Working on your troubles is always a good thing. Even though it might be hard, you have to keep on moving and every step in the right direction counts. Even if they are just tiny baby steps or giant leaps. every step makes a difference. And if you need inspiration or motivation, just look behind you and see the trail all those tiny steps have made!
Working on it
Going to the HiTT (high intensity trauma therapy) was very hard. It felt very much like a big hurdle to cross. Since, the start of all of this I have been raging against the PTSD. I have tried to keep doing the things I did. I have tried to do everything in my power to combat this disease, and try to stay sane throughout. Some would argue that I could have done more. But for me, I did what I could and that's enough. Looking back and realizing the struggle I already went through and knowing that I won't give up actually helps me prepare for what is to come. Thats why I leaped at the opportunity to go to this HiTT week. Boy, was I in for a wild ride.
Arrival on Sunday
I actually drove there on my motorbike. It was a 1 hour drive to the clinic. And I got placed in a temporary household for the rest of my stay. I got placed in a group of 4. All there for the first time. And as it turned out, all of them had very different trauma's. Nonetheless, we all had PTSD, and were there for the same thing. One thing nobody really ever talks about is the loneliness. I can be surrounded by people and still feel all alone. I can be surrounded by my wife and children and still feel very sad and alone. People say they understand, that they can relate. But when these 3 people, who I barely knew, said those things, I knew it to be true. Being there with other who, despite having very different trauma's experience very much the same symptoms as yourself, really helps you feel like you're not alone. You are not going Crazy. We could be sitting and talking to each other and one of us just drifts off in their flashbacks. Actually seeing it happen to someone else made me wonder at first. Is that what someone sees of me when I get pulled in? Is that what happens to me? Then seeing someone drop into a very melancholy mood in the middle of the conversation was an eye-opener for me. For the first time, it made everything real and understandable. Through this entire week, we picked up on each other's triggers, and tried to keep each other grounded in the here and now with a slight touch on the knee or the shoulder. Sometimes that's all you need to snap out of it.
During this week, as I mentioned in my last post, I had exposure therapy in the morning. Going into the most grueling details of my memories. Digging deep and uncovering things I had buried so deep. Uncovering details about the memories which I hadn't even seen yet. After each session, not only was my shirt drenched, I felt so tired. Then I had to work on my exposure. I went to a crowded store, experienced sirens and all kinds of things. The thought here was that by experiencing them, going through the panic and reviewing my experience I would eventually be able to realize that even though the anxiety was there, nothing bad was going to happen to me. Afterwards we had lunch with the 4 of us. Sharing our experiences of the morning. Some couldnt feel anything while looking at their memories, some felt to much, wich overwhelmed them. But I think we all agreed that this was a lot harder than we anticipated. After lunch we had another therapy session including EMDR. This extrapolated from the morning exposure and concentrated on those areas wich made me feel the most. At the beginning of the week, the memories just pulled me in so fast that the therapists came up with all kinds of solutions to keep me rooted in the present. I was counting backwards from 400 hundred with intervals of 4 and 6. All the while tapping my shoulders in a certain rythm, watching the ever moving lights in front of my eyes and still manage to think about the memories. It was exhausting. Then after this therapy session I had to work on my exposure again. For me this usually consisted of reading my book on the balcony. And experiencing the sounds of sirens rapidly getting closer or further away. Every time I heard a siren the memory poped up and just overwhelmed me. And at the beginning of the week I had a very hard time getting out of it. After all that exhausting therapy, we had trauma sensitive yoga. This was actually looking and feeling inside your body. What happens when the panic sets in, how does it affect your body. And what are some techniques you could use to cope, with the panic. Somewhat prevent the panic or recover after the panic. One of these techniques I actually saw in a movie once. Can't really remember wich one it was. But the hero gave a kid his watch and said. Count your breaths. Breathe in for 4 seconds and breathe out for 4 seconds. If you can do that move on to 6 seconds and finally 8 seconds. If you can do 8 Seconds, you'll have calmed down. As a side note, the counting also helps focus your mind on other things, thats why it's so effective. The days flew by like this and being cooped up with people experiencing the same, having no time between therapy and even in between you are working on yourself. This is what creates the intensity of this week. I actually cracked on wednesday afternoon during the second therapy. The therapist had me do all sorts of excersises and all of the solutions I mentioned before. and finally after I think an hour and a half of all that, I cracked. I was drenched from head to toe, as if I stood in the shower with my clothes on. I was done, and that's what I said. I'm done, I can't go on. And that was my turning point.
From that point on I barely needed any solutions to keep me grounded in the now. The therapy sessions were mostly talk, with some EMDR on the thoughest spots in my memories. But I could feel myself taking strides. Finding anger I didn't know was there. Finding loss, hurt and a ton of other feelings I never allowed myself to feel. Apparently I needed to be pushed to my physical and mental limit in order to get there. It was one of the thoughest things I've had to do. And even though I have tried to put it in words, there is no way I can describe the exhaustion that overcame me as sooon as I cracked. Or the elation I felt when I found a sliver of control over my own actions at the end of this week. Describing the sense of connection we had by just being there and fighting to overcome our hardships is very hard to put in words. But before I left I got a card from one of our group it said:
"Being held hostage by your own body. That is how I saw you come in. I've seen you work and sweat. Literally and figurativly this entire week. The amount of power you have shown, by giving it your all, and attacking this thing head on and opening up. Strength, Will and Wisdom. Your children and wife are so lucky to have you. Thank you for your words of wisdom and support when I needed it. I wish you all the luck, relaxation en strength for now and in the future. Good luck."
And she drew a little construction worker on there to represent the mountains I have moved by taking this thing head on.
Going back home after this intense week of working on myself, was a relief. A relief to finally be back. See my wife and kids again. Share with them in the joy of the strides I felt I made. Continuing on with the tools I got while I was away. And hopefully be able to do some of the things I could before all of this started. I came home exhausted on Saturday. spend some days with the kids and wife. I still felt pretty good because of my progress. Then on wednesday I went to my Psychologist. I don't know why but that gave me some enxiety. And we evaluated the week of HiTT together with the psychologist from the clinic. He complimented me and thought I had made tremendous strides, but that I still had a very long way to go. My psychologist then said, I dont see much difference between the Kevin I'm seeing now and the Kevin of 2 weeks ago. That devastated me. She also mentioned that it was going to take a very long time for me to learn to deal with all of this. And that she was considering whether to recommend me for another week of HiTT. At that time I couldn't understand her reasoning. I felt I had made strides, but apparently not. Getting home I mentioned this to my wife. And she confirmed with the thoughts of the psychologist. Saying that, yes I did not have a falling out with my kids, but that the slightest thing would set me off. And that she actually thought I was a bit worse than before that week. That hurt and got me all depressed again, because I really thought I was moving forward.
After a week or so I finally got out of that mood. And I still hadn't had a falling out with my kids. I was able to take on more than I could before the HiTT week. I could go to the swimming pool locker room with my kids even though it was way to crowded. I actually got into a panic attack there, but stayed through it and only left after I calmed down a bit. I felt the improvements. I think I just needed some time to recover from that week. And now that I could see the results I could understand the reasoning of my psychologist. I got comfort in knowing that I was making progress, I just needed to alter my goals. I'd been talking to the other 3 in the group about baby steps and that every 2 steps forward is accompanied by a step back. But that every step forwards is a good one, even though it's a tiny step. I think I just wanted myself to take leaps instead of steps. Expecting more from myself.