I have been following Michelle's blog & radio programs for a few months. I have come to understand my symptoms as a brain disorder from trauma rather than the shame & gult I experienced growing up in an abusive dysfunctional family where I was sexually abused starting when I was around 4. When I started my healing journey 20 years ago there was no internet to google help. All I received was talk therapy that took off some of the pressure, but never resolved the brain trauma issues. I'm 62 now and finally can see some light at the end of the tunnel, but still struggle with body numbing, adrenalin surges at night & dissociation when triggered. I practise meditations, breathe work and have tried to experience somatic recovery with Peter Levine's exercises. I don't know how to quiet the adrenalin surges I experience at night. The surges wake me up sometimes with a body startle. I was abused during the night. Could this be a vagus nerve response?

6 Replies

  • Hi Merlot3. Great to have you share on this forum. I hear you about Michele's forum and blog - super resources. I was a guest on her show back in January, and it was fantastic to compare notes with another PTSD survivor.

    I started my journey in the '80s, and didn't know PTSD was part of the problem. I got involved in a 12 step program for people who grew up in a family where alcoholism was present. I too had talk therapy, but it didn't get to the bottom of things. With the therapy, alcoholism never came up, and in group, PTSD wasn't known much back then, so it didn't factor in.

    I too suffer from anxiety attacks at times still, and the adrenalin surges and dissociation. I'll sometimes go to bed tired, and pop wide awake because the abuse happened late night.

    I have learned how to cope when out in public, but knowing what was underneath it all has given me a lot of relief. I had a violent incident with my Dad when I was 17, and some horrible messages laid on me by my grandmother when I was 8. The Grandma stuff caused a writer's block for many years. Blessedly, I have worked through a lot of that, and have published one memoir - about the violence with Dad, and I'm about to publish a second - about the abuse by Grandma. Both books have been an integral part of my healing process. Now I even work as a freelance writer, and can write freely. I am delighted by that outcome.

    I'm glad this forum is here, so we can share and compare notes. It's like when I went to the 12 step program - people who were there just understand in a whole different way.



  • Hi. Interesting to think of it as "brain trauma". It really gives it a biological reality to see it that way. But is it really an injury to the brain? Or is it a maladaptive response of our neurology to trauma? Interesting thought. I too get the adrenaline rush in bed - just happened last night but was not abused at night as a pattern. My Dad's violence could come at any time - that's part of what made it so special...

    For me, a big part of my recovery has been to understand that this isn't psychological. I did 15 years of talk therapy and while some of it was very helpful, it never really got at this. And when I went over the edge 8 years ago after my rock climbing fall, it had no effect. I recognized this and just stopped.talk therapy A former therapist of mine who I became quite close to clued me into the PTSD diagnosis when he became educated in it in 2009.

    We did bump into my PTSD early in my therapy with him but it wasn't diagnosed. I was in therapy with this guy and I shared with him at times that I would just get these overwhelming feelings of fear out of the blue and that they themselves scared me. He encouraged me to let the feelings wash over me the next time they happened and to "follow the bread crumbs" back. Sure enough a few days later the feelings came up and for the first time in my life, at 35, I didn't push them away. I was led back to a repressed memory I had of an assault by a babysitter and her brother when I was 7. At a certain point I'm stuffed into a toy chest by the brother (big and much older than me) and then the entire memory goes blank.I'm shaking and crying as I recall this and then the words "sexual abuse" flash into my brain. I'd never ever had that thought before, nor had it ever been suggested. Needless to say, this was shocking. Fyi, I thought I was going to die so it was bad enough either way.

    Back with the therapist we discussed it and he said that I didn't need to press any deeper into the blacked out memory. That perhaps this was a defense mechanism that served me. This was one of at least 3 qualifying events that occurred when I was 7. So, the talk therapy helped some but it wasn't until I began treating this as an anxiety disorder and began using re-visualization techniques, and the Sedona Method Release Technique that I started to make progress.

    I was also in recovery for a while. I needed to stop drinking at age 33 and AA helped, but being the reader that I am, I began reading non-AA centered literature on alcoholism and found that there was not much agreement in the scientific community with how AA saw it as a disease. There's a great book called Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Diseasey by a UCLA career scientist who focused on addiction. None of what AA says as dogma about the disease is true, fyi. I wasn't long for the AA world after that, but I did 5 years and haven't had a drink since. I also was in CODA meetings and Alanon meetings and even "triple winner"meetings for children of abusive parents who were heavy drinkers and became heavy drinkers themselves. The truth is that most of what I got out of it was a sense of community. Which was great, but in many ways the recovery community misses the mark hugely. If you hang around long enough you realize the "success rate" is pathetically low (sponsored 30+ guys - 2 got sober, typical AA experience), and if you read the scientific literature, you find that as many people stop drinking on their own as get sober in AA. Sobering fact, yes?

    For me, it was clear I was self-medicating my anxiety and resultant depression. The bell rang for me in an AA meeting though, which I'm thankful for. I was listening to a heroin addict share and he said this. "You have to understand, heroin addicts are really just super committed to being happy. We will go to any lengths just to feel good no matter the cost." In my mind I saw the next logical statement - how unhappy does one have to be in the first place to seek this chemical happiness? When I began to press into what was really going on inside of me, seeing it all through the lens of "alcoholism" became more and more ridiculous. Still, I don't drink cuz alcohol is like opiates and benzos for me. More is always better and once I have a little my self-control collapses.

    I know I'm going on here but I so rarely get to share any of this with people who might understand. My journey has been long and I've tried so many things. Energy healing, brain wave stimulation, inpatient codependency treatment, intensive psychodrama workshops, meds, the "recovery" community, Buddhism (meditated till I disappeared, yawn), self help, and other stuff and what I've found is that only once I took real responsibility for my state of mind could I make any progress. I own my anxiety now and don't shame or punish myself for having it. Okay, I'll stop now - have to get some work done. Have a great day everyone!

  • Glennd1 - I came from an AA family, and had mixed feelings about that program. I had awarenesses similar to yours. I just didn't buy the philosophy, and have been sober for 25 years without it. It did seem like it wasn't as successful as was described. I did have a sponsor in ACA who was a therapist, who helped me immensely, but we did work that was not conventional AA methods. He introduced me to inner child work. He also said the feelings from those abuses are "stored in our bodies at the cellular level." I have worked to release the memories and feelings of abuse by confronting and going into them deeply. I saw a 60 Minutes episode that they're having success with soldier's by a similar process, where they confront and work through what they suffered in combat.

    What happened is that I went through the feelings that I was too in shock and dissociated to feel at the time the abuse happened. Once I released them "at the cellular level" like my sponsor suggested, they went away. It was weird, but it worked. Including the memory of being shut up in a closet by my Grandmother, and told that is what an insane asylum would be like. I had repressed that memory for 50 years, and when I remembered it, it was a relief - because now I knew the battle my inner child had been fighting all those years. I had something tangible to heal.

    I'm not sure I completely concur with the therapist who suggested you not delve any further into the blacked out memory. I have remembered both my qualifying events - both repressed since childhood - and by releasing them through emotional release work, they no longer impact me like they did before. I shook with fear, felt my anger and rage, and eventually they eased up and went away. Otherwise, I think I would have continued to repress and suppress, and fight that battle over and over. I did EMDR that was supposed to "disconnect" the old memories, but it didn't work that way for me.

    I can now go to sleep at nights, without snapping awake (Dad's abuse was mostly late night too), and the anxiety attacks are much less than when the PTSD was at its worst.

    Just my experience! :)

    Thanks for sharing your truth, Glenn, and I'm glad you and I got connected. Sounds like we have a lot in common!

  • Dan - Thanks for the reply. I have revisited the other traumas I suffered and that worked well. But this black out seems impenetrable so i just let it be. At this point I'm happier than I've ever been in my life so I'll keep on this track but one never knows. Glad you are doing well.

  • I hear you, Glenn! It's almost like I have an instinct, which I credit to my inner child, for what it's time to work on, and when it's too much. The trauma with Grandma, I left alone for several years. Very cool that you know what's right for you!

    Yes, after years of suffering, I'm glad to be in such a great spot! :)

  • One of the most important things I learned abut my C-PTSI is that it does not just involve my thoughts and emotions. It involves my entire nervous system. This is why "thinking happy thoughts" doesn't work for me. My body doesn't listen to talk therapy.

    "Scientific American states that we have a network of nerotransmitters in our gut that is so extensive that it has been called a second brain. . . Technically known as the enteric nervous system, the second brain consists of sheaths of neurons embedded in the walls of the long tube of our gut, or alimentary canal, which measures about nine meters end to end from the esophagus to the anus. The second brain contains some 100 million neurons, more than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system."

    This is from a report I did a year ago about how the body, not just the brain, controls how we react.

    I have learned to turn on lights and turn on either music or the TV when I feel the night closing in on me. I get out of bed and move around my house and declare that this is my space and I own it.

    If that doesn't work I take an Atenolol. :-D

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