Trauma: Exposure Therapy or Salt on Wound?

Caveat Lector or Warning to the Reader:

Although it is only 10:30pm, I seem to be falling into dreamtalk as I write this…I must be sleepier than I know, and half asleep or falling asleep every so often as  I write. I say this because I came to a couple of times already, only to find a paragraph of weird gobbledygook on my post. If this happens again, and I do not recognize it until tomorrow, forgive me for sleeping and writing this with the consciousness of a bad dream only. I plan to proofread this entire thing tomorrow, just to vet what I did write.

The subject of this post says it all. I have been exposing myself to “the problem” ruthlessly for months now, and to no avail. I still suffer from the same symptoms of what would be PTSD (had not the good doctors redefined the word “trauma”) and I cannot in truth say that they are any better. Yes, I do remember a little bit of what happened, more than I did before (for those who do not understand the reference, see my Oct 7, 2011 post titled “Psychiatry and Authority: Restraints Update”). At least it can be recalled to me by other means and I can assent to it with some sense of Yes, I do remember that happening…But as to the tears and trembling and heart racing etc I see no improvement, and if no- improvement after these many months of self-treatment is less than to be expected, then I would say that not only has exposure therapy not helped me, it has made things worse. Rather than being literally therapy, it has only added “insult to injury” or as I put it, laid salt on the wound.

I do not know what to do about this. I find myself irritable, even irascible, especially with family members who I believe did not care enough to rescue me from the clutches of malignancy when they knew it was going on. Indeed, they in fact did not either care or do so. But that is the same old story and I can beat myself over the head with their inadequacies as family members, or I can simply wave them away as inadequate in such matters and go on…Ah, but how to go on? How do I continue to live despite these horrendous feelings and constant on-the-verge tears? Even Dr C seems at a loss, though I am not sure why. Surely she must have dealt with trauma — or “trauma-like situations” (since this wasn’t Katrina or the tsunami, so by definition it wasn’t trauma…) before now. Surely she ought to know what to do about this situation. Why then does she seem so helplessly unable to tell me what to do or to help me get over this? Why won’t she give me any advice or help? I can barely go on some days and yet she never offers anything but a mirror to myself, to what I might think or feel. I tell you, I can hear the professional technique in her voice sometimes, even as I fall for it.

Yet I really like her and I don’t know why. Is it because she does NOT order me around the way Dr O did? Is it because she is NOT authoritarian and directive the way Mary was? I dunno I just know that she listens to me and takes me seriously, does not consign every idea I have to the dustbin of delusion as Dr O (Mary) did.

Nevertheless, I still do not know what to do or how to get over this problem, and even though the OPA has decided in my favor and is sending my case on to the the Dept of Public Health for further action, even that doesn’t relieve me or help my anxiety and anguish abate. Why should it? What is done is done, and the consequences are as they are. My problem is how to go on, how to survive, how to deal with the result and get on with life. But so far I have not figured out how. Despite my talk of forgiveness and acceptance, I have not reached that state yet, not perfectly, not even adequately. If I had I would not be so torn apart. I believe in forgiveness as the healer of all, but when push comes to shove, I cannot seem to take my own advice any more than most other people can.

 

Yet I see that I resent so very much and it does not all have to do with the restraints issue. Some of it is much larger and concerns a general anger or resentment towards how certain people and family members have treated me  over these past decades, issues that have not even yet been resolved. This — my anger — doesn’t endear me to anyone, and it solves nothing to go there, to decide and then rage against whoever did “this” to me.

 

I do go there, of course, or I wouldn’t be complaining of how they tortured me. I torture myself with these things. And I get irate and start sobbing and write angry emails that likely no one understands the genesis of, though I make the assumptions that they will be obvious to the person on the receiving end. Yet the grievances are real. It is just that it is useless to bring them up, not so much with others as for me. What good does it do to cry over what happened twenty or thirty years ago, even if it continues to happen now with the same person? I ought to have learned something over those intervening years and that is that the person is not going to change and that their injurious nature, their manner of hurting me is going to continue no matter what I do or say to them. Either they do not care or they simply have no idea or understanding of the impact of what they do or say (or do not do or say) has on me. But in the end it is I who must continue, must soldier on, and I should have learned to do so without their support or confidence.

 

I have, I have. It is just that a little improvement in things fooled me yet again into expecting real change, a real difference, a genuine affection and positive behavior towards me. Instead, in both cases, I get the same old,  same old, just dressed up in affability and pretend benevolence until I cross them. In one case, it is egregious, and the reaction is fury, the greater the truth I point out, the more massive the indignation and rage. In the other case, the sheer oblivion to the hurt caused is cause for massive hurt itself. And both people continue to pang me today, either on purpose or because they cannot help it. In the one case, I believe it is in fact deliberate. In the other, perhaps not so, but from personal weakness. I can try to forgive the latter, but the former is just too galling and it behooves me to stay the hell away from that person…as that is the best I seem to be able to do to protect myself at this point.

 

Well, without respect to the above discussion, which was vague in the extreme because I do not believe I have real privacy here and you never know who might linger around to read, despite all that, I want to show you a new piece of art I did over the last two days. As art it is nothing, though it is the first time I have attempted a scene with multiple “characters” actively engaged in physical activity, so in that sense it was st least personally challenging. But the scene itself may be instructive, if horrifying to some people.

 
I am only going to post the initial sketch and the final version, plus some details from the drawing as it is good to get a closer look at parts of it that a monitor-size photo cannot give you. The original is at least 24″ by 17″ so it is reasonably large and has room for more details than my usual 11″ by 14″ drawings.

 

Just had to erase a paragraph of complete “dreamtalk” here, and fearing that I may descend to such incomprehensible language again, I will hereby cease and desist in the verbal production department and just upload the two photos. First the sketch and then the final colored pencil product. Both are very closely connected with the trauma that I wrote of at the outset and the drawing was part of my next attempt to “expose” it out of me. Whether it did or did not, I will find out on Jan 6 -9, 2012, when i go back to Wisdom House to write for the weekend. If I cannot do more than continue in this vein, then I will have an idea of how little I managed to help myself. But I am hopeful that this will finally prove to be a working solution — to draw what happened on paper but then to write about dealing with my anger and resentment and other feelings, which is really what is important at this point, not with the “mere” facts of what happened. If it is, I will be very proud of resolving at least part of the problem on my own.

First of all, I’ll post the sketch, as it will print out above the text as follows.

Who is Smiling at this Image of Torture?

A picture in graphite and later in colored pencil depicting with absolutely accuracy the sort of thing that a “take-down” by a hospital goon squad can entail before they force a person into four-point restraints. The nearly naked person in this depiction is, of course, me at a certain hospital…I am afraid that as I look at this version (correctable) the smile has turned into a grimace on the face of the white woman in the foreground. THat needs to be tweaked a bit…I also note that there are NO SHADOWS… But this is almost more of an illustration than a real drawing, so I will forgive that lapse. Next to come I hope will be a painting.

Here are some photos of details:Detail of Restraints drawing: me

 

Detail #2 of Restraints drawing

 

I realize that it looks like “I” am lying both on my back and on my stomach, but that is an illusion of the photo. In reality those are the backs of the legs, not the front.

 

Enough for now. I need to wake up  and then I want to discuss the book, ANATOMY OF AN EPIDEMIC. Perhaps in my next post.