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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Day 7, Reexperiencing

So here we are at the set of symptoms which are first in the diagnostic criteria for PTSD. I put them last, because you can't reexperience anything unless you have first experienced it and it has made a big traumatic impression!
Like I said, PTSD makes more sense if you see yourself reacting swiftly and effectively to danger using skills built into the primitive part of your brain. Then you re-experience the events in various ways.
When I started out, I felt reexperiencing was a cry from your inner self for help. I have been through something that is too much for me! So it keeps reminding you of what happened in unpleasant ways. I learned that those parts of the brain store non-verbal memories. (If you want to see a non-verbal memory, hold a ball up in front of a dog.) One of the ways to get those non-verbal memories out of your head is to encode them as narrative memories, which means to talk it out or write it out and get the details right. That is why therapy works, but so does writing a book, like Bob did, or other kinds of writing. I will talk more about that when I get to things that help.
Here is the first symptom: intrusive unpleasant recollections of the event(s). This is like going over and over the plot of a movie, trying to figure it out. Your brain needs to figure it out. That is one of the brain's functions. What happened? Why did it happen (to ME)? this is the better safe than sorry part of your brain which wants you constantly looking out for danger so you won't get hurt again.
People do not want to keep thinking about those experiences. They intrude! Shove in where they are not wanted. This can make you feel quite nuts. Why can't I stop thinking about it, or dreaming about it (the second type of reexperiencing)? What is wrong with me?
PTSD symptoms are proof of survival. You can't re-experience if you don't live. However re-experiencing is disconcerting, painful, devastating, depressing and often horrific. When you can't stop thinking, seeing feeling or dreaming about painful events it makes you cranky or outright angry and it can turn you towards self-medication. You may be unable to sleep because of nightmares or afraid to sleep for fear of having them. To me, your brain is telling you something does bother you. Since military men and women are not supposed to be bothered by anything, it seems like your brain has to whack you over the head with re-experiencing to get you to notice that it did bother you...
Tomorrow I will talk more about the other reexperiencing symptoms.

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