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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Modulating arousal: Day 21 of National PTSD Awareness Month

When I first saw Beverly Donovan and Edgardo Padin-Rivera present the Transcend Program at an International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies meeting, they told us their veterans used a guided meditation tape (yes, this was the olden days: cassette tape) created for them by Belleruth Naparstek. This was an amazingly innovative idea and it worked. So one of the other helpful things I want to mention is listening to guided meditations for PTSD which are available at
Bob found meditation more helpful. He was always mad that he couldn't blank his mind till he read Wherever You Go, There You Are by John Kabat-Zinn which helped him a lot. Now Bob also uses a body scan CD from John Kabat-Zinn's The Mindful Way Through Depression (it has 3 other authors) which also helps him a lot.
At one ISTSS meeting we had someone present on the liberating effect of learning to use your voice. When people are traumatized, they often lose their voice, and singing lessons can be empowering. I will have to look for the paper, which is up in my office in some pile somewhere, but I just found an article: Music Therapy Helps Vets Control Symptoms of PTSD, which you can google. It is about a viola player, but the idea is the same. Different things help different people. Find what helps you to let go of anxiety and retrain yourself for peace.
I often say when I give talks on PTSD that vets need Basic Untraining so they can take care of themselves. They usually laugh a bit and look at me like I am nuts. I say, "Did the military teach you how to take care of yourself?" They nod. I say, "Oh, yeah? Did you ever say to your drill instructor that you couldn't do that right now because you needed to go take a nap?" Laughter.
But that is what self-care is. If you can't talk right now, if you can't go to that party, if you need space or quiet time, you need to be able to say it in a nice way without having to blow up. When you get mad, you need to remove yourself and learn ways you can learn to calm down without drugs or alcohol. The skills of peace are learnable, but often veterans don't even imagine such a thing since the skills they have (including a lot of PTSD symptoms) have kept them alive.
Other things that can modulate arousal are exercise, biofeedback, relaxation training, breathing training, Yoga and movement therapy. I will talk a bit more about Yoga tomorrow.

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