PTSD, Releasing Trauma Energy and “The Gypsy Rover”

I continue to be exhausted, but again—for good reason!

Besides the usual PTSD fatigue from interrupted sleep, hypervigilance and digestive issues, we are relocating to Arizona and gosh, there are a lot of details that go into such a venture.

I can’t believe in less than six weeks, I’ll be leaving Chicago. Except for eight years in the North Shore, I’ve lived in Chicago all my life–originally on the South Shore, and then downtown by the lake. I always loved Chicago and I love it still.

When we moved from the suburbs down here in 1974, the noise and traffic and crowds were exciting. But it’s not quite the same nearing sixty (and eighty-eight for Jack). Plus, when my meds stopped working ten years ago, and particularly getting off them completely three and a half years ago, my senses all became ultra-sensitive–almost insanely so for a while–especially to sound, smells and energy. Sometimes I find the teeming city streets so oppressive, I don’t want to walk out the door anymore. And dear Jack…he can’t navigate the out-of-doors as well he used to.

So we’re going somewhere quiet with wide open spaces and I can’t wait.

***

My stomach was bad last night. I couldn’t figure out if it was emotion and/or related to digestive issues. I Googled PTSD and stomach problems. There are a whole slew of fantastic articles explaining why we have difficulties related to our tummies. I won’t try to translate the complexities, but suffice it to say–those of us in fight or flight or hypervigilance have activated sympathetic systems, which means the marvelous rest-and-digest world of the parasympathetic system is often elusive.

I tend to be excellent in an emergency, and crash when it’s over. Yesterday, there was a possibility my husband had a new heart issue, but it didn’t turn out to be so. Everything is alright. Hooray! But I felt the fatigue of the high-cortisol hangover today.

I had myself a good cry tonight and my tummy pain cleared straight away, so I guess stress was manifesting as pain in my stomach this time, which it not infrequently has done in the past.

***

In my book, Frozen in Time (Adventures in Releasing Trauma Energy), I wrote about my experience releasing trauma and emotional energy after I got off the meds. Everything I buried in childhood (and later years) came up to be felt and released. To say it was sometimes overwhelming is an understatement.

The first year, I experienced a lot of involuntary trembling or shivering when I released. I’d always know when it was coming because I’d get very cold in the center of my chest (the freeze state!). I used to wonder if I’d ever learn to release that kind of energy in a timely fashion or if it would always get stuck for years somewhere in the system of my body-mind.

When my brother had heart surgery this winter, I stayed with him the first night in his room in the ICU. The major concern of the staff, besides keeping him stable, was to keep him from vomiting. He was effectively tied down with tubes, particularly the one in his neck, which didn’t allow significant movement.

My brother felt so nauseous. The nurse would ask him if he was in pain. He’d say no, he just felt nauseous—but she kept giving him more pain medicine. I told her I was concerned she was giving him too much. He never had much tolerance for it. He used to feel sick on one codeine.

Well, you know where this story is going. About two in the morning, he vomited and was choking. I watched his blood pressure go to nothing as the doctors and nurses came running into the room. I kept yelling his name, telling him to stay with me, hold on, hold on.

It was awful. I saw the life drain from his body leaving a crumpled shell.

Someone said, “Get the suction.”

I watched the nurse go for the device and then turn, holding it up, saying, “It’s not working.”

I was praying like you wouldn’t believe. Talk about powerless.

The next thing I knew, he was coming back. I couldn’t see how they cleared his throat, (they were surrounding his bed), but he could breathe again—albeit weakly.

How fragile, dear and helpless he looked. I held onto his hand until I saw he was stabilized. Pretty soon everyone left, except for the ICU nurse.

All was quiet and dark again and I sat down in the chair.

But I had an odd feeling from time to time. A kind of sixth sense. So all night long, I’d get up off the chair, stand next to his bed and take his hand. He’d open his eyes and I’d say, “What’s happening?” and we’d talk a bit. Rather, I’d talk and he’d smile and say a little something.

I wanted to make sure he was still there with me, that he was okay, that the pain meds weren’t taking him away or slowly shutting down his breathing, which they can unpredictably do.

I remember softly singing “The Gypsy Rover” to him. I’d been listening to The Greatest Hits of The Highwaymen that December. My brother and I used to sing songs like those in grade school talent shows, he with his guitar and me beside him harmonizing. He smiled to remember.

When at last morning came, I had an overwhelming sense my brother was going to be alright. The danger was past.

I came home around ten a.m. after his son, my nephew, arrived. I stood in the kitchen and told Jack what had happened in the ICU. And while I was telling him, the most marvelous thing happened.

I started shaking. I was naturally releasing the emotional energy of the night before.

I felt like I’d come a long way in the healing of my PTSD to finally, in a timely fashion (not thirty or forty years later), feel safe enough in my body-mind to shake out trauma or stress energy close to the event that inspired it.

***

About a month ago, my brother called and asked me about that night. He’d started having fragmented, hazy memories emerge. He remembered he kept feeling like he was drowning. And every time it happened, every time he thought he was going under for good, he felt my hand grab onto his and pull him back up out of the depths.

That made me feel great. I did something good.

Not to mention I trusted my instincts and they were on target.

I spent so much of my life alone, not doing anything for anyone else, just trying to survive. I didn’t have children. I didn’t have a network of friends. With the exception of the five years I took narcotics, I mostly spent my life working and my weekends alone, trying to rest enough to get through another week.

I hope I have the opportunity to do more good in the world now that I’m so much better, now that my body-mind knows that, essentially, I’m safe.

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8 thoughts on “PTSD, Releasing Trauma Energy and “The Gypsy Rover”

  1. Mind/Body/Spirit–it’s a wonderful mystery. I had three vivid dreams last night. In each I was told I must quit smoking NOW. I’ve got to do it. That makes the 5th or 6th explicit message about this. The spirit side and 6th sense side seem so unreal in our material world, but they say it’s so much more real than this side. I’ve got to listen like I did the night with my brother, and other times.

    Thank you for your support! Hope you are having the best day!!

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    1. I am, I had girlfriend time as we scooted off for an excursion. But I thought of you often, wanting to return to write more. When I am so struck as I was by this post, I am caught speechless. It is as if you are writing my story.
      Though we did it in different ways, I feel the same feelings, “I spent so much of my life alone, not doing anything for anyone else, just trying to survive.”
      That encapsulates how I’ve felt. Though I do believe we both have given more than we give ourselves credit for.
      Another thing I notice…you don’t make much of your challenges or your pain. You are tackling so much! And with a husband who is also handling so much. Yet you proceed with such grace despite the many challenges and obstacles. I have such admiration.
      I just can’t wait for you both to settle, breath the open air, and gaze at the stars…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I forgot. I’ve heard one does not give up a habit, but replaces it with another that is healthier. So when I want to eat for reasons other than hunger, which happens most when evening draws in, I do what?
        1-Try to think affirming thoughts which for me is a a full-time job, much harder at the end of the day some days.
        2-do something to distract the cloying urge—.putter in the kitchen, sit outside, walk…

        Stuff like that. What to replace it with?

        I will have to work at this. It’s in my blood. My mother and her father. Her father was so heavy he had to sit in a chair to sleep in order to be able to breathe. And my Mom was very heavy right to end.
        My hereditary tendencies are compounded by becoming an eating machine at the age of 8 to blot out the rape. (still repressed though I know it happened) And my Mom’s solution to the event was to feed me. She loved to cook. Food=Love but also became a panacea for all emotions: stress, boredom, etc.

        I feel I am making progress, but only out of great fear because my body cannot accept this abuse anymore. I’ve suffered because of it. It took two or three bouts of late night trouble to get me to change my life-long patterns and still I work on it daily.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I am liking your comment times a billion.

    So glad you had girlfriend time. I hope to make a good friend in AZ somehow, someday. I have ideas on how I might meet others.

    We were alone and just trying to survive. But it’s true–I know we helped others whenever we could and don’t give ourselves credit. (When were we honestly reflected by family of origin? It’s hard to see ourselves without that solid foundation.) You are a kind soul, so anyone who has come into contact with you will be all the better–no matter how briefly. I do think love is all that matters. I hope to love more I guess.

    Off I go to the store. The streets will be crowded with people coming down here for the Sarurday night fireworks, but I’ll put on my music and dig some cwazy beat. 🙂 Talk to you later.

    Like

  3. I’ve got to start going on my computer instead of iPhone to read your posts and comments. My email doesn’t tell me always when you’ve written. bummer!!! (Just in case you see I didn’t respond to something, that’s why.)

    Re: unhealthy habits. It’s so hard sometimes isn’t it? Smoking soothes me. Eating soothes you. Then we suffer. Total bummer! I think for me ultimately I have to accept the discomfort of complete withdrawal for as long as it takes like I did with painkillers. It took many, many tries to get off drugs, but when I did it finally–good riddens. I haven’t looked back these almost 16 years.

    But with food…you’ve got to eat. You can’t survive without it. That would be super hard for me.

    I am getting slowly better at self-soothing, but I have such a long way to go. I did good yesterday with no cigs, but got triggered late last night and immediately smoked.

    I could try to replace it with deep breathing with Jack, or at least sit with the rising tsunami of anxiety, fear and panic a little longer.

    Thank you for thinking about this and giving me ideas!! : )

    Liked by 1 person

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