Archive for October, 2012

Rules for Being Human

1. You will  receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it is yours for the entire period of time you are here.

2. You will learn lessons. You are now enrolled in the full-time informal school called Life. Each school day will give you opportunities to learn lessons. You may like the lessons you have to learn or  you may believe that your lessons don’t really fit you and are stupid.

3. You will make no mistakes, rather you will learn through your lessons. You will experiment and do trial and error learning. Some if not much of what you do will end in failure, this is part of the process called Life.

4. Your lessons will repeat themselves until you learn them. Each lesson you are to learn will be presented to you or will present itself to you in various forms until you learn it.

5. As long as you are alive, you will have lessons to learn.

6. There is no better than here. There is no geographical cure. If you move, your there will become here and you will look for a new place to go.

7. What you love or hate in another person often is a mirror of you. When you love or hate something about another person, it reflects something you love or hate in yourself.

8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have the tools and resources, skills, and information, how you use them depends on the choices you make, Remember, the choice is yours – to succeed, fight or give up.

9. Your answers to your life’s questions lie inside of you. Look, listen, trust your own internal self and intuition to tell to you.

10. You probably will forget these rules as you live life.

11. You can come back to these rules whenever you meed or want to do so.

Remember – It can be done.

The PTSD Work Book

Wild Woman

Within every woman ther is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity and ageless knowing. Her name is Wild Woman, but she is an endangered species. Though the gifts of the wildish nature come to us at birth, society’s attempt to civilize is into rigid toles has plundered this treasure and muffled the deep, life giving messages of our own souls. Without the wild woman we become over domesticated, fearful, uncreative and trapped.

Clarissa Estes Pinkola

Creating Safety

What is Safety

Safety means feeling protected or sheltered from harm. To experience safety is to know that our well-being is secure. Feeling safe is the cornerstone of the healing process. When the environment around us is safe, we can feel relaxed and secure enough to take risks toward change and healing. Creating safety involves extending or building upon times in which we have all felt safer. As such the first step to building and creating safety is to first identify the things that help us feel safer.

Objects of Safety may Include:

  • Special people ( a trusted friend)
  • engaging in certain activities (working on a craft or hobby)
  • Being in a certain place ( such as outdoors in the sun)
  • Other examples of safety may include a teddy bear, a pillow, a piece of clothing or a picture

There are a number of things you can do to create safety for yourself.

  1. Develop a Symbol for the Present

In many cases feeling unsafe is connected to experiences from the past. When feeling unsafe, you may feel as if you are small, powerless or helpless, just as you were during the trauma. As such, it is often helpful to have a symbol for the present to remind yourself that you are no longer in the traumatic event and that things are different in the present. A symbol for the present can be anything you currently have that reminds you of your life today. Some examples of objects that can be used as a symbol for the present include car keys, pictures of your children, a wedding or engagement ring or even the mortgage on your house. When choosing a symbol for the present it is important that you try to find a symbol that you can carry around with you in your pocket or purse. If it is not possible, you can write your symbol for the present on a piece of paper and carry that piece of paper with you. Your symbol for the present can  be used whenever you are feeling unsafe or vulnerable. By touching and looking at your symbol for the present, you can reorient yourself to the present and remind yourself that you are in a safe environment.

2. Make a Safety Sack

A safety sack is a bag in which you may place some objects of safety. It is something that you can carry with you to help you feel safe wherever you go.

3 Make a Safety Collage

This involves making a collage out of things that represent safety to you. You may wish to use pictures from magazines to make your collage or you may opt to put together a collage of photographs of people and places that represent safety to you. Once you have made your collage, you can hang it up and look at it to help you get in touch with feeling safer whenever you require it.

4 Imagine a Safe Spot

Using your list of things that help you to feel safe as well as things that you associate with comfort and security.  Imagine a place where you can feel safe. Many people find it helpful to write down their image of a safe spot. When imagining a safe spot, try to use as much detail as possible. Describe the sights, sounds and colours that would be present in your safe spot. Whenever you are feeling unsafe, imagine being in your safe spot.

5. Create a Safe Spot

You can turn a room in your house or even a corner room into a safe spot for yourself. If you have a room that is a safe spot you may wish to paint it a colour that you can associate with comfort and security.  You can also place objects of safety as well as your collage in your safe spot. Whenever you are feeling unsafe, you can go to your safe spot and work on your breathing until you are feeling calmer.

6. Write out a Statement of Comfort and Security

On an index card write down some words or sentences that you nay think might help you feel safer when you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed. For example: I am safe and there is nothing around me that is going to cause me any harm. I am an adult and I have the power and control over what happens to me. This card can be kept with you at all times and you can read it aloud or to yourself. (generally speaking it aloud is more powerful) when needed. Another option is to have someone you trust read it to you. Some people even choose to have close supportive, trusting, friends say statements of comfort and security into a tape recorder, I pad or any recording device so that they may play it back and listen to it when ever they are feeling unsafe.

7. Imagine a Force Field Around You

Imagine that there is a powerful force field surrounding you that is shielding you from harm. For those who have difficulty with safety at night, this can be a useful exercise

8. 5.4.3.2.1.

Name five things yu can see, five things that you can hear and five things you can feel (physical sensation). Then repeat with four, three, two and one thing. You can repeat items. This technique encourages you to become aware of your enviroment andto be here in the present.

9. 5,5,5

Breathing from your abdomen or diaphram inhale slowly to a count of five, pause and hold your breathe for five, then exhale to a count of five.

Building a Container

You can use this exercise to help yourself be grounded during a flashback.

Get comfortable in your chair, take three deep breathes and surround yourself in a white light three times. You are in charge of this experience and if something is said that you feel uncomfortable with, do not attempt it. Now make this time just for yourself, clear all thoughts out of your mind. Now picture yur self:  walking down a long wooden stairway to a very beautiful, expansive beach. It looks almost deserted and stretches off into the horizon as far as you can see. The sand is very fine and light … almost white in appearance.

You step onto the sand in  your bare feet and rub it between your toes. It feels so good to walk slowly along this beautiful beach. The roaring sound of the surf is so soothing that you can just let go of anything on your mind.  You are watching the waves ebb and flow… they are slowly coming in…. breaking over each other … then slowly flowing back out again. The ocean itself is a beautiful shade of blue … a shade of blue that is so relaxing just to look at it. You look out over the surface of the ocean all the way to the horizon, and then follow the horizon as far as you can see, noticing how it bends slightly downward as it follows the curvature of the earth. As you scan the ocean, you can see many miles off shore a tiny sailboat skimming along the surface of the water. Add all of these sights help you to just let go and relax even more. As you continue down the beach you become aware of the fresh salty smell of the sea air. You take a deep breathe in ….. breathe out … and feel very refreshed and even more relaxed. Overhead you notice two seagulls flying out to sea … looking very graceful as they soar into the wind…. And you imagine how you might feel yourself if you had the freedom to fly. You find yourself settling into a deep state of relaxation as you walk along the beach, you feel the sea breeze blowing gently against your cheek and the wramth of the sun overhead penetrating your neck and shoulders. You are beginning to feel perfectly content on this beautiful beach. It is such a lovely day. in a moment up ahead you see a container in the sand, you walk up to the container and become very curious as to what is inside. As you survey the box you notice all of the different symbols and signs that are on the outside of the container they seem to calm you. As you lift the lid of the container you notice that the container is very strong and you imagine what it might like to put all of your feelings, sensations, thoughts and images inside the container. they seem to calm you. And as you look in the container, you notice that there is a pen and some parchment paper. You take the paper out and decide to write all of yor concerns on the paper. As you write the works you notice that your body feels lighter and calmer. you decide to lock all of your concerns in the container  so that do not have to carry them with you and longer and that up can return to them when ever you wish. Once the container is locked you decide that it is time to return home and so you walk back along the beach noticing how light and calm you feel … as if the weight of the world has been lifted off your shoulders. You notice that you are happy that you left all of your concerns behind in the container. As you walk you take a deep breathe in and inhale the fresh salty air, you see  a seagull flying overhead and hear the sound of the surf. And as you do this, you notice that everything seems sharper and cleared. Again you feel a sense of peace and contentement. You walk back up the stairs and over to your car. You turn for one last look at the beach and remember that you have put all of your concerns in the container. You decide that you can return to the concern whenever you wish. A feeling of peace and calmness envelops you.

Stages of Flashbacks

Understanding the process you go through prior, during, and after the flashback can help you control the intensity and duration of the flashback. To heal, you need the information, not to experience the orignal trauma. as you were forced to.

Stages of Flashbacks

1. Beginning – An explainable feeling of dread, The feeling that something bad is going to happen. This is the generalized feeling of fear that you experienced.

2. Remembering/ Re-Enactment – in no way should you or anyone else minimize the experience of a flashback. It is horrendous and you deserve to take whatever actions towards safety and comfort that you can.

3. Coming Back – there is often a sense of exhaustion.thsi is the time when you can be the most creative. If you have the energy try drawing, painting, writing, working with clay etc. Another thing that people find helpful is to take to someone.

Try to identify each step as you go through it. Try to add comfort and safety to each stage.

Surviving a Flashback

1. GET GROUNDED – this means try to remain as present as possible

2. OPEN YOUR EYES AND LOOK AROUND – remind yourself that you are in the present and not in the past. Look at the objects in the room.

3. TOUCH YOURSELF OR AN OBJECT – stroke your armm touch and feel a special object, eg. a teddy bear, a stone, seashells etc.

4. CHANGE YOUR BODY POSITION – most suvivors tend to go into the position they went into as a child. Do something different. For example, sit up and consciously feel the ground and the chair under you.

5. BREATHE – a natural reaction to fear is to stop breathing or to breathe only from the top of your lungs (short and shallow). Try to breathe deep and fully. This will calm your body. You may want to practice breathing when you are not in a crisis so that it is easier for you when you are in crisis.

6. REPEAT AFFIRMATIONS TO YOURSELF – pick two or three things that you can say to help you feel safer, ie. I’m okay. this is only information. this happened in the past, I am safe now.   You may want to write these affirmations down on your wall, on your bed sheets etc.

co- produced by Donna Bailey and Cathy Shawongonabe – Family Mental Heslth Case Manager – Enaahtig Healing Lodge

Flashback Management

It is normal for everyone after going through an ordeal to experience reactions on a physical, psychological or behavioural level. This is a common reaction for those who have gone through traumatic experiences and is not a reflection of your strength or weakness of character. As individuals, as our experiences are all unique, so then can be the effects of the impact of trauma. Some individuals are impacted with many symptoms and others experience few symptoms. Some people experience flashbacks very shortly after the ordeal, otheres may feel the effects in time over weeks, months or years.

Ways To Cope

  • Within the first 24 – 48 hrs, periods of appropriate physical exercise alternated with relaxation will minimize some of the physical reactions
  • Structure your time – keep busy
  • You are normal and having normal reactions – don’t label yourself crazy
  • Talk to people – talk is the most healing medicine
  • Be aware of numbing the pain with over use of drugs or alcohol. You don’t need to complicate the situation with a substance abuse problem.
  • Reach out – people care
  • Maintain as normal a schedule as possible by sharing feelings and checking out how they are doing.
  • Give yourself permission to feel rotten  and share hoq you’re feelings with others.
  • Keep a journal. Write down your thoughts and feelings about the incident.
  • Do things that feel good for you.
  • Realize those around you are under stress.
  • Don’t make any big life changes
  • Do make as many daily decisions as possible which give you a feeling of control over your life.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Reoccuring thoughts, dreams or flashbacks are normal – don’t try to fight them- they will decrease over time and become less painful.
  • Eat  well balanced meals regularly

Flashbacks

What are they?

Flashbacks are memories of the past traumas.  They may take the form of pictures, sounds, smells, body sensations,feelings or lack of them (numbness). Many times there is no actual visual or auditory memory. One may have the sense of panic, being trapped, feeling powerless,with no memory stimulating it. These experiences can also happen in dreams.

As a child or adolescence, we had to insulate ourselves from the emotional and physcial horrors of the trauma. In order to survive, that child remained isolated unable to express the feelings and thoughts at that time. It’s as though we put that part into  a time capsule until it comes out in the present.

When flashbacks occure one often feels like a scared child and experiences the past as if it was happening today.As the flashback occures it s as if we forget that we have an adult part available to us for reassurance, protection and grounding. The intense feelings and body sensations occuring are so frightening because the feelings/sensations are not related to the reality of the present and many times seem to come out of nowhere.

We begin to think we are crazy and are afraid of telling anyone (including our therpist) of these experiences. We feel out of control and at the mercy of these experiences. We begin to avoid situations and stimuli, that we think triggered it. Many times flashbacks occur during any form of sexual intimacy. It may occur with a person who has similar characteristics as the perpetrator. It may be any situation that stirs up similar trapped feelings. If you are feeling small or having body distortions you may be experiencing a flashback. If you are experiencing stronger feelings than are called for in the present situation you may be experiencing a flashback.  Flashbacks are essential to healing because they allow us to learn what happened and release feelings that are stored in our bodies. Flashbacks are normal. Vietnam vets have normalized this experience and have coined the term post traumatic stess syndrome/ response. Even the diagnostic category book for psychiatry defines post traumatic stess syndrome as  the normal reaction of all people experiencing an event that is outside the range of normal human experience.  Flashbacks feel crazy because you often revert to a regressed or childlike state. You are not going crazy, you are feeling very scared and vulnerable. It is not crazy to feel very scared and vulnerable as an adult. Most people whether abused or not feel this way, at some time. People who have experienced trauma may feel this way often and more intensely.

Co produced by Donna Bailey and Cathy Shawongonabe Family Mental Health Case Manager – Enaahtig Healing Lodge and Learning Centre.