Day 3: What treatment or coping skills are most effective for you?
It has been a long journey for me and it is not quite over yet. I am not sure it ever will be. Beginning when I was in my twenties. I am in my forties now. To answer this question is more complex than I thought it might be and so I will put rationale beside how I determined if something was effective and why. I will also skip some of the less significant attempts to find “the” cure.
Drawing therapy: I have experienced a lot of counselling modalities and some have been helpful and others … not so much. When I was first in therapy I was talked into trying drawing therapy. This proved to be a miss match for me. I just picked a black crayon/felt and blotted out the page. I had no idea what my pain or trauma looked like or how I could draw it. It was all consuming so a black page pretty much covered it.
Oddly, I now find Adult Colouring books very relaxing and enjoy the activity. Probably because I can colour within the lines but still struggle to create those lines myself.
Replacement therapy: Not sure what its called but its when you “imagine” the person who abused you is the cushion in front of you. You then talk to them (yeah the pillow) and punch it or whatever, to excise anger or any emotion that arises. I just found it daft and so fake that I couldn’t really get into it. It was not helpful to me.
CBT: I began and ended CBT in 2014. I thought this was the way for me because it seemed really clinical and I would not be able to avoid it. I liked the thought of approaching the solution with homework and a set curriculum, I am a great student so why not? Unfortunately, I am so disconnected that I didn’t know what I was thinking or if I was (that remains a question that I have). I failed at CBT or rather it didn’t fit me.
Medication: I have always had problems with medications. The slightest change in dose would hugely magnify my side effects. Or if I could manage to keep taking them I experienced a “zombie – like” existence. If you want an authentic zombie look, take some of the medications I have been put on. You may not even need make up.
I am now on a combination of three medications (from late 2014), all low dose and its slowly working for me. I still experience depression but most of the time I am relatively calm, which is a new experience for me. People tell me that I am calmer than they have ever noticed before. Those medications are: Effexor, Quetiapine and Mirtrazapine. I additionally have Lorazepam for those really bad panic moments.
It isn’t perfect, I am still struggling but compared to what happened before their combination it was hell. I was often suicidal from the hopelessness and torment of my every moment. I am still me and if you peruse my blog you can see my creativity is still present. Possibly the poetry will get a little less bleak or dark.
The psychiatrist I currently have is excellent. She is holistic and she actually listens to me. Maybe it is because she is my first female psychiatrist ( I would hope not but some of them were very MALE in their ideas of women and what my goals in life should be). Or maybe (and I like this maybe better), it is because I was ready to actually address my life and sort it out. I honestly gave the medications a try, rather than trying to think myself out of the situation.
Mindfulness: I am working my way through with this. It is a constant effort, which can be equally painful and enjoyable. I like aspects of it like the body scan to actually experience what is happening in my body rather than needing an xray to tell me if its broken. I am very disconnected from my body and often end up in an ambulance, not realising that I was sick and getting sicker.
I find the grounding component of mindfulness really helpful to live in the moment, rather than continuing to dwell in the past. It helps in panic attacks and if a flash back hits. I like really experiencing the now, because like my body that experience has suffered a disconnect due to the previous trauma and consequences. Half the time I can fail to fully realise my age or where I am and mindfulness reduces that.
I got in an argument on Facebook about positive thinking. The gist was I felt it would’t harm the person posting constantly about their losses to change what they thought and wrote. Someone else felt that it was like telling a diabetic to think their way out of a sugar coma. But I did not mean that positive thinking would in any way cure a person but it could help. Trying it might not hurt either, so why not try.
I believed it might help with their mood. The past was not going to change but maybe stopping dwelling on it might help. It could also offer possibilities for help, as the past was not going to be changed. He could not regain what he had lost or replace it, the only way forward was grieving and moving in that direction.
It sounds harsh but I wrote from my own experience. I had lived so much in the past that I forgot to live in the present. I lost a lot of things that were important to me, including my career and much of my self respect. So now I am trying to think and do what I need in the moment. To build toward a future that I can enjoy, be productive and live in.
One last topic, that of Denial/Repression: For many of the years leading to 2014 and my final break with the past, I have worked hard at a career I loved. I did so by denying or repressing anything that was contrary to that. I would label it all under PTSD and just soldiered on. Until the day I finally couldn’t.