Tuesday, November 5, 2013
I look back over the last four months and now clearly see how I have been experiencing a profound awakening. It actually began in the spring when I began having crying fits that would come on rather spontaneously. I associated the tears with the sudden improvement in my home environment when I moved from my studio apartment into a house that was far more comfortable. I was also quite excited by the trip I took to Germany in May.
I have come to conclude that the strange issues with my eyes these last few months are due in part to the grief I have been carrying regarding the loss of my mother. Somehow some of the grief concentrated behind my eyes; whenever I do an EMDR session with my therapist I notice a significant change in my eyesight. I have commented on this phenomenon in other posts here on my blog. I am excited by the opportunity to continue doing EMDR therapy. And I am excited also by the prospect of continuing my therapeutic work and finding deep and lasting healing. I DO believe it will happen in time. Among other things I believe it is critical to cultivate the virtue of patience. Often this feels easier said than done. But at least clarity has finally come to me. I see clearly the central core of my pain. It is the grief. It is a grief I carried for more than three decades.
As my healing process continues I notice that the nature of my ability to be present in the present moment is also changing. I finally see how effortlessly I have been able to disassociate at earlier times in my life. And now that I am consciously aware of this tendency I can develop healthier coping skills when I find myself in very stressful situations. I suppose you could describe the change as ‘cultivation of a greater bandwidth’ to engage with the world at large. I can be truly present to another person and engage in eye contact. It’s wonderful when I see smiling people. And it’s a bit painful when I see frowning people. My capacity for experiencing deep feeling is growing on both ends of the spectrum.
When leaving my day treatment program yesterday I briefly spoke with a woman in my morning group. She spoke about the father of her son going to Vietnam and not coming back. And she further alluded to those who went to Vietnam and did come back…but came back profoundly changed. Later, as I waited for the bus to take me to my therapist, I reflected on how it was entirely possible that my own father could have served in Vietnam. He was the perfect age to have been sent there. Born in 1942 he was a young man still in his 20s for much of the time the Vietnam War was escalating. I thought of how my father could have gone to Vietnam and not come back. Or he could have returned but returned home a very different man.
Though my father never served in Vietnam he once did serve in the Army. He went to Korea. I do not know many of the details of that time of his life. I suspect there may be much more to my father’s life journey that I do not know. And I have the intuition there may be trauma in his past history I have no knowledge about. It would certain explain his disposition and those occasions when he becomes highly reactive and expresses volatile anger.
I love my father but I have decided it is best for my own health that I do not interact with him any more in the future without the assistance of a trained mediator. Feeling safe is a basic human need. I need to feel safe while in the company of family and those I care about and who care about it. A life lived without a certain minimum feeling of safety is a life filled with much too much anxiety.
I often wonder how a person truly heals from an anxiety disorder that has persisted for not just years but potentially decades. It’s a question I intend to explore more with my therapist in the near future.
Some people submit their bodies to the ongoing pursuit of scientific inquiry when they die. I don’t know what I will choose regarding that. I do know that I intend to continue writing this blog in part because I wish to contribute to the literature about healing from PTSD. I don’t believe anyone should suffer through what I did as a child. I long ago moved past the point of blaming my father or mother for the ways I feel they ‘failed’ me as a child. They did what they did and I reacted as I did. I can unlearn unhealthy coping skills and supplant them with new ones. It will take some time to do this but I can do it with sufficient support. And of course the balm of deep self-care is a vital ingredient.
I spoke about my father today in my group. I have compassion for him and his experience even now despite everything I experienced as a child. Indeed, I have tried to understand his own experience in a broader context. No one person exists in isolation. We live in a broader milieu that must be considered when we ponder why people make the choices they do. I do not know what happened between my father and his father in the days and weeks after my father was shot and nearly killed. Perhaps my father carries lasting wounds about that experience that involve his own father. I would not be surprised if this is true. And yet to make myself responsible for helping my father to heal any issues he may have with his own father is not something I ought to do. Here is another challenge I can recognize as such. Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is a necessary aspect of a healthy life.
I am committed to breaking out of my own dysfunctional coping skills. I ask any Higher Power that exists (and I do believe there is one in some form that defies human language) to help me at this time of immense change. I cannot ever recall feeling such hope for my future and simultaneously feeling such terror knowing that life and our connections with other can be tenuous. Such can be the positive lesson of trauma: Each and every moment is precious.
It’s almost magical how much I enjoy the beauty of the world now. And appreciating magic (as manifest in those unexpected moments of kindness you show to others or others show to you) is itself a great sign that I am well on my way to healing. I pray that all I need come to me and that I continue to enhance my skills such that I can effectively meet my basic needs.