Memories. Hopefully, we all have good ones. Some of us have traumatic ones. What do we do with those?
One difficult thing for others to understand is that you just can’t think, rationalize, or therapy your way out of PTSD or any trauma. (Although all those things help.) There is an anatomical cellular, subconscious memory you have to deal with as well. For instance, I was awakened by an intruder at 4:15 AM on May 15. Every night for a month I woke up at exactly 4:15 with a start. Every month after that for a year I woke up on the 15th of the month at 4:15 AM. Often I wasn’t aware of the date until after I awakened. After exactly one year, it stopped. Some years it randomly happens again. (Usually if Iʻm already stressed or fearful about something.) So our conscious mind is only one piece of the puzzle. Our subconscious is another story!
Recognizing and accepting that these memories are going to happen does a lot to disempower them. If we spend our time being afraid of recurring memories, we give them more energy. We need to transmute that fear to other emotions. When you have one of those bad memories, thank it for stopping by and then turn your mind to other things. Sometimes you have to distract your mind like a toddler. Look at this instead. This is not denial, it’s coping.
My healing journey was unique to me, as yours is to you. I forgave too quickly, then had to drudge it all up again to get to the anger that alchemized the fear. For me, it took almost a year to get to the point of realizing that the rapist and the memory of what happened was winning. It was keeping me from sleeping, from living alone, from enjoying my life to the fullest. I had been minimizing my anger in an attempt to be a healthy person – forgive, love your enemy, etc. But I came to realize that the anger would be a necessary part of my healing. As I said, the anger alchemized the fear. Burned it up. Turned it into action.
Anger is a slippery slope however. Some people with PTSD become addicted to it. It is the only thing that takes their numbness away. But if you’re stuck in the anger, your trauma is still winning.
Don’t let it win.
As George Herbert said “Living well is the best revenge.”
I often think of this as I walk through this life. When I first held my son, when he hugs me now as a grown man, when something makes me laugh till I cry, feeling so full of love I could burst. I win. Me.
That’s a gift, isn’t it? Treasuring life and those around you. Immense gratitude. I’m not sure I would have become who I am if I wasn’t living to self-construct, rather than self-destruct. Not that I don’t still have those memories to deal with. But they have so much less power – partly due to the passage of time, and partly due to prayer and what I choose to focus on.
Iʻve been watching a new show on the USA Network called “Mr. Robot.” (http://www.usanetwork.com/mrrobot) It’s about a hacker/vigilante and it’s really interesting. This past week the main character, Elliot, was talking in his head about computer bugs and what he said was a powerful metaphor for what happens to a human who has survived trauma. He said, “The bug forces the software to adapt – evolve into something new because of it – work around it or work through it – no matter what, it changes – becomes something new – the next version – the inevitable upgrade.”
So yes, you’re not who you were before, and you didn’t ask for it. But it can be an upgrade, rather than a crash. You adapt, evolve, change, and become something new. Never look at that new self as damaged – look at it as a deeper and fuller self.
Ask the Divine for help. These simple words from A Course in Miracles can be so healing: “I am as God created me.” Say it to yourself all day, every day. You are beloved. Keep loving yourself and those around you. It will get better.