Sunday, February 28, 2016

Baby Love

I am at my wit's end, friends.

It's said that marriage introduces you to yourself.  If you thought you were a noble person, that little fantasy balloon has to pop.

Well, counseling does that, too.  This gal is not as grown-up as she thinks.

Baby lover.  That's me now.

I doubt you've thought about it much, but did you ever wonder how a baby feels inside the womb of its mother?  I mean, do we sense something in there? Do we sense whether we're welcome, or unwelcome?  Do we feel...Exuberant?  Hurt beyond measure?  If we sense we're unwelcome, the world is a scary place, without solace.  We linger at the edges of social circles.   We are in our own little shell.  If we manage to come out, we still may have one foot out the door, as adults.  Researchers can tell now, by telltale emotional scars carried into adulthood, precisely when trauma happened in a child's world. Trauma that didn't get healed, I mean.  The victim's emotional development gets frozen in time.  Or, some of it, anyway. 

Of course, my counselors are all too happy to reveal what they see in me.  My bubble is popped.

The following passages resonated with me so much that I shared them with my counselors this week.  Yup, my symptoms match trauma in infancy.  Confirming that you, dear readers, are reading the musings of a baby.

 If you're curious, if you've ever wondered why some people get stuck in their terrible two's, now learn about why someone gets stuck from the get-go.  

Laurence Heller's "Healing developmental Trauma", chapter 7, Physiology and Trauma.

" If safety through loving connection [with one's mother] is not possible, as is the case with depressed, anxious, or dissociated mothers, the [baby's] system falls back on the dorsal vagus [the more primitive, reptilian nerve structure we all have]...the heart rate rises in preparation for survival." 

"When there is early trauma, the older dorsal vagal defensive strategies of immobilization dominate, leading to freeze, collapse, and ultimately to dissociation.  [In other words, they don't fully feel alive and safe.]  As a result, the ventral vagus [the emotional capacity, a higher function] fails to adequately develop and social development is impaired.  Consequently, traumatized infants favor freeze and withdrawal over social engagement as a way of managing states of arousal.  This [withdrawal] pattern has lifelong implications...On the psychological and behavioral level, the capacity for social engagement is severely compromised, leading to self-isolation and withdrawal from contact with others."

Whew!  Given all I went through, I couldn't have BEEN any other way. Until this amazing PTSD therapy, which allows me to feel safe.

Now, friends, baby love is here!   I do hope you stick around with me as I grow up.  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Recovery Marathon: Mile Marker One?

Hi.  I know you've been waiting with baited breath for my next post.  (not)

"Well, that's great first step!" I've heard repeatedly these last three weeks.  I swear, everyone, I've made it all the way to Mile Marker One with this bloody PTSD campaign.

I thought I'd draw this little cartoon to describe me at work.  I don't think I'm violating my SE counselor's confidentiality by telling you how my last session went.  It was freaking amazing!

My SE counselor asked me to pick out an item.  Something she could hold - it would represent my mother.  I would be in complete charge of how close the object (my mother) could come to me.  With the object (my mother) 10 feet away, I was able to relax.  Any closer, my body involuntarily hardened, stiffened.  Armored, frozen.  My eyes became slits, my breathing shallow and labored.  Oops.  Reptilian brain in charge.  When the reptilian brain is in charge, voluntary action is sucked right out of you.  All you can do is breathe.

Then, with my SE's encouragement, I unfroze - enough - to find words I never found while my abusive mother was in front of me.  "Back off!".  At these words, my SE counselor obliged and backed off.   She backed up to 10 feet, where she started, at which point I came back to my self.   Then I tried again.  Inviting 'her' closer.   9 feet - and still my involuntary 'freeze' response.  I find the words  "Get Back."  She does.  So it went, time and time again, forward, back, all now at my command.  The closest I could stay present was 8 feet, and this by picturing her caged, behind bulletproof glass and metal bars.   Even caged at 8 feet I was struggling.  Then I found my voice "BACK OFF!!" 

Back my SE counselor went, to 9 feet.  ONE whole foot closer than when we started.  I'm so freaking proud of myself!!!  

From God's ears to yours, immediately after our work, I felt a profound inner calm I have never, ever experienced.  Ever.  Ever.  EVER.  My whole nervous system reset at a lower pitch.  Calmer.  I feel I'm inhabiting myself more.  WooHoo!  Just think when I can tolerate her right in front of me, tell her to back off, and she does... 

More to come.   Slow but steady.  This one example of how Somatic Experiencing works, using the body, the combined healing intention of counselor and client, and one's own voice to reclaim one's safe space - this is how PTSD is healed.  Just imagine how much it is helping combat veterans, these days.  Healing nervous system injury can be just as slow as physical therapy. 

Did you know how easily our nervous system is injured?  Did you know that our reptilian nervous system reacts to injury in 50 milliseconds, and our neocortex (our cognition) in 500 milliseconds?  PTSD injures the nervous system, way below our ability to think our way out of it.  The nervous system cannot learn.  Ever try to teach a reptile?  But it can heal.  SE cuts the neural link between trigger and flight/fight/freeze response and restores one's own volition.

One foot closer.  One giant leap of healing.