PTSD is brutal.  Severe dissociation is an elaborate hiding game from yourself.  The most difficult challenge is to choose authenticity in a world that wants you to “Don’t worry, be happy.”  Feeling what you feel when others tell you to ‘fake it until you make it’ is a difficult challenge.  Sometimes I prefer to be home with my feelings then to try to live a socially acceptable lie.  I lived without feelings for years.  Dissociation allowed me to totally disconnect how I felt.  Numbness at a level that no one could reach my authentic self, including me.  My counselor was surprised at how completely I could disconnect from my emotions.  He used anger as a way to get clients talking about their life more openly.  He attempted to make me angry.  He said things that would most likely irritate or upset most people.  It started working with me.  I realized I was getting angry.  I was well trained like a Pavlov dog not to show anger.  I made my anger vanish.  Please, understand it wasn’t really gone.  I would dissociate the emotion and tuck into a mental hiding place.  My counselor stopped when he saw that my anger was gone.  He pointed out that there was no tension in my face.  I was totally relaxed when seconds before I was getting angry.  He then asked the 6 million dollar question, “Where did it go?”  I looked at him blankly.  I didn’t know.  I had no idea how to reach it.  I couldn’t feel anything.  When I shut off my feelings I didn’t just shut off anger.  I shut off hurt, disappointment, frustration, happiness, joy, love in other words the entire spectrum of emotion was stuffed away in little ugly boxes in my mind with ‘do not disturb’ stamped all over it.  To be authentic, I had to disturb those boxes.  I do not recommend this activity without counselor supervision for a reason.  Unfortunately, to reconnect my feelings the ugly, violent emotions came first.  They demanded center stage at every session for weeks…months and sometimes it felt like years.  I finally did reach my authentic self.  Clearing away the puss of years of emotional neglect was painful and frustrating but oh so worth it.  I still remember the first day I felt pure happiness.  I can guarantee you no amount of faking it ever got me to this emotion.  The reward for cutting through the tough stuff is joy.  First, I accepted my own disconnection.  Next, I faced my own emotions, then I accepted that my authentic self was much different from the masks I hid behind. I accepted that who I am was worth the effort of getting through the pain to get to me.  ‘Faking it until I make it’ just slowed down becoming my authentic self.

6 thoughts on “Authenticity

  1. I know numb well. I don’t know dissociation aside from two episodes, the first comforting, the second, terrifying. Both were under extreme stress.
    Even now years later I surprise myself with my own feelings-I don’t have other words to explain this so I’ll use an event. (Hope that’s OK.)
    I live in a remote area surrounded by deep forest on three sides. I love the peacefulness of my little home. Intentionally, when I first moved here I made a decision not to put up curtains because the view with the river across the road was so comforting. Besides, there already were mini blinds (ugh, the bane of my existence 😉 ) if I needed them. There’s tons of wildlife year round, even in the depths of winter and I feed everything that comes through on two legs or four. I love watching the “families” growing up-even if in the warm weather their “habits” destroy my gardens and containers on my patio. I had a “family” of raccoons who have made their home in the woods behind me for generations. They stop off here for appetizers on their way to the river at dusk every eventing. I was sitting on the floor next to the sliding glass door one evening with just the screen separating me from a “Mom” raccoon and her 3 offspring. The little ones had provided a summer’s worth of antics for me, all very curious, one was quite a “handful.” I put my hand on the screen sideways as I was sitting there (I know, DUMB!) and the adventurous one came over, sniffed, sat down and took his little paw and placed it against my hand from the other side. I felt wet on my face. I was silently crying. I just sat there and so did the raccoon who kept his little paw there until I slowly removed my hand.
    It’s never a smart move to mess with wild animals and I absolutely know better. I knew there was still a lot of sadness in me that still needed expression.
    So, I started writing.
    I haven’t stopped.
    It’s the Fall of my life now. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I laugh, always, I remember.
    I’m not existing in numb. I living in my life and with all of it.

  2. Well thank you, Judy. I just saw your response and I was rude-OOPS! Please excuse me. I didn’t see a link for this Blog on Ruth’s other site. Actually, I’m a pretty average old lady. I’ve mentioned some of the nasty stuff but Truth is, there’s been so much GOOD in my life: So much unconditional love, acceptance, laughter etc. I would be completely disingenuous not to give a shout out to so many, many great people/experiences that have come my way over the years. Their Legacy is written on my Heart and always remains, even in the dark times.
    We all have ’em.
    When I’m plunked right in the middle of those times it’s hard to believe there really *is* any thing else. Just as the good times or moments are fleeting in the big picture, the hard and dark times pass too. More slowly than I would wish yet sometimes, we’re in the right place at the right time as well. That’s a real cause for joy-even that quiet, “Oh yeeeaahhh!”
    Acceptance is a long, tough task-master. I don’t think it ever really “ends” until we do on this earth. Justice isn’t found in this world-at least not in the way we think it “should be.” Uncertainty breeds patience and introspection. Unconditional love heals unconditionally.(<You and your DSis, Ruth!)
    Thanks again!

    If you'd like, please "visit" one of my very old friends and colleagues, Frank Ockberg-he has some youtubes I think you'd enjoy. IMO/experience, he's a living example of unconditional love and compassion, absolutely one of the most knowledgeable, humane beings I've ever had the pleasure of meeting and working with. We both started out with Vietnam Combat Vets decades ago because, well, who wants to deal with angry, hostile peeps?! And we raised our proverbial hands. (Oh.MY!!) He definitely gets PTSD as well as c-PTSD. Most importantly, he gets the experience of Survivors. I absolutely understand your frustration re: resources for Trauma that's not Military related, Ruth. Frank and I were frustrated by the lack of ANY resources aside from Holocaust Survivors when we started out too, but now there's tons of stuff-I I don't want to overwhelm you with civilian resources, OK? At least, not yet 😀 I see he has a short youtube on NPs etc. so it's not all combat related by a long shot.
    Anyway, will the APA acknowledge c-PTSD? BWHAHAHAAA!!!<That's gallows laughter 😉 This is the same organization that offered absolutely NO "explanation" for jerking *any* reference to "Shell Shock" or "War Neurosis" out of the DSM right at the height of the Vietnam War in '68. (Ya think that might have been "political?!") I'm still working (volunteer-I've had a coupla strokes) with Combat Vets and it's like watching Viet Nam redux: I'm beyond description horrified and (pardon me) pissed off for these men.
    Which is a good thing. Really. Moral outrage channelled tenaciously in the right direction at the right people can change lives. Maybe we'll never be able to make whole, but we CAN pass on some After Action Reports, Lessons Learned etc. and help in some small way. Every day offers opportunity for change and transformation for ourselves and others. The wounds to the human spirit bring us all to our knees: Trauma is a universal, equal opportunity experience/leveler. As I said, sometimes we're just in the wrong place at the wrong time. That's all.
    IMO and experience there's no "them" and "us." There absolutely is greatness in all of us-you, Ruth, these men, me, we all have it. Sometimes we just don't see it but it's still there, even when it *seems* we've checked out 😉 I know you get that, just passing a little more confirmation of that unseen but nonetheless very real phenomena.
    Thanks again, Judy. Perhaps Ms. Ruth will put a link to this Blog on her other Blog if I ask nicely?! Ms. R? Would you please put a link for old stoke peeps (ohh, I'm unabashedly pandering-to meeee!) who get lost in cyberspace?
    Either way, thank both of you. I truly enjoy observing your sisterhood-and yes, there is some *envy* in that statement! And I do think you'll like Frank-he might be a good "addition" for your PTSD/Trauma Blog. See what you think, of course-just a suggestion, OK? Thank you.
    PSS: Ruth, Your picture a few posts back after the go-round with the "Parents" of the (I think it's in the genus) Ape where you wrote "Really" under the picture? THAT was a Masterpiece! (And a coffee-out-of-the-nose/there goes my screen moment! THANKS!!)

    • Link added on my other blog as requested. I appreciate more information and will look up Frank. I do believe that we can help each other. I agree with FrogLogic, we need to build our teams and I do believe TW you are one of my team members along with my sister.

  3. Thank you again for the link!
    I’d be honored to be a part of the Team-we really are “All In This Together.” (That’s a reference to a song by the same title.) And together we’re a pretty formidable force for good, for honoring what happened to each of us and what we can do-and expect-along this journey.
    I had no idea Ruth you didn’t know for so many years you were grappling with a Trauma Response. Aiye! I thought more info was out there and widely available. OTOH, I’ve often heard from others, “I just thought I was nuts…” I’ve seen many responses to the symptoms of Trauma (particularly in this area) of the use of alcohol and other drugs to self medicate. Which makes a lot of sense, actually: If you were living with nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, depression, dissociation etc. and you found ex: drinking (which is legal) ameliorated the symptoms, would you be drinking? Or eating chocolate?!-you know what “works” for you, Ruth! OHYEAH! We all find ways to deal. Maybe they’re not the “healthiest,” but we use what we have and by trial and error, we’ve found something(s) that make life a bit more tenable.

    IMO, we’re very resourceful people. I don’t think we would have survived if we weren’t.

    PTSD and c-PTSD are normal responses to horrible or crazy situations. No living organism is meant to live with unrelenting stress, particularly where we are absolutely powerless and our most primal Fight or Flight response has been disarmed completely. We’re just not built that way. When you mentioned a few posts back on your other Blog you weren’t sleeping Ruth and you were going to look for a new T, my first thought was, “Good. She’s made an appointment for a Tune-Up, so to speak.” It’s not at all uncommon for symptoms to wax and wane. Look at the go-round you just had with your parents: That alone is essentially priming the pump.
    And *then* you ended up with that nightmare of a T-just saw this today on your other Blog. I’m furious for you, Ruth. Her invalidation of you and your experiences is stunning and totally unacceptable. It sounds as if she didn’t even “bother” to make the effort to get your previous records and review them. Trauma survivors are universally crushed by invalidation in large part because we’ve been the recipients of so much of the same. (Again, experience trumps words any day.) When we finally find the courage to speak about our experiences it doesn’t take much to get us to shut up and shut down. Worse yet, it can re-traumatized the already traumatized and the symptoms flare even more.
    Indirectly this is the Theme I was referring to in my other Posts: We DO know what happened. Maybe not in it’s totality (in part because we’ve packed our Black Bags) but *we do know.* If someone can not or will not suspend their world view of rainbows and lollypops, Trauma survivors are not here to challenge your cherished beliefs: At the very least, get out of the way. Maybe you can contact your previous counselor (KeevinCoach knows you well) and ask for a referral?
    To be disbelieved is a crushing experience. IMO, that’s a major reason why we don’t talk about even that which we do remember because our previous experiences have resulted in disbelief or invalidation. It’s bad enough when it occurs with others; it’s devastating when it happens with a “Professional.”
    I’m so sorry. Once again, words fail….
    We’ll just continue to move forward despite them. (Insert your Masterpiece picture!)

    • At one time, I would have been crushed and silenced. Now, I am mad and turning this to intensify my motivation to keep writing this website. If it is all right with you TW, I would like to use part of your comment about PTSD and c-PTSD on another post. I have an interview about Frank up on my computer. More information and leads to others that understand PTSD is always appreciated. Lack of information or too much information scattered everywhere makes finding answers a challenge. The sleep challenge is not new for me. I found some interesting pages on Yoga basics that I am going to study on my own. Thank you for joining my team. I am deeply appreciate your support, information, and sharing your perspective. Thanks.

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