Maybe What Is Holding You Back Isn’t PTSD, but PSST? (Psst….Are You Listening?)
When I was 32 years old, I was suffering from what I call PSST, Pre-Separation Spiritual Turmoil. I was so nervous all the time that I guess it could have been separation anxiety from just about anything… my warm cup of coffee in the morning or from the roll of toilet paper next to the toilet. Alas, it wasn’t this simple. It was the early jitters of knowing that my marriage was ending.
In what turned out to be the few days before leaving my marriage, I took my anxious self on a quest and wandered my local university, exploring and looking for answers. If this was a place of education, I wanted answers. Why was my marriage failing? Why was life not working out, as I felt I had tried nearly everything I could? My stomach in knots, my body suffering a flu-like illness, and with a recent stress weight loss, I symbolically picked up a payphone and spoke to the dial tone listening for answers. I received no direct answers from the phone, so I hung up. Five days later, I walked out of my marriage. I was now in Post-Separation Spiritual Turmoil.
At some point or another everyone has their own version of a spiritual connection hang-up after a dramatic or traumatic moment in their life. These are the moments when you feel totally confused and alone, spiritually abandoned, thinking the universe is not on your side, and that you’re going through all of this crap because life hates you and wants you to just give up and die.
As an ER nurse, trauma fills my days. Most people might imagine endless broken bones, open wounds and other physical damage and while those definitely require the most urgent and immediate focus, there is almost always another type of trauma existing under the surface and that is emotional and mental trauma. We all know about PTSD, the condition caused when stress is not effectively processed by the mind, leaving the person trapped in a constant state of hyperawareness and anxiety. But I know from my own personal experience about a second type of emotional and mental trauma… PSST…Pre/Post/Personal Stress Spiritual Turmoil…it’s all a concept of spiritual emergency medicine.
- Jenn Journals
* My anxiety is sky high! My stomach is in nervous knots and my heart is beating 1000 miles a minute. I am annoyed, angry, and pissed off. In the aisles of the grocery store today I had a freaking anxiety attack with a moment of panic. The walls were spinning or maybe I was, my chest was heavy, I felt dizzy, and like I was going to pass out. Now that my marriage is over, I am in so much anticipation for getting to a place in my life where I feel stable again, without this constant state of anxiety and fear. Anxiety makes me tired and I am already not sleeping well. I am on tilt, on a life preserver in the middle of the ocean without a ship in sight and I need someone to rescue me! What am I supposed to do now? Fuck off and show me something, God! *
Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous. ~ Albert Einstein
In true spiritual form, coincidence showed up one dreary morning, as my friend Kathleen. My best friend from high school knocked on my front door holding a brown paper bag in her hand, not with alcohol, but with my first set of tarot cards. Kathleen showed up that morning as a spiritual intervention in disguise, gifting me tarot cards, which later led me to learn the art of tarot. Tarot taught me how to have a deeper spiritual connection, that there is always more going on than what is shown on the surface, and that our lives are filled with endless possibilities. I just had to open my heart and mind to see them.
This moment of PSST – is a moment when you are being called to listen and shift your perspective on your life.
Here are six techniques I suggest to help you heal through your own version of spiritual turmoil and regain a sense of grounding in your life. Try these interventions:
- Cry. I know this seems so obvious and yet I know there will be some who want to avoid it. I promise it will feel so much better to let yourself cry. It seriously is spiritual medicine. Emotional tears release leucine-enkephalin, an endorphin that reduces pain and works to improve mood. And, emotion is e=motion, energy in motion. Crying releases it out of your body and out of your energetic system. There is nothing to be ashamed about, tears are just water on your face.
- Take care of yourself. Get enough rest and take time to relax. We are all so busy as human doings, that we have little time for living as a human BEING. Be for awhile. Engage the parasympathetic nervous system! Rest and relax. Note: try to reduce or avoid caffeine and nicotine, which can worsen anxiety.
- Don’t self-medicate. Turning to alcohol or drugs to numb your feelings isn’t healthy, even though it may be a tempting way to cope. It can lead to more problems down the road, interfere with effective treatments and prevent real healing.
- Break the cycle. When you feel anxious, take a brisk walk or jump into a hobby to literally change the neural framework and focus of what you are thinking. Take a walk, read a book, watch a movie. My favorite….journaling.
- Stay connected. Spend time with supportive and caring people — family, friends, faith leaders, or find a group of other people who are going through the same things as you. You don’t have to talk about what happened if you don’t want to. Just having support, connection, and knowing you are not alone by sharing time with loved ones can offer healing and comfort.
- Try a new spiritual habit. Meditation, sitting in silence, walking in nature, or buying your first set of tarot cards. Even coming up with your own version of a few new affirmations to say to yourself out loud will help bolster your confidence and connection to yourself.
In spiritual truth, the spirit wants to raise itself up, grow, and be free to express itself, not stuck in the past hurts. Psst….are you listening? With time and good self-care, freedom can occur and the negative symptoms usually get better. And give credit where credit is due. You are, without a doubt, a spiritual survivor.