1995: Symptoms of Trauma

At this point in 1995 I had no idea I was dealing with PTSD. From my journal for November 10:

Second cup of tea. … and nothing to say.  I feel cold.  There’s the ache in my stomach and heart that feels old and dead, the “what’s the use” feeling.  I suspect that I’m dealing with a complex tangle of rage and grief which is why neither feeling comes clear in a form I can discharge by myself.  I have wondered if the grief I unloaded with Robin wasn’t grief about being so depressed — that’s why I felt better for a day, but because it didn’t address the underlying cause, I’m still feeling bummed out.  I can see that suffering the symptoms of chemical depression — being unable to make decisions, etc. — leaves me unable to go on with my life in a way that I feel good about, so of course I feel a lot of anger at myself about that, and a lot of grief for my poor lost wounded life.  Well at least this confirms my decision to see Dr. Stoll and explore medical help.

Robin was a body worker I had been seeing.

Yesterday in the work with Karen I tried to cry, and vocalize, and pound on things, but mostly what happened was I kept arriving at the place of grey frozen hopelessness.  Karen said “hopelessness is a concept, not a feeling.”  But I don’t think it, I feel it.  And what I feel is numbness and lack of energy.  I said I felt like I had been up all night, crying all night, and I didn’t feel the relief of a good cry, instead I felt exhausted, and didn’t know what to do next, and didn’t have any energy to do it with if I could think of something.  I sat there staring blankly at the pillow too tired to do anything, too uncomfortable to lie down.  Finally Karen suggested that I had frozen some part of myself because it was too painful to feel those feelings.  She kept saying that it was unfair that my mother had left me alone so much when I was a baby, but this didn’t bring any answering spark.  She thought perhaps the anger about such treatment was one of the things I had to numb.  She also said that I had spent a good bit of my life running away from this sense of numbed hopelessness.  I felt comforted by the idea that the numbness was something I had done to wall off some part of myself that actually might be of value to me: the part that gets angry about injustice and is colorful and passionate.  And I see that trying to run away from the numbness, or jack myself up out of it, are not the same as sitting with it and allowing it to thaw so I can recover that part of myself.  I find it interesting (sarcastic inflection) that having decided to spend the hanging out with the numbed part of myself, I promptly get quite sick.

My description of numbness and frozenness I can now recognize as symptoms of trauma: when you can’t fight or flee, freeze is the default. Standard forms of psychotherapy are not designed to heal trauma. Not until I start doing Somatic Experiencing will I begin to address these symptoms.

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