I experienced an awakening, starting back in May of 2014. Six months prior, I was suicidal. Finding a new friend back in October of 2013, one who has also tasted the internal wrath of PTSD, I was convinced I'd finally found my path to full healing. This was not to be. I've now experienced a relapse, feeling like a free-fall backward in time.
A year has gone by since I sat in sessions with a therapist in Vancouver. EMDR (Eye-Movement Desensitization and Repossessing) was successful for me in addressing some of the traumatic issues in my past. Life-experience alone had created some of these experiences. The majority of my suffering with this condition is the consequence of my work as a rural paramedic in Canada.
EMDR helped to put to rest many troubling calls from my past employment and touched on some life-experiences contributing to my suffering. I can now comfortably call up memories or speak to these calls without feeling a full negative physiological response in my body. Granted some emotional relief, after almost twenty years of emotional unraveling in my life, I was convinced my healing was the ticket to the future I was looking for.
In terms of employing myself further ahead in time, I'd always done my best to incorporate my trauma experience into action. Meaning, I want desperately to make lemon-aid out of the lemons PTSD vomited at me to deal with in life.
I returned from EMDR treatment with intention. I found a course that could certify me to teach the masses about traumatic stress and the injury such experience causes us in the brain. I studied Psychological Trauma, PTSD and Compassion Fatigue. Included in this training I learned Psychological First Aid concepts to prepare to assist others in recovery.
This study went so well, I was able to pursue university level studies in addition to traumatology certification courses. I dove right in. Studying first Philosophy and Marine Science, I added English Composition and American History to the mix. I also studied Psychology, Mental Health and Addictions to round out a few months of much needed mental stimulation.
From January through July, I felt steady improvement of my symptoms. All subjects I chose to study supported the trauma courses I needed to complete for certification. The joy of Marine Science was something I chose to study, just for me.
An employment service who took me in some time ago, covered the costs of the trauma education and EMDR treatments. The other classes were available online to study for free. The employment service granted further gifts for my recovery as well. A local therapist was available to teach me Emotional Self-Regulation to further address trauma lingering inside my psyche.
With this therapist, I addressed many further traumatic issues. Some came up as a surprise. Some, from my paramedic work I was fully aware had caused me inner-harm. As the ten sessions granted progressed, I witnessed what my education taught me would come into the light.
Like a shadow melting off a wall, bringing the provocateur of the shadow's true-self into realities view. Compassion Fatigue and Care-Giver Burn-Out was taking-root in my partner and in my mother.
Financial struggle had forced us to spend a year living under the same roof. They'd both now lived in the face of my once hidden behavioral experiences. Our life together as I recovered allowed them to let-go of their own long-developing pain.
We all came to the same resolution. They could no longer carry me through my recovery. They both, have done quite enough. The need for financial supports triggered a relapse. A full-blown flashback into my past and my struggles with my employer and our compensation system here in BC.
Never, be fooled. Traumatic Stress Injury, PTSD and Addiction will vicariously traumatize those living closest to us. Like a ripple forms in water after dropping a stone into a well. Traumatic life-experience ripples outward. Trauma impacts the lives of so many that we love when we are personally struck.
The ripples of trauma spread away from our own stone shell to ultimately impact our families, friends, our community and the nations we live with. We are the first injured, perhaps. Those touched with our injury are vast in number. The ripples of our trauma experience ultimately splash as waves upon all of humanities shores. Therefore, I would argue. Traumatic experience in one, eventually impacts us all.
I suppose to understand this concept fully, I needed to study and find recovery long enough for my two angels in life to teach me of the rippling issue of traumatic experience. I learned of Compassion Fatigue as a witness. Watching my two remaining earth-angels, deteriorate emotionally over that year we spent confined together in trauma's financial-prison. I now hold greater empathy for those burdened along with us. Those carrying extra weight upon themselves for our personal, financial and psychological needs in recovery.
With this relapse, I've come to rest once again in life knowing through direct experience the issues of the conditions that haunt so many in this world. The mental-health conditions called Depression, Anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Addictions and Compassion Fatigue. Through the School of Hard-Knocks, and through much academic study. I can now fully appreciate the complexity of them all.
My recovery journey has led me through many things in life. Loss of family, career. Loss of my home and close relationships. Much loss remains inside today, waiting patiently for a full experience of grief. Recovery from trauma has it's high and low points to deal with. Sometimes, we're asked to ride an emotional roller-coaster frequently across a single day.
I'm attempting to remain happy today with my life. Regardless of all the suffering PTSD can bring, I've chosen to embrace it. To challenge the demon. To allow myself to actually feel the pain. To learn all I can and share my education with others along the way. We learn to do what we can. As someone before me has eloquently shared:
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. ~ Theodore Roosevelt.
I continue to make this choice. The choice to remain alive to experience each and every day granted to me on this earth. Suicide is not an option for me, as some have so tragically chosen to do.
I'm proud of myself for achieving this much.
With this temporary set-back still active. I want to share a tool given to me in the beginning of this latest round of suffering from Dr. Anna Baranowsky. This is what I've learned through my writing absence this past month. This process is called, "Loving-Kindness Meditation".
The central purpose of the practice is to seek and deliver in your personal inner-space, feelings, attitudes and actions of loving-kindness and compassion towards others and towards self. Loving-kindness for our partner. Loving-kindness for our immediate family, extended family and close friends. Loving-kindness towards the Earth, all humanity and wildlife. Loving-kindness for our entire lives and for the Universe itself.
This is a deep practice taking patience and dedication to work through. The ultimate purpose of the meditative experience is to feel, in our body-with our emotions, loving-kindness and compassion towards ourselves.
To start the practice, please review the writing from an earlier blog that teaches Breath- Work. As with all meditative practices. The place to start with Loving-Kindness Meditation is with the breath. Take a few minutes to review this writing to re-familiarize yourself with breath-work or to practice this technique with yourself for your first time. Breath-Work alone can do much for us in leveling-off any building feelings of anxiety we may suffer with day-to-day.
To start the Loving-Kindness Meditation, I take in four deep, cleansing breaths and ask God to support my healing efforts. I simply lay still, find comfort, practice the breathing and begin.
At first, I use the phrase: "I send loving-kindness to my partner". I choose her because it is quite easy to have this feeling for her. She is now, simply my best friend. I repeat the phrase, throughout the breathing, silently to myself.
Sometimes, I'll play some quiet music to fill the room. Sometimes, I'll choose to work through this practice with ambient silence. I suggest you make this practice personal. Use whatever helps to calm you and relax you into the experience.
Soon, as I continue with this phrase, a face or name of someone-else close to me will come into thought. I use this change to shift the phrase, repeated silently to myself inside. For example, a thought of my mother may come into my space. So I then shift the phrase to her: "I send loving kindness to my Mom."
Then, perhaps my children will come up. Followed soon after by others in my extended family. Perhaps friends or old work-colleagues. I allow whomever enters my thinking to then become the focus of the phrase. I continue this until the well of thought, seemingly runs dry of the easy people in my life to love and feel compassion for.
Then, I choose a shift. I shift to thoughts of people in my life who may have harmed me in some way. I shift to names of agencies I've battled and lost wars with over time. I shift to names of people who made decisions that caused me pain. I practice then, sending loving-kindness and compassion to them. Over the course of a month, sending love to my perceived enemies in life, grew easier and easier to maintain.
Then, I choose a final shift towards the most difficult person in my life to love. After growing more comfortable in allowing my enemies slowly over-time into my reflective inner-space. I shift the concentration of the meditation, directly towards myself. It amazes me still, how difficult this is to do.
I may repeat the phrase, only once and feel the resistance mounting inside. I don't question why. I don't attempt to figure the resistance out in any way at all. I simply repeat the phrase, coming to rest when my allotted meditation time has passed. The resistance to self-love. I'm learning this is seemingly forever strong.
Today, my meditation time is usually around thirty minutes. I always end with the first person I used to start the meditation. Shifting back to my best-friend, a person I find very easy right now to love, allows the expression of loving-kindness and the feelings that go along with this thinking in my body to return.
This is a brilliant practice. One I now cherish and use daily to help me further along recovery's way. Self-love, they tell me, is the most difficult of all love to foster inside. It doesn't really matter to me why this is so. Even though I have identified sources in my life of such thinking. Shifting the old-patterns of thought. This is truely what meditation practice is all about. Practicing in meditation, sending compassion and loving-kindness to self. This will simply take some more time. I'm good with that.
So, I choose to abide with time and allow the practice to unfold as it will. I choose not to hinder the practice. Nor, do I choose to push expectations of outcome upon it's head. I simply keep practicing.
As Daniel Coyle would suggest, to find the sweet-spot of loving-kindness and compassion for self along the way. I'll simply keep working at it. Ultimately,I believe. Through trauma, we all need to learn to love the most difficult of all in life. We need desperately in recovery to learn to love deeply, our inner-self.
Please, give this practice a try. I'll share in the video portion of the blog the piece from Dr. Baranowsky that set me on this path. As always, my friends. Choose to maintain the best practice of all we must master in life.
However you choose to travel along your own recovery journey. Tools such as this can help to stay on your own path of Being Well.
Darren Michael Gregory: November, 24th, 2014
Self-Compassion Reflection: Dr. Anna Baranowsky
Courtesy The Trauma Treatment Online Coach Program
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 © 2014: All Rights Reserved
Certified: Community & Workplace Trauma Educator Traumatology Institute.
Associate Member American Academy Of Experts In Traumatic Stress.