Posts tagged ‘PTSD’

The New Embrace of 2015

2015 Embrace!

2015 Embrace!

I embrace you. I embrace each of you warmly and securely. My intention for 2015 is to help you see how uniquely resilient and creative your adaption to your life has been. I dedicate fifty-two blogs in 2015 to the celebration of survival and triumph. Each Saturday we’ll drink lemonade together! Life and its circumstances may have bombarded you with lemons, but look what you did with them. As the President says to Katniss in the new Hunger Games movie: “You’ve got this, soldier!”
You’ve got this and you’ve had this. Were it not so, you would not be reading this blog. You have not only survived – although I feel you prickling at my use of the word “survived” because you prefer to think you have just done what anyone would have done in the circumstances – but you have triumphed – and I feel you prickling at my use of the word “triumphed” as most of the time you do not feel like you have overcome anything but simply lived through it. I know that more of the time you feel like you are just getting by and figuring it out as you go along. I suspect that most of the time you don’t even allow yourself to think about the past and what you have gone through to get where you are.
That’s actually where I want to start this first day of this new series of writings. As you know, I am a therapist who by chance or divine direction or both has come to know somethings about PTSD. Here’s one of the first things I ever learned: don’t let anyone ever force you to talk about or think about anything that has happened to you. You do not need to remember. You do not need to write it down. You do not need to talk to anyone about anything you have endured. You can. If you want to, you absolutely can. But, it is not necessary, and sometimes it can be downright harmful.
Here’s where your brilliant creativity comes in. You have each survived trauma in your own individual and courageous way.  As I say in the introduction to The Many Faces of PTSD, “Do not compare your trauma to that of anyone else.” Here’s the truth of that, which is a truth of life: there is always someone prettier, slimmer and less traumatized. There is always someone less pretty, chubbier and more traumatized. Everything is relative. Actually, there is a lot of humor in that statement, since many of our relatives are responsible for many of our trauma experiences. As one of my clients likes to say, “If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother.”
Whatever you have gone through cannot be compared to what anyone else has gone through. That’s useless and destructive. Whatever you have gone through can only be constructed into the very foundation, framework, functionality, and style of YOU. They say that when we dream of a house, we are dreaming of ourselves. If we dream we’re in a tent, we’re probably feeling vulnerable. If we dream we’re living in a cave, we may feel we must hide our true selves. (I don’t mean this as a guide to dream interpretation.)  I am only trying to say that each of us builds a structure that becomes ME: my “self”, my ego, my personality, the persona which I “live in” as I go through life. At times we renovate and redecorate, but we have designed the very structure of our SELF based on what we have needed to live through what life has given us.
I have spoken before about the three basic ways we come through things: fight, flight or freeze. These can become the basis of a personality which is angry (fight), anxious (flight) or sad (freeze). THERE IS NO BAD PERSONALITY. Our personalities have developed, as have our egos and our personas (the picture of ourselves that we offer the world), as a result of every piece of creative response we have been able to muster. And no two people who are exposed to similar circumstances will respond in completely similar ways. I remember teaching in communication classes the list of about forty variables which affect our responses, things like culture, values, ethnicity, coping skills, age, gender, time of day, time of year, world events. . .  It’s a very long and involved list.
I have also talked about the Myers-Briggs in The Many faces of PTSD and The Many Faces of Anxiety. In the Support Letters and Guides to Healing which I’m offering through The Pillar of Light Foundation (website presently under construction, Coming soon!), I’m going to be talking in some depth about the Myers-Briggs next month. ( I mention the Myers-Briggs now because it explains how temperament factors in to our responses. We come into the world wired. It’s like coming into the world as a Smart Car or a Chevy Van or a Dodge Charger. We come in with different equipment, different skills, different styles, and different abilities, even though we’re all cars.
Self-knowledge is a necessary predecessor to self-acceptance. But make no mistake. Whatever we learn about ourselves is simply what is. For example, I like people better than animals. I have no patience with “things” and have horrible spatial skills. All these parts of me simply are. However, just because I like people better than animals doesn’t give me the right to kick the cat. Just because I have no patience with things, doesn’t give me the right to destroy “things” which frustrate me. Our preferences and dominant aspects are never excuses. Who we are in our naked, solitary moments is simply an explanation which will help us understand and accept ourselves.
If I’m a Smart Car, I’m going to get passed a lot, but I’m also going to fit into the tightest of parking spaces and save the planet by requiring little fuel. (But where do they put their golf clubs?) If I’m a Chevy Van, I’ll have plenty of room for friends and a comfortable ride, but the friends are going to have to chip in at the gas pump. (Plus, all that room might encourage my hoarding tendencies.) If I’m a Dodge Charger, I can leave everyone in the dust. That could be lonely. Plus, speeding tickets are very expensive.
No car has everything. Every car has something. The purpose of this writing is not to encourage you to figure out what kind of car or house you are. You probably already have a fairly clear idea. The purpose and hope is that you will embrace your uniqueness and your style. I pray you will spend the year, with or without my musings to stir you, seeing yourself through new, welcoming, generous eyes. This is the beginning of 2015, a year I know can be the best year each of us have ever created for ourselves in whatever ways we most need and desire.

Blessings for new beginnings, susan

Blessings for the continuity of photography by Mary Ellen Jelen


January 3, 2015 at 1:13 AM 3 comments

Five Ways to Prepare for 2015: Get Lucky


“Why use bitter soup for healing,” Rumi asks, “When sweet water is everywhere?” PTSD survivors and all of us seeking health and happiness in 2015 (and every day of every other year) will do well to remember Rumi’s question. We have much healing to do individually and in this broken and weary world. We can’t do it by continuing to drink bitter soup. Reveling in our pain, injustices, and victimhood only keep us sick and toxic. No, my friends, instead of continuing to count the ways in which we have been injured and hurt – and we have been, all of us – we need to “Get Lucky.”

Getting lucky is a change in perspective. It catapults us from pity to prosperity. The truth, of course, is that the cup is half full AND half empty. It cannot be one without the other. If you don’t believe me, go get a glass and fill it halfway with water. Nothing can be half full without being half empty. If you still doubt me, watch the sky for 24 hours. It cannot be dark half the time without being light half the time. “Good and bad are mixed,” Rumi reminds us. “If you do not have both, you do not belong with us.”

We have been hurt, and we have been helped. We are wounded, and we are healing. We hold within ourselves the potential to be very, very good and very, awfully bad. When we stay stuck in our victim mentalities, we hurt ourselves and we hurt all those around us. When we focus on our woundedness, we focus on what was done to us. When we focus on our healing, we focus on what we can do. We could not control what was done to us. We have complete power over what we do.

Getting lucky means that we start concentrating on how lucky we are. You know how these things work: kindness begets kindness. Misery loves company. Pretty is as pretty does. Believing ourselves to be lucky begins to create more luck. Good fortune comes to those with eyes to see it, ears to hear it, and a heart to accept it.

Tomorrow, December 28th, is the birthday of my cousin and friend, Karen. Karen has had more loss in her life than the rest of us put together. This year, again, Karen volunteered to work Thanksgiving and Christmas days because, as she bluntly puts it, other people have family to stay home with, so why wouldn’t she go in and work? She says this in a matter of fact way. It is simply the truth to her. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself. In fact, if you ask her, as I have, she’ll tell you she is the luckiest person in the world. I tell her she is the most resilient person I know. And you know what, because of her astonishingly positive attitude, she is the happiest person I know, too. Happy birthday tomorrow, Karen!

Also, tomorrow is the 51st wedding anniversary of my brother and his wife. Skip and Molly began their marriage with a devastating illness that kept them separated and impoverished for their first year of marriage. Many couples would have folded under such a beginning. Let me give you two examples of how Skip and Molly have made their own “luck.” When Molly was offered a job that demanded they relocate, Skip found a job in a neighboring community. When Skip, a music teacher, wanted to play his trumpet in a community band, Molly asked him what instrument would be easiest for her to learn. If he was going to go play in bands, she’d learn the clarinet and go play with him instead of staying home (and feeling sorry for herself?). They consider themselves very lucky. Surely they have been. But they have been instrumental (musical pun) in making their own good fortune. Happy Anniversary!

And December 28th is also the birthday of one of my granddaughters. This particular one would describe herself as the luckiest girl in the world. She doesn’t have the one thing she most wants in the world, a horse, but she is very aware of the riches she does possess. She concentrates on her loving family. She is practically oblivious to the fact that most of her childhood she has been a cancer survivor. She is also matter-of-fact about what the cancer has taken from her. Happy Birthday, sweetie pie!

All of which is to say that when we talk about “getting lucky” we are talking about making a conscious choice to see what we have and to live in a state of appreciation and gratitude. This is more necessary for PTSD survivors than for most of the world because, having been traumatized, it would be all too easy to stay in the trauma state and forget the rest of the name: we are trauma SURVIVORS. The triumph is in the survival. The victim is undergoing the trauma; the survivor has overcome the trauma.

I don’t think many of us feel “lucky” to be trauma survivors, but, of course, we are. There are many trauma victims who don’t survive the trauma. There are many more trauma victims who stay stuck in the trauma for the rest of their lives. Then there is the group of trauma victims (like those reading these words) who choose to use the trauma to learn and grow. “The cure for the pain is in the pain,” Rumi says. Pain of any kind is always a teacher and an opportunity. If we have a stomach ache, we need to figure out what we have eaten which is disagreeable to us. If we have a headache, we need to analyze what stress and tension in our lives is causing our heads to hurt. Louise Hay says when we get a cold it’s because we’re “resistant to change.” When we are achy we are “longing for love, and longing to be held.” Abdominal cramps are a result of “fear,” and alcoholism is “self-rejection.” Every physical sensation we experience has an emotional component, and Louise Hay has broken the code and can translate for us what they mean. And how do you suppose she learned this? She has survived breast cancer twice. She transformed her suffering into wisdom. When she wanted to write about her discoveries and couldn’t find a publisher, she created a publishing company, and now Hay House is one of the premier publishing companies in the United States. Some would say she “got lucky.” She might say “the cure for the pain” is always “in the pain.”

Let’s spend the last days of December 2014 making the mental and emotional shifts which will allow us to enter 2015 lucky, lean, loving, laughing and light. We are going to have the best year of our lives in 2015. Can you feel it? If not, just suspend your disbelief for a little while and come along on the ride. Let’s see how lucky we can get. I remember years ago when someone gave me a card to congratulate me on something, and the card said that “TRY” and “UMPH” were the ingredients in triumph. They’re also the ingredients in luck, which is homemade, handmade and heart made. Let’s get lucky.

Blessings, susan

Luckily, Photography by Mary Ellen Jelen

December 26, 2014 at 11:58 PM Leave a comment

My Trauma Wasn’t Bad Enough for PTSD

“My trauma wasn’t bad enough for PTSD!” I can hear you saying that. Your trauma was just a little trauma. It happened long ago. Or, it didn’t last long. It doesn’t begin to compare with the horror of war. Surely, what happened to you isn’t PTSD.

Well, there are so many things to consider other than what happened. When did it happen. Who was there with you? Who protected you? Who betrayed you? Who abused you? Who neglected you?

One of the predictors of trauma becoming PTSD is trauma which occurred when you were a child (under 18). Children have no way to protect themselves. Take, for example, a little girl who tells her mother that her uncle, her mother’s youngest brother, touched her vagina. “Don’t say that. You can’t say that. Are you trying to get him in trouble? Where’d you even hear about that? You just forget about that, and I don’t ever want to hear you say another bad word about your uncle.”

The stage has been set. She can’t tell, or she’ll be the bad one. She has a secret. And now she has to swallow what she knows and forget that secret. Her uncle has just been given free reign. His victim has been rendered voiceless. 

Children are no stronger and no safer than the adults who protect them. If you, as a child, had unaware, un-protective parents, or even worse, neglectful or abusive or drunk or drugged parents, then you were a target for trauma.

Children who are abused or neglected sexually, physically, or emotionally, or children who are introduced to age-inappropriate materials, like drugs, alcohol or sex, or children to whom horror happens without a responsible adult around to protect them, are children who will come into adulthood with posttraumatic stress disorder. Guaranteed. If this is you, PLEASE be gentle with yourself. You were not kept safe as a child, and now it is up to you to learn to be your own safe keeper.


If this short blog was helpful, come back every week. I’ll be talking about PTSD and its cousins, anxiety and depression. A set of symptoms accompanies each of these and a range of coping skills and healing techniques helps diminish the negative consequences.

Each week I’ll tell stories and share ideas from my professional and personal experiences with PTSD and PTSD sufferers — or, as we prefer to call them: survivors.


August 17, 2013 at 4:24 PM 4 comments

Purchase Susan’s Books by Clicking the Book Below

Book Cover: Many Faces of PTSD

Pillar of Light Foundation

Subscribe To Our RSS Feed

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 221 other followers

%d bloggers like this: