This blog is a way of sharing the information and resources that have helped me to recover my son Roo from an Autism Spectrum Disorder. What I have learned is to view our symptoms as the results of underlying biological cause, which can be identified and healed. I say "our symptoms" because I also have a neuro-immune disorder called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

And, of course, I am not a doctor (although I have been known to impersonate one while doing imaginative play with my son)- this is just our story and information that has been helpful or interesting to us. I hope it is helpful and interesting to you!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Trauma and PTSD

In several earlier posts I talk about the new perspective that childhood trauma is a major (if not THE major) risk factor for disease later in life.  So far evidence suggests this is due to epigenetic changes as well as mast cell effects, but there are probably more connections that will be discovered as well.  Since trauma is such a critical piece of the puzzle it is something that we need to understand better.  Also, many of us with chronic diseases develop medical PTSD and parents of kids with autism and other developmental disorders can develop PTSD from watching our kids being injured and struggle.  This TED talk by Dr. Megan McElheran is an extremely good description of what trauma and PTSD are:

“Trauma has the effect of organizing the lives of trauma survivors into life pre-trauma and life post trauma.  Life post trauma involves knowing things that perhaps before were not known at all, or only minimally known or acknowledged.  Life post-trauma means having come into contact with the knowledge of certain things, like mortality, that once having contacted or experienced, can no longer be ignored or denied."

"The experience I just described was equivalent to a tectonic shift for the individual for whom it occurred.”  

“To experience something like I described, is to come into contact with unparalleled psychological and emotional pain.”  The impulse is to get away from the pain and to distance ones self.  What happens when you pull away from your own emotional feelings is a profound alienation from yourself, your world, and others.  This results in pervasive avoidance, mood instability, low quality of life.  Emotional numbing occurs.  Humans are intrinsically social creatures and being alienated from that, having that cut off, is life-threatening.  It’s a vicious cycle.  Trauma fundamentally involves disconnection.  

“What people are forced to wrestle with in the aftermath of a traumatic event is how to reconstruct a life, and a worldview, when what used to be there has been shattered.”  There is no more taking things for granted.  PTSD involves dysfunctional attempts to reassert control in one's life.  By the time people seek treatment they have narrowed the range of their existence.  People rarely leave the house, have lost contact with friends and sometimes all of their family members.  They think to themselves “If I control my world in this way, I will be physically and emotionally safe.”  The outside world becomes very dangerous and out of control.  

“The urge to pull away from pain is instinctual.”  It is a normal reaction to abnormal events. 

The solution is re-engagement.  Re-engage with yourself and with those around you.  No one specific treatment makes people heal…”Healing happens in the context of a connection with another human being, when qualities of safety, empathy, and genuine understanding are present.”  Therapy only works in the context of this kind of relationship.  People can endure and heal from horrific events if they have even one person that they can connect with.  Recovery can be transformational, like a a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.  “It is the struggle to re-emerge that is crucial to the process of transformation.”  Without the struggle the new entity will not appear.

Trauma is made worse by the happiness myth- if we are not happy all the time, something is wrong.  Sometimes life doesn't work that way, sometimes we need to face hard things and not be happy in order to heal.