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. 


  1. Glad it's working for you. Are you hooked up to an bio-feedback monitoring devices while this is going on?

    1. No, but some counselors do use bio-feedback devices. Maybe this is down the road for me :-)

    2. I hear that works great but if you get good results without it that will save you a bunch of money. LOL

    3. Believe me, I'm not saving money this way, either LOL

  2. I didn't know you were an artist! What a great sketch!
    This sure is interesting and intensive counseling.
    Wouldn't is have been great to just once had the opportunity to look at "them", and yell, "Back off and shut the fuck up!" Pardon the crude language, but.......

    1. Thanks! I illustrated - freelancing - for Madison Ave advertising clients for 15 years after art school in NYC. But then abruptly, 25 years ago, I left it all behind to live a quiet life with my hubby. I haven't seriously illustrated anything until yesterday, and that was with the cursor and touch screen. Like etch-a-sketch! I bought a stylus today, because it's time to make pictures!

      Oh, yes, yes, yes. Join hands. All together now "Back off and shut the fuck up!" Ha Ha! I feel better now.