Sunday, March 31, 2013

Everything Is Illuminated

I've been going through some major stress over the past week-- good stress (or at least normal, healthy stress over huge but positive life changes which I will discuss at a point in the very near future because OMG), not distress. And once again, I find myself in the indescribably weird position of being caught between my instinctive reaction and my newly-learned alternative reaction, and once again, I am perplexed and uncomfortable noticing the very wide gap between them.

Yep, still watching the (sadly, quite boring) movie that is my life. From the balcony.

As you may remember, I (and other PTSR sufferers like me) tend to respond to high-stress or high-emotion (or, let's be honest, even relatively low-stress and low-emotion) events by retreating, mentally, emotionally, and even physically when possible. Flight! Run away! Go go go!

This isn't the same thing as denial, although denial is certainly a component. It's more than a cognitive response; it's a physiological, neurological response that takes place on the instinctive level, and it is actually beyond cognitive control if your lizard and intellectual brains are not on speaking terms. As, as has been established, mine are not.

I call it The Fog. I described it in this post, after the first time I actually stood back and watched it happen. The Fog comes in when I get triggered and swallows everything up and insulates me from the anxiety. It's the Way Out. 

In theory, it was the way my lizard brain learned to calm the waters and regain equilibrium after being triggered by a threat, no matter how minor that threat may actually be, sending me into soothing oblivion. 

In practice, it has only very recently occurred to me that the triggers are not the enemy. It's what happens when the trigger gets pulled that is the problem. 

It's not the gun at all; it's the bullet that'll kill ya. (although, while we're on the subject...)

That fog has kept me from feeling a lot of painful things. It has kept me from remembering them, even. It has allowed me to skip over some terrible moments of sadness, pain, frustration, disappointment, and fear over the last 20 years. It came here for a purpose and has served that purpose admirably. In many ways, it made it possible for me to survive.

But as you know, triggers don't just happen during the painful moments. "High emotion" is high emotion, negative or positive. The lizard brain interprets any imbalance as threat; the trigger gets pulled; the fog rolls in and everything gets socked in, swallowed up, hidden from view.


It turns out that it's the fog that's the real danger, not the things it obscures. Despite a carefully-constructed set of personal habits and coping mechanisms that depend very heavily on the opposite.

Well. Shit.

I'm sure this seems very obvious to you, and while I can't exactly say it's a surprise to me, after that experience last year, it hasn't been obvious for very long, and on top of that, there's a very big difference between knowing something and doing something about it. Especially when it comes to stuff that scares the living shit out of you.

And especially when it isn't something that merely seems difficult-and-uncomfortable-but-possible, like climbing a long  staircase instead of using the escalator, or eating a huge bowl of broccoli; but rather, insane, counter-intuitive, and impossible, like walking on water or flapping your arms and flying to the grocery store. 

Or eating a huge bowl of broccoli. I used that example incorrectly the first time. 


You know, no big deal. :/

So I find myself in a constant one-step-forward-two-steps-back situation, where I'm trying and failing and trying and failing to manage this stuff without freaking out or being a jerk to people or retreating into silence and depression or whatever else it is that I do when I'm feeling completely out of control of my head.

Which is NOT, as you might imagine, my favorite state of being. 

Trial and error is anathema to a perfectionist. We of the "do it right the first time or don't do it at all" disposition aren't into "try and try again" platitudes. Pssh. As if.

(This may or may not contribute in some way to our tendency to end up in a fetal position under the coffee table on a regular basis. I mean, I'm not a doctor or anything, so don't quote me on this. I'm just postulating. From down here amongst the dust bunnies.)

One of the weirdest things about standing in the gap between instinct and conditioning, right now, is that I have perspective on myself that I didn't have for years and years. I can see that fog from above now, and see how I succumbed to it so unquestioningly in the past. 

I remember knowing it would happen-- I'd be in a state of anxiety over something and know that in a moment, I'd be transported somewhere else and wouldn't have to deal with it anymore. Didn't know how or why, didn't bother to wonder about it, just waited for the escape and took it gladly when it came.

I think that back then, and maybe until this week, I thought that this was a way of gaining control. I suppose it was, by the part of my brain that saw threat only in the anxiety and not its cause, and eradicated it by shutting down the feeling instead of acting on, with, through, or because of it to change my circumstances or whatever else would have helped and eventually made the feeling dissipate the healthy way.

Sure, it was a form of control, but only an immediate, limited, false one.

What it looks like now, from the great divide between reality and traumatic response, is the exact opposite. Not control, but resignation. There was nothing active about that response. Not really. It was really me, giving up. Ceding control to an unknown force, without wondering how that was possible or why it was happening.

It didn't occur to me to wonder. I didn't know there was anything unusual going on. It seems impossible now, looking back, but I just didn't know. It's frightening to think of my unexamined willingness to just give over like that. I don't think I ever really saw the depth of self-delusion that required until now.

Anyway, despite all of this, I had a conversation with Dr. Oz the other night that put it all into a new perspective that I found very helpful and encouraging:

There's been, I think, a lingering fear or doubt in my mind that I was never going to beat this thing. That I would someday slide back into the grip of PTSR and recovery would never come.

What is abundantly clear to me now, maybe for the first time, for real, is that even if I stopped all progress right now, even if I lapsed back into some former habits, even if I never had another epiphany again, it's impossible for me to go back to the state of not knowing what is happening to me.

Whether I do anything about it or not, it's impossible not to be aware, now that I've seen the man behind the curtain. I can never unsee it again.

I can see how this might, for some, be an uncomfortable knowledge. I wondered, as I articulated it for the first time to Dr. Oz, if it might be hard to come to terms with it. But it isn't. Somewhat to my surprise, I find it a relief.

I'm an academic at heart, and I'm much more comfortable knowing than not knowing. The conscious awareness that I was acting without understanding my motivations is much more frightening to me, intellectually, than the instinct-level fears that caused that oblivion. I'd rather know than not. I'd rather learn than ignore.

The fact that I feel this with 100% conviction on a 100% intellectual level and emotions don't really come into it tells me that I still haven't figured out how to make those two parts of my brain play nicely together, but that's okay. I know that the two parts are there, and that communication between them is the goal. I can resist the fog-- at least, to some extent-- when it comes, and try to take my emotions for a trial run instead, as uncomfortable as that may be.

It's not perfect yet, not even close, but it's far preferable to oblivion, so I can't see it as anything but progress. And not just tenuous progress, but a lasting, permanent change. 

The light has been turned on, and everything has been illuminated, and if I don't quite know what  I'm looking at yet, the mistakes I make won't because I couldn't see, anymore, and the inexhaustible learner inside of me, after realizing this, is calmly reassuring all the other parts: we're heading in the right direction. It's impossible to get lost from here. Every move is a step forward; every trial, regardless of result, is a success. The fog may come and go, but the road is sure beneath our feet whether we can see it or not.

I keep thinking of that Robert H. Schuller quote: "What would you do if you knew you could not fail?"

I've never taken it seriously before, mostly because I've always felt like that state of mind wasn't rationally possible. That kind of "knowing" isn't knowledge, my inner skeptic insists. It's faith. 

But it seems to me, suddenly, that I've stumbled into it somehow, that knowing, when it comes to this journey I'm on. I sort of think I've reached that state with this work, as far as I feel, sometimes, from true resolution. 

And just this moment, I think I understand the real point of question: it's not the "knowing" that is important, but the "doing." Once again, it's not the trigger, but what happens afterward that makes all the difference in the world.

What would I do if I knew I couldn't fail in this quest to reclaim my life?

I'd give it an honest try. I'd see where it led. I'd do my very best not to ignore the answers that come, no matter what form they take, and I'd try to embrace them with courage and humor. I would believe that redemption is possible. I would dare to hope that my work could make a real difference, not just in my life, but in the lives of others.

And then I'd go sit in a coffee shop every Saturday with my laptop and a cafe au lait, and I'd write about it.


Saturday, March 23, 2013


Well, I've got another migraine today.

It's my usual, right on schedule. It's not responding as quickly to the meds I took earlier, either, so I'm probably not going to write a big post today. I've been waiting for them to kick in so I could focus and get some work done, and it's not happening. 

Not cool, migraine. Not cool. 

If I can, though, I will write more later in the week, so check back. I have some extra time on Tuesday and Thursday and may be able to get something written then.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Flashback to flashbacks

Last week, I told you I was going to dip back into some older posts and reexamine them and see what's changed since they were written.

Rather than allow myself to get all hung up on where to start and how to structure it and all the weird OCD things I tend to get hung up on, I just grabbed the first one that came up when I clicked on the "2011" link.

So today, we're going to talk about this post, in which I was naked. And which, coincidentally, I'm sure, was quite a popular post on this here blog. Until I posted that adorable video of my 3-year old twins trying to break dance, and then went viral with the Patch article, it had been viewed more often than any other post

Perverts, all of you!

In case you're feeling a little tl:dr about going back to that post, "In Which I Share Too Much Information," I'll sum it up here. It's about the time I had my first and only hallucination-style, honest-to-goodness flashback to the scene of my accident, and it was brought on by a moment of sexual abandon with a college boyfriend.

Ahem. So.

I talk about why that stuff happens to people with PTSR: our brains are stuck in trauma loops, frozen at whatever point we landed in the fight-flight-freeze response during our trauma. When we're in that state, we can be triggered back into that response by anything that pushes the boundaries we've set up to protect ourselves from it.

I'd been avoiding heavily emotional experiences since the accident, because they disrupted my carefully-maintained sense of equilibrium. That night, I upset the balance, and what resulted was a very visceral, scary, sudden recollection of something I hadn't remembered before: my first moment of consciousness after I'd been hit, waking up to the voice of an EMT telling me to "Sit tight. We'll get you out."

After that happened, I pretty much locked down any future transmissions from my reptilian brain, and I never had another flashback. It was just too frightening. I cut myself off from those emotions and devoted my internal energies to keeping things under control.

That, my friends, is what PTSR is: turning parts of your own brain against each other in order to keep things under control.

After that time, there were a few-- very few-- moments where I wondered if I might get triggered again (although I didn't know about triggers or trauma loops then; I just thought of them as "moments where something reminded me too much of the accident and I freaked out"). The anniversary date of the accident was difficult for a long time. Occasionally, I'd pass by a car accident on the freeway and get a little anxious and nauseated and struggle to keep my eyes--and thoughts-- away. But nothing ever approached the level of that hallucinatory flashback again.

After a few more years, in fact, even my old triggers stopped triggering. I've stopped to help at car accidents and performed First Aid without losing my shit (you can take the girl out of the Girl Scouts, but you'll never take the Girl Scout out of the girl). These days, I even forget about the anniversary date of the crash and don't realize it until months later. 

Oh, wow, like right now. It was last month. February 11th. Even with it being much more present in my consciousness now as I write this blog, I still forgot until just this moment. I even wrote a post 2 days before, on the 9th. Huh.

Well. Anyway. Those things lost their hold, which seemed like progress, before I knew what progress actually looked like. It seemed like I was leaving them behind me. What I was actually doing was burying them ever deeper in the closet of my subconscious. Which is really the opposite of leaving something behind you and escaping its clutches for good. 

It's more like this:

And as anyone who has ever seen a cartoon knows, eventually, that door is going to burst open and all that stuff is going to come tumbling down.

So where am I now, with all of this?

Well, I still forget the anniversary date, which seems rather reasonable and healthy, actually. But I have noticed in the last couple of months that I am a LOT closer to a "freak out" than I've been in years. I'm hyper-aware of other cars when I'm driving; I'm having panic attacks over emotional highs and lows; I'm feeling a lot more fear than I've allowed myself to feel in years.

Things are starting to remind me uncomfortably strongly of the accident again, and my body is reacting. The other night, we were watching a TV show where a character had been in a car accident and he woke up to a voice coming from off-camera, saying, "Don't worry, just hang on, we'll get you out."

My palms are sweating just typing that out. It was a jolt, to say the least.

So, yeah. Stuff is a LOT closer to the surface now, which means I'm having frequent, unpleasant reminders that I'm still braced against that closet door to keep the teetering tower of junk inside from bursting out all over the place. The tower is smaller now, I'd like to think, but the closet is still too full.

How ironic that THIS is now what feels like progress. Not the insulated hum of equilibrium, but the sturm und drang and constant (to me, at least) discomfort of, you know, being a more emotional person.

Well, irony might not be the right word. It feels like progress because it is progress. There is no longer any comfort to be found in the lack of difficult feelings.

Despite all of this scary-sounding stuff, the biggest difference of all is my awareness of exactly what is happening in my brain when these moments occur. 

And that difference is everything. 

Because now, when I catch myself going into a trauma loop, I no longer feel victimized by it. It doesn't have the power over me that it once had, because I know what it is now, and how and why it's happening, and even if I can't stop it-- and I shouldn't, really, not if I want to work through these feelings instead of around or in spite of them-- I can keep a balanced perspective about it.

As Dr. Oz would say, I get the chance to let my Wise Adult come in and help me through it, and remind my lizard brain that Yes, that was scary, and Yes, you did the right thing at the time, and Yes, it's really over now, and Yes, you survived. You made it. You lived, you lived, you lived.

So now I am at once closer to the fears and further from them, as I can feel them and not be controlled by them, instead of not feeling and being controlled, which is how I've lived the last 20 years.

That feels true. I think I can say that. I can feel fear and not be controlled by it. Or not completely, anyway. And that's something. That's a very big Something, in fact.

It seems like once that particular penny drops, the rest is just a matter of "acting as if," and slowly but surely figuring out more "as if's" to act, and working through the scary feelings instead of around them, and letting the triggers fade because they don't actually trigger you anymore...

...and not because you've wrapped them in old newspaper and bubble wrap and  opened the closet door a tiny crack and shoved them inside and slammed the door again before you are buried under a pile of old skis and tennis rackets and broken lamps and Christmas decorations and moth-eaten, unfashionable coats you haven't worn in 12 years. 

You know. The easy stuff. Once you get here, all that's left is the easy stuff.

Piece of cake, she says. 

As if.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

So Many Posts, So Little Time

Time for a bit of a meta-post. I think that's my mood today. 

In recent weeks, I've gone back to the beginning and started reading through this blog, post by post. It's a fascinating experience. I've got enough distance from the writing (and the PTSR fog to swallow up any lingering memories of the process) that it seems like it was written by someone else, so I am able to have a more objective perspective than I expected.

Can you imagine? Me, with an objective, divorced-from-emotion perspective on my own life? Shocking! Ha ha. But at least this time it's useful in non-destructive ways. 

There have been a lot of ideas and epiphanies raised in this blog that are worth revisiting at this stage. Shame, triggers (and more triggers), emotional issues manifesting as physiological ones. I've moved beyond some things; I understand others in a different way now than I did when I first addressed them. There has been growth, and there has been stagnation, and there has been, without doubt, change.

I'd like to touch back on some of the profound moments of the past two years and see what they look like now, from my new vantage point. Or see what lessons they still have waiting for me.

So I'll be doing a bit of that in some upcoming posts. 

I'll also be featuring a guest blogger soon, hopefully within the next couple of weeks. Dr. John Beall and I had a really interesting conversation a couple of weeks ago about how Active Release Technique works-- and works in conjunction with strengthening, rehabilitating exercise like Pilates, in particular-- and in that conversation, we stumbled upon an amazing connection between A.R.T. and Peter Levine's trauma theory.

Like, a crazy, synchronous, holy-shit-of-course-EUREKA kind of connection. One that I'm curious to research to see if it's been made before.

THAT kind of cool.

So I asked Dr. Beall if he would write up his thoughts on A.R.T. and the things he said that made the penny drop for me about this work we're doing and why, of course, of course, it works so very well for me.

He said he would, and that he'd cross-post me on his own blog/Facebook page, since many of his clients have suffered trauma and may find the connection useful in their recovery.

So as soon as I get that from him, I will get it to you. It's good stuff, I promise.

I go back and forth about the tone of this blog as it cycles through my emotional stages right along with me. There are times when I think it's just a bunch of dark, pessimistic navel-gazing, and times when I think it's WAY more positive about what's going on than I actually feel.

Sometimes that positivism is reflective of how I feel, at least to some extent, and other times it's more prescriptive in nature. Maybe most often it's that. "Acting as if," that venerable old therapy tool that works a lot more effectively than we give it credit for doing.

Sometimes I wonder if that's perhaps not as honest as I want to be here. Other times I think it's providing a service, for me and for others, that has become an important motivator for this writing. I want to help other people with the work that I'm doing. I want to show that it can be done. If that calls for cheerleading that is more forced than felt at times, I guess that's not the worst thing. Is it?

Is it realistic? I don't know. Ultimately, it probably is. We are what we say we are, after all. We manifest what we project into the world. If I want to present an example of transformation, I probably can't help but transform in the process.

Probably. More likely than not. And what's the harm in trying? We're all just winging it, here, anyway, aren't we?

Well, at any rate, there are other subjects I'd like to tackle in the coming months, and some might have to be deep, dark, filtering-through-the-sludge-at-the-bottom-of-the-tank stuff because that's all that's left to do in some areas, and others might surprise you with their lightness.

For example, there's going to be a post about BBC Sherlock fan fiction here very soon, and how it has, in ways directly related to this therapy and this blog, changed my life.

You didn't know the level of nerdery you were courting when you started reading this blog, did you? Well, get ready, friends. You're about to get a glimpse behind the curtain. 

In fact, hey, I just had a good idea. In true nerd fashion, Imma give you some homework in preparation for that near-future post. If you haven't seen the BBC's Sherlock, go watch it. All six episodes. Go. Now. Go now.

It's available on Netflix Instant and for purchase through all the usual channels and for procuring through other means we won't discuss here but I'm sure you will figure it out if you are of the disposition to use such means, as well. 

And it's brilliant, and worth the time and effort. And what I'll have to say in a few weeks will make a LOT more sense. And you should see it anyway, because you're a good person and I like you and I want you to have nice things.

So. New stuff is coming. Wait for it. Comment about it below. And I'll see you next week.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

In Which I Am MacGyver, Sort Of, In A Sick Kind Of Way

Okay, well. The migraine is still lurking but it's remained manageable-- meaning that it has responded to meds. And it even responded to the over-the-counter, non-risky drugs, which in my world is practically like not having a migraine at all. 

Only two Excedrin Migraines and four Advil? And those only twice? Pssh! That's nothing! Child's play!

My liver deserves a medal. 

Well, that or a eulogy. 

I was really bummed out about the migraine the other day, though. I'd been to see Dr. John Beall for an Active Release Technique session on Tuesday night, when I first started to notice that certain migrainey je ne sais quoi seeping into my consciousness. 

Dr. Beall did his usual business on my neck and back-- they need quite a lot of business, those guys-- and then felt along my spine and turned my head back and forth, and told me he could feel that my skull was sitting improperly on my vertebrae on the left side.

Which is really no surprise, considering my tilty posture and the fact that the base of my skull is the birthplace of all my migraines: my own little evil Mesopotamia, the cradle of pain. 

So he gave me a skull adjustment.

In case you're thinking, OH MY GOD, THAT SOUNDS HORRIFYING, allow me to reassure you:


It definitely falls into the category of "Things One Should Probably Not Allow Others To Do To One, Lest One's Head Be Accidentally Wrenched From One's Body And Hurled Across The Room."

You know you've got very particular sort of existence when you realize you actually already had that category.

So anyway, that happened. Ever hear your skull snap, crackle, and pop like box of Christmas crackers? Not. Cool. I mean, not to impugn the skills of Dr. Beall, who, it must be said, absolutely did not wrench my head from my body nor hurl it across the room. Although he did display just a leeeetle too much glee during this altercation.

Chiropractors. You know how they get.

But all jokes/horror stories aside, I felt better after that. Well, a few minutes after. First, I felt like I'd narrowly escaped death, and then I felt better.

But my point is: I felt better. The adjustment seemed to derail the migraine train. I could certainly turn my head much further afterward. And so I thought, for a time, that not only had I thwarted another migraine, but I had also been given the most specific physical information I've ever gotten about how they might be triggered.

AND found the person who knew how to locate it, identify it, and resolve it.

This was a major, major thing, because there are so very few threads of hope to grab on to when it comes to migraines. Nobody knows anything about the hows and whys, let alone how to resolve them, so anything specific and actionable seems like a miracle.

It still may be. It still may be.

But a significant factor in this little miracle was that I needed it to actually keep my migraine away, so I'd have reason to believe in the magic.

And you already know the ending of that little fairy tale.

It's a lot of pressure, I know. And unrealistic to expect an immediate and permanent cure. And unwise to allow the obvious, positive impact of A.R.T. on my body and my life to be overshadowed by one small setback. 

I know this.

I really do think that Dr. Beall has done exactly what I said: located some triggers, identified them, and is working to resolve them. I already feel very different. I've already skipped at least one migraine. Everything is definitely moving in the right direction.

I just really, really wanted instant gratification this time around. I know I said I wasn't going to be too hopeful too soon, but I am a big fat liar. I was hopeful as all hell. Despite my insistence to the contrary, about this, I can't help but be a believer.

And I've studied enough Cognitive Behavioral Theory to see the all-or-nothing thinking in that statement. This isn't a zero-sum game. The fact that it has only worked once or twice instead of three times does not mean it doesn't work and isn't ultimately going to be the answer.

And the cure. Or at least some sort of acceptable resolution.

In fact, the fact that it has worked once or twice means that it is working. 

Patience, Kate. You don't get time off for good behavior in the patience game. 

And anyway, I was hardly behaving well. I was already starting to freak out about being cut adrift into a post-migraine life. Now that they seemed to finally be on the decline, I'd found myself in the rather bewildering position of wondering how I was going to cope without them.

Yep, you read that correctly.

It was a bit of a shock to find myself thinking that way. I realized that despite all the misery my migraines have caused me, I have come to depend on them as... I don't really know how to explain it. An excuse to escape, maybe? A crutch? A get-out-of-jail-free-painfully card?

They were are were are have been, for a long time now, I think, a built-in, automatic shut-down opportunity for me. Necessary maintenance. A scheduled defragmenting (well, more like a scheduled fragmenting, but that is not actually a thing, so). They were inevitable, unavoidable, and as much as they sucked, a part of me didn't mind having to dim the proverbial (and literal, come to think) lights every few weeks. 

It was a regular, justifiable opportunity to do what I do best: check out.

Making the best of a bad situation? Sure. Lemons/lemonade. Yep. How could I not? There is not much of a silver lining to this cloud, but I'd be crazy not to try to find it anyway. I've certainly had ample opportunity to look.

"You have turned it into something that serves a necessary purpose," says Dr. Oz. "That's an adaptive adjustment. That is survival behavior."

Which is a cool way to think about it, because you get to feel all MacGyver-y and Grizzly Adams-y and stuff (one dates oneself with such references, doesn't one?).

And it would be a good gig, too, if only it stopped there. But we are in PTSR-land, folks, where shame lurks around every corner, and there is a persistent little voice asking if this isn't more of a chicken-and-the-egg question.

Have I created a crutch from my migraines, or did I create the migraines because I needed a crutch?

Am I really dismayed that I had a migraine this week, or am I maybe just a little bit relieved?

I feel certain that the answers to those questions are yes, no, yes, no. I created that crutch. I didn't wish for this migraine. 

I am not doing this on purpose.

But I can't deny the plain truth that I felt the absence of migraines over the past two months. I felt it very strongly. And what I felt was not exactly the exhilaration that I expected. There was more than a little trepidation in there as well, not that they would return, but that they wouldn't, and then I'd have to figure out what to do with the void they left behind.

And I was terrified of that.

Less afraid of fear, I said? Ha. Sometimes, maybe.

This is another example of the self-sustaining properties of PTSR (and other mental conditions and disorders). If there's one thing it's great at, it is momentum. It doesn't let go easily. It's hard to pull the pieces apart and unravel it, and that's exactly its reason to exist: to hold together, to preserve and protect, and damn the consequences (or the realities).

It's a weird thing, the utter value-neutrality of survival. The lizard brain isn't interested in what's fair or reasonable; it just wants to shore up the sides and batten down the hatches and will do whatever it takes. Good bricks, bad bricks, bricks made of granite or sticks or marshmallow creme, it doesn't matter, just keep building that wall.

The problem is that while my lizard brain sees no distinction between these resources and will use them however it can, my intellectual brain is judging the hell out of me. Feeling guilt and shame for not minding-- or even relishing, a little, or at least relying upon, a lot-- the "break" I get from having to engage when a migraine comes. Feeling weak for having them in the first place and not being able to keep them from interfering in my life.

There is a quote in Crash Course: A Self-Healing Guide to Auto Accident Trauma and Recovery by Diane Poole Heller, PhD:

"What you need to know: Surviving is biological success. It doesn't matter how you did it."

What strikes me most about this quote is that it is necessary to say at all to the victim of a car accident.

But it is. It's necessary and it's true. It doesn't matter. The lizard brain is value-neutral because it doesn't have the luxury of forming opinions about things. It's got predators to outrun. Bullets to dodge. Headlights to avoid. 

And it's not the lizard brain I'm talking to here, anyway: it's the rest of me, the intellectual, emotional, judgmental rest of me who thinks I'm to blame for using what resources I've had in whatever way I needed to to get to where I am.

It's occurring to me just now that I've been thinking all this time that I needed to find a way to get through to my lizard brain and convince it that it has done its job, done it well, and can stop, now. Convince it that the threat has passed, and everything turned out fine.

But I think I still have some communicating to do with my other side, too. I need to figure out how to forgive the lizard brain for what is has done to keep me safe and alive. I can't feel shame over it; the lizard brain has meant no offense. Migraines as scourge, migraines as savior; to the lizard brain, it hasn't mattered; what has mattered is that the body has kept going, has gotten what it needed, has continued to elude the threat.

We don't blame a cut for bleeding, scabbing over, and scarring. The skin did its job, not because we were good people or bad, strong people or weak, deserving or not. It did its job because that's what it is there to do. 

Strange how impossible it feels to extract shame and judgement from so much of what my lizard brain has done to survive, and how inherent that inability has been to the development of my PTSR.

I've mentioned before that some researchers consider PTSR a shame disorder, and I think that has to be true. It may not be at the physiological core, but it is certainly a key factor in the persistence of the condition. It certainly seems to be the essential obstacle to overcome for me.


A new reader and commenter here (hi, Elizabeth!) recommended that I take a look at Brene Brown's work-- her Ted talk, "Listening to Shame," for starters, and then her books.

Coincidentally (or not? I can't even tell anymore), another friend and reader (hi, Emily!) has been posting some terrific Brene Brown quotes on Facebook all week. 
What I'm getting at is that I've got Brene Brown in my sights. I love what I've seen so far, and I'm going to add her to my resources page as soon as I get a chance to see enough to have something intelligent to say about it.

I seem to have meandered my way to a point, in this post, and my point is as follows:

Shame is rearing its ugly head again, in this process, but this time, it's not in control. I'm standing back from it and looking at it and going, hey, you are not appropriate here, what's up with that?

Seems like an excellent time to get some new weapons and attack yet another wall in the fortress, yeah?