I have just come from a Facebook community church I belong to. We were discussing assisted suicide. I said I was in favour of it because, when I commit suicide, I want it to be painless and not involve some poor person unexpectedly finding my dead body. You see, I am quite used to thinking and talking about the likelihood that my death will be chosen by me.
I forget that other people are not.
It hurts me that I have saddened several good people this evening by being blasé about my belief that I am more likely to kill myself than not. Other people hear that and they expect me to be on the verge of jumping off a bridge but I am talking years in the future. My illness, the PTSD and the anxiety and the SAD, seem to be worsening each year and, unless the EMDR works and the new medication works, there will come a time when I can no longer function. At that time, dying will be a kindness.
But that isn’t today – or even this year.
Some people are predisposed to developing PTSD. They are more prone to taking blame for events outside their control, to neglecting their own emotional health and to brooding. In my case, my predisposition came in the form of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) itself a consequence of a myriad of unhappy coincidences.
When someone experiences psychological trauma, a process similar to grieving allows the trauma to become a memory. Except, for some people this doesn’t happen.
Perhaps there is no let up in the trauma because it repeatedly occurs at short intervals. This occurred in the trenches of WWI and happens in cases of domestic abuse or child abuse. Perhaps the person was on the periphery of a massive trauma such as the London bombings and feels they do not have the ‘right’ to feel traumatised or seek treatment.
Perhaps the person feels the trauma was their own fault or that to seek help would be ‘weak’ if others in the same situation were not similarly affected.
In these situations, instead of being put away tidily with other memories, the trauma is bundled into an egg shell in the everyday part of the brain – the part that decides how to interpret and respond to what is happening now. The trauma can be ignored and you can carry on, you think, as normal.
Now, if you leave an egg long enough, chemicals build up and the egg goes rotten. These chemicals seep through the porous shell and affect the person’s brain as it views the world. Places with bad smells always seem worse than they otherwise would – it’s the same with events. The way someone with PTSD views the world as they travel through it is not the same as other people. As the miasma lurks in the brain, so threats seem to lurk in the world. Every unexpected sound and action seems to be the precursor of an attack. Every ambiguous comment becomes a grave insult. These new threats are put into the egg and begin to rot as well. They are proof that fear is the only correct emotion.
Eventually, as rotten eggs do, the build up of gases becomes to much to hold and the egg explodes. Imagine your brain full of rotten material and that’s all you can see.
Well friends, that’s where I am now. My own trauma was domestic abuse and my egg exploded. The only respite I enjoy is in the pulpit when the Spirit takes over and Helles the pathetic weakling is left behind for a precious hour.