Diminishing, Not Gone

After twenty-two months of intense therapy, my post traumatic stress disorder symptoms and flashbacks have greatly dimished.

They have diminished, but they are not gone. 

Today I turned on the beautiful Outlander series based on my favorite fictional series by Diana Gabaldon. The novels – along with George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones – captured my head and my heart; they alone hold a cherished place on my very diminished book shelf. I’ve cried over the foibles and the successes of the characters in both series. The story of how I stumbled upon the first books in each of the series is definitely a story for another day.

Back to today.

I occasionally turn on something other than music when I’m working. Certain tasks seem to flow better with something enjoyable to look at or listen to when engaging in work that doesn’t take my whole brain (aka accounting, which I hate, or quilting, which I love).

Though I devoured every word of both series at least twice, I’ve only seen the opening episodes of both shows. I first saw those opening episodes in the months between my move out my marital bedroom and the shock discovery that my husband’s lover was none other than my friend, Becca.

By the time I moved down there, I had turned our basement into a guest room, and it was a peaceful and lovely place to spend time. But it was isolated from everything that had value in my life – my sons, my family, my friends, my kitchen, and my work. It was there I first indulged in art for the sake of art, music for the sake of music, beauty for the sake of beauty, and quiet for the sake of quiet. I looked forward to watching both of these series while indulging in some other forms of self care. I even thought I might just sit still and watch them, though that never came to pass at that time.

At the same time as I was desperately trying to find myself in an increasingly confusing world I was no longer capable of understanding, I watched the first season of the Starz interpretation of Outlander. I was doing well remaining sober and had moments when I felt more fully reasoned and functioning than I had in months.

Outlander – the Starz series – opens with an eerie piece of music, the Song of Skye, very fitting to the series. I learned much later that the piece was not written specifically for the series, but was a Scottish folk song altered for use in the opening credits.

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,
Say, could that lass be I?
Merry of soul she sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.

Billow and breeze, islands and seas,
Mountains of rain and sun.
All that was good, all that was fair, 
All that was me is gone.

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,
Say, could that lass be I?
Merry of soul, she sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.

I mean, for real. Could there be a better way to describe who I was in the spring of 2014? “All that was good, all that was fair, all that was me is gone.”

The original song, aptly in light of the Outlander storyline, was about Bonnie Prince Charlie’s escape to the Isle of Skye after his stunning Culloden defeat back in 1746. The Battle of Culloden factors heavily into the story of Claire and Jamie in Outlander.

Claire and Jamie’s story is both deeply moving and gut wrenching. I had grown to care deeply for the characters and looked forward to watching how the story unfolded on the screen. The series is a rare gem, and insights shared by the author herself as she advised the film crews helped the transition from beloved imaginary characters populating an imaginary world to Starz show. The first season was over far too quickly.

I made the transition to Game of Thrones, though by then I had given up the pretense of trying to be sober.

After all these months of intense therapy, I understand about things like “gaslighting” and narissicsm, I can see how the things my husband and Becca were doing created so much confusion and fear, and I understand why I was so lost and broken.

Then, all I knew was that in the oblivion of the third drink, I didn’t have to try any more to figure it out. I have very little recollection of the second series, and hope to watch it again. I understand it’s very well done.

Today, I heard the Skye Boat Song for the first time in four years, and just like that, I was back in that basement. Just like that the knot of anxiety and tension that was a constant presence in the center of my chest was back. Just like that I wanted nothing more than to have a drink.

Just like that, it was as if the work of the last months never happened.

But then, with my next full breath, I felt the easing of those physical and emotional effects. Just like that, I breathed in the certain knowledge of who I am and where I am. Just like that I knew I never have to be that lost and broken person again. Just like that the memory of that time felt like a sad recollection rather than a reliving.

And then, just like that, it was over.

Much of the PTSD literature suggests that the symptoms – like flashbacks – feel unpredictable and uncontrollable, while they are anything but. I know my early warning indicators, and I know how to preempt them. I have made the practice of mindfulness through grounding techniques part of my daily routine. I habitually use all five sense to connect with where I am in any given moment. What does it look like here? What does it smell like? What am I tasting? Hearing? Feeling? I also use tactile grounding techniques I’ve unwittingly used all my life, like rubbing a piece of silky fabric between my fingers or petting the pugs. When flashback happens, like today, I have called people who care. They may not understand, but they listen. But I didn’t have to do that this time.

Today is an amazing victory. I didn’t think any of the experts’ advice would help or matter. And yet, I surrendered to their knowledge and experience, even when I didn’t believe them. I’m grateful the right people had the right advice and helped to manifest the right outcome.

And, you know? Today is actually all that matters.

Peace, 
Kari

The books are available on Amazon. I do not recommend seeing the shows (on Starz and HBO respectively) until after completing the books. While well-done, the shows have not nearly the emotional impact as the written word. Trust me on this.

Outlander Series here:

Game of Thrones here:

Source: The Broken Hallelujah

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