PTSD: The Enemy with Outposts in Your Head and How to Fight Back

For almost as long as I have memory, there’s been an internal drive to heal from trauma.  I am a survivor of child sexual assault….multiple instances that occurred over several years.  I received no therapy and was discouraged from saying anything about what happened.  No one was held responsible.  I was simply forbidden to go to “that house” anymore.  Yet, I was alive.  I survived.  And as far as anyone else could tell, I was a healthy, tomboyish girl.

I went numb, compartmentalized and buried both the emotions and memories, had an out-of-body experience upon becoming sexual active as a teen, and was nearly admitted to a hospital mental health ward shortly after.  I began a 25 year talk therapy odyssey that included diagnosis’ of depression, general anxiety disorder (GAD), and complex post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Considering the amount of personal experience I’ve had with a variety of talk therapy approaches, I should be awarded an honorary psychology degree.

 

Trauma does something to a psyche that is hard to address.

There’s this saying by Sally Kempton, “It’s hard to fight an enemy that has outposts in your head.” Once a trauma occurs, a memory capsule is formed of bundled nerve cells.  Every sensory experience you had in that moment is bundled and stored in the amygdala so you can recognize and respond to similar danger in the future.  A typical a traumatic memory can trigger hypersensitivity in response to any portion of those bundled traumatic memories; attacker had big hands becomes generalized to fear of anyone with big hands….this was one of mine.

Anxiety, depression and PTSD result from prolonged remembering of fear and anxiety triggered by ANY stored portion of that memory bundle.  It’s common for PTSD attacks to include physical body responses like heightened heartbeat, an adrenalin surge, pinpoint vision, etc.  When PTSD is triggered, I would feel like a caged animal with no way out, terrified, hair on end, wanting to strike back, frustrated, and ultimately depressed.  It’s hard to fight an enemy that has outposts in your head.  And, it’s hard to live a normal life if your energy is used to fight an enemy with outposts in your head daily.

 

Clean Eating in Combination with Personalized Resilience Tools is Key

By my early thirties, I became determined to find solutions that helped me face daily challenges naturally and simply.  Talk therapy was fine as far as it went, but I found there to be diminishing returns; after a while I’d said everything there was to say about my memories and bringing them up constantly was just re-traumatizing.  So I spent the rest of my life unraveling the impact on my physical and mental health on my own, looking for anything I could make use of beyond alcohol and drugs to actually address the root cause…..those triggered memories.  I strengthened my mind and body and became a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.  I learned to practice meditation and mindfulness.  I tried other means of redirecting attention using body and mind based techniques; tapping, sensory redirection, nature walks, etc.  I worked on strengthening social connections….this was the hardest for me and had some disastrous results, but I persisted.  Everything provided some relief, but ultimately not an underlying foundation of calm I was searching for desperately.

It wasn’t until I stumbled on clean eating that real change started to occur.  I had filled my tool bag with tons of practical, easy-to-use tools for returning to calm and building resilience in response to traumas large and small, but was still plagued by huge mood swings, fear and depression.  Little did I know that the answer to these problems was in my kitchen.  It turned out that sugar and processed foods was constantly stimulating my nerves, hormones and organs to the point where anxiety, depression and severe mood swings was the norm.

 

I started eating clean

Within weeks I noticed that mood swings were different.  Yes, there were still many difficult emotions, but the impact of PTSD episodes was diminishing, and I was thinking and feeling my way out of them better.  I learned all I could about clean eating, it’s impact on emotion, and ultimately became a health coach and behavior therapist.  It took a few more years of hard work with and without coaches to gain a greater sense of balance.  But, I now live and work in highly stressful circumstances with greater resilience, calm, focus, and balance than ever.

I am uniquely qualified to serve and encourage trauma survivors.  It is part of my life mission to share these truths with other survivors.  The other part of my life is reserved for living life itself, to the fullest extent possible, each and every day.  I want that for the survivors I come in contact with.  Too many of us feel that we don’t matter…that everyone else deserves to be happy while we remain stuck in a trauma prison.  I say NO MORE.  WE ALSO MATTER!

 


If you’re a survivor, or know someone who is, watch this video on tips to start healing naturally from the inside out….Heal After Trauma

 

 

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