By Maria Anna van Driel, www.nexttruth.com
Let me shock you here for a brief moment! Modern psychology is in the need to restudy and understand the invisible injuries of both PTSDand CPTSD. Because that is exactly what it is…an emotional injury and not a mental illness what has to be suppressed with brain foggy creating medication in the moment one is capable of making a clear distinction between the past and the present. Not to mention this magical antidote, aka forgiveness.
Say, a police officer has experienced a kidnapping. I mean, their own. He/she has been kept in prison for a certain period of time by a psychopathic criminal, being threatened, being insecure if he/she will survive the situation. Most cops will have these thoughts of ‘Shit, why didn’t I saw this coming? I have been trained for these kind of situations!’
Some therapists will say ‘Hurry, hurry, you have to forgive yourself so that you can move on’. Or what about those people who have experienced sexual abuse as a child or, during their adult years? There are therapist who say, ‘You have to start to forgive, it will give you peace’.
My personal opinion straightforward? F*ck them! If you do not want to forgive the one who has wracked your life, than that is perfectly fine. You should not be forced to do this at all.
What a therapist can do, together with their client, is working towards letting it go. I mean, for the client to start feel comfortable with the fact that it has happened and that it is okay to be angry about it…among others. It is okay not to forgive these sadistic predators…and some people never will.
There are a myriad brilliant therapists who are practicing for years already and their clients are tremendously happy with their listening ear and the treatments provided. They feel comfortable while voicing their minds, experiences and emotions to the therapist. But, unfortunately, when it comes down to 1st responders a huge amount of these therapists are missing the point…big time!
9 out of 10 known and accepted treatments many therapists are familiar with, are not even reaching the first level of PTSD and/or CPTSD 1st responders are dealing with. (regardless if they are retired or still working in the field)
Why? Straightforward, drawing a happy rainbow while bringing up mom not sticking a bandage on one’s knee after a fall on the kindergarten playground, is simply not relating to the mind-set of someone who has experienced, for instance, a shootout, called in a KIA, collected body-parts a psychopathic (serial) killer left behind or have watched a child die. (regardless recently or (…) years ago)
PTSD has many faces
I myself was a 1st responder once (police officer). So, I know, from personal experiences, you are going through some hard times. I know your dreams are not always pretty and that life, at times, might feel rough or you might feel weird or things might be frustrating but it’s not always going to be like this. An article in where I both explain the strength you still possess and unpack my personal story a bit more is scheduled for publication on 5 January 2022 on the website of CPTSD But for those who like to dive into it earlier, it is published in the January edition of The Next Truth.
Even though, back in the 90s, the awareness of PTSD existing with 1st responders was present, it was still in its infant moments. Meaning, knocking on a door for discussing any emotion experienced during, or after, the job was, unfortunately, not a real option by means of this mentality of ‘suck it up and get over it princes’. The rule we worked and lived by. Exposing any emotion in public was a big no-no and, expressing having any difficulties with a situation too often was creating an insecurity with colleagues (not knowing if they can depend on you) and could easily result in you receiving the advised to, so to speak, hand in your uniform.
The results was me not speaking up for almost 2.5 decades, trying to erase everything from my mind and, drowning all memories in alcohol for approximately 10 years. A substance abuse, spawn from having the feeling of not being understood, I overcame by myself. And believe me when I am saying that this battle, together with a period covering 3.5 months of absorbing and experiencing the effects of a profound self reflection, was one of the biggest fights I had to overcome. I was fighting both myself and the alcohol. It took me about two more years but, I won the battle by myself and, I am damn proud of it!
- I feel that this song describes the moments of this battle pretty good. This battle in where I was fighting to gain back my sanity, my life, and accepting the dreams containing my personal experiences and memories, in silence.
Anyway, while using alcohol as an outlet, the memories slowly started to fade…in other words, an odd form of neuroplasticity was taking place. Of course, the memories were still present in the back of my mind but I, sort of, re-programmed my mind not to be bothered by it. And so, it became numb for the nasty stuff. Oh sure, during that period I knocked on several doors but, stepping in those sterile, ward looking offices in where the therapist didn’t even bother to look from his/her desk while asking the question “And what can I do for you?”, did not create a safe surrounding.
And so my responds was, “Well, to begin with, you can look at me when asking a question. And secondly, don’t speak to me as if I am a 5-year-old having difficulties choosing between going home with a toy car or popsicle.” This behavior is not aggression, but a response to not gaining the feeling to be considered as full-fledged or, to be capable of perceiving both oneself and the environment. At least, that was my personal experience.
Empathy and patience is the key
As a 1st responder you participate in many, many deployments in where you have to read people’s body language and the intonations when they speak, within seconds. And so, it is normal that this skill is activated during a conversation with a therapist what can lead for you to gain this feeling of “Man, you don’t know where I am coming from. You have no clue of what I am talking about.”
Many therapists have yet not understood how 1st responders are experiencing and dealing with PTSD let alone how they (re)act on it. And so, they are too quickly in seeking for those general behaviors they are most familiar with (read in old, dusty textbooks) which are being said to accompany PTSD. (the feeling of numbness is not instantly indicating that one is suicidal!)
When it involves 1st responders, many therapists are not recognizing, being aware, that these people have a strong awareness of ‘self’ meaning, they know how to put and voice their thoughts and emotions into perspective as soon as they are in a safe surrounding. And this safe surrounding is created with ‘patience’. Not with, for instance, feeding people brain foggy creating medications or magical antidotes or, to let them figure out the meaning of an abstract inkblot. Talk to them as e.g. a cop, firefighter, soldier, paramedic.
Even though 1st responders are trained to deal with non-everyday situations, creating this safe environment and acknowledging that they, like you, have emotions, are, in my opinion, very important steps towards easing down some of the demons that plague one’s dreams and thoughts.