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“I Was Doing So Well, and Now I Feel Worse Than Ever…”

10 Oct


Help Belleruth,

My therapist recommended your book and it really helped me take charge of my life when I understood that ptsd is in fact a very somatic disorder. I started walking daily, eating healthy and actually felt better that I had in years. 

And now it's all gone, my system is more activated and distressed than ever.  I just want to hurt myself compulsively, I experience a self-loathing that's never been this bad, and I can't seem to stop eating compulsively.

According to my therapist, I am now starting to feel the stress I've numbed myself to previously, but I don't understand!  How come I've first experienced two months of Paradise and now this?  It actually makes it a lot worse that it's now worse than ever after these two wonderful months.  Please help.

Kind regards,

R. from the Netherlands

Dear R,

I certainly understand your distress and disappointment, after having had these great 2 months.  Your therapist, who knows you best, is very likely correct, that this is part of your healing as you enter the "de-numbing" phase of your journey – and it’s not pretty!  Here’s the upsurge of all those anguished feelings, held within for so long, and all the more painful because of the contrast with those terrific 2 months.  Not for sissies, that's for sure!   You will be detoxing and rinsing some major gunk from your system - psychological and even physical.

But also please know that with posttraumatic stress, the healing is very likely to go in these crazy-feeling biochemical swings, as your body-mind seeks to establish its new balance.  Think of it as a pendulum, if that helps.  You're in for some pretty intense ups and downs, as a normal part of the healing process.  But don't confuse that with losing ground!!  You're going forward in swings.  
Keep doing your imagery, meditation, breathing - whatever mind-body practices work for you to help you self-regulate your mood and your energy - even if it only generates relief for just a few minutes, keep at it.  Dogged and steady wins this race, R.  You can breathe through it, and you can get more and more skilled at bringing yourself back into balance, as your system goes off on one of its wacky pendulum rides.

If it doesn't alarm you, deep tissue massage therapy could be a big help right now, to help you release some of this psychic gunk.  If that's too touchy-feely for you at this time, don’t do it.  You might consider Reiki or Healing Touch, which is a much gentler approach that can be practiced energetically but hands off.  If you can manage it, keep walking and exercising.  That will help move this phase along, too.
But the main thing is to remember that you haven't lost ground.  You're moving forward in the way that most of us improve - unevenly and messily.  Only it's even more so with posttraumatic stress!  This may take some time, but you can get through this.  Please write to let us know how it’s going in a few months.

Wishing you continued success and healing! 

All best to you,

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award