Wishing You...Peace, Love and Joy . . . Always and Forever August 30, 2011
As has probably been mentioned by someone or other, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (aka PTSD) can be a bit like unknowingly entering and blithely traversing a psychic mine field.
Let's see if I can make that a bit more vivid.
It may have to do with the time space continuum in a way. If I come off sounding like I am trying to describe a Magritte surrealist painting to a person who is only familiar with Andy Warhol's creations, I apologize. If that is necessary. To me, a PTSD-affected spiritual landscape is one that has become fraught with subterranean camouflaged pot holes, automobile-swallowing ditches and incendiary devices. And perhaps there are also some pathways that seem like they should be familiar or that used to have clear sign posts now seem to lead to unsuspected destinations and undesirable locations.
Uh-oh. Have I already lost you?
Or maybe you would rather not continue on the journey with me. If so, I understand.
No harm, no foul.
But these images have been lurking in my consciousness lately, and just tonight I realized why.
The pot holes, mine fields, and deceptive pathways minus familiar sign posts are triggered by the anniversaries of traumatic events or time periods. Even if I go out of my way not to be in touch with the fact that the anniversaries are coming up or upon me, my psyche never forgets. So it's just that the end of August and the beginning of September are times when a lot of exciting and/or traumatic things happened to me.
The even stranger thing is that there are not necessarily uniform ways of experiencing whatever comes up from the underground or appears along a pathway. And the image of mine fields may give you the impression that there is a stark flat plain stretching in all directions when actually there also might be dark forests, or even jungles . . . and/or the mysteries of a deep and wide open ocean.
Often the PTSD episode triggers become evident when I find myself awake all night for one or more nights in a row or several over a short period of time. At first I may tell myself that there is no reason not to be able to sleep, but I am always trying to fool myself when I say that. It is more likely that sleep is elusive because there is no desire to enter into the level of consciousness that leaves me open to the dream state.
Or maybe something from the nocturnal musings of the days leading up to the sleepless nights has already broadcast warnings about the approach to the mine field. Be that as it may, once I really do get back connected with the date, I am forced to confront the reality. Addressing that reality head on does not necessarily help much, however.
That reminds me of the old Air Force saying that begins a lot of war stories. The stories start with: "There I was . . . flying along fat dumb and happy. . . " The story continues with whatever was horrendous, terrifying, difficult and/or shocking, but somehow the storyteller survives.
I guess one of the reasons that things are traumatic is that they come out of nowhere and are so shocking and disturbing that you really can't get your mind around them.
I agree with the sentiment expressed by Robin Williams when he said:
"Reality . . . what a concept!"
Even though it may be that some sort of past reality intrudes on contemporary life, the PTSD episode always seems to be more powerful than whatever is going on in the present. Or maybe it's just that whatever the present reality is cannot quite compete with the past "reality." And the traumatic memories can be so vivid that they can tend to make the present reality seem to fade away into the background.
Or even to disappear.
And even more than that sometimes the imagination interjects itself into the memories and the present reality so that there are stacked levels of elements surrounding and enhancing memories, musings, illusions and allegories.
Probably not much of that is really making any of this any clearer, is it?
When I am able to talk to friends who were involved in the trauma I find it helpful, but I also realize then that none of us experienced what happened in the same way. What happened affected and continues to affect (or doesn't continue to affect) each one of us in various ways.
How could it be otherwise? Each of us is a distinct individual with a variety of distinct personalities and experiences.
Our lives intersected with one another for that particular time or times and we came to those points from different places and went our separate ways to reconnect with one another again possibly one on one . . . or with several of us or with some of us. Or never again with most or even all of us. At least not yet. or maybe not ever on this terrestrial plane.
As a case in point, not long ago I saw some Armed Forces Television Network dramatizations concerning two soldiers who were wounded in the recent past. They both suffered from PTSD. One was given a chance to talk about the trauma with professional counselors from the earliest time of his physical recovery. The other soldier did not have a chance to communicate with anyone about what had happened to him until a long while after he was released back into civilian life. Each was able to get help, but the latter suffered more and for a longer length of time. Go figure!
Seeing the segments aimed at encouraging military members who have been affected by PTSD to seek help as soon as possible was encouraging since so many veterans are being added to the roles.
And I recently saw the movie "Random Harvest" again, too. (Have you ever watched it? Greer Garson and Ronald Coleman are marvelous in the story about the effects of battle fatigue on a British soldier in WW I.) So even though the term PTSD had not been coined back in the early 20th century, I was reminded that people have been suffering with the condition from way back. (No doubt as long as man's inhumanity to men has been extant.)
There are ways to put the memories to rest and to keep the ghosts at bay.
But actually sometimes I look forward to being with my dearly departed once more. They are all loving and kindly spirits even if they are just as I have imagined them. Or remembered them.
There are times that seem overloaded with intertwining layers of memories because there were different traumatic experiences that happened at the same time of the year -- or even on certain particular dates of multiple years, so that somehow the PTSD trash compactor has smooshed them all together and it's difficult to discern which presenting traumatic memories come from where. Or when.
There also might be organic or atmospheric or astronomical (or other) factors involved in the fertilizing compost heaped up in my psyche. And too much digging around into all that would not be really helpful anyway, no doubt.
But the traumas are not necessarily all negative. Sometimes great joys can trigger recurring disturbances, too. Both positive and negative emotions can be draining, energizing or enervating. Not sure I can always choose which one of those at any particular time.
Because certainly to begin with . . . in my earliest memories the joys of getting to go back to school every Tuesday after Labor Day were fraught with excitement. And tension. And anticipation. So onto those layers of emotional memories were added the adult traumatic adventures that happened to have occurred around the same time.
For instance last year when over 200 of the members of our high school class got together for the first time in ten, twenty, thirty or forty years (or all of the above, or even more or less often), there was a special kind of traumatic experience.
In a good way.
But it reminded me of the other groups of friends I had gone through stuff with when I was on active duty in the Air Force. And when I was at Seminary. And when I was serving churches.
Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera. (As the King of Siam was quoted as saying in "The King and I.")
Know what I mean?
Well, even if you don't, by writing this I seem to have diffused the most powerful psychic mines in my way tonight, and I seem to have recovered the sign posts on some of the obscured pathways.
So thanks for hanging in there with me as I wandered around trying to explain it all to you.
That was a big help!
And God bless us, every one.
As ever -- Kathy
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."