I had a dream that I was in the midst of warfare. This made rest difficult, perhaps impossible, because sleeping was the time when we would be most vulnerable to attack. I was searching for a safe place. A place where I would not be seen and killed. I found a closet and decided to hide under a blanket inside.
Of course it makes complete sense that insomnia may result from combat and a nervous system wired to stay vigilant in order to survive. Our nervous system has two branches- one which allows us to be awake and alert (sympathetic branch) and the other which allows us to relax and sleep (parasympathetic branch). When living in a war zone, our nervous system is on high alert, ruled by the sympathetic branch. When we are no longer in this situation, we may need to re-train our nervous system and re-engage the parasympathetic branch.
The good news is that we have tools to alleviate the hyperarousal of the nervous system and switch back on the parasympathetic branch and relaxation response. These are easily learnable skills which you can practice, master, and experience immediate and long-term benefits from. What I want you to know is that you don’t have to live with the recurring flashbacks and nightmares, the lack of sleep, feeling numb, jittery, on edge, or guilty.
What these tools have in common is the breath, the master key which regulates the two branches of the nervous system. The tool for healing is built right inside of you. It may be akin to what the Jedi knights in the Star Wars movies call, “training with the Force.”
Yes, the force is in you. I assure you that you will return to the peacefulness and easiness of your being.
The combat zone you survived in may have been in the middle of war in a distant country, or it may have been right in your own home, as a child or spouse with an abusive parent or partner. Anytime you are assaulted or witness an assault, it is traumatic.
Treatment for trauma works, and there are a number of treatments for you to choose from. These include meditation, yoga, guided imagery, EMDR, cognitive processing, expressive art, herbal medicines, nature therapy and equine therapy. You will know what is right for you. You can retrain your nervous system by training your breath, though equally important is addressing and expressing emotions and resolving issues such as trust, fear and worthiness.
The VAs National Center for PTSD has made June PTSD Awareness month. Awareness is important, for it leads to understanding, compassion, and treatment. If you or a loved one are suffering, please reach out to me or to a center or practitioner near you.
I lay down on my side in the grass with my receiving hand up, feeling like a fallen soldier, how it could be to lay in the woods in some battlefield of war. I closed my eyes. When i awoke I saw a pure white aspen standing out against the dark pine trees. I heard that this is what soldiers returning home from war needed after the horror and darkness they had been thru- to remember the purity of life, the white light. To see it again.
May it be so.