Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Waking Takes Time: PTSD and Memoir

Recently, I've been involved in learning a technique to help relieve PTSD. The project is focused around helping vets and their families, but the fact is, the organization also knows plenty of people have PTSD from non-explicit war circumstances: rape, abuse when growing up, even event-specific PTSD from things like 911.

I've also had some conversations with therapists who insist we cannot work on memoir until we have cleared the triggers around our PTSD. The fact is, as of now, I have yet to see anything, included the technique I am learning and offering, to clear those memories entirely. I've pointed to this before in this blog, here. But also, I am skeptical that waiting until we have reached some state of clarity is useful. There are exceptions.

Exceptions come when writing our memories actually triggers us to non-functioning. Exceptions definitely are in play when we don't have enough support - a mentor, a community, a partner. Without support, heading into writing any form of memoir, especially if you have a background with PTSD, is dangerous business. What's important to keep in mind is these are exceptions.

Of course the people I work with as individual clients, in small groups or larger classes and retreats are coming for support. So I have seen what happens when it exists. I have also seen in those same people the results of trying when there's not community or support - because usually they come for community after finding out they really cannot do it alone.

Please. Do it together. I cannot say it enough. The whole process of writing, revising, editing and - lest we forget and think this part will be easy, because it is not - publishing needs support. Chances are going it alone without support hasn't helped much so far. So reach out. Start something. Start small. But get connected, especially if you have PTSD.

Memoir is no solution for PTSD. That's because there is no one solution. In the right context, however, memoir can help support working through the charge around memories. Usually if you have trauma, the first fifty versions of a story won't be quite publishable. That's ok. Do it anyway. Grow through repetition, without forcing your face into it. Grow compassion for yourself by feeling it for others first. Let the process be as useful as the product, if not moreso.

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