PTSD and the Shattering of Identity

I’ve been going through everything to toss or donate or pack in preparation for a move up north in a few weeks.

Tonight, I flipped through a few of my favorite books, including a volume by Edward St. Aubyn: The Philip Melrose Novels. The subject is difficult (sexual abuse in childhood and how it plays out over the years), but the writing is incredible.

On the back blank endpaper, I’d written a quote. (I didn’t underline it on the actual page, so forgive me if it’s really a paraphrase.)

“Personal identity is dependent on the continuity of memory.”

A few minutes later, I looked through Invisible Heroes by Belleruth Naparstek (a must-read for those with PTSD) and came across:

“Trauma disrupts internal continuity, interferes with coherence, and at least temporarily shatters identity. And when that’s gone, nothing is right.” 

Then I picked up Soul Retrieval by Sandra Ingerman. She writes about how parts of your soul can take off when trauma gets too intense. You survive, but you’re a little less than you were each time. You’re not your whole self anymore, you don’t feel like your old self. Theoretically, a shaman can retrieve those parts and bring them back through your chakra.

I remember years ago, after reading those books, saying to Jack, “Maybe that explains why I don’t identity with photos of myself throughout childhood and even afterwards. It’s always been as if they’re photos of someone else. Maybe that’s why I’ve always felt alien to my own history. It explains the effect on me of the blanks, the disconnects, why I’ve rarely felt whole.”

[In case I had soul parts out there somewhere, I did go to a shaman to have them returned. (I wrote about it in my book (PTSD: Frozen in Time).]

So many books helped me understand the consequences of childhood trauma and suggested non-traditional ways of healing that worked for me. (Twenty-five years of talking to therapists and psychiatrists and taking meds kept me alive, but not much more—so I was open to non-traditional ways).


It’s Saturday night and I’m awfully tired. My eyes don’t hurt so much as they did the first couple weeks after Jack died. My attention span remains limited. I still have trouble focusing on movies or books, but this morning I was able to watch Avatar all the way through. It was pretty cool. (I loved the references to energy.)

And I can write (although I have to use a big font in my drafts). Progress. Yay!


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