Friday, October 24, 2014
When Remembering Becomes Reliving
I talk a lot about PTSD on this site because it was the paradigm that felt the most right to me after D-Day. After a friend of mine, who counsels those with PTSD from childhood sex abuse, suggested I was experiencing post-trauma, my response to my husband's infidelity began to make sense. Well, as much sense as PTSD ever makes.
It was a tough sell at first. As I've noted on this site before, PTSD seemed so...dramatic. As if I was exaggerating my experience. PTSD was for veterans and rape victims, domestic abuse survivors and people who fled the Twin Towers.
There's increasing research, however, that PTSD is more common than that. That those of us who experience a sudden, shocking event (infidelity anyone?) can come away with PTSD. Not all of us, of course. But some of us. Too many of us.
PTSD is created, explained the doctor on the radio program, when the feeling we experience during trauma (fear, grief, shame, for instance) becomes linked with certain stimuli (a sight, a smell, a sound).
As the doctor on the radio program put it, the neurons that "fire together, wire together."
It explains why a certain song can suddenly transport us back to that moment of finding out and suddenly our heart is racing, our blood pressure is skyrocketing, our hands are tingling. We're not just remembering the trauma, we're re-living it.
Maybe it's the sight of a certain model car. The voicemail message on a husband's cell phone (which I'd listened to roughly 30 times as I tried to reach him, knowing he was with her). A certain time of year. A snowstorm.
At first, it's normal for the entire experience to feel like a nightmare from which you can't awake. For some of us, however, that feeling lingers...and sometimes gets worse.
While we might become more functional in some ways, we have periods of the day when we're immobilized. When we're flashing back. When we're not remembering what we know but reliving it.
The most important thing to know is that this, under the circumstances is normal. Know also, that it's surmountable. Life will not always feel like a war-zone in which you're unsafe and insecure.
But it's important to get treated so that you can begin to heal. To have memories, including bad ones, without trauma.
Infidelity is so much more devastating than most of us could have imagined. Far more devastating than our culture understands. Unless, of course, you've lived through it.