Hello darkness, my old friend…

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

Until today, these lyrics from the song Sound of Silence had a completely different meaning to me. I’m not sure how I could have listened to it a million times and related it to PTSD, but I completely missed it. This morning, however, the first two lines came to me as I started thinking of a moment I had last night before bedtime.

I have been living in recovery with PTSD for almost two decades now, and for the most part, it has faded into a light haze rather than a menacing darkness.  Still, there are moments that always catch me off guard and and make me worry about what is to come. Last night, something triggered a thought, a question of when something happened, and even though, as most of us do, I immediately told myself that’s not something I even want to know, the fear crept up that my brain would not let go.

Sometimes I feel like my mind and my trauma scarred brain are often at odds. My brain says it needs to tell me things, while my mind says I really don’t want or need to know. All these years later, the two still fight like children about who gets to sit in the front seat of the car. This struggle between the two left me wondering before bedtime if I would have a nightmare about what I didn’t want to remember, or if I would wake up with a new memory. It was so unsettling that it was hours before I could make myself try to fall asleep.

Fortunately, I woke to find my fear had not come true, but there is still this nagging feeling that my brain is just dying to tell me what it knows. I know the longer I ignore it, the more horrifyingly dramatic ways it will present my story when it finally breaks out into it’s performance though. So I wait for a moment when I can cuddle up quietly and allow it to speak softly with me about the things it needs to tell me. I will listen and allow it to get all the negative it’s been holding out, and I will grieve anew and give myself time to accept the feelings that I should have felt and dealt with long ago…

Hello darkness, my old friend…

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I’m ok…

There was a time when it took everything I had just to get through the day.  When I would wake in the morning and hope to get through just one day without having flashbacks on continuous loop in my brain. When I would simply just blank out and shut down because I couldn’t take the overwhelming feelings of disgust, hatred, and betrayal.

Before I learned about grounding and redirection, I learned to tell myself, I’m ok.  At first it was a way to remind myself that, while for that moment I was in a state of panic, I was really not losing my mind.  It helped to quell the attacks by grounding me more in the reality that there was not anything wrong with me, but that I was momentarily experiencing something that was hard to deal with.  There were times when I could be heard repeating to myself over and over, “I’m ok.  I’m ok.  I’m ok.”  I’m sure I sounded a bit crazy, but it was all I could do to regain some control over my run away mind.

Over time, however, “I’m ok.” became a personal mantra.  It became my way of saying to myself, and to the rest of the world, that there was really nothing wrong with me as a person.  By saying these words to myself, I learned that  I wasn’t crazy.  I wasn’t wrong for feeling the way I did.  My inner being wasn’t misshapen, disformed, or unlovable. I was really ok.

Sometimes it is important for us as survivors to remind ourselves the fundamental things like this.  Even though we may not really believe it at first, in time, if we say it enough, we start to open up to the possibility.  For me, “I’m ok.” was just the start.  Over the years, I have learned to tell myself quite a few things – such as I am a beautiful person, I am worthy of love, I am not unlovable, I AM good enough.

Some people may think that a bit silly, but abuse teaches us that we are not any of these things, including ok.  Sometimes it is our abusers who say these words.  At other times, it is the perception about ourselves that their actions leave behind.  Whatever the case, the lessons we learn from abuse are hard wired into our brains.  We believe them because it is what we have been shown.  We, in many ways, have been brain washed, and in order for us to break the never ending stream of negative thoughts we have learned to repeat to ourselves, we must train our brains to question everything we have ever learned…even if that means we have to start with saying, “I’m ok.”

the voices in my head…

Close the door,
Shut out the world.
Ignore the phone –
Enter a space in time
That is mine alone.

Stillness, silence –
No one speaks.
I set the world apart
So I can learn to live,
And become myself again

No one understands
This ritual that I perform –
But this is where I go
To quiet the voices,
That live inside my head.

~ 2007 Kylee Jones

Over the years, I have learned to quiet the voices.  They speak in hushed tones, and most of the time, I don’t even know what they are saying anymore.  Yet there are times that the inner dialogue that I learned as a child runs so long that it drains me of my energy.

This dialogue is one that is familiar to most abused children. It is the one that constantly questions behaviors. It is meant to help us identify and modify behaviors that may increase the risk of danger in our lives.  As we get older, it becomes less useful and begins to cause worry and anxiety.

People who know me do not always understand that I need time away to recharge.  That time may be sitting alone for hours or going shopping or to the movies by myself.  The point is, whatever I do, I need time to be completely alone – no phone, no conversations.  It is only when I am able to achieve this aloneness that the voices are able to rest, and a peaceful harmony is restored.  Then, once more, I can rejoin the world in peace.