss is that the need to fill that void left behind by initial emotional loss doesn’t vanish over time. Time doesn’t heal those deep wounds from the past at all. Only compassion does. At least, I hope so.
I would have preferred to do the healing all by myself. But apparently it doesn’t work that way. In terms of taking pragmatic steps, I am now happy to report that I have contacted researchers conducting clinical trials for MAPS.org and made it on a wait list for another round of phase III clinical trials some time in late 2016/2017. Frankly speaking, I have no idea how to keep going until then. I can only hope that my innate wish to live and become healthy, which has kept me going for 50 years, won’t let me down so close to the actual first-time ever prospect of experiencing a potential true recovery from those deeply engraved wounds from day one… Wish me luck, if so inclined!
Just watching Doug Fine speak and hear him exhale with bliss from envisioning the next morning tells me that a lot of healing potential is in this kind of lifestyle. And I’ve always been drawn to the big outdoors for as long as I can think, even as a young boy. A buddy would come by and we’d spend hours on end venturing out into the surrounding woods and communities on our bicycles, oftentimes finding fields of corn, sneaking in and treating ourselves to a little mid afternoon post-dessert snack while chatting and dreaming away, never thinking any longer into the future than the time we were expected back for supper. To be a child again… 🙂 Oh, I found this line of Doug’s presentation to ring very true for me: “We are every human being that’s ever been.” I think, he touched upon a very profound truth here. But see for your kindly inclined selves 🙂 (He’s quite entertaining!)
Watched a documentary on sleep research tonight. The link points to a show in German, but I’m sure it’s syndicated from something on Discovery Channel or something. So I have to ask you to dig deep(er) for yourself for an English version of the show. Anyway, here’s the gist of things: The entire show confirmed everything I’ve empirically experienced and analyzed over the past years. Bottomline: Sleep is an essential basic need. As such, it’s non-negotiable, as in: You’ve got to have enough restorative sleep. Period. Even a healthy person does. As soon as sleep deprivation occurs – the reasons are manifold, sleep apnea due to e.g. being overweighed is one -, health and normal functioning deteriorate – and very quickly so!
In the past years, I’ve done a lot of reading and experimenting in regards to improving my overall health situation. That is, after – and even before – I got my diagnosis of (C-) PTSD. I sank my teeth into getting better, into healing, into recovering as much as possible. (Luckily I now know that it can absolutely be done, as amongst others, like. e.g. Amber Lyon, Michele Rosenthal says on her blog and in her upcoming book). That’s the good news.
The other news and aspect I’ve only recently identified as an absolute must-have is healthy sleep. The documentary made this crystal-clear – not only to me. You see, with PTSD and the nightmares and flashbacks and hypervigilance as some of the most pressing symptoms, sleep is a “scarce commodity” as Michele Rosenthal says in her blog entry. And according to above mentioned and linked documentary, sleep deprivation alone brings on a lot of dysfunction like microsleep in your waking hours – which is among the highest ranking reasons for fatal car accidents, b.t.w. and which is also mentioned in the international handbook of war, torture and terrorism as a basic method of torturing detainees…. -, mood swings and – depression. You heard that right: Only a few nights of insufficient sleep increase the risk for developing depression in its aftermath by a factor of 5 to one! (It’s even higher for children and another overlooked side effect is for them to be falsely diagnosed with ADHD – because children become hyperactive from lack of sleep).
Why would I go at lengths of writing a blog about this? You see, in trying to sort out the symptoms that made my life a living hell at times and in making an attempt of tracking them back to their potential cause one by one and then eliminating that cause if possible, I often arrived at the seemingly insurmountable conundrum of fatigue and depression. In simple words: Which came first? Fatigue or depression? Was I feeling tired because the physical aspects of depression had their grip on me? Or was I being depressed because I never found good sleep? Which was it? Which was I supposed to target first?
Above mentioned show seems to have given a very clear answer: (Good) Sleep can’t be rated highly enough! And since the documentary also made a strong point about the correlation of sleep and eating habits, lack of sleep sets off a cascade of other symptoms often manifesting so-called co-morbidities like e.g. eating disorders. To be more specific: If you’re feeling fatigued, chances are you develop food cravings for not exactly healthy foods (like fatty, sugary ones, often resulting in diabetes type II ). There’s also a tendency to binge-eat (overeat) on those foods as you’re dying to replenish your personal energy level. I can personally attest to this vicious cycle totally kicking in if I haven’t gotten enough sleep: The brain’s signals for being hungry are all out of bounds and have you hungry almost all day. When you do eat, the perceived prior craving often results in totally overeating (binge eating) as the consumption of fatty and sugary foods sets of a surge of dopamine in the brain (the “reward” neurotransmitter), which then counters the feeling of being depressed from perceived low energy. And sure enough, eating too much at inappropriate times – ruins your sleep, of course! I had almost arrived at this insight from simply observing myself. And now there’s total affirmation on all these interdependencies from researchers!
So, in closing, my personal conclusing for starting the healing process from (C-) PTSD is this: Make it your top priority to find enough restorative, healthy sleep! (ideally 8 hours, 7 at the very least according to the documentary). You are going to feel totally self-empowered per se after waking up from a good night’s sleep! How do you do that? Move to a quieter place, if you have to. Find CDs, radio channels or recordings with relaxing, meditative music (spoken words or mantras are counterproductive from my experience – make sure, it’s instrumental music only, such as ambient, meditative, sleep inducing music. For some, binaureal beats may work – but maybe only until some time further into the process. And use with caution! If you have e.g. ever suffered from epilepsy or suffered a stroke, binaureal beats may trigger those – ask your doctor first in this case!). Make time for being outdoors as much and as often as you can! (Depending on your personal shape and considering other conditions, I’d suggest a medium- to fast-paced walk for some 30 mins. during your lunch-break and after having had a small, healthy meal; add another 30-60 mins. of moderate workout after work – not in a gym, but outdoors in a park or something! Get appropriate clothing if you have to. Nothing beats working out in a natural environment and a walk does wonders to your body and your psyche!).
Also, see Michele’s blog on nutrition and what works (better) for individuals recovering from (C-)PTSD and what are the “no-no’s” in regards to that. (I’m still working on that… 😉 )
However, the most important thing to keep in mind is this – and I owe it to Michele’s work and the many kind supporters and co-travellers along the way: You can eliminate PTSD-symptoms 100% and you can have a rewarding, meaningful, successful life! (In my darkest hours, I never thought I’d stand a chance to get there. I’m glad I didn’t fold then, because now I know there are people who managed to totally overcome and heal their PTSD).
Another thing: You are strong! If you weren’t – you wouldn’t be here anymore…
P.S. I should mention that I have managed to sleep quite a bit as of late. Eversince I do, I have not experienced depression. Sadness sometimes, maybe, mostly from feeling isolated, but not depression, which I can safely tell apart from other states of mind and heart by now.
P.P.S. This comes with a strong prior trigger warning! However, if you’re a sceptic (like me), you may find it beneficial to read about Amber Lyon’s complete recovery from severe PTSD!
Wow! This is a humdinger! Don’t miss this incredibly beneficial advice by trauma survivor Michele Rosenthal in terms of healthy nutrition supporting your recovery!
So I have identified two main residual problems: Lack of sleep – or poor quality thereof – and the resulting fatigue can and often does trigger a depressive episode. The other thing: Massive overeating at night. I’m not even all clear on the reasons for that anymore, but I think it’s an ill-conceived attempt at trying to enjoy myself with something that can’t possibly be met with derision, abuse or contempt (earlier in life, whenever I did genuinely become enthusiastic about something, I was met with verbal, emotional and physical abuse of the worst kind to the point that even as a child, I didn’t want to go on living and felt all misplaced and “square”, an accident of life).
Today, I still punish myself whenever things work out well! The better the results, the more I punish myself for them. I can’t seem to escape this brutal pattern at all. There are tiny windows, where I’m o.k. with myself and the world and begin to feel something that others may experience more or less on a constant basis (minus their own daily struggles at the workplace, of course and for example). These windows practically solely happen in the absence of people and the typical interactions with them. Like, when I’m outdoors, alone, riding my bike or swimming in the lake and taking a nap before or after. All these activities I have been doing all by myself in years. For all practical intents and purposes, I guess I’ve firmly arrived at being a loner at most times (and only in part voluntarily so)
I had a fairly productive day today, all things considered. Slept in, did my usual checking on emails and Facebook, made a couple of phone calls I had jotted down to remind me, then went about recording some guitars for a friend’s piece for about 4 hours straight (recording and editing, I should add). Did my shopping, came back, changed clothes, the rain had stopped, I got on the bike and did one of my semi-long laps to the lake, enjoyed a beautiful sunset, had a chat with a professional photographer there, then headed back and fixed myself dinner. That’s when usually all dams break and I give in to a massive binge. Actually, the eating really only happens for needing to reward myself for my self-discipline in some way, rewarding myself for not having given in to the depression, the loneliness, the self-contempt. Somewhere between the first bite and the last, something happens that has me lose all respect and appreciation of the effort that went into structuring my day and going about things one might consider productive. The more contended I feel before pigging out, the harder I annihilate all that with the ensuing binge. It’s like trying to kill myself in a very slow and painful way.
I know, it’s all based on an erroneous concept of self, of self-worth, actually. I am completely aware of that. And yet – I don’t seem able to reclaim control over this process, this pattern. I had had better control over this previously – or at least, I’d like to think so. But now I feel completely helpless in terms of that. What’s worse: I don’t believe in therapy helping at all in this regard. Why? Simple: Because no therapy, no doctor and much less any medication can quench the thirst for genuine love and appreciation, the kind of which I was denied from early on. Ironically, trying to fill that void literally by stuffing all kinds of food into myself doesn’t help any more, either. It should be easy to just let it go then. But it’s not. I am at a loss as to explaining why and how that is. I mean, yes, I’m aware of the chemical reward system in the brain, the dynamics of cravings and their satisfaction and such. I know all that. But knowing that doesn’t seem to help, either. Maybe I’m just burning out on willpower, the one thing that has kept me here in the first place. Maybe I’m burning out on having to struggle so hard 24/7. Maybe I’m all burnt out on life and haven’t really realized it yet.
P.S. It’s kind of uncanny that right after having completed this blog, I find the news percolating about Robin Williams seemingly having committed suicide this noon. Reports say he had been suffering from severe depression as of late with a history of earlier alcohol and drug abuse. Looks as if there is no cure to lack of love, in particular when that lack of love happens at the most vulnerable times in our lives…
The following URL points to Amber Lyon’s public Facebook page. I’d like to bring this to my followers’ general attention as I find Amber’s new work focus relevant to our struggles and underlying conditions, be they C-/PTSD anxiety, depression or so called “mental” disorders of any kind. Interestingly, Amber Lyon is an award-winning, renowned investigative reporter turned natural health and alternative healing researcher and advocate. While she continues to do investigative reporting on select matters, her new career path seems to focus more on researching and reporting on natural/alternative healing knowledge as known and passed down among indigenous people of e.g. the Amazon. In particular, Amber’s more recent work revolves around the possibilities of natural medicines like Ayahuasca, a powerful brew from a variety of plants with hallucinogenous/psychedelic properties. Even the wording is problematic here, as it is a typical Western, materialistic one. The shamans of those indigenous peoples themselves rather refer to those “miracle drugs” as plant spirits, who teach shaman and patient about their ailments and communicate a healing trajectory back to the shaman, who then performs whatever healing advice is revealed to him on the patient.
If this sounds odd or spooky to you – I can’t blame you. Maybe it all makes better sense after having watched Christian Moran’s documentary Ayahuasca Diary he shot while participating in an Ayahuasca retreat. The short term results of the participants are nothing short of spectacular, including one person who arrived with prostate cancer and after returning home and getting diagnostics from his oncologist was pronounced cancer free. While I’m truly impressed by those results, the skeptic in me would like to see some long term reports as well, of course (including details on how patients possibly changed their lifestyles, diet etc.). But regardless of that, the movie is definitely worthwhile watching. Some warning as to graphic content. A lot of “purging” occurs and is being caught on tape. If you’re sensitive in that area, be warned that some scenes may not be suitable for you. Oh, and last, not least, find a podcast of Amber Lyon’s account of her own Ayahuasca experience.
Hm. This is a mildly shocking experience. “Mildly”, because I had already assumed that my little “ZEN bubble” might burst quickly upon the slightest strain or attack. And the latter happened today.
I had an appointment with the hypnotherapist at 13.30 pm. He lives about 20 minutes to half an hour away by car. I usually enjoy going there, giving my MINI Cooper a run for the money it once cost by riding the bending, narrow backroads in these rural parts where I live. Depending on the mood of the day, some slight speeding is involved here and there. Never beyond what I think I have good control over, but not exactly within speed limit, either. But I had overlooked two things today: The appointment was around noon and it’s a Friday. Many people working in the city may have left work early and gone home for the weekend or were headed for their weekend homes and yachting harbours and such. In other words: The roads and streets of the district’s capital I was headed for were busy. Very busy. It felt like the universe conspired against me. I had to pass by a pretty major accident minutes after having left the house, I was in for more slowing down and congested roads as I continued. Luckily, I had given the therapist, whom I have become friends with, a prior call letting him know that I might be a little late. Usually, this would have reduced stress level to where I’d have been able to enjoy myself again. Not so today. And what had thrown me for a loop to begin with? Well, not being able to follow the routine I have established for myself to create some “anchors” outside of myself. I had meant to stop by the pharmacy quickly to pick up medication I depend on (the enzymes) and which were close to running out. I knew I wouldn’t be back before night and probably not make it before noon tomorrow. So I decided to stop by there, hoping to get to pick up the meds on prescription. Guess what? They denied handing them to me, because one payment was missing from as early as February and they had never bothered to let me know about it. Yes, I know – it was my fault to begin with. But for reasons of good CRM, it wouldn’t have killed them to give me a buzz about it, would it? That never happened. Instead, they waited for me to come back in and confronted me with the issue – in front of other customers, of course. And then denied me handing over the meds I had a new prescription for. Seeing as there is exactly one pharmacy in the village where I live and since I can’t ride the car or train too often on account of a tight budget …. I can’t do what I might have normally considered, which is set the record straight with them. (I mean, c’mon – they have received all other payments, so they could have figured some minor mistake out for themselves… The a-word comes to mind – but I bit my lip, stayed nice and accommodating, excused myself for the possible error before actually knowing it was an error on my part and sucked it up…). But – my medication is running out and they not only denied me this batch of pills, but also alluded to no longer being willing to follow the procedure we have established which is: I pay my share up front (20%) and my insurance usually transfer the missing 80% within a business week. Worked every time except this particular one time. (This is due to a certain ceiling I have to exploit first in covering expenses myself and up to around 130,-$/100,- EUR, after that it’s 80/20). This one time – has escaped me. Shoot me!
So now I have to act quickly, check transaction history, make phone calls, bug family out to front the bill, call the pharmacy back, do the humble dance another time, offer my apologies and confirm and explain that this won’t happen again and find an agreement as to the batch of pills I had gone to pick up in the first place. Long story short: Humiliating. And this sort of thing has been going on … well non-stop for the past six years. I kid you not. Whatever “ego” or narcissism or whatever I may have afforded myself previously – they are thoroughly ground down. There is no such thing as ego or pride left in me. I’ve gotten humiliated like this and in worse ways over and over during the past six years. (Should I take solace in knowing it’s the same or worse for people in my situation in this country? To the point, where single moms and dads simply lose it and jump to their deaths? Or set fire on themselves in the middle of a busy pedestrians’ zone? Or starve themselves to death, because they were denied the benefits for food and rent they depend on? For shady, if not forged reasons, b.t.w.? I don’t think I should use these sad facts for comfort, should I?). Anway, I’m digressing. Let’s just say, this experience threw me for a loop. And of course, it was extra time I hadn’t planned on. So now I’m thoroughly running late and it’s this busy Friday with congested roads. Really, when taking a third person’s view – it’s hysterical to a point. It is. It’s your first class Murphy’s Law manifestation. Or so it felt.
But I have learnt to contain myself. I would have had a psychotic fit in earlier years and acted on it by e.g. pulling over somewhere, driving down a backstreet or into the woods, opened the doors, jumped out of the car and screamed myself half into passing out. No kidding. That’s how I kept myself from doing seriously bad stuff. So I guess, there IS some progress after all as I didn’t need to do that. But I arrived at my appointment about half an hour late, in major – major! – physical discomfort, a hair away from producing a full blown panic attack and totally stressed out. I mean, right there, I could have called the thing off and gone for a walk to settle down. Actually – and this is reassuring to know – my therapist friend sensed the tension in me and we skipped the work we had meant to do and talked about this experience and some other things.
So now I know, what I had been assuming all along: I can’t take stress any longer. Not one least bit of it. Not of this nature, at least. Nothing that triggers any old shit. Nada. I guess, I had been establishing this “ZEN-like bubble” I was operating from, established certain routines and habits to follow in order to feel safe and comfortable. And did my best to stay in that comfort zone for as long as I could. And up until today, I was under the impression that I had been doing fairly well for the most part. I felt – almost contended, except for the living situation, which has now sent me down another road to triggerhell. But that’s a different story. I guess, the bottomline is this: I JUST CAN’T TAKE PRESSURE & STRESS ANY LONGER!! None! I feel very bad feelings building up, when being exposed to a sequence of stressful situations like today. They render me not only useless, they almost immobilize me. Physically, mentally, emotionally. I was supposed to help my therapist’s significant other with some computer work, something I had offered for compensation and insist on. In order to do so, I needed to bring a few items, like e.g. an external hard drive including power supply and matching connection chords. Well – sure enough, I had taken the wrong things. Because I acted hastily and under pressure and didn’t have a chance to check the list. I had also made an appointment with a realtor not far from the practice (I needed to cram that in, too, because I simply can’t afford to split those three things into three days and rides… I don’t have the money). Same thing: I almost forgot the map, but I sure enough forgot to take down the realtor’s mobile phone number, just in case. I made that appointment, though. But generally speaking, if you look at this afternoon from the viewpoint of an employment situation – I fucked it all up good. Couldn’t do the work I had planned on, packed only half of what I needed to bring and was this unorganized mess for the rest of the day. I also noticed trouble in listening to the questions of my therapist’s partner well enough to think about an informed, accurate answer. I repeatedly asked her to slow down and take it easy with me today. Have I mentioned being a useless mess…?
I’m not shocked, though, for I had expected this to be the case: Whatever progress I thought I had made only works in this “perfect world” I had artificially built for myself. And that world is one of isolation, mind you. There is nothing along the lines of real life, like spontaneous socializing, thinking on my feet, making quick decisions, improvising and such. In other words: I truly am useless by now. Not dependable. Not the guy you can safely assign tasks and projects and expect them to be done in an acceptable manner. The disability is there, I’m not making shit up. Why aren’t I more shocked…? I should be. Because I really want to feel like someone again, someone who lives up to the standards in place, someone others respect and like. Someone that someone else could love. Not only for my accomplishments and productivity, but – simply for me. I miss all that. I miss feeling significant to someone else. I want to feel needed, acknowledged, respected. Is that really so way out?
Coming back home, I gave in to … yeah…. self medication in the form of overeating. I think I figured out the exact reasons for the latter, though: It’s a very pathetic form of consoling myself. I think the technical term is stress eating (have I become a woman? I thought women stress eat, men succumb to drinking binges. Ah! Yes. The gout. Can’t do the drinking no more….). Or some sort of venting or for compensating for major frustration. Yikes. And I’m sharing this publicly, too? I rather deserve to be euthanized. But I’m past suicidal ideations. Fuck it. I want to live. Productive or not, I don’t give a shit. I’m embarrassed with myself though. As I should be.
P.S. I raised the “medication” issue once more. I desperately need something to keep me more settled, especially on days like today. Maybe I’m missing the “numbing” and hope for medication to do that. I think that’s it. I can’t seem to deal with all these overwhelming and contradicting feelings, which I don’t seem to have any good filtering system in place for. It literally and verbatim is “too much” too often. When that happens – feeling helpless kicks back in (triggered response). Sheesh.
P.P.S. and update: After sleeping it over, I have arrived at the conclusion that those people at the pharmacy are assholes and I’ll look for a different place. That will include some inconvenience as I have to factor in a greater detour to go to a different village around here. But I’ve had it with them. They took forever to understand the process to begin with and aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed apparently. I have very little tolerance for ignorance. Hence – fuck ’em!