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
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
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.