I am writing my story about my journey with PTSD over several blog posts, in the hope that it will help others who are going through something similar. In the previous posts I have written about the trauma that caused my PTSD, the horrible months following the trauma, and how I began to slowly recover. We are made up of a body, soul, and spirit, which are intricately connected parts of our whole being. Last week I wrote about what I did to seek healing for my body. Today I will share about what I did for my soul. I would define a soul as our mind, will, and emotions.
Thankfulness seems to me to be the antidote to self pity. When you are going through a difficult season it is easy to fall into feeling sorry for oneself. When you purpose to be thankful, you realise how blessed you actually are, and it lifts you out of the mire of self pity, and into joy and hope. I spent time in thankfulness several times a day. There are always things to be grateful for, even in your darkest hour. It’s important to be thankful for every change in your symptoms, no matter how small. Every day it takes work to rise above your circumstances, so you can sometimes feel like you are not getting better and you never will. It’s important to look back on your whole journey and remind yourself of how far you’ve come. This gives you hope that you will actually get to the finish line of full recovery.
Thinking About Other People’s Stories of Recovery
I spent time each day contemplating the stories of others who have come through a similar trial. This was invaluable to me. Knowing that others really KNEW what I was going through and had come out the other side to complete freedom, gave me hope that I too would come through. I personally know several people who have found freedom from PTSD and other anxiety disorders. You can look up stories of recovery online.
When you are walking through a trying time it is very easy to fall into negative thinking and speech, both of which can end up causing you to spiral down into despair. It’s so important to guard your thoughts and your words. When I was tempted to despair, I would purpose to not only change my thoughts, but actually say (out loud) positive and hope-filled words about my situation and my future. This helped to lift the cloud of hopelessness and bring light into the darkness. I made three wooden HOPE signs, which I painted and put up around the house, so that I would see these physical reminders of hope several times a day.
It is said that “Laughter is the best medicine”. When you research the benefits of laughter, you begin to believe this. It has been shown to reduce stress, release endorphins, and improve your mood and overall health (and much more besides).
When you are going through a dark time, laughing can feel like a challenge. I chose to watch funny movies and even bought two of my favourite comedy TV series just to spend time laughing as often as I could.
My children are probably my greatest source of laughter; kids can be hilarious.
Focusing on others
Focusing on other people and how we can love and help them, can be a great distraction from our own trials, and is also rewarding. I did this by praying for, and sending encouraging emails to, others that I knew were going through a difficult time similar to my own. I also looked after, and tried to bless my family as well as I could.
Doing something creative can be very therapeutic. I am an artist and derive so much joy from spending time drawing and painting. But for me my art has always been an overflow of a happy heart. So during this season my creative side seemed to dry up. I had no will to create. My husband encouraged me just to spend time doing some kind of art, even if it wasn’t what I was used to. This was great advice. I ended up creating things not for their beauty, but rather as an expression of the deep emotions that I was feeling. I believe this helped me to process some of what I was going through.
Get Out in Nature
Nature is one of the greatest healers. It is also one of my true loves. Having a broken foot and the debilitating symptoms of PTSD made it difficult for me to spend time in nature, but I did what I could. At first my husband took me on country drives, and then as I began to improve, I got out in nature as much as I was able to. We have a beautiful garden, which I tried to spend as much time as possible in, knowing that this was an important part of my recovery.
Talking and Journaling
Talking or journaling about your experience is a vital part of recovery. It helps you to process what you have been through. For me, my husband has been my primary “listener”. I have also talked with my family on Skype, and to a friend who has been through something similar. I spent a lot of time journaling, just “getting it out”. All of this has been helpful.
Do Things You Enjoy
Because trauma affects your brain in such a negative way, you want to fill your days with experiences that are positive, almost as if you are “rewiring” your brain with positive experiences. It’s important to make time to do things that you enjoy. I love reading a good novel, watching movies with my husband, baking, cooking, spending time in nature, visiting historical places and gardens, painting and drawing, etc. You might feel as if you are being selfish, but making time to do things that you love is a crucial part of recovery.
Human connection is an important part of the healing process, but can be difficult with the symptoms of PTSD. I felt so bad that I could barely leave the house, and my symptoms were so draining that I didn’t feel I had it in me to socialise. I am thankful I have a friend who has been through something similar and totally understood what I was experiencing. She came round every-so-often for a cup of tea; these visits were a blessing to me. I also connected with my husband and kids and gave them lots of extra hugs each day.
Treat Yourself Kindly
Love yourself. Give yourself a break. Treat yourself like you would a good friend who is going through a horrible time. Rest more, relax more, leave the housework, take a nap, linger over a cup of tea, read a magazine, be kind to yourself.
Remembering to do these things for my soul each day has been a great help to my recovery process.
Next week I will share about how I endeavoured to heal my spirit.
- From Fear to Freedom: Part 3
- From Fear to Freedom Part 5