Well not exactly cured, but I am as good as cured in the company of trusted friends. And I attribute this sudden advancement to an insight I had last week.
In the previous post I referenced having gone to see Dr. Shoja on Wednesday feeling liked “I’d aced the exam.” I don’t want to make you sick with the minutia of my trip through my PTSD crisis, but the following is for friends who’ve been on the journey with me.
My friends all know (too much) about the abuse I endured. They know about it because I could not stop talking about it. One day, my friend Beth told me to shut up and get over it; she likely spoke for all my friends.
At the time of my abuse I was emerging as gay and so I felt I deserved everything that happened (and didn’t happen) to me. I felt guilt and shame for both the abuse and its cause.
I credit Dr. Shoja’s under-the radar comments for helping me to realize that the shame and guilt could be, and should be, addressed. I credit her for guiding me to my insight that my reaction to the abuse was worse than the abuse itself. I am grateful to her for not telling me and allowing me to “discover” that for myself.
But how was I to, as Beth put it, “get over it?” I knew Dr. Shoja wasn’t going to tell me.
Well it happened. Here’s how.
Dr. Shoja mentioned in a recent session that PTSD was an anxiety disorder. I did not know that and when she said it, it resonated with me. I took immediate interest in her casual comment about the “spectrum” of anxiety disorders.
Then, on Labour Day, came my readmission to hospital and there was a lot of talk about psychogenic seizures and the anxiety that causes them.
Anxiety: I’d had migraines and eczema all my life and I’d been told they were caused by stress — another word for anxiety. The word was not new to me.
But suddenly it had no meaning. What is it? And how can I be having all this anxiety without knowing what I am anxious about?
It was by constantly questioning of my responses to stimuli that had me determine what I was anxious about: I am anxious about people, I concluded. And why would I be anxious about people, I asked myself? Because I don’t trust them was my honest and immediate answer to myself.
And then came my Eureka moment: I now define anxiety as a lack of trust. For me, this was a profound insight. When I thought of myself as someone who is fundamentally untrusting of people, I instantly excused myself from culpability. I felt justified in not trusting people given how my birth mother, the Catholic church/orphanage and my adoptive parents — all my caregivers — abused and neglected me.
Suddenly I was free of thinking that my past abuse, and all things bad that happen to me, are my fault.
Did the realization have any effect?
Yesterday at lunch, Dwight remarked at how well I was speaking. It was the second time someone said that last week. Then later in the afternoon, I went to Rob’s place. We did errands together in advance of a small dinner party for some of his clients who’ve become his friends and then stayed for the dinner and I “passed.” I stammered a couple of times, but so slightly I don’t think anyone noticed.
I believe that if I live my life within the perimeter of the comfortable and familiar and with trusted friends, that I am cured.
I am not saying this naively. I realize there will be setbacks and that I still stutter sometimes “out there” in the world. But I just don’t care if I stutter a bit sometimes.
I believe the seizures are over. Now that may be naïve, but I have reasons for believing it to be true: I avoid situations that seem likely to induce them and when I feel a mild one coming on, I can will it to stop. I know how to breath and “withdraw” to keep myself calm.
Cured. Well, cured enough. Yessss!