PTSD Spirituality: Breaking PTSD’s Attempts to Isolate Us

Outside with the Sunflower

Outside with the Sunflower

When we are afflicted with PTSD we become more vulnerable to self-isolation. If our PTSD-induced behaviors have damaged enough of our healthiest relationships, then we will sometimes find that others have become alienated from us and we become further isolated.

PTSD attempts to change our identities, to inflict a PTSD-Identity upon us. In theology meets technology terms, one might say that PTSD attempts to overwrite our soul with new, hateful, data. This alien data seeks to destroy our humanity and destroy our appreciation that we are created in the image and likeness of God (See Genesis 1:26-27).

Our PTSD will always try to make us regret reaching out to others. It will try to stifle trust or just taking the risk of going out into society.

It will also try to make us regret attempting to find solutions to triggers or to just simply find some rest and solace. There are enough dickweeds out there who will reinforce this, but we must remember to not give into the PTSD (and its cadre of dickweeds) and further isolate.

PTSD pushes us to extremes of sensitivity and insensitivity. So we end up absolutely not caring about something we should, and/or we end up over-caring, being too sensitive, about something than we should. Even when we are functioning well, we still have to assess and strive to find the balance. We are always on the journey, eh?

Part of that journey is not allowing PTSD to isolate us.

Solutions to Isolation?

Not so much a solution as an investment opportunity.

We need to risk contact with others. Contact with other people and the Creation itself is imperative. The idea of meeting other people can be intimidating for those of us with PTSD.

  • We might be naturally shy or introverted.
  • We might be leery of dealing, yet one more time, with people who don’t understand us and who will say something that is offensive (by accident or on purpose).

We might not trust ourselves to be around others because we don’t trust ourselves.

  • We may have a lot of unresolved anger.
  • We may be too hyper-alert.
  • We may misconstrue what someone says or does.
  • We may fear running into triggers (Remember, PTSD wants us to be in fear).

Even in these sorts of scenarios, we can still takes steps to prevent our PTSD from totally isolating us and over-writing our identity.

  • We can go to a coffee shop and have something to drink.
  • We can go browse books at the library or a bookstore.
  • We can walk around the block or sit on a bench in a park.
  • Go to Church (You can sit in back! No Penalty!).
  • Go for a bike ride.

None of these sorts of things require immense interactions with others. Most clerks or greeters will only patter the standard, “Hi, how are you? Did you find everything?” Those types of questions.

Most people will not give us the third-degree. And, if they do? We walk away.

I have found walking away from a dipshit can be pretty empowering. My PTSD wants me to get angry, say something mean, and engage in a fight. By just walking away I am stronger than both my antagonist and my PTSD.

  • If someone sits at your park bench and gets nosey, you can get up and walk away.
  • If the coffee shop conversation becomes too inane, you can get up and walk away.
  • If the clerk insists on knowing your blood-type or why you limp, you can walk away.

Sometimes, when my hyper-vigilance is cranked too high by my PTSD triggers, the best I can do is take out the garbage (it gets me out of the house for a minute or two) or sit on my front porch for a little bit. Other times, when I am less actively damaged by my PTSD, I can go to the bookstore or coffee shop and be there for over an hour.

The key is to get out of your physical isolation for at least a little while. For some of us, even a few minutes outside is a real achievement. It is a strike against our PTSD’s attempts to isolate and destroy us.

Some days, being on the porch for ten minutes may be as much effort as spending a few hours at the mall. Yet, given that particular day and how PTSD was damaging me, those ten minutes were more healing and self-affirming than two hours spent out on a different day.

We can take – and make(!) – our victories where we can find them. Those ten minutes, half an hour, or even an hour, will pay immense dividends against PTSD’s desire to isolate us.

Even if our outing ended up with some negatives because of inconsiderate people, or we had to leave early due to anxiety, we still demonstrated to both ourselves and our PTSD that we are the ones in charge.

We can be the one who decides when we will go outside or stay inside … not our PTSD.

PTSD knows that if it can get us isolated then it has a better chance to make us self-harm and eventually kill ourselves. PTSD wants us dead.

Getting outside for a little while will not cure our PTSD, but it will help us to heal and thrive.  It’s an opportunity to take charge of our healing.

Invest in Yourself

Getting beyond the walls of our house, apartment, flat, cave, bomb shelter, you name it, is an investment in our own survival. Seems like everyone talks about investing these days, and one of the catch-phrases is: “Invest in Yourself!”

By breaking PTSD isolation you are investing in yourself.

By going outside, no matter how much the PTSD wants us to isolate, is an investment in our present and our future. It shows we can control our present, even if only for a little while. By breaking out of isolation, we improve our chances of avoiding self-harm and actually having a future.

Invest in yourself: Go outside for a little while.

As always, You Have Value.

Semper Pax, Dr. Z

Comments

  1. I struggle taking public buses. Today I was the only one on the bus and a man came on and sat across from me. It was scary. I had to close my eyes, I felt terrified he’d try and talk to me. I felt the inner terror I often feel. I carry a rosary in my pocket so I can use the beads as an anchor when I am terrified and start floating away as I did when I was abused as a child. He didn’t talk to me or look at me, but I felt angry. I had to remind myself he can do what he wants, it’s a public bus. By breathing through it a bit and asking Mother Mary to help me I was able to not bolt or have a panic attack. Isolating for me means trying to protect myself from things like this b/c they are so draining and horrible. It’s hard work but I think humans have the right to some goodness in life, not just the bad as we have gotten here.

    • Hi Annie,
      The fact that you can take a public bus is amazing and admirable. That’s a challenge which many of us could not rise to.
      Carrying your rosary and using it as an anchor is a great idea. It can anchor us in both our spiritual and physical dimensions so that we can get through the triggering events which could otherwise possibly defeat us.
      You are right, we do have a right to some goodness in life. Your courage on the bus and having an anchor ready is a indication you won’t let PTSD take it all away from you.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  2. Isolating is a big challenge for me, so this is smack on. Actually thought I might go grocery shopping today (big challenge), but now if I just go outside for 5 or 10 minutes, I’ll still consider it a victory. Thanks for the great advice and encouragement. All my best from California!

    • Hi Harry,
      Congrats on the grocery shopping.
      Our culture tends to vastly underestimate the value of a few minutes. It wants us to say we held our breath for an hour or we walked ten miles, etc. Key here is that even a “few” minutes is the product of our choice, our commitment to Life. Even a few minutes, 5, 10, 15, minutes is an expression that we know our life is valuable and has meaning. It is an expression that we refuse to allow PTSD to permanently ruin us.
      We take and make our victories at times. And victories over PTSD’s isolation taste sweet.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

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