In follow up to ‘A Piece of My Soul‘, I can report that I had gone into parasympathetic shock from an initial trigger for me during a Way of Council session. I was feeling extreme and violent rage towards my therapist for stating that the therapy I needed was ‘No therapist’ (which I later found out he had said intentionally, to get to the trigger and clear it). In the Way of Council circle, I was too afraid to express what I was feeling, or take the time to clear it. And the situation of having intense feelings that I couldn’t share became a 2nd trigger. The call to the CRT was then a 3rd trigger. So, by the time I arrived in my therapist’s office a few days later, I was a bundle of tension, silent rage and dispair.
And that’s where I got to have a re-do experience of expressing my feelings and being heard. We talked about admitting me to the hospital, and he shared why he didn’t think that would be effective. We then talked about other options, such as arranging for one or several friends to bring me a meal and eat it with me on a regular basis.
I think it was the first time my “psychiatric self” was taken seriously, and responded to, instead of being diminished, minimized and dismissed. I went home and immediately ate for several hours. An entire family-sized meat pie, two bowls of salad and two bowls of ice cream. I felt as if there were roots growing through my feet and a grounding feeling I had never felt before. A support I had never felt before. And as soon as I felt the support there, I didn’t need it. This astounds me.
My therapist also recommended I write to the Crisis Response Team, which I did, a week and a half later, after several drafts of several pages long each. The letter I actually submitted was two pages. What has come out of it is that the CRT has asked me and my therapist to work on a “user-friendly” communication format to be used with me, and with those on a similar journey to me — one of recovery from trauma.
What is striking to me in this situation is the difference that must be discerned between the treatment of a mental illness due to chemical imbalance vs. a trauma survivor, as well as the extremely merky cross-over space between them. What I see is that with some cases of extreme mental illness or psychosis, it is ridiculous to think of asking the person when they first felt what they are feeling. In this case, maybe it does make sense to distract the person from what they are feeling. Treat the feeling as a symptom to be gotten rid of.
The important distinction is that doing this with a trauma survivor in distress can be extremely disastrous. The pertinent information here seems to be that the effects of trauma do not have the same origin as mental illness, and cannot — must not — be treated in the same way.
I have recommended training in Compassionate (previously Non-Violent) Communication, which my therapist also thinks would be a good starting place for the CRT. He is also purchasing a copy of the ACA big book to reference and pass along pertinent information from.
I feel proud of this. I feel heard and validated. It is a living amends to myself and all the times I was abandoned, or abandoned myself by not speaking up.
I found these articles when my therapist and his co-facilitator of the Way of Council circle recommended everyone look up parasympathetic shock. For me it has been a considerable insight. I recognize that shock states are not as dramatic as one might think; yet they can create great distress and dysfunction.
On Parasympathetic and Sympathetic Shock by John F. Barnes, P.T.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System by Veronique Mead MD MA