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Woman with PTSD wonders if symptoms will ever abate…

06 Sep
A woman with PTSD from being molested as a child by a next door neighbor, wonders if her symptoms will ever abate and if her roller coaster healing journey will lead her to lasting healing..
Dear Belleruth,

I am a 43-year-old woman; in 1991, I was diagnosed with PTSD as a result of having been molested repeatedly over the course of the summer I was five, by our next-door neighbor — my parents’ closest friend. I had repressed the memories from age five until they began to slowly emerge when I was a junior in high school, finally gushing out in a frightening torrent when I was in college and embarking upon my first appropriate (consensual) sexual relationship.

I did not tell my parents about the sexual abuse; my father was a deeply nonviolent man, but was also very protective of his children, especially me- "Daddy’s little girl". Telling my mother but not my father was out of the question for me.

Although I can have PTSD "episodes" (panic, depression) sporadically throughout the year, I am mainly symptomatic throughout the summer months (the first week of July through the first or second week of August).

I did a lot of very wrenching "talk" therapy with my doctor. According to her, many of my triggers are environmental, and my mind and body respond to stimuli that occur in the Chicago area during that time of year.

As part of my healing journey, I conceived, prepared, and enacted a graveside ritual (my molester is deceased). I wrote him a lengthy letter and burned it on his grave during the first week of August, 1991. I told my sister about the abuse. She is 12 years older than I, and, unbeknownst to me, he had first tried to molest her. When she rebuffed him and threatened to tell our parents, he backed off. Unbeknownst to her, he next turned to me. I was relieved that she believed what I told her. After my father died in November 1991, I waited for about a year and told my mother. To my utter relief, she, too, believed me and supported me utterly. I felt better for a while, but eventually began to experience symptoms once more.

In January of this year, I purchased your guided imagery meditation CD to help with weight loss. It had a powerful effect upon me, and I did some internet research on you and your work. In February I read Invisible Heroes, and was floored- it flies in the face of all I have been told and all that I have read about PTSD for over two decades.

In March I began listening to your Healing Trauma CD. I listened about four or five times a week until mid-April, when my mom died very unexpectedly. I gave myself two weeks off from the Healing Trauma CD, then resumed because I did not wish to lose the benefits I had accrued. Lately, I have been listening at least once a day—sometimes two or three. I downloaded the audio onto an MP3 player, and listen to the affirmations all day long at work.

I wasn’t able to do this at first, because I had difficulty accepting many of the affirmations as true: radiant with the beauty of my own being--? Who are we kidding? I used to sit and cry through the affirmations; now I sit and breathe through them and echo them in my mind. Initially, it was the trip through the ruins of my heart that affected me, but there was an almost immediate shift to the unspoiled area. It was so overwhelmingly bright and full of love and life that I often wept, feeling unworthy of such an abundance of beauty and love. There has been a shift in the "cast" of supporting people, with my mother appearing there since her death. The other night, when my "guide" touched my shoulder, it was my mother! I was horrified; I had never shared with her any graphic details of the abuse, and had spared her any extensive description of the effects it had on me (anger, helplessness, bereavement over lost innocence and broken dreams, "sticky tar pits of shame," etc.)-how could I let her see that part of me? I did. I wept so hard, it ruined the depth of my meditation-great, heaving sobs. She has appeared as my guide ever since.

Last Monday was a dark, deeply depressive day for me, which is unusual for me. I even wrote (in the journal I am keeping of my journey) that if it weren’t only mid-May, I would say that it felt like the opening salvo of my "season" of symptoms. Bingo-it happened again on Thursday, and I know now that my season has begun a good six weeks early. With all the guided imagery meditation I’ve been doing and my grief over the loss of my mother, I think I must have stimulated it mentally-not environmentally.

Belleruth, do you believe this is all positive? I feel as if I have endured so much that if there’s at least an indication or a glimmer of hope that I’m heading in the right direction, I will steel myself to continue. How do I know if I’m on the right track? How will I know if (when) I’ve vanquished the beast? Will the beast really be gone, or do I have to continue to work to fend it off?

Right now, I am hardly objective, and am moving forward blindly, with nothing to direct me but my faith in what I am doing. If the details of my case would be helpful to others, I would be willing to share my journal with you. God bless you always, Belleruth-for your research, your work, your wonderful voice. I am deeply and desperately hoping to be cured, but can already say with certainty that-because of you-my life has already been altered drastically for the better.

Sue Ellen



Dear S.E.,
Thanks for sharing your story. I salute your courage and generosity in telling it to the rest of us.

Based on what you’ve written, I think it’s pretty safe to say that, yes, you are vanquishing the beast. The beast really does eventually hit the road when someone does the kind of work you are doing, but for most people, it’s a gradual process. Mr. Beastie shows up less and less frequently and less and less intensely. Eventually he’s either entirely gone or as good as gone, except for special circumstances that evoke a nasty but shortlived reprise of symptoms.

Of course, certain extraordinarily painful things that happen - like your mother’s death - give him some extra air time for a while. But the hardwon gains stick, and soon enough your healing reasserts itself, stronger than ever. So please don’t be fooled by those dark days. Pure grief is dark, too, and you may be confusing your grief with your posttraumatic stress. But either way, please view these ups and downs, the dark days and the light ones, as a natural part of the ebbing and flowing of the healing process. The dark days come fewer and father between, and eventually become a simple reminder of what you are leaving behind.

There will come a day, some time in the future, when you’ll reread your journal and be taken aback by the difference between your current reality and the painful one you used to live.

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