PTSD has a whole rainbow of symptoms and they all suck . In my thirty-odd (some would say very odd) years fighting this damned affliction I have dealt with everything from depression to rage to psychotic episodes to hallucinatory experiences of various scope and intensity. Today I want to talk about how to handle when your brain shows you shit that isn’t there. it happens to all of us. Usually it happens in the form of a flashback or what the shrinks call a re-experiencing. Basically some triggering stimuli causes our minds to throw us back into a horrible event like Hells own holodeck. I’ve had thousands of these episodes and they never stop being scary and they never stop sucking. And those of us stuck with PTSD are probably doomed to have them off and on for the rest of our lives. Sorry, you want comfort, get a teddy bear. You want help, keep reading.
So how to handle? How to deal with the fact that even though you might know intellectually that what you’re seeing is not and can not be real the part of your brain that is doing the driving doesn’t give a flaming bucket of rhino piss? The answer is both simple and complex. The simple part is through hard, hard work. And that my friends is gonna be a recurring theme here. You want easy? Sit on your ass, be a victim, never get better and let the whole world view you as an emotional cripple. Coping is hard. Getting better is hard. Telling the demons in your skull to shut the fuck up, sit the fuck down and get their leathery asses back in their fucking hole IS REALLY REALLY FUCKING HARD. Get used to it. Sure, the ignorant and scared -often two groups that overlap more than the various forms of hillbilly blood relation- might still regard you as an emotional cripple but they’re stupid. So fuck ’em. Or better yet don’t. Find someone who isn’t a complete idiot and fuck THEM. Who wants to fuck a stupid person? They’re probably no good any how.
What matters is that others might have ignorant idiot ideas about who you are on the basis of your label as a mentally ill person but you will know the truth. If you bust your ass and do the work then you will know and that’s all that matters. So how to do that? Well we covered the simple part. The complex part gets into how the brain works on PTSD. PTSD as I’ve often said operates at the back of the brain. The lizard level. Fight/fuck/run/kill . When you have an episode that is the part that takes over. Language and reason happen up at the front of the brain. The other thing to remember is that the hallucinations we experience in our PTSD are generally rooted in the past. So we derail that process by focusing on two things; the present and higher brain functions. And we do so ideally in combination.
See we all know at this point that the brain is basically a meat-computer. And like any computer the processing power is finite. So we re-direct bandwidth from the shit we don’t want to the shit we do. We open as many windows as we can on good stuff so that the computer doesn’t have the ability to run the bad. I’m going to tell you what works for me and I want you to find something that gets the same job done for you.
Me, I hit it two ways. First through immediate sensory input. I hoard keys. I’m not screwin about. I must have twenty-seven keys on my key ring to places and locks that I haven’t had anything to do with in years. Why? Because keys are very tactile. They have a unique physical structure about them that is almost never ever related to any traumatic event. so one of the things I do when I find myself under the affects of an hallucination is I reach into my pocket and I run a thumb over my keys. First there’s the fact that this is a conscious act rooted in the now. I have to chose to put my hand in my pocket, find my keys -not had since my keyring is roughly the size of a golfball . And then I have to chose to run my thumb over my keys. And that sensation helps pull me into the present. Your neurosis might try to incorporate the sensation into your hallucination but if there’s no past-parallel it’s gonna have to work twice as hard. Find something similar that works for you. and interestingly shaped rock, a bit of sandpaper. Shit, press the edge of a fingernail against the tip of your thumb. That’ll get your attention. Just don’t engage in self-harm. Don’t ever harm your body in an attempt to distract your mind. That’s an ugly road and there’s nothing good to be found upon it.
The other thing I do is inventory my environment. Like I said, the illness doesn’t work on a level where stuff has names. It operates on the level where stuff is just one big scream. So if I were to suddenly have an episode here at my desk I would -and have- start ID’ing items out loud. “Two blue pens. Boonbock Saints poster. Jar of Irish dirt with blue tape on it.” and so on. Get detailed. Is there a book in your view? Say the title and the author. What’s the cover art? “Monster Hunter Nemesis by Larry Correia with a big damned demon getting punched in the face on the cover” .
It may seem silly. It may make people think you’re weird. Screw silly and piss on the opinions of others. Your mental health doesn’t take a back seat to the insignificant nothing perceptions of others. and you know what? IT WORKS. It works because you are forcing the brain’s energy and attention away from the disease and into the here and now. And yes, it’s hard. Especially at first. And it gets hard sometimes even after its become a habit. But so what? It might be hard but it will alleviate your suffering. It will take back your mind from the horrors of your past. And gradually the brain will become habituated to the process. You might always have hallucinations but you’ll be able to shorten their duration and intensity with this technique. You’ll be able to live a more functional life and feel less helpless because you , not the condition will be in control . That’s the goal. You might have this shit for as long as you live, but you will have it. it won’t have you.
I could continue on in this vein at some length but I’d mostly just be repeating myself. So I’m off for now. Be well, have a wonderful weekend and remember; you’re not alone in this fight and you’re strong enough to win. There’s millions of us out there and we are all beautiful badasses. And if someone gives you shit for being sick look em in the eye and say “Motherfucker my brain tried to murder me today and I didn’t let it. What’s your superpower?” . Then go on about your business cause they just ain’t worth your time.