Few people are aware that for the past 2 months I have been diligently taking myself off to therapy for the PTSD and associated anxiety that has hampered my best efforts to lead a happy and peaceful life. I never shared the news because I was worried that if the treatment failed, I would need to share that failure too and I feel I have had enough letdowns of late to last a lifetime.
Now that I am about half way through the Somatic Experiencing therapy, I am ready to tell you about it.
I first learned about Somatic Experiencing through my best friend who was worried that I was suffering from PTSD long before I was properly diagnosed. He told me to go and read the book Healing Trauma by Peter A Levine, so I did. But I found it really hard to read. At times some of the words brought up feelings that I was desperately trying to bury in an attempt to be normal. I searched for a therapist who did Somatic Experiencing in my area but couldn’t find anyone. Eventually, I forgot about the therapy and just continued on with medication to help me sleep and stay calm.
Fast-forward to 3 years later when I was driving on the Bruce Highway in crazy Easter Monday traffic when the most horrific car accident occurred in front of me. Cars caught on fire and people died. For me, every fear I have about driving was right there in front of me. My panic triggers fired off as emergency services sped past my car and a rescue helicopter flew in overhead.
Eventually, the traffic was redirected and I got home 3 hours later via a detour. As I drove, I had little control of my mind as it raced along making no sense and my body felt like it was edging on one hell of a panic attack the entire time . Actually, I don’t even know how I drove home. It was a blur.
Later, I was explaining how I was feeling to a couple of girlfriends in our private messenger chat when one of them suggested I get into bed with a cup of warm tea and consider counselling (again). It was the first time in a long time that I didn’t instantly put up a defence to counselling. I had finally realised that I couldn’t’ keep battling this thing alone.
My friend went on to tell me about a psychologist in town that does Somatic Experiencing therapy for trauma and maybe she could help me. As soon as I heard those words I remembered the book I had tried to read on the topic and how I always felt that the reason I found the book hard to absorb was simply that it was the therapy I very much needed.
The following day I made an enquiry to start the SE therapy.
Two months later now and with really only skimming the surface of the trauma that sits behind my PTSD, I am feeling much more empowered. I am beginning to not live in fear of triggering a panic attack and in fact I am not even avoiding situations that might trigger me anymore.
Somatic Experiencing has taught me about how my body reacts and the physical indicators for when I am starting to become stressed. It is teaching me how I can self-regulate myself before I hit catastrophe too.
All of this self-awareness has been tough, and at times just lately, very depressing. To suddenly be aware of all the moments I am fighting panic and anxiety when in the past I would’ve pushed the feelings aside, is extremely confronting
This therapy is also very gently, taking me to my darkest memories of trauma and replacing those impressions with good ones. This is hard too, but I feel safe and my stubbornness doesn’t want to stop until I feel totally ok with all things in my past.
The other mighty challenge for me is the realisation that the traffic accident I believed triggered this PTSD was only one incident in three where my life was challenged in a car. And whilst that last car accident was by far the biggest, that crashing sound I hear over and over in my head when driving or in a night terror isn’t just from the car that hit me 3 years ago, but also from two other cars that hit me over the course of 30 years. The first being when I was only 13.
Big stuff to delve into for someone that has always lived by the ‘mind over matter’ mantra.
I will talk more about Somatic Experiencing as I progress further through it and really urge anyone that is suffering from PTSD to find a qualified SE Therapist to help them.
If you would like to learn more about Somatic Experiencing you can read more here.