PTSD

By Emily George

My mind is a war zone.

Battle for ownership between emotion and logic constantly rage.

My mind is a tumultuous ocean of currents threatening to pull me into the deepest parts of anger, fear and despair. The mind is powerful. It protects us and endangers us, sometimes simultaneously.

This truthful, albeit dramatic, description of my mind used to be an everyday occurrence. It is now only an almost every day occurrence. While this may not sound like a lot of progress, it really is.

Through a wonderful therapist—a friend who just happens to be a meditation teacher—and a lot of hard work, I have found a calm within the storm: mindfulness meditation.

I should probably explain why my mind is a crazy mess most days.

Not too long ago I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This disorder decided to take a really long time, years actually, to make an appearance. See, I was really scary good at suppression until a car accident unlocked memories of a past I would have preferred to stay there.

PTSD happens to people who experience trauma either directly or as a witness.

While I will not go into the why’s, what’s and how’s of my trauma, it is important to understand that a single trauma or multiple traumas can cause PTSD. It presents in different ways in different people, and I, in no way, speak for all people who find themselves with this disorder.

The goal of mindfulness meditation is to focus on thoughts and sensations happening in the present moment with acceptance and without judgment.

All of this is extremely difficult for me.

It is human nature to judge. We judge other people, situations and our own thoughts constantly. We judge based on our experiences and perceptions.

When I focus on the present moment I find a peace within myself I did not think I would ever be able to. It is very, very hard for me to do this because my body has been conditioned to respond with fear in most cases and even when my conscious mind knows there is nothing to fear, my body continues to send the fear signals.

This makes it even harder to focus.

My heart is racing, my palms are sweating, my body is telling me to run. So how am I supposed to accept it: sit still and focus without judgment?

Sounds next to impossible, and at first it was.

Once I embraced the fact that my body and my mind were obviously not on the same page, I found it easier to sit still and be mindful.

I am definitely not an expert at mindfulness meditation. I am still fumbling my way through it and some days it does not work at all, but I have seen some improvement.

The ways in which mindfulness meditation has helped me cope with PTSD:

1. Sleep

I usually have a very hard time sleeping at night. I find it easier to sleep during the day. I have found that this is not conducive to being a productive human being. Now I find myself sleeping at night. It is never as long as I want, but it is getting better.

2. Fear

My response to unidentifiable noises is usually an instinctual one as described above. Even when I can identify the noise my body still responds with fear. I still experience this feeling, but to a lesser degree.

3. Emotion Regulation

I struggle with uncontrollable feelings of anger and rage. I am now better able to regulate my emotions and responses to situations that upset me.

As time goes on I would like to see this list grow.

For the first time in almost a year I am feeling hopeful with the help of mindfulness meditation.

 

Emily GeorgeEmily George is a teacher and writer learning to embrace her past as part of her identity.

 

 

 

Photo: (source)

Editor: Jes Wright

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The Tattooed Buddha

The Tattooed Buddha was founded by Buddhist author Ty Phillips and Dana Gornall. What started out as a showcase for Ty's writing, quickly turned into collaboration with creative writer, Dana Gornall and the home for sharing the voices of friends and colleagues in the writing community. The Tattooed Buddha strives to be a noncompetitive, open space for the author’s authentic voice. So while not necessarily Buddhist, we are offering a dialogue that is aware and awake to the reality of our present day to day, tackling issues of community, environment, and compassionate living.

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