CREATING MY ODYSSEY-
Liberating the Real Me After 30 Years of Depression!
Tuesday, 15 August 2017
GUEST BLOGGER ANNA HARRIS -
PTSD Cured my Anxiety'
I've had the pleasure of being contacted by Anna with her
story. Here she recounts her mental health struggles and how
she dealt with them and won.
churning, out-of-control thoughts and sick feeling under the
diaphragm. The intense urge to curl up in a ball under a heavy
blanket and never come out. The physical, emotional, and spiritual
exhaustion. In Western society, we call these thoughts and feelings
symptoms of anxiety. If these
in part, you don't need me to tell you that coping with anxiety is
not for the faint of heart!
a teenager, then young adult, I was certainly well-acquainted with
generalized anxiety. After developing and then recovering from severe
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), however, I discovered one day
that my general anxiety was gone! I was so pleasantly surprised by
this unexpected path of healing that I wrote a dark-humored,
satirical piece about PTSD curing anxiety.
to be clear, I wouldn't wish PTSD on my worst enemy -- truly! For
those who've dealt with this beast of mental illnesses, you know it's
a hellish experience. So how could PTSD have brought about my healing
from anxiety? How could anything good come from remembering and
facing your worst memories of the worst moments of your life?
what I want to understand.
humble isn't my strong suit, so I have lots of opinions about why
this happened. And I have a few take-aways for you, whether or not
you'll ever experience my strange kind of anxiety cure.
forces you to face your worst fears and most terrifying anxieties.
You have to re-live, not just remember, past trauma. Not just once,
though! That would be much too easy. No, PTSD forces your body and
brain to re-experience your personal nightmare over and over and over
horror comes at you when you wake up, when you take a shower, when
you get dressed, when you drive, when you're in therapy, when you try
to work, when you eat, even in your sleep.
it's exactly this flood of horror that eventually healed my anxiety.
for a moment of what causes your worst anxiety. Here's my list, in
the glory days of my generalized anxiety:
I feared God. I feared going to hell.
I feared making ANY (supposed) moral mistake.
I feared making a bad grade on a test or college paper, thereby
becoming an absolute failure.
I feared my own unwanted and often quite disturbing thoughts.
exposure of these thoughts, or worse, acting on them.
I feared ending up in a psychiatric ward.
I feared men. Especially men who were intimidating, in an authority
role, inappropriately flirty and suggestive, or
I feared not being perfect.
I feared getting seriously hurt or killed.
I feared not getting everything correct and right in my beliefs,
values, and behavior.
Underneath it all? I feared losing control of myself, my life, my
well-being, my self-respect.
what did PTSD do to these fears? PTSD combed through these fears,
picked out the juiciest, then smashed them in my face. We are talking
wedding-cake-in-the-face smashing. Picture an unruly (and perhaps
intoxicated) groom, who not only smashes the cake in his brides
mouth, but also up her nose, down her neck, and into her eyes and
perfectly made-up hair.
is what happened to me. Only there were no divorce papers to sign and
no way to stop the ongoing assault.
exactly happened? See number 10 on my top-anxieties list. I lost
control of my life.
I couldn't so much as hold down a coffee house job,
much less my post-graduate school position as a family therapist. I
couldn't plan a meal or grocery shop. I cried or sat in stunned
silence in church. When I tried to hang out with a friend, I couldn't
think or talk about anything except my early childhood abuse.
there I was. My treatment went from individual therapy to partial
hospitalization to finally taking medication.
my perpetrator read
my letter of confrontation. His damaging response, and its ripple
effects on my support system, snipped the last thread holding my life
a psych ward.
all know that this is officially the end of life, right? My career
would be ruined. And who would want to hire, date, or trust someone
who had been hospitalized for psychiatric reasons?
month later, I emerged. My life continued.
I am happily employed, doing work I love. Heck, I'm even good at what
I do! My supervisor actually trusts me enough to let me drive around
my neighborhood, visiting dying people and their families. (I'm a
hospice social worker, LCSW.)
I'm happily dating a pretty legit guy. As in, we've been dating over
a year. I love him.
Friday, two parents in their right mindspay
me to nanny their most precious gifts: two toddler boys.
are interested in listening to what I have to say on my blog about
trauma recovery and spirituality, http://www.thawingout.org
I was thrown head first into the deep end of the pool,
generalized anxieties no longer held power over me. What if I'm not
perfect or make big mistakes or my loved ones judge me or someone
hurts or abuses me? Been there, survived that. And I trust I'm
capable of surviving it again if needed!
it turns out, we humans can survive a lot of pain and suffering. Not
alone, mind you! And sometimes, not without going through the deep,
deep valley. There are no short cuts that last. My valley involved
being locked up in a psych ward for a month. Your deep valley might
include something just as terrifying for you.
you know what? Life really does go on. Our life circumstances don't
dictate our ability to live well.Not
to the extent we assume, at least.
here are three take-aways:
your worst fears may break their power over you. Anticipatory anxiety
-- the infamous "what if's" -- may actually be more
paralyzing than the moment of truth itself, when you hear the words,
fired!" Or those long minutes in an ambulance, headed for the
hospital. Or [insert your worst fear here].
Getting at the root cause of your generalized anxiety or depression
may set you free! My personal journey started with a
present-oriented, problem-solving, cognitive-behavioral therapy
approach. Although this was an important starting point, the pain
hiding below my
wouldn't let me go until I’d
faced it head-on.
go at healing alone! Trust
Many people, both professional and non-professional, as well as
formal and informal resources, have been invaluable
to my progress. So look for the help you need until you find it! It
will be worth it. It will be essential, even.
with that, take courage, friends! I'm with you in this thing called
surviving life. May we live this life well!