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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: March 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is most often experienced after someone has been through an event that has caused horror, intense fear, helplessness, shock and/or intense physical or emotional pain. PTSD can occur both after being part of the event, or after witnessing the event. The event can be on-going (such as war or abuse) or a one time occurance (an abuse incident, an accident).

Sometimes, however, if you have been through, or are going through an intense loss, a difficult divorce, a sudden change in a relationship, a sudden job loss, you can experience PTSD symptoms.

People with PTSD often reexperience the traumatic event. They often have flashbacks, nightmares, difficutly concentrating. Folks who suffer from PTSD may have physical and emotional reactions to triggers (such as a place, person, smell, object, sound). They are hypervigilant, or avoidant. They may have difficulty sleeping, calming down, thinking clearly. They may feel frustrated with the on going nature of their symptoms, wishing for relief but not being able to "make it stop."

Often, PTSD changes the way people feel about themselves and the world around them. Feeling joy, happiness or serenity can seem impossible.

People suffering from PTSD don't always credit themselves with the real-ness of their experience or their symptoms.

So why am I writing about PTSD? (I don't often post about disorders or diagnoses). Because I think its important not to underestimate your experiences and symptoms or downgrade your feelings. Often in my office when folks come in to talk about pains or life changes, they carry with them a lingering idea, a wish maybe, that they ought to be able to control their feelings better or that they should not feel them at all. Feeling feelings and making good decisions about if, when and how to act on them is an ideal goal, perhaps one that we have to work towards all of our lives. You can suffer emotionally and not have PTSD symptoms. You can also have PTSD and not believe you have it, and then not give your emotional life the attention it deserves and needs.

There is plenty of help for PTSD, for complicated grief, for bruised insides and the pain of difficult life transitions. We can honor ourselves and our pain by recognizing it for what it is and being willing to take good care of ourselves.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Feeling Depressed? What Really Helps...

It seems sometimes when you are really feeling down, and your depression is acting up, that very little will really help. We have more day light now, and the cold air is starting to feel more refreshing than freezing, but is this helping those of you who are suffering from moods that are in the ditch, or anxiety that is flying high?

Not so much, actually.

So what then? If you are among the walking wounded today? Functioning outwardly just fine, but inside feeling like you are black and blue, or numb, defeated or deflated? And tired. Really tired.

Let's say you've gone through the check list of pick-you-ups, like a long walk, or a hot shower, or good talk with a good friend. You've put your face to the sun, taken some quiet time, and even put pen to paper to sort out what's bothering you. And nothing seems to be helping much. What do you do when the old standbys don't seem to be making a dent in your down? What if your mood seems to be going on and on, and sadness seems to be edging its way toward real depression?

So lots of people have been telling me lately, when I ask, that in addition to giving themselves permission to feel how they feel (since the effort it takes to suppress your feelings often just adds to the pain), that they are willing to consider two things.

First, that maybe somewhere under the low mood, or above the high anxiety is anger.

It may take some digging, or some talking to uncover what's lurking underneath, but it's usually worth it. Sometimes anger, painful as it can be, can help turn moods around. We don't have to stay angry, but if we are angry, it helps to know about it.

And Second, maybe somewhere under the depression is an old belief still standing its ground and talking its talk. Maybe some quiet message about your self worth, or your abilities, or your future. Probably something negative and disrespectful to your sense of self.

And well, you know me, it helps to unpack it, to study it, to bring out into the light of day. Better feelings are not always fast in coming, but if we know what's getting in the way, then we have a good chance of clearing things up. And actually, this can really help.