How to Heal PTSD

The following contains my experiences as the wife of a war veteran with PTSD, along with my ongoing healing from Developmental Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by extreme trauma and abuse in my childhood and young adulthood. I am not a mental health professional and nothing on this blog should be taken as an expert opinion. Do not rely on information on this site as a substitute for the advice of a qualified professional.

Remember: YOU are unique. What works for me or for someone else may not work for you.

*Please see A WORD OF WARNING near the bottom of this page about the dangers I’ve found when looking for psychological help online.

Me, during the deep freeze of February 2011, wearing a rubber rain suit while cleaning out a lake of raw sewage from the crawl space under our house. It was the hardest job I’ve ever done. It is astonishing what we can accomplish when we really have to!
Me, during the deep freeze of February 2011, wearing a rubber rain suit while cleaning out a lake of raw sewage from the crawl space under our house. It was the hardest job I’ve ever done. It is astonishing what we can accomplish when we really have to!

WE WERE CREATED TO HEAL. When you cut yourself, your body immediately goes into action to heal the wound. Eventually, unless the wound is very severe or your immune system has been compromised, your injury will be gone, leaving little or no evidence that the cut ever happened. Isn’t that amazing?

I believe our minds were also made to heal. Not only did I fully recover from a two-year bout with schizophrenia more than forty years ago, my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is now much better than it used to be. Although I’m not completely healed of PTSD, I am a thousand times better than when I was at my worst. (See Feeling Overwhelmed: It’s a PTSD Thing for an example of the ways in which I still struggle.)

What has helped me the most in my healing journey? Talking with caring therapists has been helpful, although uncaring, abusive therapists have caused me a great deal of harm in the past.

Prescribed medications such as antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety drugs, on the other hand, did me more harm than good. For the past several years I have not taken any prescription drugs, with the exception of a daily thyroid replacement and an antibiotic when I had an infection more than a year ago.

IMPORTANT CAUTION: Going off my prescribed psychotropic medications was a horrible, mind-warping, life-threatening experience when I did it too fast. I finally succeeded in getting off the Rx drugs by doing an ultra-slow taper, taking almost a year to gradually cut my doses by a tiny “flea bite” amount, then holding at that level for at least a couple of weeks before tapering down any further. I do not recommend anyone going off their medication without close supervision and the knowledgeable care of a good, medically licensed physician. To do otherwise can have deadly consequences!

Some people may do better taking a prescribed psychotropic. My husband, who has PTSD from combat in Vietnam, seems to do better on an antidepressant — although he struggles with the unfortunate side effects of obesity, diabetes, lethargy, and a deadening of his emotions. Still, he believes the trade-off is worth it.

I do take some non-prescription vitamins and minerals (vitamins D3, K2, and calcium), the powerful antioxidant grape seed extract (which may be why people say I look much younger than my age), and lecithin and mercury-free fish oil, which seems to work great for stabilizing my moods. My favorite supplement supplier is Swanson Vitamins.

In addition to my health supplements, I drink plenty of filtered water, I don’t smoke and I don’t drink alcohol, I try to eat a balanced, mostly vegetarian diet, and I exercise by taking a half-hour walk, riding a recumbent bike, or jumping on a mini trampoline several times a week.

When I go more than a couple of days without exercise, I can definitely feel my mood start to go down!

>>>I have recently eliminated caffeine from my diet, and I am amazed at the difference! I love coffee, tea, colas, and rich, yummy chocolate. But since I’ve gone off all caffeine, I’ve had almost no anxiety. I love having no anxiety even better than I loved eating chocolate!<<<

So much of my life was crippled with gut-twisting anxiety and nightmarish panic attacks. Nothing I tried — deep breathing, positive thinking, counting my blessings, listening to music, mindfulness meditation, prayer, or “going to my happy place” — seemed to make much difference. But after I got through the caffeine withdrawal headaches, I felt like a brand new woman!

DRUGS DID NOT CURE ME and talking with therapists, when I finally found a good one, was only helpful up to a point. In my estimation, probably 80% of my healing has happened as a result of reading self-help and psychology books.

I used to think that reading therapeutic books was a poor substitute for professional psychotherapy, but I no longer believe this. The following excerpt from FEELING GOOD: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, MD, explains why:

“One important discovery is that self-help seems to be a key to recovery whether or not you receive treatment. In a series of five remarkable studies published in the prestigious Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology and in The Gerontologist, Dr. Forrest Scogin and his colleagues at the University of Alabama studied the effects of simply reading a good self-help book like FEELING GOOD – without any other therapy. The name of this new type of treatment is “bibliotherapy” (reading therapy). They discovered that… bibliotherapy may be as effective as a full course of psychotherapy or treatment with the best antidepressant drugs.” (Emphasis added.)

The following books have helped me the most in my healing journey: (NOTE: Inclusion of a book on this list does not mean I agree with every word in the book. I have read many other excellent books, so this list is by no means exclusive.)

1). COMPLEX PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, a guide and map for recovering from childhood trauma by Pete Walker, MA. ~This is my favorite self-help book. The author is a licensed therapist with over 30 years of experience, plus he also has C-PTSD.

According to Pete Walker, Complex PTSD – which stems from early and repeated childhood trauma and/or neglect – can, in its severest form, cause schizophrenia.

Based on my experience of having been (mis?) diagnosed with schizophrenia for two years as a teenager, I believe Mr. Walker is exactly right. In the ongoing “nurture vs. nature” debate, there is supporting evidence for both sides. Scientific studies have reportedly found, for example, that 48% of identical twins eventually become schizophrenic if their twin does, whereas the incidence of non-identical siblings both becoming schizophrenic is far lower.

While this indicates that genes play a role, genetics cannot be the whole story, otherwise the rate of identical twins both having schizophrenia would be 100%. I believe the answer will ultimately be found in epigenetics, which has more to do with our environment than our blueprint.

2). WHY DO CHRISTIANS SHOOT THEIR WOUNDED? Helping (Not Hurting) Those with Emotional Difficulties by Dwight L. Carlson, MD. ~This is a wonderful, enlightening, HEALING book. I love it so much, I just bought a copy for one of my friends.

3). HOPE AND HELP FOR YOUR NERVES by Dr. Claire Weekes. ~Although this wonderful classic is written in an old-fashioned style, its pages contain a timeless treasure of help, healing, and enlightenment. I needed to read this forty years ago!

4). TRAUMA AND RECOVERY: The Aftermath of Violence – from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Judith Lewis Herman, MD. ~This landmark book, written by a Harvard psychiatrist, was recommended to me by one of my doctors. While not an easy read, it makes sense of the “insanity” in my life. Dr. Herman, who coined the term “Complex PTSD,” states in this book that persons with C-PTSD are often misdiagnosed with other mental illness labels, including personality disorders and schizophrenia.

5). IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT: How Healing Relationships Change Your Brain and Can Help You Overcome a Painful Past by Patricia Romano McGraw. ~Modern brain imaging technologies have revealed that early childhood neglect and abandonment, as well as severe trauma occurring at any age, can damage the brain – by actually changing the brain’s structure and function.

This is why we can’t “just get over” certain types of trauma. Like a person paralyzed in a car crash, the traumatic event may be in the distant past, but the injury it caused is still present.

HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS: As Ms. McGraw explains in this excellent book, brain imaging technologies have also proven that the injured brain CAN HEAL – literally rewire itself – in the context of loving and affirming relationships!

Shaming, shunning, or browbeating someone who is psychologically injured will only make matters worse. Would you whip a quadriplegic to get him to walk again? Of course not! The only humane and truly effective way to treat mental health issues is with compassion, respect, and loving care.

6). HEALING DEVELOPMENTAL TRAUMA: How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relationship by Laurence Heller, PhD, and Aline Lapierre, PsyD. ~This book explains why a crazy childhood will put you on the path to a crazy adulthood – and what to do about it.

7). THE NARCISSISTIC FAMILY: Diagnosis and Treatment by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and Robert M. Pressman. ~According to this brilliant book, a family can be narcissistic even if none of its members are personality disordered.

For example, a mother dying of cancer cannot adequately nurture her young child. While a parent may not be guilty of deliberately neglecting, abandoning, or injuring a child, the effect on the child’s developing psyche is no less damaging.

Being run over by a truck will injure your body, regardless of whether it is done accidentally or maliciously. Psychological injuries work the same way. This is why it is not very helpful for a parent to tell an injured child: “I did the best I could!” The Pressmans’ book contains practical advice that does help.

8). TOXIC PARENTS: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward, PhD. ~The focus of Dr. Forward’s book is not on blaming parents for being less than perfect, but simply to address the reality that many parents, for various reasons, do not have the ability to raise their children in a healthy environment.

9). WILL I EVER BE GOOD ENOUGH? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karyl McBride, PhD. ~Dr. McBride writes from the perspective of having a narcissistic mother, as well as from her years of experience as a therapist treating the adult children of narcissistic parents.

10). FEELING GOOD: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, MD. ~In my opinion, FEELING GOOD isn’t nearly as effective for people with PTSD as it is for those who suffer from depression alone. However, I did get a lot out of this book, as long as I resisted the unhealthy impulse to beat myself up for not being 100% cured by his Cognitive Behavioral Therapy methods.

~When you grow up in a toxic family, you tend to have toxic relationships as an adult. This is what happened in my case. My unhealthy way of handling relationships was turned upside-down by the following books:

11). WOMEN WHO LOVE TOO MUCH: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He’ll Change by Robin Norwood. ~I saw myself and my failed relationships on almost every page!

12). WHY DOES HE DO THAT? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. ~This book is both disturbing and a potential lifesaver. Highly recommended, especially if you are currently in a verbally or physically abusive relationship, or in a situation where your rights, desires, and needs are routinely discounted or ignored.

13). LOVE IS A CHOICE: The Definitive Book on Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships by Dr. Robert Hemfelt, Dr. Frank Minirth, and Paul Meier, MD. ~Dr. Paul Meier is a psychiatrist and founder of the national chain of Meier New Life Clinics, as well as a best-selling author or co-author of more than one hundred books. He holds five degrees in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, and theology. Dr. Meier personally evaluated me and diagnosed my PTSD in 2003. I owe my life to Dr. Paul Meier and his wonderful staff at the clinic in Richardson, Texas.

~Trauma and loss can cause you to question the meaning and purpose of life. I found healing answers here:

14). MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING by Viktor E. Frankl, MD, PhD. ~What Dr. Frankl, a neurologist and a psychiatrist, discovered during his 3-year imprisonment in a World War II Nazi concentration camp – despite losing his beloved wife and all but one family member in that evil holocaust – is inspirational and life-affirming.

15). 90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN: A True Story of Death and Life by Capt. Don Piper, PhD. ~I love this book because I, too, briefly “died” years ago and stood on the threshold of heaven, where an indescribable LOVE, peace, and joy flooded my soul.

I was agnostic for many years, primarily because of the cruel abuses and self-seeking hypocrisy I’ve encountered in some “Christians.” However, I am far from perfect myself. I continue to struggle with my faith at times, because some of the tenets of Christianity do not make sense to my Mensa-tested IQ of 156. But despite my intellectual doubts, the fact remains that when I encountered a God of Love and Light all those years ago, His wonderful presence was as real to me as anything I have ever experienced. This, along with the evidence of Intelligent Design, are just two of the many reasons why I am now a Christian believer.

16). MY GLIMPSE OF ETERNITY by Betty Malz. ~This beautiful book had me crying tears of joy by the end.

>>>I respect everyone’s right to believe, or not, as each person sees fit. Some of my favorite people are agnostic or practitioners of non-Christian religions. However, based on the preponderance of the evidence in my life, I have decided to follow Christ Jesus as my Savior and Lord.<<<

17). Although I am leaving the best for last, The Holy Bible is first on my list, especially: Psalm 23:1-6; Psalm 30:1-12; Psalm 103:1-22; Isaiah 49:15-16; John 3:1-21; Romans 8:1-39; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Revelation 3:19-20; and many other verses, most notably the spoken words of Christ.

~Important Caution: It seems to me that much of the Bible has suffered from gross misinterpretations and bad translations over the years. In my opinion — which I realize may be wrong — I believe that God is the only One Who is infallible. I worship God, not a collection of ancient books. Calling the Bible “infallible” is, I believe, tantamount to making it into an idol. However, like I said, I may be wrong! In any case, I still believe that the Christian Bible is the most important book, when read carefully and prayerfully, under the guidance and discernment of the Holy Spirit.

*A WORD OF WARNING ABOUT ONLINE GROUPS:
Between 2009 and early 2013 I tried a number of online support groups, such as PTSD forums, blogs for ACONS (the adult children of narcissistic parents), and sites proclaiming healing of wounded emotions and guidance on how to “emerge” from being “broken.”

Most of these sites seemed wonderful – at first. But sooner or later, I was dismayed to see a few “outcast” people being verbally attacked by other members of the forums, in some cases coming under attack by administrators of the site. There were also times when commenters who came across as very mentally ill or “needy” were coldly ignored until they gave up and stopped posting.

This is why I will never allow “snarky” or abusive comments here. Respectful disagreement is always welcome; abuse is not. My goal is for my blog to be a healing place, never a hurting place. Life can be hard enough without people who have never walked in your shoes sitting in judgment of you.

We are all at different places in our journey.

>>>I firmly believe that most people, most of the time, are doing the best they can with what they have. No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. People who are in a lot of pain are sometimes prone to hurt others, often without being consciously aware of it.<<<

Whenever possible, I try to live in grace and give people the benefit of the doubt.

However, I will not allow anyone to disrespect or abuse me ever again, nor will I stand silently by and witness anyone else being abused, either overtly or covertly.

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Treat PTSD with CARE:
Compassion, Acceptance, Respect, and Encouragement.

STOP the STIGMA!

— — —

Just call me the Bull Fighter, LOL.
Just call me the Bull Fighter, LOL.

In Truth, Peace, and Love ~Lynda Lee

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5 thoughts on “How to Heal PTSD

  1. katiesdream2004 March 2, 2016 / 4:23 am

    Thank you for this post and what a good image to reinforce its message crawling under the house and cleaning out the sludge! I’m so grateful to hear it affirmed that self-help is real-help. I am not remotely capable of trusting a counselor at this point of my life. The experience of being married to an extremely abusive clinical director of a mental health center and nearly dying both physically and in my soul left me aware that evil can hide in that profession. The lack of authentic relationship in counseling meant a therapist could be jack the ripper and the counselee wouldn’t know it. By contrast, books let you fact check, let you know the author and when things get too intense you can put the book down. You can compare books, you can disagree with it, you can refuse to buy it. I’ve found much help from people that share their lived experience.

    I was part of a research study at one point in a graduate school project that verified that people recovering from difficulties were most helped by peers with stories of recovery.

    Yes, too, I find the Psalms incredibly comforting because I hear someone called “a man after God’s own heart expressing sorrow, depression highs and lows, despair and always finding comfort in the God that is listening to him. I also find that religion, and Christianity is full of NARCs and some of the worst sort. My bible thumping mother was far more abusive than my agnostic father. Yet, somehow despite that I cling to God and find real help there. There is a passage that says when father and mother desert me, You will be my Father and Mother. I’ve found this true and am healing

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee March 2, 2016 / 10:26 am

      Katie, your comments are giving me goose bumps. I can’t even find the words. Wow.

      You mention a Bible thumping mother. Oh boy. Five years ago my momster sent me a 62 page hate letter, telling me everything that was ever “wrong” with me in my entire life. It wasn’t the first insanely long abusive letter my mother has sent me. Her previous record was 50 legal-sized pages, filled with her tiny, obsessively neat handwriting. But the 62 pager was a first, in that she gave copies of portions of that letter to my aunt and my siblings. As far as I know, she had never done that before.

      One of my brothers told me that he asked our mother why she had written such a “mean letter” to me. He said she told him that she had written down every sin she knew of that I had committed, then at the end of the letter she told me that God will forgive me of everything, if only I will repent.

      Isn’t that sweet? In the past my momster has also sent me letters that were nothing but page after page of handwritten Bible verses. With “Dear Linda” at the beginning, and “Love, Mother” at the end.

      Like you, it took a LOT for me to give my life to Christ. My abusive father was a minister! But also like you, my momster’s abuse is far worse than my dad’s ever was. And his was BAD.

      But here’s the really crazy thing: my mother’s hate letters have all been full of lies and twisted, out-of-context half truths. Things that I don’t need to repent of, because I never did them. And yet, the real, true, horrible sins that I have committed, like breaking up a marriage years ago, horrible things that I still can’t forgive myself for — these things she never mentions, even though she knows about them!

      With my mother, it is all about projection, gaslighting, and scapegoating.

      But of course, she writes these abusive letters because she “loves” me, and it is “for my own good.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • katiesdream2004 March 2, 2016 / 4:12 pm

        Linda, the truth sets us free and as I read your writing I feel the freedom of the truth spoken out loud. Shouted from the housetops its the sound of liberation. Its the sound of the oppressed rising out of the ashes (I think I’m quoting a song here) There is a passage that says “they overcame by the word of the testimony and the blood of that lamb”. The word of the testimony that despite a minister father perverting the truth and a mother making you question God and your sanity you overcame because of the blood of the Lamb that no lie can stop, no oppression can vanquish, no design from the pits of hell can thwart.
        We share and hear these stories among ourselves and it builds our faith that those NARCS aren’t that powerful to continue to destroy. This is what encouragement means! To inspire hope and give courage somehow, the stories of what they did, yet what they could not do gives hope. What a beautiful thing about the grace of God that despite religious spiritual abuse God makes belief possible. Oh yes, I know the letters. My father was more trustworthy but when he died and I was sorting through his files to my sorrow I found files on me. They were copies of letters he sent to landlords, counselors, friends full of lies and accusations but written as “concern” “why aren’t you helping her, she is crazy and should be put away”. My landlord treated me like dirt and with suspicion. Then I saw those files full of letters and thought “why didn’t anyone tell me” 3 days after his death I was devastated. He was the only man I semi-trusted in my life but I had little reason too given his history of abuse with me. Its just by contrast to the momster he was angelic, but in fact he gave me a black eye on more than one occasion.

        My mother accidently sent me an email meant for her sister in which she said I’d been a disappointment from birth then pages of absolute lies listing stuff I’d never done. She ended it with “at least I had 2 other children.” They were her comfort in life as she bragged how successful they were. When she realized she’d sent it to me by accident she said “you are going to be mad but you know I like attention”. And that was it as good of an apology as I would ever receive.

        You can’t take back the impression people have of you when someone has painted a picture for years. Despite all of this, nothing could separate me from the love of God permanently even if father and mother were pawns of satan in my life. I am aware that lots of people have it worse, and literally sell their children. I hope to pray for those ones living in hell now whenever I remember something destructive that my family did.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lynettedavis March 4, 2016 / 7:50 am

        Just guessing, your mother mostly listed alleged “sins” against her. Right? No other sins really matter to them because in their mind, they’re gods or goddesses that should be worshipped. And anything less than that is a “sin.” They’re usually only involved in church to be worshipped and admired, and they enjoy abusing children of God. I call them agents of the enemy on a mission to kill our souls, but I choose to believe what God’s word says about me. Despite my mother (and my minister ex-husband), Christ is my still my savior too. I also find that reading books and blogs of other people’s stories to be very affirming. I have several of the books that you mention. Thank you for sharing this post. May God continue to keep you and bless you.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee March 4, 2016 / 8:17 am

          Lynette… you hit the nail squarely on its head. Everything my mother has ever complained about in her long hate letters were alleged sins that she claims I committed against her. In the 62 page letter she sent in 2011, with copies to others in the family, my mother actually said that, although I have never apologized to her for being her daughter, she forgives me anyway!!!!!

          Liked by 1 person

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