Wednesday, September 28, 2011

PTSD and Core Muscle Function

I have been in physical therapy for the last few months to repair damage done years ago from pregnancy and then a bad skiing accident. This past week I had a setback. I literally was back to a state where I could not feel my core muscles or many muscles in my back and trunk. My wonderful therapist, Amy, had me lie down on my back and gave me an exercise to turn them back on. It worked.

The next day it happened again. I remembered the exercise and did it again. Then I had an “aha” moment. 9/11 is a big trigger for me (and thousands of others). I had been re-experiencing some PTSD symptoms all week but had not until now connected them with the lack of core muscle function. Fascinating!

I remembered the numerous times in years past I had hurt myself and was more ‘accident prone’ during PTSD recovery. Now I realized why. It was not, as some therapists might think, a lack of self care or even groundedness – although grounding has been a big one for me to focus on. No, it was this core disconnect. At times it has felt like my muscles were not responding, and now I’m finding out that that is literally true (and probably responsible for my skiing accident).

I thought of Peter Levine’s work and his elucidation of the ‘fight, flight and freeze’ response. He points out that when an antelope gets grabbed by, let’s say, a lion, then the antelope’s body goes limp even before it is killed. I am wondering if this freeze response was more than an emotional response in humans but also a very physical, muscular response.

In writing The Trauma Toolkit I have not run across any research linking muscular function, physical therapy and PTSD, probably because it has not been looked at yet. Check it out for yourself. Lie down on your back with your feet on the floor and your arms resting beside you. Do a big Kegel core muscle contraction and press your upper arms down into the ground. Repeat 2 or 3 times. Notice any difference? Let me know! All comments will get a personal response.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Realization of Dawn

This poem comes courtesy of my ancient 14 year old daughter, Maya. She knows a thing or two about traumatic stress and healing.

The Realization of Dawn

What is this light that I see?
Could it really be what we have all been waiting for?
The warmth from the rays eases my aching brow
It gives me the strength to lift my falling head

To embrace what this impossible answer might mean

I hear the ticking behind me
On the peeling paint wall
The clock knows what time it is
And it's time that knows what we have to do

The time has come to flood our dried out deserts
To calm our overflowing seas
The time has come to embrace this beacon 
It is time to understand

We need to fill our cracking despair
With this light and love that is so bright
But yet so dim to our non understanding eyes

The answer is here
Almost in our grasp
It is time for us to wake up
It is time for us to see this glowing dawn
Emerging from this blinding night

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Behind The Walls

This is a fascinating account of what happens when a traumatized population becomes pathologized, marginalized and basically thrown away.  Tragic, fascinating and relevant. The Irish are arguably one of the more traumatized populations in the world, having been dominated by the British for 900 years before claiming their independence. Their considerable psychic and literary gifts have long been overlooked by the world.

Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 Thoughts

Like most of the country, I have been engaged in a review of thoughts and feelings on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 yesterday. As well as being a national trauma anniversary, it is also a personal anniversary for me.  

I found myself needing to talk, cry, and tell my story again. I also wanted to listen to the stories of others affected by this day. I am always surprised at the power of anniversaries, as if a divot is made in time where we can fall into old thoughts and feelings so easily. The trauma waves surged and moved around and through me until I came again to the shore of myself, tired and depleted, but ready to go on once more.

It was a good reminder that some things continue to live inside of us, even after their resolution, that grief is a perennial flower that crops up at intervals.  I pulled out my old tools: kleenex, smudge, epsom salts for a cleansing soak after the storm.  I am grateful that there is life after PTSD for all of us, for hope and for healing.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Leslie's Illusions: "total stranger to itself"

Leslie's Illusions: "total stranger to itself"

I just found this blogger and think she's got some real gems for people struggling with PTSD. Enjoy!

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Coronary Atherosclerosis, and Mortality

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Coronary Atherosclerosis, and Mortality

I am just putting finishing touches on my forthcoming book and found this recent article, published this summer. If you click on the title it will take you to the full journal article. We must begin to treat PTSD as the public health issue that it is. Abuse, wars, and traumatic events threaten us all. I have known for some time that heart issues and PTSD go together because I get so many referrals from my cardiologist husband, and the stories are truly horrendous. A life full of trauma will certainly predispose people to heart disease.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Brain Scars From PTSD

PTSD always leaves a big old trail of damage in the brain.  I predict one day soon we will be able to tell not only whether someone has endured trauma but what kind of trauma.  Then maybe we can get over our collective denial about the prevalence of child abuse and the immense damage wrought by abuse and by wars on whole cultures around the world.