Breaking Through the Crust of Healing PTSD with Michele Rosenthal!
Every life contains elements of trauma that put in place limiting beliefs, blocks and obstacles that hold you back from reaching your unlimited potential. Especially when trauma leads to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) your potential can become a prisoner of the past. Freeing yourself means discovering how to access and inhabit the deep source of your courage. Trauma and PTSD expert, survivor and author, Michele Rosenthal, joins Dr. Pat to talk about her latest book, Heal Your PTSD: Dynamic Strategies that Work, and how anyone can launch a healing rampage to break through the limiting Crust.
Michele Rosenthal is a popular keynote speaker, award winning blogger, award nominated author, workshop/seminar leader, and certified professional coach. She hosts the radio program, Changing Direction, and is the founder of www.HealMyPTSD.com.
Michele is a trauma survivor who struggled with PTSD for over twenty-five years. She is now 100% PTSD free. She is the author of Before the World Intruded and the recently published Your Life After Trauma (W.W. Norton).
Dr. Pat: I’m so glad to have Michele Rosenthal join me here today, “Heal your PTSD: Dynamic Strategies that Work,” and why is this such an important conversation? You had to work through a horrific illness. You had to work through some things in the world. But beyond looking at surviving it, we’re talking about a solution that has to do with thriving. When you mention the word; “thriving,” to me, there’s got to be a healing journey involved. What are the obstacles? What are the challenges that you personally had to overcome on your journey to this?
Michele: Well, I’ll share with you my own personal obstacles and at the same time process it by saying I am not unique. Everything I am about to tell you I have heard other survivors, when I share my story, say, “Yes! I felt the same way!” We all feel so isolated and alone in our trauma and our recovery processes, and of course there are aspects and elements that are unique to each of us but what I’m about to share is so universal because it’s human.
The number one obstacle in recovery to me was fear. It was just out and out, straight terror of what the healing process was going to require of me, what it was going to take from me, and how I might get lost in it and not be able to be pulled back out. The number one obstacle was fear.
The number two obstacle was there’s no prescription for healing after trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder. Let’s just say you have bronchitis, you know what to do; you take your anti-biotic and 72 hours you start to feel better. But with trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, there is no one solution and there is no one way, there are many ways. Each of us has such an individual and unique healing process that you just have to sort of bang around trial-and-error until you figure out yours.
The biggest obstacle after fear was I didn’t know what to do, and in that place you can get really stuck, and demoralized, and lose all hope.
Dr. Pat: One of the things that I think I’m really struck by in the conversation is what the definition of PTSD is. But people see PTSD as black and white. Help me out here with the big definition or are we in a box around PTSD?
Michele: I do not like boxes. So we’re going to bust out of that box right now. There are no boxes, as far as I’m concerned, in PTSD. Because that was one my biggest issues with my PTSD experience is when I did look for help. My parents were very clear that there was something not right about and they would take me to different specialists, they all tried to put me in a box. I didn’t fit the box so I never got the help that I really sorely needed.
You’re making such a great point because the media covers PTSD purely, and almost exclusively from a military perspective. But actually, PTSD comes in all walks of life because it is at its core the experience of life-threatening danger. Each of us has a different threshold for what that kind of stress does to us and how we interpret that kind of situation.
We can define trauma baseline in three simple ways.
1. Any experience that’s less than nurturing.
2. Any experience that overwhelms your capacity to cope.
3. Any experience that changes the way you see yourself in the world.
That’s just a baseline definition of trauma. Now, post-traumatic stress disorder happens when longer than four weeks you experience symptoms of an activated survival-mode. Those symptoms are in four categories: avoidance, re-experiencing, mood alterations, and hyper-arousal.
When you start looking at it that way, I know people who have been diagnosed with PTSD because an acrimonious divorce where they are terrified that they’re going to be homeless. Out on the street, without any money, without a home, and dealing with a spouse who’s violent and physically aggressive. You don’t think about that necessarily in terms of PTSD right off the bat but it is a precursor for PTSD.
Even in children, we see neglect as a precursor for PTSD. You might think, well how’s that possible? That just means the child is by himself, nobody is hurting him. But to the child, neglect is hugely life-threatening. Who’s going to feed them? Who’s going to clothe them? Where are they going to sleep? Who’s going to pick them up after school? It’s terrifying.
To pull all this together, what we’re really saying is PTSD is an experience of a life-threatening perspective and everybody that can be different but at its core it’s a sensation of enormous powerlessness in the face of something that threatens your well-being.