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.