PTSD has been a really difficult illness to deal with. My heart races at all times. I am so hyper-vigilant that I can stop most anything from falling mid-air. Constant triggers, mind bending nightmares, daily flashbacks and daily events that remind me of days long gone by. It is more than just triggers. It is conscious thoughts that pair todays situation with something similar that happened 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years ago. I catch myself often saying things like
- This reminds me of situations that happened in my past.
- I hate holidays because they were horrible when I was growing up.
- That smell is making me remember something I’d rather forget.
- Men are all out to hurt me, use me or belittle me.
- The sun is torture.
- Hearing others talk fondly of their mothers or their good childhoods reminds me of what I didn’t have.
No one can blame me for any of the things I say to myself. The list is far longer but I have very good reasons for feeling the way that I do. There are events that have been burned in to my mind with laser-like precision. That will probably always be true.
Then about 2 weeks ago, I was driving home from therapy and I was mad. Really mad! My therapist had said something that really touched a nerve with me and i wasn’t angry with him. I was angry for current day things I have been unable to do because of events from my past. During that days therapy, I’d made a comment about my husband and said “There is nothing he can do that doesn’t trigger me.” I felt robbed. I felt unworthy of my husbands complete love when I am not able to give that back as fully. I was having a really great pity party and my drive home takes about 2 hours so I had plenty of time to feel sorry for myself. Seriously… just face it… my life was/is horrible.
Happily my mind is never able to stay at a pity party for very long. I get really sick of hearing myself whine. The Helpers either get sick of it too or start adding their own pity logs to the fire. At some point I just need to take a step back and stop the downwards slide of all that negative thinking.
So… I am not at all sure why this came in to my head but I was angry enough to want to find a better way of thinking. I really do want better for myself so I thought to ask myself “How is this different?”. I can point out all the similarities very quickly and allow myself to be swept up in the tide of being triggered but did I ever really stop and think about how the situation is different? I began thinking about one particular issue and asked some new questions.
- How does this situation differ from the one in the past?
- What happens now that never happened back then?
- Some smells are the same but are their new ones too?
- Are the people the same? Are they cruel?
- If I needed to get away now, could I?
- Am I wise enough to know my limitations now?
- What words are said now that were never said back then?
I am still really new at this but each time I begin to say “This is just like my past.”, I try to follow that up with “So how is it different?”
I will be honest. It’s not easy to change the way you think after 44 years but things ARE different today. The people in my life today have my best interests in mind and would never intentionally do anything to trigger me. If I needed to get away? I can.
I hope that over time I will be able to start noticing the differences as quickly as I see the similarities.
Do you think this may help you re-frame some situations as well?