I’m contemplating an Ayhuasca retreat in order to get to the root of my C-PTSD of 50+ years. Continue reading
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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!
Amazing. After a longer hiatus of not seeing my trusted hypnotherapist (friend) for reasons of feeling stuck in the process, I visited his office today – we had arranged for this follow-up appointment a few weeks ago. And we eventually went to a very traumatizing experience of mine that happened at age four and which I believe to have actually set in stone a certain predisposition resulting from distressing painful events in my infancy and thus bringing about a textbook-like, fully expressed post-traumatic stress disorder. I do have detailed memory of that situation back then, so we worked on that today and “rewrote” that experience in such a way that my child self could feel safe and at comparable ease over the entire time. We also introduced an “anchor” which I could safely employ at any time should any feelings of distress or anxiety as brought on by flashbacks return.
My therapist friend let me know that the process might take some time to fully take root and reminded me to work with the imagery employed today.
Upon coming home, getting a snack and napping for a few, I get on the web and find this:
The article explains some of the science behind hypnosis in general and how different levels of trances as induced during a (clinical, medical) hypnosis clearly show in EEGs and brain activity What’s interesting about this is that those brain waves are distinct from sleep as in: Sleep looks different in EEGs. Next to completely trusting my doctor and his abilities, I take that as an additional encouraging note. As a first feedback and observation from this, I clearly noticed a certain kind of peace and much less apprehension as usual over the entire rest of the day – which became even more evident when napping earlier this evening. Usually, I’m always anxious as to someone walking around upstairs, which often is the precursor to an anxiety attack and sometimes a fully expressed fight-flight-freeze reflex with all the physical manifestations of discomfort. Not so today – or at the very least at a much lower, easier to bear level. I knew my neighbours were in and I nonetheless managed to relax enough to actually dose off a bit, something I usually can’t do at all when knowing they’re at home and haven’t gone to bed.
Is it possible I am now actually overcoming the outcomes of no less than 50 years of having lived with post-traumatic stress? The prospect sure is enticing (if not life-saving)!! Check out the above linked article, if interested in the procedure.
Another article highlighting the highly beneficial properties of psychedelics in treating tough to treat or even treatment resistant conditions.
My own inquiry today about my chances to participate in ongoing clinical trials funded by MAPS turned out negative so far. I’m devastated to be honest. I surely hope I can find a study or a researcher willing to perform the treatment as I don’t think I can go on living in survival mode forever.
I found this fairly comprehensive list of articles on the status of all things MDMA-/psychedelics-assisted therapy with particular regard to treating PTSD. In my quest for further healing, I am going to try and apply for participation in such a study if at all possible for non-residents. It’s a kind of “last chance”-scenario I’m placing my hopes on. I’m going to place my first phone call inquiring about my possible eligibility today. To say that I’m scared shitless about the potential outcome of that call – either way – would be an understatement…. But we do what we have to in order to survive, right?
This sounds promising:
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!
There’s hardly any other human interaction I enjoy more than smart people getting together discussing complex topics. In this case: The use of medical marijuana and its potential applications as well as a major traumatic experience with the LAPD and how Dr. Ross and her husband overcame that and fought their case in court. The more I look into psychedelics, the more encouraging people I seem to find and the more hope of complete healing from lifelong PTSD myself gets instilled in me.
The beginning of the interview drags a bit for me, as the information was no longer all new – but in all fairness, I will say that Dr. Ross is never boring as her speaking is quick, quick-witted, eloquent and fairly easy to follow. To me, it got more interesting around the 40 minutes mark, when she shares her traumatic experience of the raid LAPD did on her and her husband literally out of the blue and while the two were fixing lunch at their home. The story in itsself is a blatant travesty and I found myself agreeing with Dr. Ross, who later in the interview says that governments and people in power basically want you unhappy and feeling disempowered. I’ve figured this much from my own humiliating experiences with the system over the past seven years, when one door after another got slammed shut for me and eventually finding myself in a situation, where I realize that the system wants me incapacitated and isolated. So I can relate to what Dr. Ross went through from a different perspective.
But other than that, there is wealth of exciting information about the medicinal value of marijuana and psychedelics at large in this 65 mins. interview. I recommend it for everyone suffering from anxiety, panic disorder, major depression, PTSD and the entire host of so-called “mental” diseases (a term, which I don’t endorse as it rings totally inaccurate to my ears and observing patients seems to confirm my empirical observations on the first). Anyway – if you’re suffering from emotional disorders and imbalance, this interview has the potential to leave you with many enlightened moments and a new perspective. It is very likely to restore faith, if you’re feeling hopeless – and thus ultimately save your life.
My friend Dana brought this article to my attention. Latest research proves a previously made assumption that memory formation and recalling specific memory content plays a critical part in a number of neurobiological disorders such as e.g. depression, anxiety and – PTSD.