Digging Deep

I am a survivor of several traumas, the last being the murder of one of my children. It was the straw that broke the camel's back. I have a great deal of pain, buried deep so I could move on. Recently, I touched the tip of that pain, the past traumas, and it was devastating.

I have seen suggestions that we first have to dig down to the pain in order to really heal it and move on. How can I do that???? Just a tiny touch of the tip of it all has taken me several days to recover from. The tears don't stop....

Does anyone have any idea how to get past the past without having to relive the pain and horror that had a hand in the significant PTSD I have now? After this recent experience, I'm terrified to try...

33 Replies

  • First I would like to say how incredibly brave you are, secondly, I was wondering what kind of trauma therapy you were having. Part of recovering from traumas is in the processing of the experiences and in doing so will re-visit the emotions that have long been repressed. Different therapies, approach this in various ways and should be gentle; giving you coping techniques to not feel overwhelmed. It sounds like you are struggling with non-stop crying - I am so sorry for your pain - you have been holding this in for so long..........but the time will come when this particular trauma will not have such devastating effects your on psyche. Hopefully your therapist will be offering you the support and care you deserve?

  • Due to financial issues, I'm not in any trauma therapy. The 2nd part of this is that because of the side effects of the PTSD meds - sleeping 18-20 hrs a day and gaining lots of weight - I'm working with my doctor to make better choices. That means getting off of the old ones.... 2 down, one more to go, and only one in replacement so far. I am soooo far out of control, adding any pain to it only makes me want to hide all that more. Uncontrollable tears that go on for days. Touching those old traumas the other day was probably not a smart thing to do considering the circumstances, but it came up in a conversation with my husband. It was like Sleeping Beauty pricking her finger on that spindle.

    I am a survivor of a couple of different forms of abuse, raising a sociopathic son, and then his murder. Any one of those things, as you all know, is enough. But some of it goes back 50+ years. That's a long, long time to bury it all.

    Thank you, Pepper_bg for your encouragement and kindness. <3

  • Hi AnyaClaus, This is so much weight for you to carry on your own, without the emotional support you clearly need. Whilst you are in this position, maybe Mindfulness techniques can help you - if you Google it, there might be some explanations on there. More than this, some find it helpful to think of and imagine a safe place ( it could be your favourite time on a beach, countryside - any time or event in your life that reminds you of happiness/peace/comfort). So, in times of distress, allow yourself to 'visit' this place...visualise it....feel it.... to help you be kind to yourself;comfort yourself. Continuing to write down your fears, just as you have on here, is one way of sharing and being heard and perhaps that helps you to feel less alone? Thinking of you.....

  • Hi, Pepper.. I was rereading your comment, and had to chuckle. You remind me of those who say to "go to your safe place" - visualize those places of happiness. I don't mind to ridicule or belittle your suggestion. I know for many that's very helpful. But, all of my visualization like that takes me to places of horror and fear. I wish it could be so easy! I have no safe place, except hiding in my home. :)

  • Sleeping a lot is one way of protecting yourself from your pain and emotional turmoil is exhausting. Eating a lot can be the same as hurting yourself or comforting yourself: if it's the former, it is like turning the pain and (maybe anger?) inwards on to yourself but you do not deserve this - be compassionate towards yourself and your inner child. If its the latter, food may act as a way of filling an emptiness inside of you . I am sorry to hear that there is no affordable therapy for you. Do you have good friends around you?

  • I have two very special friends who are my cheerleaders. They encourage and have studied and learned all they can about PTSD. I am so thankful for them! One of them actually turned me on to this group. she's been following Michele for a while, learning how to help me.

    The meds I've been taking are designed to deal with seizures, slowing the brain and dulling the emotions and feelings. All of them have warning labels "may cause drowsiness" and they certainly do! And since it slows the brain and body, and I have had no energy to do anything, the side effect of weight gain has doubled my weight. I'm working on changing that, but know that I can't deal with any of this without medical help - meds. I see my dr again this week to see what the next step is. I'm hopeful of finding the right mix so I can begin the journey, if I can find the courage. :)

  • Aaah! Now I understand! I see I was going down the wrong road! It is great to hear that you have such supportive friends, it must make a huge difference as you face all of this. x

  • That's such a burden to carry; I'm so sorry for the pain it would certainly bring.

    I second the direction of Pepper_bg -- there are many alternative trauma treatment techniques that forgo reliving the pain and offer a more gentle way of processing. For example, hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming come to mind. When I just couldn't stand the pain of talking about it all again (and again and again and again, etc.) I used them both in my recovery with great results. In the hands of the right practitioner, extremely gentle. Info about both (plus some other gentle alternative options) here: healmyptsd.com/treatment/po...

    Also, when I interviewed Babette Rothschild on my radio show about how we know when we're moving in the right direction she said one simple thing: if you see yourself feeling even just a little bit better. She suggested that when we feel worse and worse (and especially when that makes us shy away from the healing process) that's when you know it's time to change your approach. I loved when she said that; so simple and so supportive of us as individuals versus some one-size-fits-all process. You can hear her discuss this here: changeyouchoose.com/babette...

  • Oh, Michele, I am terrified of this process! Not PTSD scared, but scared of the pain. I honestly don't know how much I can take in the pricking. On the meds, I was controlled but numb. No emotions... now that I'm going off of them and facing this on my own, the pain never ends. I will have to have meds, but not the kind that numbs and deadens everything. Just something to even things out so maybe I will have the courage to do this. It's been 12 yrs since I was diagnosed, and I have resigned myself to living like this. I want my life back!!!

    Thank you, Michele. I'm not sure I'm ready for this, but I am ready for a change.

  • Dear Anya- Child- loss is so unfathomable for those who have not experienced it. Add in multiple traumas over 50 + years, and it is a recipe for real despair.

    My child murdered himself Anya, and I too have have other traumas that span 50 years. I may not experience exactly what or how you do, because we all walk our path alone and our life experiences differ, but I understand the parts that I am able to, and I care.

    The tendency for the Psychiatric world to assume a pathological root to what is actually normal for those in deep grief, is a real issue for grieving parents. I know of a place where you can get REAL and specific help. The MISS Foundation is an International Foundation that helps grieving parents walk their path with acceptance. Dr Joanne Cacchiatori and her staff are incredible people that can help you through this at no cost to you. I urge you to contact them via their website- missfoundation.org just go there and request help directly from Dr. C. I believe that you will find what you seek so desperately. Without their help and the assistance of others like Michelle Rosenthal, I would not be here.

    Gentle hugs to you fellow mama. I know your pain, and will walk next to you.

  • oh, my dear MultipleCris! Thank you soooo much! My son was an adult - 5 days before his 23rd birthday - but still my son. I know we do all have our own paths, our own stories. No two are the same. I share your grief - losing a child, no matter what age, is unthinkable. I have learned to live with it as a companion, but there are still times it is unbearable. It's all entangled with the PTSD and other traumas.... long story I'll not burden you with now. But, it's one reason I find the thought of moving past it virtually impossible.

    Thank you for the referral. I will check into it. Hugs to you, too. We will survive!

  • Your child is ALWAYS your child, regardless of age or the complexity of your relationship. My son was 27 when he died.

    You will NEVER stop mourning the loss of your child. This type of thinking is for those whom have not experienced it for themselves. However, it does become different. Grief is love turned inside out. Why in the world would I ever choose to EVER stop loving my child? Our relationship did not end with his death, it just changed how we can express it.

    I believe it entirely possible to come to a place of peace in our grief. After 2 years, so much has changed for me. That is a very short amount of time in child-loss. I have lost parents, grandparents, extended family, former lovers, my best friend and other friends. The loss of my son stands alone. I hope you do check out the referral. We will heal together. Much love to you mama. <3

  • I have sent a message to MISS foundation on Facebook... my grief is very different. My son spent 18 years torturing his family, leaving a wake of victims. I grieve for my child, but I'm relieved that he couldn't hurt anyone else. I know, that sounds callous, and that's what makes my grief so difficult. I grieve, but I also deal with the guilt of my relief.... among a dozen other emotions that go along with his life and death. I wrote a book about him after his death. If you're interested, it's available online - Surviving Aaron.

    All of that grief and emotions involved with that, along with the horror of his murder and the trauma that went along with that brings me to where I am right now. PTSD out of control. The boogy man has been alive and well, living in my own home for most of my life. The best I can say right now is that I'm a survivor.

    I'm sooo sorry about your son's recent death. It has been such a short time, and it does change everything. Our lives will never be the same. My heart goes out to you, too. <3

  • I am so sorry that Aaron left such a difficult wake in his passage through life. I am glad that you found a way to express your experience through writing! I am sure that helped in ways that even you may not aware of yet. And YES! I will check out your book!

    Even with all of the difficulty (understatement word, I know) you had with Aaron, there is still the mother that mourns the child in him. I get that, I really do.

    So glad you put in the request at MISS. I believe it will help.

    Hugs mama.

  • I know without doubt that the book has helped others understand the disorder. And, people get to know the real me much deeper than they probably ever wanted! :D It is helpful to know that my experiences have and are helping others.


  • Just left a note with Dr.C to check into your referral personally. In box me any time you need to talk mama.

  • Thank you! I just asked a question in private chat on Facebook with them... I don't usually fit in well with grief support groups.

  • Good. Chat with other moms for awhile. It may take a couple of days for Jo to get back to you. I don't do groups well either for grief. This, I think you find, is different. I have requested one on one help with an Intern (and her Interns are fantastic! Hand-picked and well trained). Hold on mama.

  • Chris, I talked to a really sweet intern yesterday at MISS, and we'll be having frequent sessions. She's trained in PTSD and traumatic loss of children, so I'm doubly blessed! I think that if anyone can help me, at least to figure out where one starts and the other begins, she can.

    Thanks again for the referral!

  • Together we can get our lives back.

  • You have one suggestion which is look at the past. This may or may not work. You have the word of other people on this, and they may be wrong.

    Another way, ask the question how do I respond differently in the here and now. Investigate what am I doing physically before and after I have an attack of very uncomfortable experience. Can I change my physical behaviour so that my experience changes.

    Things like Alexander Technique and Yoga could help with the changes in your physical behaviour.

    The human body is an engineering system which obey the laws of physics and engineering. A medical practitioner knows virtually nothing about physics and engineering. So you will have to do your own investigating here.

    In physics and engineering it is known that if you push the stress on a system past its stress breakdown point then the system will start to break down. Bearing this in mind it is worth investigating ways of reducing the stress on your body mind system to see if you can avoid or reduce instances of stress going above its stress breakdown point.

    Hope this helps.

  • Thank you, John. so far, when the triggers fire, it's fight or flight. I don't like either, but those are really my choices. It makes life very hard to live... hiding in my house, in my bed, is the safest thing I can do right now. I'm hoping to change this. I want my life back!!!

  • When you are in fight or flight mode what is your breathing doing? What are your eyes doing?

    Have a look at a ballerina dancing in swan lake. Observe their arms moving. Have a go at moving your arms like like that and observe what happens to your emotions.

    Play around with changing your eye gaze and notice what happens.

    I am not suggesting solutions, I am suggesting experiments to try.

    I am interested in the results and what you notice.

  • Thank you, John. Unfortunately, when I'm in fight or flight, my stomach is in knots and I can't think... it's all reaction. The fear overtakes and overwhelms and I run. I have no coping skills, so that's all I can do to survive. I've had to run from places important to me - churches, family settings... there's no place safe.

    At one point, my fear had gotten so severe that I couldn't walk through my own small house in the dark. The boogyman was around every corner, potentially. We got a dog, and she has helped tremendously. At least I can relax at home. She knows her one job is to protect her mama, and she's really good at that. No one walks within two blocks of our home (in her sight) without my knowing. :) Of course, my neighbors don't come visit very often, but I'm safe.

    Keep thinking, tho, John! You may come up with something that I can try! I don't have any idea where my gaze goes - I just run to safety. I look for the nearest escape route, I guess, and RUN to it. It's not fun....

  • What you say is good. You are aware of your reactions. The reactions you describe are reactions when you have gone past the point of being able to do anything.

    What you are looking for are the things that happen just before you go into the state of no return. This is easier to say to do. But it can be done.

    There is something called mindfulness. It is a technique that is thousands of years old. When you are in the situation of no return it is of no use. But it can help make yourself aware of things before you get to the point of no return and change at that point.

    Alexander Technique is useful if you can find a teacher because it will help you become more aware of what your body is doing.

    There is a saying in the New Testament of the bible. "It is easier to see the speck of dust in someone else's eye than the plank in our own eye." This is a very true statement when it comes to what our body does. We are so used to what our body feels like that we do not notice how much tension we can have in it.



    or goto



    is a link to a very useful book on mindfulness and meditation. There are other talks and other books available as well.

    A Buddhist Monk of the Forest Thai tradition walk the talk in their own lives.

    Ajahn Chah's description of staying the night in a Thai Burial ground with his strong belief in ghosts is very recognisable to anyone who has lived with real fear. I cannot remember where I have read his description which was a translation from Thai into english.

    This is in comparison to a psychologist, psychotherapist or psychiatrist who have had training in lectures and running groups and counselling, but have never "walked the talk".

    There are Buddhist monasteries of the Forest Thai tradition all over the world.

    Hope this gives you some ideas to they to see if they work.

  • Thank you, John! It's true - we get so used to feeling this way, it's hard to diagnose ourselves, to become aware of the way we have always been. After 12 yrs, I've resigned myself to reacting, so never notice what's coming. The first hint is have is the tightness in my tummy... by then, I'm really close to fleeing. It hits so hard and so fast.....

    I have really recently connected with a support group for mothers of lost children. I generally steer far away from them - I don't fit in. My son was a very different child, so my grief is very different. My counselor, tho, is trained in PTSD and traumatic deaths of children. I'm excited to see what comes of this. :) She's started me on some simple breathing exercises. :) It's a great place to start, and I'm hopeful, since she's trained in both areas that plague my life, she'll be able to really help me wade through some of this stuff that has gotten me stuck. She said that next week, when she calls for the session, we'll start on other breathing techniques. I'm not sure what she has in mind, but if it can give me my life back, I'm ready!

  • The tightness in the tummy is important. As you say by the time you notice it you are onto the next stage.

    So now the task is how can I detect when the tightness in the tummy is just beginning.

    I think of it as detecting the situation when it is a little ant. I can control what an ant does. When I detect the situation when it is a stream train there is nothing I can do. The stream train carries too much momentum.

    The breathing exercises will show you how much breathing can effect mental states. Hopefully it will give you a tool you can use.

  • I was just rereading this, John, and realized that when the PTSD triggers, I seem to hold my breath. It feels like I hold my breath much of the time. My eyes dart to look for the nearest safe place, or an exit. It's all done without thinking, just reacting to the trigger. My mind first says, FIGHT!!! And, after a few harsh words, it turns into RUN!!! It's an automatic reaction, without much thought, and without many options. I simply react. The hardest part is that wherever I am when the trigger fires is usually impossible for me to enter again. And the people around are untrustworthy from then on. It makes it very hard to overcome.... doors are closed and bridges are burned often.

  • I'm new here. Also raised a sociopath who ended up severely hurting everyone around him. I had to cut him out of my life completely, which in and of itself is horrifying, because he is my son. I also had previous trauma.

    I am so sorry for your pain. Truly.

    All I can offer is that I feel my years in bed WERE coping. Getting a dog helped so much! I slept and slept. I gained weight from medications (I didn't eat unless someone made something for me). I slept and wrote and cried and slept some more. Sleeping kept me alive. It helped. A lot. It still helps. My bed was my safe place. I imagined it as my fortress. I would feel the mattress, the sheets, see the closed door, smell my own body, here my dog sleeping next to me. It was and continues to be my safe place.

    I think it's ok to sleep and hide at home. The more you shame yourself for it, the more you will withdraw. Own it! You are resting from a lifetime of trauma!! You earned that rest. Focus on things you can do it bed. Stretching, looking, maybe some drawing or coloring. Practices breathing when you are safe in bed with your puppy close by. Sleep with the lights on. Listen to guided meditations. I really enjoyed Chritian Kerr's children meditations. They fee very safe. I cried my eyeballs out when I first listened. It was such a relief!! I feel your body is telling you that it is not ready to do the trauma work. Just like burn victims, your wounds are raw and deep, and it will be a long time before you can go out in the sun again, or be exposed to any heat. you don't need more stress. Even the positive stress of moving forward. You have to find a way to feel safe. Don't worry about the trauma work. You don't have to go there! You are safe. Right here. Right now. Hang on to that.

  • Thank you so much, Ruth! Very few people understand the horror of sociopathy in your home. I so much appreciate your understanding! We, too, had to remove all contact with our son from our lives, even to the extent of forbidding third-party contact - he couldn't have anyone else call us for him. It was all manipulation and grief, and impossible to have any kind of normal life for the rest of us. It is terribly unthinkable to have to take that step, but sometimes, it's the only way to survive the horror.

    Up until very recently, I slept with a stuffed animal, hugging it tight all night and during all naps. In the last few weeks, that has ended. I still sleep with a super soft blanket next to my body. It's comforting and safe. It's strange to be at my age and sleeping with a stuffed animal and blankie, but it's where I had to be. I also, in the last year or so, adopted a comfort kitty. I have an older cat, but he's not really a lap kitty. He doesn't sleep close to me. Crissy does... the other day, during a terribly heart-wrenching crying bout, that little thing came to me, brushed up against me, and let me hold her and cry for a long time. For some reason, those things have brought comfort and courage. They say that petting and holding a cat will relieve stress and reduce blood pressure, and I think they are right. She helps me lots when I can hold her. She's so soft, and the sound of her steady purr is very comforting.

    I cannot sleep in a quiet house. There has to always be sound, of some sort. tv, radio, something to occupy my mind so it shuts off from the unending cycle it goes into. Thankfully, my husband has accepted it and adapted. It's been hard for him - he loves dark and quiet! The tv is on basically 24 hours a day in our home.

    When I'm in my home with my watchdog protecting me, I am able to function. Changing the meds has helped with that - lots more energy and desire to get the house clean and accomplish things (a huge change!), and I'm beginning to get my life back. With the renewed emotions the change in the meds have brought, I'm emotionally drained lots, but still able to do some things around here. It feels good....

    I talked to my doctor again, adding a new med to try to get control again without zombifying me, and he reminded me that I have "significant" PTSD. It carries an extra level of stress and fear... but I'm learning to survive, and after 12 years, I'm anxious to reclaim my life. I'm not sure how active I can be right now in recovery, but eventually.... I talked to a grief counselor today who is trained in traumatic grief and PTSD. We will talk often, and hopefully, with her combined understanding of the two things I struggle with, I'll be able to begin to heal. It won't be easy, and I may never be totally free of PTSD, but at least I'll be as normal as I can be. As I am just starting this journey of reclaiming my life, I am taking very baby steps in exploring what I can and can't do in treatment. I'm still not sure what that means, but I will do what I can.

    I'm anxious to see what kind of life I've been missing all this time! It won't happen overnight, but it will happen. I'm a very stubborn woman, and I'm determined to do this! One moment at a time, one step at a time, always aware of the triggers and keeping myself as safe as possible. I can't wait to lose all this weight! The doctor says that's further down his priority list than mine, but that's o.k. He knows I have things I must do during the holidays - I married Santa and have lots of children to see - so he's concentrating on getting my emotions under control so I can enjoy my time with the children. I have such wise advisors, those who are beginning to help, I'm confident I can at least level things.

    One step at a time, Ruth! That's all we need to do - take one step at a time. <3

  • I'm rejoicing in the recent removal of the stuffed animal. That was a huge step for me, and when it came down to it, it was really easy. I just didn't need it anymore. Another baby step.... I'm gonna start keeping count. :)

  • I'm not sure whether to smile or cry! My husband has just bought me a teddy bear, and this bear has really felt like the first safe friend I have had for many years. It's a relief to know that other older women with ptsd also find comfort in a cuddly toy. I seem to only sleep once other people are up and about, all night I feel like a dog sleeping with one eye open!

    My husbands son is a sociopath and I'm sure I can understand some of what you have been thro.

    I think the sleeping is a defense mechanism so we can rest until well enough to progress. The trouble is when you then start to feel a little like getting up and doing the body is then so unfit that every mortal thing is a struggle. I try to get some exercise, my traumatic event left me in a wheelchair so it's hard but we go to level flat places and I wheel myself, I am also going to start swimming soon. If you aren't ready to leave the home you might find a treadmill or static bike helpful. Exercise produces happy hormones too and can help you to have more natural sleep instead of just switching off.

    I can't begin to understand your grief but I do understand how trauma robs us of so much, and I understand wanting to get back on the bus of life and find out where it's heading. I wish you luck and blessings in your recovery

  • Thank you so much, Grumpya! It is terrifying to live with APD (antisocial personality disorder - the technical name for sociopathy), and I understand how hard it is to find any safe place. I once asked a professional about the weirdness of sleeping with a stuffed animal (my latest was a very large long pink caterpillar :) ), and he told me it was absolutely normal for us to find safety and comfort in that way. What a relief! I'm not quite so crazy!

    Early on after my son's murder, I couldn't sleep at night. Nightmares were vivid and constant. I had to learn to sleep during the day until the nightmares stopped. Even then, there was a fear to try to sleep at night after the horrible nightmares I'd been plagued with for so long. Eventually, "normal" sleep will come, but it takes time. My most recent sleep issues have been drug induced. I was on several PTSD meds that "may cause drowsiness", and they certainly did! I was sleeping 18-20 hours a day for over a year. Even when I ventured out to do something, I couldn't wait to get home and back into my jammies and bed. I'm working with my doctor to get off those meds - they cause weight gain, too YUCK!!!, and have just started a new one that should help control the fears without the side effects. So far so good. :D

    I do have a static bike - it's a great clothes rack. :D But now that I'm not sleeping my life away, I'm lots more active around the house, and even got the energy a couple of times to take my dog for a walk! These are huge steps for me. My body is getting stronger and stronger, and I feel better and better. It's going to be a long road to "normalcy" - whatever that is, but I'm ready for it! The anxiety and fear are still there, but since my PTSD is "significant" according to my doctor, it will take time and lots of work, baby steps, to work through the emotional mess my life is now.

    Hang in there! Life should be an adventure, not a nightmare. I'm anxious to start my next adventure. Here's hoping you can find the strength and courage to be ready for yours! <3

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