Confronting Trauma

Over the last three weeks I have quit practically everything that could be considered a crutch cold-turkey. Even donuts. And I effing love donuts.

I have been allowing myself a cup of tea now and again though, because seriously. This is painful.

It all started for two reasons.

1. I wanted to see just what exactly was effecting me, and how.


2. I have started “working” (and by working I mean being tortured) on dealing with issues of past trauma.

Apparently, the story with trauma is that people are supposed to grieve it before they can move on. When it is particularly gruesome, however, a lot of folks just cram those feelings in a bottle, stick a cork on it, and shove it in the back of the mental closet somewhere.

Meanwhile, over the last few years whatever was in that bottle has fermented, and it is stinking up the place. From what I understand, I am supposed to uncork the bottle, experience all of the negative emotions and memories (without me repressing them again) a little bit at a time, and then dispose of the bottle in some biohazard area.

So grieving + cleaning = potential elimination of (at least some of) my PTSD problems that have been getting quite bad.

I am no psychologist, so this is a very rudimentary understanding.

Taking in the upsetting information in chewable bites has been tricky. Part of me wants to absorb as much of it as I can at once to try and get it over with, but it doesn’t work that way.

It is like treading water, and someone hands me a bowling ball with some magic healing words on it. I try, as fast as I can, to read the words on the ball before it pulls me to too far down to safely drop the ball and swim back up to the surface. If I hold onto it for too long, I could potentially drown.

Then I keep getting handed a hundred more bowling balls.

Anyway, there are also theories that partaking in anything that will numb my emotions will only prolong the process and make it worse, because seeking solace in anything that will numb things will ultimately just repressing them again, even though it feels better. 

I have only been working on this for about two weeks now, but it took months to whip myself into the sort of mental frenzy where opening pandora’s box seemed like a good idea, rather than something that should stay hidden for all eternity.

I really find the idea of this whole experience terrifying, but I know that is how PTSD operates. It keeps me from getting help by instilling in me the terror associated with having to re-live the ordeal(s) over and over again, while screwing around with my life in silly-yet-serious ways in the meantime.

Of course, one of the books I have says I will likely get depressed while I’m trying to work out all of these negative emotions swirling around, which is just peachy. I am not entirely convinced that this intense ball of conflicting emotions really got the ball rolling on the mixed episodes I had been having. The whole thing is extremely unpleasant and makes me want to flail around, and then my face has been hurting from clenching my jaw so hard. This week has been easier, I am working on some kind of dance I can do to step into and out of the ick.

At this point, like with the Lithium, I am being handed a model of something that has worked for other people. It is rather unpleasant (and definitely yucky), but this is something I have to try because there is the chance it might work. 

Right now in my life, the universe is being somewhat stingy about the opportunities it gives me to improve my symptoms -for bipolar disorder, for anxiety, but for PTSD especially. There isn’t a pill for PTSD, unfortunately, and pretty much all of the “helpful” sorts of drugs associated are antidepressants, which I clearly cannot take.

I’ve been trying hard to keep an open mind about this, and I know it will ultimately feel much worse before it begins to feel better, but at least there is a chance it will feel better.

Because leaving that bottle to rot certainly did more harm than good.

9 responses to “Confronting Trauma

  1. I think your description about “working” on past trauma is on the money. But I would say, the process is not always text-book or linear for everyone (or anyone for that matter).

    I would also say self-care is extremely important during the process. Personally, I’d eat the donuts! Unless you are eating whole dozens of donuts at a single sitting, a little endorphin release can be a good thing during the process.

    Hmm, I don’t want to sound like I’m telling you what to do, of course, but I would also caution about setting up the work as too big of a thing. Rip the monster’s teeth out, so to speak.

    I view dealing with my past trauma like an archaeological dig. Using a bulldozer is only going to do more damage. Break out the little spades and the soft little brushes.

    I’ve actually had my best, huge break through that was totally supportive and positive via a one-night-stand. Writing has also helped a lot, too. But I’ve also realized I need to take breaks. Splurge on a pedicure. Make myself remember there is a nice life I am trying to maintain (or build up from ashes or create from nothing) rather than one that is just full of bad memories and worse decisions.

    In any case, huge props for taking the bull by the balls. And even though I am only a little picture that haunts your blog, I am up for emailing or whatever in support.

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      I love your example of the archaeological dig, I used a similar example with my therapist the other day but yours makes more sense!

      And the donut issue was because I had a BOX of donuts. One is ok. A BOX is probably not ok. Sugar really makes me crash, so I try not to eat much of it!

      Thanks for your support 🙂

      • Yeah, I have a problem with peanut butter donuts. I don’t get the often, but when I do…I eat the whole box. My excuse is that they would go stale 😉

        You are very welcome! I appreciate you and your blog so much, I’m happy to support you any way I can.

  2. I have been a “bottler” also, and dealing with past issues was harder for me because of the repression. It has been a continuing process for me, often depressing and difficult, but I think I am better for it. I agree with Tiffany, don’t try to do all the healing at once; give yourself permission to go slowly and take a break when you need it. I wish you well.

  3. I found that e m d r therapy is very helpful for ptsd. It was very helpful and healing for me.

  4. willingness to open that bottle is a huge step – kudos to you! Glad to hear you are working with a professional on it. I have heard good things about emdr, too. Personally, DBT is what is working wonders for me. If it ever stalls, I will be trying emdr next (I like having a back up plan :)).

    I need to quit smoking, but am not even going to attempt it until I am healthier. It is a crutch but one I’m going to hang onto for now. Thankfully, the drinking stopped eight years ago – it was also a crutch, but meds and therapy didn’t stand a chance against the alcohol. Good luck.

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      Thanks! And quitting drinking is a big feat, so definitely a high-five on that front!

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