Like all survivors, I have good days and I have bad days. Unlike popular opinion regarding emotions and moods, PTSD isn’t always something I can control with my thinking.
My inner parts believe they are living in the past and they are sharing those past emotions with me. When that happens, I have a choice. I can choose to validate my inner parts by acknowledging that I feel like crap. Or I can ignore it, shove it back down, numb it out or any of the methods encouraged by society. And while being happy at all costs makes the rest of the world comfortable, I am done making everyone else comfortable at my expense.
So I have bad days. I have days when I feel hopeless about the future. I don’t feel this way because there is any significant problem with today. I feel this way because I felt hopeless during my trauma. And that feeling was completely justified. It was truly hopeless.
I have days when I feel so anxious and agitated I can barely stand the presence of another adult human being, let alone my children. I don’t feel this way because my current life is agitating me. I feel this way because I am still angry about the past. I am angry with the perpetrators and I am still working through it. I am angry with myself because I am still blaming myself for something. And it doesn’t mean I haven’t worked with my anger yet. It means I am not done.
I have days when I feel undeserving of anything good. I feel no matter how hard I try, I will fail because I am not someone who deserves to be successful, loved, accepted or happy. I don’t feel this way because it is true. I feel this way because in the past, there were so many experiences that pointed to this reality. I watched one thing after another happen that proved my unworthiness. In the past, it seemed true.
So I have bad days. And those days are not my most productive days. Things get done that must get done, but the stretch goals get put aside for another day. But even on these days, I have learned what helps. Here are some of the approaches I use.
- I allow the feeling and I write from it. I let the inner part express through their emotion and thoughts, even those thoughts about the present.
- I allow the feeling and begin self care. The appropriate self care depends on the part. Some parts might want to isolate. Some parts might want to watch TV. Some parts might want to walk in nature. I go where they need to go until I can write.
- I allow the feeling and continue with my previously scheduled day with the acceptance that I will get by with the basics until I can write.
But it all starts with allowing the feeling. In all three scenarios, I have accepted my reality. And yes. I am aware that I just told you to do the hardest thing imaginable for survivors of trauma. We have never had a reality worth accepting. But it is the fight against and the invalidation of our inner parts which leads to so much more pain.
Don’t get me wrong, I may need to have the temper tantrum first. I may need to feel sorry for myself first. Once again, I accept my lack of acceptance and throw the fit I need to throw. It is an inner part too. It is almost always an inner defender who doesn’t want to feel. That is okay. I allow that lack of acceptance. I write from that lack of acceptance. I write from that anger about this crappy recovery process that will NEVER EVER end. I write about how I am tired of it and don’t have any more patience for it. I write about how tired I am. And once I write, I come back to one of those three scenarios above.
And believe it or not, the pain dissipates after I accept and validate it. It certainly doesn’t go away forever. It may only go away for an hour or two. But those moments without pain are my motivation. I know that life exists without the pain. I know that I am powerful without the pain. (I am also powerful with the pain, but much less productive.) I know that it is possible to transcend the trauma of the past if only for a few moments, hours or days here or there. But for some reason, it is enough to keep going through the bad days.
Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW