Living the Gentle Life Part 1

“Be gentle with yourself.  The rest of your life deserves it.” (Sandra L. Brown, MAPost Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a trauma-related anxiety disorder. PTSD is often seen as an aftermath symptom of Pathological Love Relationships. Exposure to other people’s pathology can and often does, give other people stress disorders, including PTSD. Our systems are simply not wired for long term exposure to someone else’s abnormal psychology. Often the result is a series of aftermath symptoms that include PTSD which is described as ‘a normal reaction to an abnormal life event.’ Being with a narcissist, socio or psychopath is definitely an ‘abnormal life event.’

PTSD’s profound and long term effects create what I refer to as a ‘cracked vessel.’ The fragmentation caused by the trauma creates a crack in the emotional defense system of the person. While treatment can ‘glue the crack back together’ and the vessel can once again function as a vessel, if pressure is applied to the crack, the vase will split apart again. This means, that the crack is a stress fracture in the vessel—it’s the part of the vessel that is damaged and weakened in that area.

There are numerous types of therapies that can help PTSD. If you have it, or someone you care about has it, you/they should seek treatment because it does not go away by itself and many people don’t realize that if left untreated, it can worsen. People often have missed the opportunity of treating PTSD when it was still relatively ‘treatable’ and responsive to therapy. The sooner PTSD is treated, the better the outcome. But any treatment can still help PTSD.

However, what is often not recognized is the ‘continual’ life that must be lived when living with the after effects of PTSD. Because the cracked vessel can re-crack again, a gentle and balanced life will relieve a lot of the PTSD symptoms that can linger. I have often seen people who have put a lot of effort into their recovery NOT put a lot of effort into the quality of a gentle life following treatment. This is a mistake because going back into a busy and crazy life can re-fragment the PTSD. As much as people want to ‘get back out there’ and think they can return to the life they use to live, often that’s not true. ‘Wanting’ to be able to live or do what you did before does not mean that you will be able to.

Consequently, many people’s anxiety symptoms returned. Much like a 12 Step program, ‘one day at a time’ is necessary and understanding your proclivity for re-activated PTSD must stay foremost in your mind.

Living the gentle life means reducing your exposure to triggers that can re-activate your PTSD. Only you know what these are…if you don’t know, then that’s the first order of therapy–to find your triggers. You can’t avoid (or even treat) what you don’t know exists.

Triggers are exposure to emotional, physical, sexual, visual, auditory, or kinesthetic reminders that set off anxiety symptoms. This could be people, places, objects, sounds, tastes, or smells that reconnect you to your trauma. Once you are reconnected to your trauma, your physical body reacts by pumping out the adrenaline and you become hyper-aroused known as hyper vigilant.

This increases paranoia, insomnia, startle reflex and lots of other over-stimulated and anxiety oriented behaviors.

Other triggers that are not trauma-specific but you should be on the alert for are violent movies, TV, or music, high noise levels, life style/jobs/people who are too fast-paced, ‘busy’ environments, risky or scary jobs, bosses or co-workers who have personality disorders and are abrasive, or any other situation that kick-starts your anxiety.

Women are often surprised that other people’s pathology now sets them off. Once they have been exposed to pathology and gotten PTSD from this exposure, other pathology can trigger PTSD symptoms. Living ‘pathology free’ is nearly mandatory–to the degree that you can ‘un-expose’ yourself to other known pathologies.

The opposite of chronic exposure to craziness and pathology would be the gentle life. Think ‘Zen Retreat Center’ — a subdued environment where your senses can rest…where a body that has been too pumped up with adrenaline can let down…a mind that races can relax, the video flash-backs can go on pause, fast-paced chest panting can turn into long/slow/deep diaphragmatic breathing, where darting eyes can close, where soft scents soothe, and gentle music lulls, where high heels come off and flip flops go on…where long quiet walks give way to tension release…where quieting of the mind chases off the demons of hyperactive thinking….where when you whisper you can hear yourself.

Only, this isn’t a retreat center for once a year…this is your life where your recovery and your need for all things-gentle, are center in your life. It doesn’t mean you need to quit your job or move to a mountain, but it does mean that you attend to your over-stimulated physical body. Those things in your life you can control such as the tranquility of your own environment need to be. Lifestyle adjustments ARE required for those who want to avoid reactivated anxiety. This includes psychological/emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual self care techniques.

The one thing you can count on about PTSD is when you AREN’T taking care of your self your body will SCREAM IT! Your life can not be the crazy-filled life you may watch others live. Your need for exercise, quiet, healthy food, spirituality, tension release, and joy are as necessary as oxygen for someone with PTSD. Walking the gentle path is your best guard against more anxiety and your best advocate for peace.)