The First Day of the Rest of Her Life

Four thousand four hundred and seventy four days ago her freedom fallacy simultaneously emerged and dissipated.

As the story goes, an invisible white elephant appeared, bearing the comparably light weight of an emaciated black lamb. The stress of an unknown environment forced the premature delivery of her illegitimate offspring.

The labor–painful, the afterbirth–swallowed up in an attempt to restore the life and health of its' mother, carrier of an unwelcome disease. The baby black sheep struggled to breathe. Engulfed by an existence she cannot yet understand, she gurgles, drowning, gasping for oxygen, unable to swallow the only anecdote for the poison in her blood.

This is how it feels to long for life, to long for freedom, grasping at every method of healing yet never taking hold of peace. As the body might reject medical treatment, the mind can also reject the healing process.

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A few weeks ago I did a webinar exploring scientific causes of complex trauma and its impact on the brain. While there is a growing understanding of the effects of complex, psychological trauma, a cure remains much more mysterious. There are many forms and methods of treatment for managing mental disabilities, but these treatments are not known to eliminate the problems associated with brain damage.

Psychological trauma can cause problems with neurodevelopment, specifically the areas of the brain involved in the stress response. Most neuroscientists agree that the brain does not finish developing until around the age of twenty-five. This knowledge leads me to believe complex trauma occurring before the age of twenty-five causes severe neurological malfunction; the intensity of neurological problems proportionate to the intensity and recurrence of the trauma.

Brain areas implicated in the stress response include the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. Traumatic stress can be associated with lasting changes in these brain areas. Traumatic stress is associated with increased cortisol and norepinephrine responses to subsequent stressors…

Findings from animal studies have been extended to patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) showing smaller hippocampal and anterior cingulate volumes, increased amygdala function, and decreased medial prefrontal/anterior cingulate function. In addition, patients with PTSD show increased cortisol and norepinephrine responses to stress. (Bremner, 2006)

While there is no single-proven way to explain how mental illnesses develop, it is prudently conclusive that psychological trauma occurring from infancy to young adulthood can cause mental handicaps. Self-harming behaviors and addictions can act as a relief from the intensity of experiencing a lengthy state of  "fight or flight" (hyper-vigilence) and "freeze" (dissociation).

During the question and answer time following my webinar, an attendee asked me if there were any known methods of damage-reversal or brain healing. There are some therapeutic methods believed to help individuals trying to treat their mental illnesses. As far as a complete recovery, we do not hear many stories of severe mental illnesses being cured completely, though I do believe it is possible. Science is always evolving and expanding to bring a greater understanding of the structure and behaviors of our experiences. As we learn more, new and often improved treatments become available.

For the last twelve plus years, I have intentionally sought out different methods to treat my mental illness, which includes, but is not limited to Complex Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder (CPTSD). I've tried dozens of medications, rehabilitation programs, inpatient facilities, and outpatient services which include twelve-step-programs, talk therapies like Cognative-Behavioral-Therapy and Motivational Interviewing and other psychotherapies such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). I have experienced progress with different types of medications and treatment, but admittedly still suffer from regular mental distress.

Prior to actively seeking treatment, I developed obsessive compulsions, addictions, eating disorders, uncontrollable rage, and other harmful issues. Even after seeking treatment, I still struggle to regulate my mental state, fighting destructive self-soothing distractions and behaviors. I have experienced immeasurable amounts of success, yet still face periods of severe depression and anxiety. I remain committed to recovery and continuously seek ways to improve my mental health and wellness. I am currently training a service dog to help me manage my PTSD and have committed to one year of a relatively new treatment therapy called "brainspotting." I am incredibly excited to share the journey with you, as I believe it to be a vitally missing connector which weaves together the cognitive and autonomic functions of the brain, allowing one to process past and present experiences with a healthy balance of emotion and logic, where it had been previously impossible (for the mentally ill). This balanced processing allows  the individual to let go of survival techniques (fight/flight/freeze responses) and separate past threats and experiences from current ones.

I experienced my very first session this week, and the amount of memory processing and emotional breakthrough I experienced in one hour would have taken me years to work through in talk therapy.

Be sure to subscribe and stay tuned to hear more about my experience.

 

 

Work Cited

Bremner, J. D. (2006, December). Traumatic stress: effects on the brain. Retrieved August                                 10, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181836/

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