Sunday, 3 October 2010

PTSD As A Logic Trap

Whenever there's something which triggers my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) there forms this lump of pain in my chest. If the trigger is such that it is something long-term, meaning not something I just read, saw or heard and which doesn't indicate a change in my environment, this lump is pretty much the only result. Not that it is easy to bear, mind you. It's like having a gaping wound in your chest which just won't stop hurting, with bandages chafing it every time you move.

The first thing a person would do in response to feeling such a pain inside is to investigate and analyze it, to figure out why it's hurting and how to fix it. If it's something physical one would deduce the probable cause from the symptoms, press in a few places to check for soreness or sensitivity, measure temperature and so on. Things are less straight-forward when it concerns emotional pain.

Logic dictates that something caused this emotional distress and that from this trigger and the form the pain displays one can deduce why it triggered this. Unfortunately this works great for regular discomfort, like not wishing to talk about a particular subject because it's gross, weird or doesn't fit one's mood at that time. It fails spectacularly for significant traumas, like PTSD.

The problem with PTSD is the way it's set up; it's basically a heavily interconnected network of negative feedback and reinforcement triggers and associations. It has all the elegance and ease of understanding of an Escher drawing. Trigger one point in it, and the resulting impulse will travel along the network, dragging one's thoughts along in its wake, going from one node to another, from one negative association to another, in true cascade-style. At each point the general feeling of discomfort keeps increasing until it becomes unbearable.

Where the nasty thing comes into play is that it is utterly and completely impossible to logically analyze this PTSD network, yet it feels so natural to try and analyze why one responds to a certain impulse in such an extreme manner. Yet this is exactly which activates the mechanism. With each step one gets dragged deeper into the maze until it's impossible to extract oneself, or to separate fact from fiction. In a sense it's like getting stuck in Hell itself. Each thought leads to another, which leads to another, each of them seemingly logical, even though when looking back at it after snapping out of it it's totally obvious that such reasoning was utter nonsense.

In the end there are two things one can do about PTSD: the first is blatantly ignoring its call and hope it doesn't trick one into exploring its depth at some unguarded moment (usually when tired, right after waking up, or after another trigger sets of a cascade). The other is to unravel this PTSD network and its false associations. This is what therapies such as EMDR aim to accomplish.

In my case there are a few things which could accomplish this for me, without resorting to EMDR. On the relationship part, experiencing a long-term, positive relationship should help ease things and allow me to grow emotionally in that area. When it comes to sexuality, the foremost things to resolve is to answer the questions about my body. Hopefully tomorrow I'll learn these answers. With these relatively simple things the PTSD network I'm struggling with should be a lot less complex and dangerous to me.


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