Rollercoaster Healing

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From the first week of July until yesterday, I thought I was healed from PTSD. It’s now the the first week of August. It seemed like all my symptoms were gone. I will preface the rest of this post with this note: this post won’t be very eloquent. It might seem disjointed.

PTSD Symptom Returns

The dissociation is back. The common thread between the first week of July and this first week of August is directly connected to the return of this symptom. Both times I attended trainings for TIPI practice. In July, one session lead to a month free of symptoms. This time it brought one back.

The links between our emotions and physical ailments cannot be denied. Think of stress and having a cold.

In training, we learned about some other physical problems that are directly connected to our emotions, such as migraines, stiff muscles, back pain, allergies, and as in my case, asthma. We went around the room seeing if any of us had physical ailments that might be linked. My asthma does not happen often. In fact, it happens so seldomly that my breathing tests have repeatedly been negative for the diagnosis. But yesterday at lunch within an hour of discussing the physical-emotional link, timing could not have better. I opened my mouth to take a bite of a sandwich and an asthma attack kicked in.

I had had one episode of wheezing before 9-11 on a spring day in the back of a taxi cab near Central Park in Manhattan. The pollen count was outrageous. This would naturally lead one to believe it was an allergic reaction. Perhaps. But it was just one episode. After 9-11, wheezing occurred often and a doctor diagnosed acute bronchitis and prescribed me an Albuterol inhaler. I preferred relaxation techniques over the inhaler, though the drug did help in extreme situations. After the dust of 9-11 settled, the wheezing occurred maybe once or twice every few years.

But why did the wheezing start in the first place? Was it really because of particles in the air? Certainly, very dusty, enclosed places seemed to cause the asthma to flare up. My apartment had been covered with a layer of black dust every day for 11 months after the World Trade Center fell. My roommate and I blew black from our noses every morning. (She moved out within 3 months.) A big asthma attack prior to this week happened at my therapist’s office a few months ago with windows open on a windy, dusty day. Taking a bite from a sandwich was not typical. What was the link?

On Cedric Bertelli’s (director of the TIPI program in the U.S.) urging, I went into the next room to practice TIPI. But it didn’t work. Questions were running through my mind distracting me from the technique. As it happens when we lose oxygen, I felt dizzy and unable to think clearly.

Normally when a TIPI session goes well, the practioner feels better, calmer, and after some time can feel more energetic. After a couple hours, I was feeling worse. It didn’t work.

In spite of the failure, something else came to light: I had been feeling uncertain, or insecure. Before the wheezing, I had prepared a bowl of risotto for all of us in the training to share. I was afraid there was not enough pesto in it and that it would lack flavor. Then, when sitting to do the TIPI session, I felt unsure because I thought maybe I should drink water first. After this failed session, it dawned on me. Every time, including the time in the taxi cab, I felt insecure, afraid that others would think negatively of me.

At that point, with my mind having difficulty connecting with reality, everything appeared dreamlike. Roleplays in the training seemed real to me and I had difficulty following what was going on. Fortunately, I had a wonderful resource in a room full of people trained to assist in overcoming fear. The roleplay changed to real practice and a classmate walked me through a TIPI session to clear this feeling of insecurity. Though afterward I didn’t feel uncertain anymore, the disconnection from reality remained and left me unplugged. I am back to being slow to understand, needing clarification in conversations and meetings. I see life around me as if it’s a movie. Riding my motorcycle takes extra concentration effort. And I need white noise to fall asleep again. Normally, I would feel frustrated. Thank God for TIPI.

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