“Continuing the Journey”

“Continuing the Journey” of Journey Into Courage.  This program was put together by Tracy Penfield of SafeArt in Chelsea.  It was presented on May 6, 2016.  Bess O’Brien spoke, short sections of the video were shown, and three other women shared their stories.

This is what I read:

I joined Journey because I wanted to make the point that alcoholism of a parent is abuse of a child, even if there’s no overt violence.  What I did on stage was re-enact cutting myself with a razor blade.  At that time, 20 years ago, I didn’t really understand why I cut myself.  Now I know that it was because I was in a lot of psychological pain that I couldn’t acknowledge, that was somehow invisible.  Cutting myself gave me a real physical pain that had an obvious physical cause and that somehow helped.  It was OK to feel pain if you had been cut.  I didn’t get on anti-depressant medication until 1997, and normal brain chemistry was a revelation.  I had never felt like that before.  I see now that I had no normal to compare my pain to.  It wasn’t until 2001 that I realized that I had been traumatized in infancy.  I had made the common mistake of thinking that trauma depended on the violence of the event.  It has much more to do with the ability of the organism — brain and nervous system — to process the event.  Peter Levine, an expert in trauma, says “An infant can be traumatized by being left alone in a cold room.”  Learning about the physiology of trauma has been an important part of my healing.

When we were doing the drama exercises that led to Journey, Bess would ask us to remember a time when things were really bad, and then she would ask questions like:  What were you wearing?  What time of year was it?  Were you inside or outside?  What was going on in the world?  I found it fascinating, it gave me great objectivity about what happened to me.  One thing that I remembered was that the Vietnam war was going on during the time when I was cutting myself, and that turned out to be very significant.  I identified with the soldiers, even before I realized that I had been traumatized in infancy and had been living with PTSD.

One book that has been extremely helpful is Invisible Heroes by Belleruth Naparstek.  I would recommend it highly to people suffering from PTSD and friends and family of someone suffering from PTSD.  She describes what it feels like to be a trauma survivor.  She talks about all the different modalities that can help people.  At the end she has a list of the things trauma survivors have done to heal, things like doing one form of what she calls “Alphabet Therapies” EMDR, SE, etc.  having regular bodywork, journaling, etc.  She also recommends guided imagery, and has a number of helpful CDs.

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