Hanging On

Sometimes it is so clear. And others, not so much.

My experience of the present moment is almost always contaminated by the biological markers of abuse and neglect. My cells are records of my life experiences, all of them. Supposedly this is an evolutionary mechanism that encodes both long term and short term adaptations to environmental influences. Great, but what does this mean to me in the dazed and confused times of my life? How can I reach out to this logic when the cloud cover is heavy and dark?

I have glimpses of clarity. Clarity fuelled by a relentless need to know just what the fuck is going on inside of me. Books, webinars, podcasts and my own personal journal writing are all aids to help me understand, to help me grasp some sense of coherence, to help me understand why I feel the way I do, why I have made the choices I have made.

I understand a cursory overview of such things as quantum physics (mechanics), genetics, epigenetics, inter-generational trauma, PTSD, C-PTSD, F-MRI’s, trauma, treatments of trauma. I have read Peter Levine, Bessel van der Kolk, Rachel Yehuda, Krista Tippet interviews. I have listened to podcasts by doctors, researchers, victims, spiritual leaders such as Mooji and Adyashanti, and healer Julie Brown Yau. I have read books written by victims of abuse and neglect, watched some intense movies that speak to the human struggle, read Cosmic Consciousness by Maurice Bucke, irreverent books like those of Jed McKenna, spiritual writings by Thoreau and others. I have been a searcher turned into a researcher, all fuelled by an angst and a fear that I have something wrong with me.

I have taken into my body countless concoctions, from ayahuasca and acid to secretions from the Sonoran Desert Toad, psilocybin and MDMA to Iboga …. all of these with the hope that I could extract the pain and grief that will not give way to knowledge and logic. Untold amount of money spent on counselling, acupuncture, Somatic Experiencing, BodyTalk, and other forms of the healing arts. Two separate fasts in the deserts of California (highly recommended).

And here is what I have come to understand, at least for the moment.

My experience of any given moment has been impaired by the biological markers of abuse and neglect. My suspicion is that the abuse was at times so severe that my biological self suppressed my memories so I might survive the event. The fear, the terror became encoded in my cells and my body has been keeping the secrets ever since.

My life is littered with evidence that I was haunted from within. Phantom illnesses throughout my life, sick on every birthday until at least the age of thirteen, alcohol abuse, over-eating, extremely poor money management, failed marriage and relationships, many episodes of depression, suicidal thoughts (no attempts, thank goodness), countless apologies for irreverent behaviour, and a steady stream of underlying anger that would surface far too often and far too explosive. In hindsight, all of these and more markers of a man who was not doing well.

Confusion ruled. Clarity was very rare and always fleeting.

As I sit here at this moment and write these words, I can see the mechanism that has kept me from being well. And I apologize for sounding like I am trying to “systemize” my life like some spreadsheet. But since I have been trying to make sense of my life and my experiences, I have been on a mission of sense-making. And this seems to imply that I am in search of logic, not the mystical, the magical, the unseeable, the unknowable, for I have had enough of the unknowable in my life.

So here goes.

The main thing that keeps me alive, that keeps my heart and lungs working still, to me this is the force of consciousness. A theory called biocentrism posits that the building block for all matter is not the particle but is consciousness. This is how I see things as well. To me, this is the magical, the unknowable, the mystical. Further, we are all consciousness and connected. There is one consciousness and it animates all beings, all things.

After that, it seems to get rather mechanized. Our physical existence is particle-based, systemized, sense-making. Our biology can be measured, activities in the mind can now be mapped, neural connections and synapses can be studied, communications between the billions of cells is known to exist, etc.

With all of this as background, I feel that my capacity to be present and fully-functioning has been hampered by my body’s evolutionary mechanism of shutting down during a traumatic event.

What once saved me became my prison.

For me to understand this and write it down in such a concise statement, I have had to spend enormous amounts of energy, I have suffered greatly and have caused great suffering. Almost assuredly my life will have been shortened due to the toll of these internal battles.

For me to hold still in the present moment requires that I sit quietly and pay attention to the forces that are in play, namely my will to survive any and all possible threats balanced with the knowledge that my body is preparing for a fight that doesn’t exist. My spirit vs my mis-informed body. There is no threat today. What happened to me a a kid is not happening now, and yet my body is prepared for exactly such a possibility. It is up to me to understand that my response(s) to the moment are likely faulty and are fuelled by non-existent threats.

It is a challenge to even be able to hold on to the clarity long enough to get through writing this rather short synopsis of how I see my struggle. The clouds are always threatening to return. Will they? I know not.

I have been in the process of recalibrating myself to respond to my environment in very different ways than ever before. I seem to have unlimited energy for such an exercise and this surprises me for I have never had enough energy for anything at anytime. But the promise of fresh air seems to be what has kept me going. I cannot explain it any other way and I consider myself fortunate that this is so. I am surprised that I have not suffered more, that I have not lived a life full of addictions. I say this because I have recognized the pain of others many times and I have hurt inside knowing that I am but a hair’s breadth away from being just like them.

I have three children and four grandchildren. I have loved them even as I have also burdened them. My hope is that I can give them the gift of my health, that when I leave this world the burdens will have been burned up in the atmosphere during my re-entry as I assume a more healthy orbit. This is my evolutionary response, to pass on health.

Hanging on.

5 responses to “Hanging On

  • renovatio06

    This the most profound and comprehensive as well as accurate and specific account on all things “living with (C-) PTSD” I’ve ever come across. And I think you hit the nail on the head with this and equally put a very complex condition in as tiny a nutshell as possible. I wish, more people could see the gargantuan accomplishment behind this synopsis. (and then, I don’t, for it would mean that they were put through similar life events as you and I have been put through for no fault of ours…).

    With utmost respect and hopefully mindfulness, I’d like to commend you on these insights. And like you, I still hope to “undo” the bulk of damage done to my own wonderful biological “machine”, hoping to arrive in the here and now as often and firmly as possible and getting to experience things from a whole new vantage point.

    Liked by 1 person

  • photosentinel1953

    Thanks a lot. I can tell that you understand what it took to write this. It is no less than 5 decades of confusion distilled in to a few paragraphs, and it came to me in a blinding flash one morning after years of contemplation. I wonder if someone who does NOT know this suffering could read this and then better understand what we have experienced … that would be the truest test of what I wrote.

    Liked by 1 person

    • renovatio06

      In particular this sentence here “What once saved me became my prison.” – world class! I think, you managed to sum up the many difficulties, obstacles and challenges of having to live with C-PTSD in one single sentence! (I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but since you made an effort to zero in on the EXACT ROOT of it all, I felt like commending you on having succeeded in doing so – at least in my “book”)

      As to the “ultimate test” (and a trigger warning here…., pls. read on at your own discretion and …. uhm…. “convenience”): It came as quite a bit of shock to me to realize that people will always only truly understand what they have experienced themselves. I mean, empathy, compassion and the necessary imagination of slipping into someone else’s skin and trying to see the world through someone else’s eyes can go some way and sometimes a long way – but in my experience never ALL the way. I think, this is even true for fellow “sojourners” navigating the seas of PTSD symptoms: The “biological markers” as you eloquently called them may be very similar in you and I. But I will never EXACTLY feel what you feel and vice versa. In that regard, we’re all ultimately somehow “locked” into our own bodies, PTSD or not. For a while I was driven by the idea that I should be more vocal about my own situation and I am whenever there is an opportunity for it. (I’m not exactly standing on a soap box on this “matter”, but try to slip in inside information when the conversation presents an opportunity for doing so and when I’m surrounded by people whom I deem open minded enough and sufficiently sensitized to the subject). Lately, I’m not so sure about this any more. It would indeed be interesting to know, if someone who was fortunate enough and hasn’t experienced trauma might garner an instantaneous and comprehensive insight into what it’s like living with this very challenging condition when coming away from reading your blog entry. In any case: I think, you’ve outdone yourself with this here! I’m very impressed. May you find expanded windows of a peaceful here and now and continue striving for a vital life. (I still want to believe that it can be done; maybe never to the point where others are, but…. to the point, where perceived quality of life becomes like a surge drawing us closer in on getting to be our own true self)

      (P.S. The notion of reduced lifespan due to the physical toll sometimes bugged me, too. But maybe it must not be so. Maybe – and I know this will sound a bit off, but …. – maybe we can see ourselves as having a leg up when it comes to physical threats. And maybe the body adapts to the increased activity of the autonomous nervous system in ways unbeknownst to science just yet)

      (P.P.S. I have tried to be mindful in my comments and in case I failed, please know that I didn’t mean to rub it in or anything along these lines)


      • photosentinel1953

        All of your comments are welcome, no concerns at all. While I agree that no two people will know the other’s experiences, there is still a need to communicate as best as possible what it is that we know and have found out about our own way through this mess. That is what this blog has been about. I often consider what it means for me to be “fully expressed”. When I am fully expressed, when I have communicated or otherwise represented myself in full honesty, then and only then do I stand a chance at being healthy. Then the challenge becomes finding the people that are strong enough and capable enough to hear what we have to say. It isn’t very surprising that there are few of these people available to us, there are just not very many people that get it. So it becomes our own personal challenge to find our way through the maze. As I said in one of my posts, I have been a searcher turned into a researcher, and have exerted endless amounts of energy doing just that. Only a few weeks ago, I attended a 5 day workshop conducted by Bessel Van Der Kolk, an amazingly knowledgable and compassionate man who know this territory better than maybe anyone alive. Everything I do is about self-inquiry and about altering my perception of my current state so that I may see anew. This is our life’s path and sharing is a part of that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • renovatio06

        Very well said and I concur 100%. Like I said, I also try to do my share as best as I know and can with communicating the condition to those who have receptive ears and hearts. Luckily, there are some, especially as of late. Another shot at having a self sustained life again at some point…. very different story…. I’m hoping that having built tons of resilience will help there as well.


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