When were working to recover from PTSD , we're introduced to so many paths for healing. Our family doctor, our first step in the process, enters our treatment so inadequately prepared. General practice physicians in western medicine are increasingly brilliant, in my experience, in working with us and our physical body. For the general practitioner, mind issues need a higher-level of care, being very much outside a general physician’s knowledge and scope.
In Canada, (British Columbia) this means accepting the upper-level care of a specialized physician, the psychiatrist.
Psychiatrists are well-versed in chemical treatments for mental health issues. PTSD patients in the care of psychiatry are easily prescribed a cocktail of medicines that psychiatrists deem are helpful. They've years of experience with these medicines, and they do help to stabilize us in the beginning of treatment when options for trauma-informed care have yet to raise a hand.
Psychiatry has a partner, one more difficult, unfortunately, to access. Psychologists are better trained to help us with counseling and other modalities of treatments. These three groups of helpers combine well to balance our over-all care.
Psychologists are currently better trauma-informed than psychiatry seems to be. Those who've made trauma, and resulting conditions such as PTSD and Compassion Fatigue their life's work, have a variety of helpful modalities to fit to our unique understanding and care-planning needs.
Art and Music Therapy; Eye-Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing; Self-Regulation Therapy; and Exposure Therapy, are a few of the modalities, currently employed. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is the modality granted greatest credibility, and combined with Talk Therapy is delivered alongside all the other mentioned treatments available through psychologists today.
Some of us have turned to religion and spirituality, to help us find our way through. Persons with a stronger sense of relationship with a Higher Power are said do much better in trauma treatment and recovery from issues such as, PTSD.
The future holds promise for neuroscientists to become key figures in treating any issues of the mind. Mind issues need what's coming for us next. This is neuroscience-with a goal to complete a full mapping of neuronal activity, relevant to our conditions, firing out of control in the human brain.
Research in neuroscience is helping us to make huge strides in understanding trauma. Thus, this is one reason for such an explosion in understanding in as short a period as the past five years. Organizations such as One Mind for Research, are working hard to simplify access to research. Utilizing an Open-Source philosophy, they hope to collate as many peer-reviewed, scientific research projects as possible for a variety of conditions accessible to us all in one convenient, online place (particularly the illnesses that develop due to trauma & psychological injury).
As the one needing care, it's our responsibility to work our personal trauma recovery on a daily basis. In an ideal scenario, we could perhaps go to a one stop shop for mental health care, as we are able to do quite easily now for most physical injuries. Trauma is a psychologically induced, physical injury to the brain. This fact is coming to greater light in the treatment community; however we're a long way away from looking at trauma and PTSD through any filters relative to injury. Our systems don't yet fully treat the injury as such-we're stuck with the label, and the assumption of mental illness, at least in our time, for now.
Mental health and addictions care is in crisis around the world, as the system now tries to work towards rectifying this crisis. In a recent Psychological First Aid course I completed online, the material states an expected rise in need for mental health services of between 15 and 25% in the coming years.
With limited resources, patients are currently triaged and prioritized in the system according to levels of danger in the patient’s reality. Should we be suicidal, or a threat to others, access to care is immediate. Outside of these acute circumstances often evident in crisis, we are generally added to long waiting-lists, and receive services quite slowly, as we move closer to the top of our triaged position on any waiting-lists.
Trauma-informed care is a welcome catch-phrase receiving lip-service around the world, and this concept is finally inching way into the combined world of treatment. We'll all do much better, once all care-providers necessary in helping ourselves, become fully-and-completely trauma-informed.
Never accept the false-mythology (story) attached to PTSD. It is NOT necessarily a life-long illness. In words shared with me from a psychiatric nurse recently, "PTSD is the only mental illness we are certain now, has a cure." The condition is potentially curable, and the outcome for us as patients holds a very strong potential for us to experience what is now referred to as, Post Traumatic Growth.
Our care-systems still have a long way to go integrating all of these services for us under one roof. I've seen dramatic improvements over the last five years, however services remain uncoordinated and difficult to wade through. We need a care-team fully informed of trauma, all acting in concert to help us to develop and maintain an appropriate care-plan.
For some of us, this requires addictions services as well, having fallen prey to substance use in our efforts over the course of recovery to self-medicate our misunderstood and troubled emotions. To supplement any structured care we receive from the system, many of us have turned to the industry of self-help.
The self-help industry is vast, filled with both survivors and practitioners sharing stories in books written to help us understand our needs. Authors like Michele Rosenthal, Syd Gravel, Anna Baranowsky and Charles Figley - this is just a small representation of authors on the topic I've read over the years. The bookstore here on the blog lists all I've consumed now in my own effort to fully succeed in recovery.
Most of the new-age, self-help material available in the market is helpful to us. Though such material remains far from trauma-informed on the surface, authors such as Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra have much to offer; however we need specialized care and specialized information in order to deal appropriately with trauma. The new-age authors are great sources of information for self-improvement for anyone. Adding them to our mix of guidance post-recovery, with the support of our professionals, certainly hasn't done me any lasting harm.
One of the greatest contributions to date, to assist me personally post-recovery, is the introduction of philosophy into my own mix of additional self-help.
When philosophy first came into my life two years ago, it was through some online education. For the past two years, I've studied university level courses using Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCS). Coursera and other education providers online, do an excellent job bringing the best education covering a variety of interests to the masses for free. Here we can study, pretty much any subject we want to learn about.
Philosophy proved very relevant in helping me find my own way. Not so much the history of the subject, which has lost status in higher-education as a foundation-stone for other subjects, philosophy can rather teach us a key skill necessary in recovery. What we can take-away from this subject, is a model for digesting information that we learn to engage in study through all the knowledge we need to acquire in order to succeed in PTSD recovery.
The greatest benefit of philosophy (any academic study really) is that the process teaches us to critically think. With a known disconnect in the human brain between our reptilian (survival) brain and our prefrontal cortex in PTSD, working on building knowledge is an exercise of great benefit: though difficult to achieve without commitment and some hard work.
Working our brains helps through neuroplasticity to restore the lost connection between the survival, memory and thinking parts of the brain. This is so necessary for us if we are to return to full-functioning in our mental health.
A huge gift came my way this past month, in a book by author,Jules Evans: Philosophy For Life & Other Dangerous Situations: Ancient Philosophy For Modern Problems.
Evans in working to rescue himself from an emotional crisis (he is a PTSD survivor) became fascinated by 'how ideas invented over two thousand years ago can help us today. He interviewed soldiers, psychologists, gangsters, astronauts, and anarchists and discovered the ways that people are using philosophy now to build better lives. Ancient philosophy has inspired modern communities — Socratic cafés, Stoic armies, Epicurean communes — and even whole nations in the quest for the good life'.
"This book is an invitation to a dream school with a rowdy faculty that includes twelve of the greatest philosophers from the ancient world, sharing their lessons on happiness, resilience, and much more. Lively and inspiring, this is philosophy for the street, for the workplace, for the battlefield, for love, for life'. (Philosophy for Life & Other Dangerous Situations, available on Amazon).
The work summed up for me the various philosophies of ancients and contemporaries I was introduced to through academic study in recovery. In Philosophy for Life & Other Dangerous Situations, Jules Evans helpfully covers them all. First published as recently as 2012, Evans sums up for us the works of Socrates, Plato, Heraclitus, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and many others from the ancients.
Evans also covers the familiar philosophies of Jeremy Bentham, Fredrich Nietzche and David Hume. He introduces us to the works of more contemporary figures, such as Robert Nozick, Alasdair MdcIntyre and Michael Sandel. He touches on various useful interpretations of Aristotelian, Epicurean, Socratic, Sophist and Stoic philosophies. Evans does so in a comfortably engaging way, using accessible language allowing his work to appeal to practically anyone.
The greatest contribution Evans makes is in summarizing these various philosophies to help us construct for ourselves a personal guiding philosophy for life. As a PTSD survivor, Evans knows well the heartbreak and confusion of trauma. He clearly points to the value of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in his work, a treatment modality created by Albert Ellis, based upon the philosophy of the Stoics.
We've seen dramatic infiltration of Buddhist philosophy and practice in the mental health treatment community of late. Evans suggests, by introducing us to what is really the concept ofPhilosophical Counseling, teaches that western philosophical principles also hold a valuable place in recovery. Stoic Mindfulness courses are beginning to show themselves, and such courses are becoming available to us and are offered for free, online.
I highly recommend this book, if for no other reason than to begin a learning adventure into the realms of philosophy. As a supporting, self-help addition to any recovery plan, Evans work here, provides us all with great additional medicine.
Darren Gregory is a writer, consultant and educator, specializing in trauma: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gregorydarren
Further Reading & Resources
Darren Gregory, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Primer, 2014: http://www.traumarecoverybc.com/uploads/2/5/7/7/25779192/ptsd_a_primer_darren_gregory.pdf
Internet Resource: BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services: http://www.bcmhsus.ca/
Internet Resource: Palouse Mindfulness: Online Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course: http://palousemindfulness.com/selfguidedMBSR.html
Internet Resource: Stoicism Today: Stoic Mindfulness and Resilience Training (SMRT): http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/stoicismtoday/stoic-mindfulness-and-resilience-training-smrt-course/
Internet Resource: Canadian Association of Philosophical Counselling/Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Canadian-Association-of-Philosophical-Counselling/191857064163495
Internet Resource: Applied Buddhism: Can Buddhism Cure Mental Illness: http://appliedbuddhism.com/2014/04/23/can-buddhism-cure-mental-illness/
Internet Resource: The Albert Ellis Institute: http://albertellis.org/
Internet Resource: What Is Neuroplasticity: http://www.whatisneuroplasticity.com/
Internet Resource: Body Language University: The Reptilian Brain: A Prehistoric Hold-Over, Hiding out in the Human Head: http://www.bodylanguageuniversity.com/public/238.cfm
Internet Resource: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/
Internet Resource: Elements Behavioural Health: Self-Medicating for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: http://www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com/trauma-ptsd/self-medicating-post-traumatic-stress-disorder/
Internet Resource: Dual-Diagnosis.Org: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder & Addiction: http://www.dualdiagnosis.org/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-and-addiction/
Internet Resource: Sample Mental Health Care Plan: Medicare Local: http://www.fmpml.org.au/sites/all/sites/default/files/files/ATAPS_MentalHealthCarePlanSample_2Sep2013.pdf
Internet Resource: Post Traumatic Growth Research Group: What is PTG?: https://ptgi.uncc.edu/what-is-ptg/
Internet Resource: The Open Source Science Project: http://www.theopensourcescienceproject.com/
Internet Resource: One Mind For Research: http://onemind.org/
Internet Resource: Neuroscience News: PTSD: http://neurosciencenews.com/neuroscience-terms/ptsd/
Internet Resource: PTSD Spirituality: http://www.ptsdspirituality.com/
Internet Resource: 1 in 6 Support For Men: Herman's Stages Of Recovery: https://1in6.org/men/get-information/online-readings/recovery-and-therapy/stages-of-recovery/judith-hermans-stages-of-recovery/
Internet Resource: The Trauma Recovery Blog Bookstore:
Anxiety BC: Resources: What is CBT: http://www.anxietybc.com/what-cbt
Taylor & Francis Online: Art & Music Therapy For Trauma Survivors: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08322473.2011.11415547
Trauma-Informed Practice Guide BC, 20 13: http://bccewh.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/2013_TIP-Guide.pdf
College of Psychologists of British Columbia: http://www.collegeofpsychologists.bc.ca/
You MUST Embrace Today - To Grow After Trauma. Ask Dr Anna Baranowsky
Disclaimer: These materials and resources are presented for educational purposes only. They are not a substitute for informed medical advice or training. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified health or mental health care provider. If you have concerns, contact your health care provider, mental health professional, or your community health centre.
Darren Gregory © 2015. All Rights Reserved
Since the dawn of Canada as we've now come to know, since First Contact with Indigenous Peoples and established first with the arrival of our European ancestors, all Canadians have allowed through our ignorance continued acts of cultural genocide towards our Indigenous Peoples.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has graciously defined the issue for us with total, undeniable clarity:
"Physical genocide is the mass killing of the members of a targeted group, and biological genocide is the destruction of the group’s reproductive capacity. Cultural genocide is the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden, and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed. And, most significantly to the issue at hand, families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of cultural values and identity from one generation to the next."
After a six-year investigation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report concluded:
"The Canadian government pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to aboriginal people and gain control over their lands and resources. If every aboriginal person had been 'absorbed into the body politic,' there would be no reserves, no treaties and no aboriginal rights."
The international legal definition of genocide is found in Articles II and III of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Article II describes two elements of the crime:
1) the mental element, meaning the "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such", and
2) the physical element which includes five acts described in sections a, b, c, d and e. A crime must include both elements to be called "genocide."
Article III, describes five punishable forms of the crime of genocide:
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide;
Commissioners have publicly stated that the Government of Canada, and numerous representative institutions of the Christian Church, are complicit in carrying out such acts. Justice Murray Sinclair, in a recently published article, provides his vision directly for Canadians to consider, moving forward as a nation now empowered with a full representation of the truth. To embark fully on our forward journey together, it's evident now we must accept the full perspective of the issues, as outlined in the Executive Summary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Report.
What does this have to do with trauma? This issue has everything to do with trauma, and with a collective need for all Canadians to enter into a period of recovery from this trauma if our nation is to find healing, and full reconciliation.
Any one of us can relate to the suffering our Indigenous People are still living. We know for instance the pain of losing our place in society, particularly if we were once a soldier or first responder. Our employers, peers, governments and the society at large, stigmatizes mental illness. Our own families are lost and unable to accept and recognize our enhanced need for unconditional loving care, and continued direct support through our recovery.
Therefore, because we know what it means inside to live the additional horror of abandonment, at the bequest of our fellow man, we know full-well the pain involved in this issue. Our Indigenous Peoples know this form of human suffering better than any of us. It is a suffering inflicted so deeply upon the human soul. There is nothing worse than to feel less-than in our world, while the rest of society seemingly moves through life effortlessly, striving individually for status as the best. It is a pain most of us here remain unfortunate enough to daily expect. We continue to experience stigmatization, each and every day.
We can preach all we want about the nature of a victim vs. hero mentality in our personal lives. It's clearly evident our Indigenous Peoples are victims of institutional violence imposed with power, and with intent of cultural destruction fully accompanying this ill-intent. We're fully aware that we've allowed our trauma to place us throughout our lives somewhat in a victim's role. Frankly, we need no further reminders of this fact.
Some of us have mistakenly bedded down with our rescuers, and felt the pain when our apparent helpers become our persecutors, often giving up on our ability to recover out of mutually celebrated, misguided, and co-dependent practices of our own. Until we become fully aware of this fact, we are left to live with the patterns in our past-lives filled with lies. There is no difference in the revelations of historical trauma upon our Indigenous Peoples, now before us in full light.
When it comes to this issue, as it is with all adult-persons still struggling with the childhood pain of emotional, physical or sexual abuse, we all can relate to living as an adult-child, wanting desperately to grow up, unable (alone) to find our way. The trauma within our Indigenous Peoples is childhood trauma, the most painful and difficult for any adult-child victim (even as physically grown adults) to fully understand. Many of us have suffered this same trauma, laid upon us in the sacred sanctity of our childhood homes.
Our Indigenous Peoples were institutionally abused, with institutional violence towards them still permeating Canadian Society. Our system of tribal reservations testifies to this truth. The truth of Residential Schools and abuse, outlined in the report, establishes for us only a beginning of the healing-work all in our nation must now employ.
Where we once all thought we were alone with our experience of trauma, the entire country is now with us. To take the issue seriously, we must accept that every Canadian today rides in the exact same, trauma-ridden, rusty boat. We must accept that we individually have a role to play in our collective healing.
If we review any comments attached to articles in social media on the issue, we see a slight hint that this truth comes to the nation as no surprise. The majority of the comments, however, reflect not only revelation, but along with this truth, reflections of a national shame. Such traumatic issues, to be fully addressed, we know from experience can not harbor any shame. Over the years in my own struggle I've resorted to shaming the perpetrators of harm in my own life publicly. I can say from experience, this only serves to shut issues completely down, resulting in spinning-wheels in the mud of continued discontent.
As with our own trauma issues in many work-related cases, the government in this case has had ample opportunity to represent the issue with integrity. Although we received an apology from the Canadian government, and from all leaders of political parties in 2008, the actions in this case speak much louder than these words.
Again, perhaps we can relate. We've all made promises we were unable later to keep, and had promises broken towards ourselves many times. Recovery from trauma is like that. We feel strong one minute, and weak again the next. It takes daily practice for us to ultimately get our recovery right. What we see in terms of action from our government, however, all action beyond the original apology was evidently intended for us to remain, status quo.
'Change is difficult, but change is necessary'. I hate using this man's verbiage, but this is a quote from Horaldo Rivera from a time when his popularity allowed exposure of abuse of persons with disabilities living behind stone walls in a U.S. institution, another school of so-called care named, Willowbrook. As was the situation for many persons with intellectual challenges not that long ago, the Residential Schools housing aboriginal children proved wrought with much of the exact same abuse.
We've moved beyond institutional care for the developmentally disabled. Let's hope, with time, we can establish a new way of life for our Indigenous Peoples, by simply allowing a revival of the lives we all so unconsciously threw away.
Trauma such as this, whipped upon victims with continued institutional violence will likely take generations to heal. Historical and inter-generational trauma results from the forms of abuse imposed upon humans forced to live disconnected from a society they did not ask for, nor can they ever likely fully understand. That the cultural soul of our Indigenous People has survived, is testimony to the resilience we all need to find to manage ourselves emotionally throughout all the tragedies we collectively face in human life.
We've been handed a new scepter of challenge from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. One that we dare not now attempt to ever hand back. The challenge we're collectively asked to accept is one of entering together into a collective choice. We've 94 recommendations to consider. We have a choice now to accept the scepter, and embark on a journey to heal together-this now is what we all must choose to do.
As is the case in our personal relationships, trauma challenges us deeply to accept our personal responsibility for any continued violence we impose, upon ourselves and upon the hearts of those in our lives with whom we share love. As is the case with our individual trauma, on this issue of national pain, it is only love that will conquer the demon in our midst. We know what it means to our survival, to accept recovery as our daily plan. Some of us have been loved through it. May we all in this case, humbly accept the need to do the same.
Let's hope the nation takes heed, against the demon of national shame now frightfully yet fully exposed. Survival, is one thing. Choosing to thrive is, for most of us, something entirely new. Should we choose to run away from this, may the Creator of all, have mercy on our collective soul.
Honoring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015.
Historic Trauma and Aboriginal Healing: The Aboriginal Foundation Research Series, 2004.
The International Alliance To End Genocide: What is Genocide, 2015.
Extra Credit, Kill the Indian to Save the Child, Neonatal Rights, 2012.
The Residential School System, UBC Indigenous Foundations, 2015.
Residential Schools Apology / Excuses pensionnats indiens: Youtube Channel, The Prime Minister of Canada.
Unforgotten: Twenty-Five Years After Willowbrook, FilmRise, 2014.
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9 December 1948.