Sunday, January 15, 2006

Breathe

2am and I’m still awake writing this song.
If I get it all down on paper it’s no longer
Inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to.

And I feel like I’m naked in front of a crowd,
‘cuz these words are my diary screaming out loud;
And I know that you’ll use them however you want to.

But you can’t jump the track,
We’re like cars on a cable.
And life’s like an hourglass glued to the table.

No one can find the rewind button now.
Sing it if you understand.

~ Anna Nalick, “Breathe (2am)” (scroll to end for complete lyrics)


“In recent years, researchers have learned much about PTSD and its successful treatment. The prospects of overcoming or lessening your symptoms today are quite hopeful, especially with skilled, appropriate treatment.”

~ Dr. Glenn R. Schiraldi, “The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Handbook,” emphasis his.

A pro-life worker recently told me that she has doubts about whether post-abortive women are able to work well within the pro-life movement. We are unstable. We are too emotionally invested; and we are so defensive, particularly about things like the use of graphic abortion pictures, that we hamper their movements. She had temporarily forgotten to whom she was speaking, which has happened to others. I didn't hesitate to remind her of that, and of a few other things.

Of course, I took her doubts to heart, because I would like to figure out where I am going with all of this verbage. Will I continue to research and journal it here, or should I become more of an activist against abortion, within the pro-life movement? It was enough just wondering if I was called; now I had to consider whether I was able.

I finally had to conclude that I am not. Take away my mask, the written word, and we are left with one seriously pissed-off bitch, and I’m not sure I’m fit for polite society, let alone pro-life society. I still need to gain control over my symptoms. The post-abortive women who can and do work effectively within the pro-life movement have achieved something that has eluded me: healing.

Dr. Glenn Schiraldi, author of The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook, tells us that “Healing occurs when traumatic memory is processed or integrated,” (Schiraldi, p. 50). Traumatic memories associated with the brain damage of PTSD are not like other memories which we recognize as past events. They don’t really behave like memories at all; they are alive, triggering the fight/flight response in the brain as if the trauma was ongoing, in the present, in the here and now. When I talk about abortion, I am still on the table. I am still in gynecological stirrups, eyes fixed in horror at pale gray shapes that shouldn’t be there, outside of me and unmoving, and in pieces. What should be memory is active input to my brain screaming that this is happening, now.

Healing involves processing these traumatic cues into memories:

“We re-evaluate the triggers and see them simply as reminders, not a repeat of the trauma. The traumatic event is viewed as part of the past, not the present,” (Schiraldi, p. 51). Dr. Schiraldi covers several treatment approaches; but he also cautions against venturing into the dark territory of traumatic memory work if we are not “stabilized and functioning reasonably well. It [memory work] should not be tried if any of the following conditions are not under control:

substance addiction


self-destructive behavior (self-injury, suicidal tendencies, eating disorder)

threats of violence or homicide


life chaos (the likelihood that the trauma will be repeated, abuse is ongoing, no home or income, etc.)

mental illness, especially schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic depression), or other illness needing medication

the threat of mental health being overwhelmed


…memory work should not be undertaken if:

- there is not a strong therapeutic alliance with a mental health professional
- there is no support system
- severe rage, nightmares, flashbacks, and irritability are uncontrolled.
- the individual is not ready


Remember, you are the one who is in control. You determine when to begin. You set a safe pace and say when to stop. Stop or ease up at any time you feel overwhelming or dangerous emotions, such as extreme or dangerous anger or panic. Likewise, ease up if you dissociate, experience psychotic episodes, or encounter strong physical upset – such as nausea, pain, dizziness, or panic attack.


~ Schiraldi, pp. 62-63

If you are, like me, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of abortion (also called post-abortion stress disorder, or PAS), what are your options in healing programs? For the most part, the post-abortion healing program model is based on group-therapy, where the patients essentially treat each other by bonding over similar traumatic experiences. This is a proven-effective treatment for PTSD; however, there is a caveat – group therapy is not for everyone at every stage of this disorder. Dr. Schiraldi says, “The frank discussions of groups might trigger troubling dissociated material. An individual should not, therefore, enter a group until he is in fairly good control of his symptoms. He might, for example, seek individual psychotherapy until he is comfortable confronting traumatic memories,” (Schiraldi, p. 67).

Care must be exercised by the patient who seeks post-abortion healing. Contrary to what we might hope for if this condition is as serious and as real as purported, there is no concerted effort to ensure those who counsel the post-abortive are qualified to ascertain what treatment approach is best. Counselor training methods vary in nature. "Training" can consist of purchasing a set of DVD’s purporting to teach one how to counsel the post-abortive. There’s no requirement for an advanced degree in any of the social sciences, or for licensing to practice therapy in order to counsel the post-abortive. Our standards in this area are not simply sloppy. They are non-existent, and counseling is being done by any individual who sees the need. But we aren’t always talking about grief, sorrow, and other strong emotions. One in four women seeking post-abortion counseling will have post-traumatic stress disorder, a neuropsychological illness that requires professional treatment.

Post-abortion counselors should either be or work with professional mental health clinicians who are qualified to diagnose the disorder and to assess the appropriate treatment method, including medication when necessary. Post-traumatic stress disorder is brain damage, a neuropsychological disorder of the mind, body and spirit. It is not a political cause. Those who work in the pro-life industry to end abortion might want to think twice about moonlighting as post-abortion counselors; perhaps your agenda is too broad. Furthermore, even the best-intentioned amateur pro-life worker can unwittingly come up against a post-abortion woman in live trauma and, because she is not qualified, she will not recognize the trauma victim’s symptoms as such. Instead, she will paste a label on the post-abortive woman and bemoan what a hindrance she is to the pro-life movement (making them use fewer graphic images and walk on eggshells).

According to Dr. Schiraldi, “Before settling on a psychotherapist, ask questions such as the following (a therapist who is unwilling to discuss these important issues is not likely to be a good match for you):

- What is your training and experience in treating PTSD?


- What is your approach to treating it?

- What are your views about dissociation and its treatment?

- Do you have experience treating those who have encountered traumatic events similar to
mine?

- Are you experienced in treating the associated conditions that I experience (such as drug addictions, eating disorders, depression, generalized anxiety, or panic disorders)?

- What are your views about the use of medication in the treatment of PTSD? If needed, can
you prescribe it, or do you have a working relationship with someone who does?

- Do you provide family counseling or have a working relationship with counselors who do?

- What are your policies about calling you during the week should I need to?

(Schiraldi, pp. 63-64)



As for what I am called to do next, well, it’s clear that I need work on my fear-addled brain. I’m going to keep researching, asking questions, and whining about the answers here, and I’m going to take Dr. Schiraldi’s advice regarding psychotherapy. And, because it is intriguing, I just might see if I can relearn how to breathe (http://www.signchido.com/).


Anna Nalick

"Breathe (2am)"

2am and she calls me cuz I'm still awake,
Can you help me unravel my latest mistake?
I don't love him; winter just wasn't my season.

Yeah, we walk through the door so accusing their eyes,
Like they have any right at all to criticize.
Hypocrites, you're all here for the very same reason.

But you can't jump the track,
We're like cars on a cable;
Life's like an hourglass glued to the table.
No one can find the rewind button, girl.
So cradle your head in your hands.

And breathe. Just breathe.

May, he turned twenty-one on the base of Fort Bliss,
Just today he sat down to the flask in his fist;
Ain't been sober since maybe October of last year.

Here in town you can tell he's been down for awhile,
But my God, it's so beautiful when the boy smiles.
Wanna hold him; but maybe I'll just sing about it.

Cuz you can't jump the track,
We're like cars on a cable.
Life's like an hourglass glued to the table.
No one can find the rewind button boys,
So cradle your head in your hands.

And breathe. Just breathe.

There's a light at each end of this tunnel you shout,
Cuz you're just as far in as you'll ever be out.
And these mistakes you've made, you'll just make them again.
If you'll only try turning around.

2am and I'm still awake writing this song,
If I get it all down on paper it's no longer
Inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to.

And I feel like I'm naked in front of the crowd,
Cuz these words are my diary screaming out loud.
And I know that you'll use them however you want to.

But we can't jump the track,
We're like cars on a cable.
Life's like an hourglass glued to the table.
No one can find the rewind button, now.
Sing it if you understand.

And breathe. Just breathe.

6 Comments:

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Catholic Fire said...

Julie,

You are in my prayers. I will be praying for your healing during my Eucharistic Adoration time.

God bless you,
Jean

 
At 11:29 AM, Blogger j2 said...

Hi Julie,

I hope you don't feel compelled to make black and white choices in the area. I wouldn't choose to align myself with most so-called "pro-life" groups but not because I believe in the opposite. As a part of my healing I look to help others both before an abortion may occur and after if it does. In both endeavors I have found it unnecessary to argue a political point or religious dogma. My experience is valuable in itself...and so is yours. You have helped so many people, both men and women, by simply sharing your experience the way that you have on this web site. For the record, I don't believe abortion is a legitimate or moral choice in general. But it is a choice that a woman can make whether it is legally recognized or not. I always hope to encourage a woman not to make that choice, but if she does I hope to offer my experience, if helpful, to provide healing. I let other people decide what their agenda is and allow them the room to be wrong.

 
At 11:27 AM, Blogger achromic said...

J2....... wow..... may I inquire where I sign up to do that?? I am mostly prochoice but I think you stated much of my views better then I ever have.

Julie as always you have picked the right song for the moment. I think I would love to do long car rides with you because our taste in music is so obvioulsy close. Maybe one day.......on our way to meet Annie and Em.... ah well nice to dream.

 
At 2:27 PM, Blogger Sr. Lorraine said...

Hi Julie,

Thanks for this interesting post. I've been thinking about how healing prayer fits into all this, not only in regard to abortion but to other psychological issues. It's long been a saying in the Catholic tradition that "grace builds on nature," so whatever natural healing methods are available can and should be used, with gratitude. While miraculous healings can happen, God usually works more slowly allowing us to take healing steps while he walks along with us. So psychology is an important and valuable tool.
Prayer can also help at any stage along the way. I learned something on retreat about this. I've always known and believed that God loves me, yet more often than not this knowledge has been somewhat cerebral. It's been an intellectual knowledge more than a heartfelt knowledge. So on retreat my director encouraged me to pray for the grace to really feel God's love, and in an amazing way this did happen. If we know things intellectually that's the first step, but it's only when that knowledge gets down to the heart level that it really transforms us. It's the same thing with forgiveness. We know by faith that God forgives all our sins, but as long as it's only an intellectual knowledge we don't feel forgiven. But the great thing is that God wants to give us that grace more than we want to receive it. St. Ignatius really stressed the idea of asking for the grace we need, and not just asking but begging. The amazing thing is that God does answer those prayers, even if not always on our timetable. We may have to prepare the ground by doing the psychological work first. But eventually if we keep on asking the grace will come.

 
At 6:19 PM, Blogger jpe said...

I'm of the mind that we dn't heal; we just forget. If you feel you made a bad choice, going over it again and again is a fast way to going kinda crazy. (although sometimes it makes for great reading, as in Augustine's Confessions)

 
At 6:09 AM, Blogger Lauren said...

Hi, my name is lauren, and this is more a comment regarding the entire blog, than this particular post. If you feel it is irrelivent to the topic, feel free to not publish it I am writing it more to talk directly to you than as a comment.

I would just lkike to applaud your courage in creating this blog. I know that so often post-abortive women live in guilt and shame and can never admit to their abortions. I believe what you are doing may help other women not make the same mistake you did.

I am appaled that the "pro-choice" movement that so often harps on battle crys of "women's health" does nothing to warn women of the very real psychological and physiological concequences of abortion. It is swept under the rug as a scare tactic by the"crazy anti's" your blog proves that PAS is not a "figment of the pro-lifes imaginiation"

Anyways, thank you so much for you blog.

My blog is mychoice-hislife@blogspot.com

 

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