I just completed the assessment phase of the PTSR treatment at Homewood and was given a weekend pass. Noey picked me up Friday evening after work, and the family spent Saturday with friends to celebrate Canada Day. Sunday we had Dim Sum brunch and did some books and art supplies shopping. I am returning to hospital Monday afternoon since it is a long weekend.
These first 10 days at Homewood have drained me. On top of the psychiatric evaluation process I went through various classes, workshops, information sessions and activities, some of them quite heavy emotionally. I learnt about the effects of trauma on the brain and how the survival responses that made sense when the trauma occurred are now so deeply ingrained that they automatically take place even when I am in a perfectly safe situation.
My mind is constantly on the verge of switching to survival mode and the most mundane event can be perceived by my brain as imminent, life-threatening danger. Because this keeps happening, survival mode is constantly being activated, causing hypervigilance, startle reflex and other fight-or-flight responses; and when things become too intense then dissociation occurs: as a protection against overwhelming stimulation, the mind disconnects from reality. In my case this means that I will have a blank: my mind shuts off and I don’t remember anything. I suppose I have a blank stare during the whole time. Another form of dissociation makes me feel that I am standing beside my own body: everything becomes dream-like, the world is made of Jell-O, sounds are muffled and time is flowing in slow motion. I used to have the latter form more often, it now only happens when I am in a period of depression.
So yeah, I’ve learnt quite a few things already, and I am glad that it is going in the direction I was already heading towards in terms of goals and strategy. It is a task I cannot undertake alone and this is where the PTSR program comes into play, providing me with the guidance I need as well as a few weeks entirely devoted to learning healthier coping skills and strategies and how to gain better control of my emotions.
The active phase of the program is starting Tuesday morning, and things are going to get serious.