Post traumatic stress and ruminating.

I’m not any kind of any sort of psychological professional. I talk about what I’ve lived through and learned because of it. I am not a full-blown scholar with copious amounts of Masters Degrees or a PHDs. I’m just me, talking to you about myself, hoping my experiences will teach you to avoid certain aspects of life. I’m your proverbial mother hen.

It seems that the published community, whether that be of lay-persons or professionals, have just as much trouble defining Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), as they do Sociopath and Psychopath. In the case of this post, I will center on PTSD, which is the chronic form of Post traumatic stress. It’s what lasts for many months or years, without the help of a professional. I will list the article which defines the difference when find it. Yes, giving credit is due, here, but it’s the definitions I’m interested in sharing with you at this point in time.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Is the Chronic form of Post traumatic stress which does not end relatively quickly and may require more intricate help from a psychologist or psychiatrist to find relief. Anti anxiety medications may be needed.  When the effects of trauma last for many months and even years, without evident lessening of severity, it becomes a full-blown disorder. Ruminating is very present, in both acute and chronic PTSD.

Rumination as with PTSD: This is a paraphrase of what I’ve learned and read.. Rumination is very present in PTSD, though it’s not generally understood if this practice is healthy or contributory to PTSD trauma felt, which only adds to the severity of PTSD. I for one believe it can be healthy if it doesn’t become habitual. If a person habitually ruminates in the acute stage of Post-traumatic Stress, it can develop into full-blown PTSD, if not dropped asap. I will explain more in the comment section if you need some clarification.

I’m a firm believer that there are many things that are beneficial to our health and well-being if done or eaten in moderation. That includes ruminating. The key here is in MODERATION.

Rumination can be beneficial to trauma survivors as a coping mechanism. A few years ago, I didn’t know what this looked like in survivors of acute Post-traumatic Stress. Last year I talked to a young woman who had just returned from fighting in Afghanistan. Since I was currently in the same place, I realized I was watching myself in her. She was wild-eyed, talking in earnest about her experiences and what she learned while there. Her experiences were fresh and raw in her mind. She looked and sounded crazy, though I knew she wasn’t. My boss got mad at me for taking time with her, but I knew she needed to vent and have someone listen to her. I gave her a caring ear. She needed someone to listen, and chose me at that point in time. I don’t even know her name.

Ruminating takes on a couple different forms: Mentally stewing over every fact, tear, action and reaction surrounding the trauma or talking about the experience, repeating every word and sentence many times, and every time the survivor tries to speak. Generally, if you aren’t talking about the abuse or trauma, you are incessantly thinking about it. This was me when I first got out of a very real type of hell, with a psychopath. This was me, especially for the first few months after ending the relationship, though for me it lessened continuously with each passing week. I couldn’t understand what I went through. I couldn’t find a way to believe it in order to settle the experience in my heart and mind. I went through a walking nightmare, and when things came to a head, I was left very very confused, and horribly afraid.

This is where a lot of survivors get stuck. There comes a time when you can’t possibly research the abuser, mental disorders, what could have been wrong with you, etc. any more. You have reached a stale-mate in your own psyche and heart. When the learning has been learned and the talking has been talked out, many times our hearts still aren’t settled. This is normal. The difference is how you choose to respond at that point, to the stale-mate. Many survivors get stuck in the mental spin, refusing to settle the issue to the best of their ability. Sometimes they aren’t able to stop, as it has gone on for so long that their minds have developed the habit of ruminating. It in itself becomes a trauma-bond, and addicting. When this happens, you are faced with a choice. Continue on, being stuck or fight to move on. This is why moderation is the key.

We need to allow ourselves the time to process the trauma and abuse. We do need to take whatever time is necessary to be able to move on. However, when this becomes a habit, it is near impossible to let go. In this case, some survivors continuously allow the abuse to continue, being affected still. The abuser is still in control, even though he or she has been out of your life for some time. No one wants that. No one wants to stay stuck in that place. It’s very hard to live through, and sometimes just as difficult to walk away from.

One day (hopefully sooner rather than later) you will realize that you are researching the same old crap, on a different day. You’ll realize that it’s an echo of the previous researching venture. You find yourself running into the same old wall. It hurts, every time. This is when you need to tell yourself, “it’s over”. You need to find the only bit of understanding there can be or is, “It just happened.” or “It just ‘is'”. Understanding this doesn’t mean that you’ll stop hurting over night, or that the effects of the abuse won’t linger, some. It just means you are ready to take another DECIDED step in the right direction.

Breathe deeply, with each step you take. If this post finds you in exactly this place, find peace in your heart, knowing you are recovering. Fight his voice in the meantime and center on EVERYTHING positive. Don’t let negative thoughts be so intrusive that you are unable to function. Don’t stop moving forward. When the right direction isn’t clear, then be determined to keep MOVING! As long as you continue to move toward healing and a healthier life, you won’t be stuck, and soon will be able to say “I am STRONG!”


18 thoughts on “Post traumatic stress and ruminating.

  1. “One day (hopefully sooner rather than later) you will realize that you are researching the same old crap, on a different day.”

    That day is a truly wonderful day because it means that you have come to the end of the “naming” phase of recovery and are ready to move on to the part where you start to be happy again, where his voice is a distant memory and maybe you can even fondly recall some good times, but where you have no desire to go back to the monster that you have unmasked. Because where you are now is so much better than even the best times with him and you can clearly see it 🙂

    1. Amen, Sista!! I couldn’t have said it better, myself! I really have no fond memories of that time, yet even if I did I wouldn’t WANT to recall anything about that time. When you are able to move on, with his voice becoming less and less, still, it’s a wonderful freeing thing to look back at the experience and find it doesn’t seem as detrimental, as it was then. you go girl!

      1. I can look back and remember how I felt in the beginning, when he was pretending to be Prince Charming and I felt so very desirable. I was so starved for that feeling that I lapped it up like a cat drinks cream. Now I get that feeling when I look in the mirror and tell myself that my life is my own and I can do anything! 🙂

  2. tundrawoman

    PTSD is a normal response to an abnormal/threatening situation. The criteria in the DSM IV, 309.81 Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is followed by 2 Specifiers: Acute (duration of symptoms is less than 3 months) or Chronic (duration of symptoms is more than 3 months.) There is one further Specifier: With Delayed Onset (ie, Onset of symptoms is at least 6 mo. after the stressor.)
    When you use the word “Acute,” you’re now moving into a different dx.,308.93 Acute Stress Disorder and now we’re all totally confused, right?;)
    To add yet MORE confusion, there’s a great deal of discussion re :”c-PTSD” or “Complex PTSD” which is not yet recognized by the APA which means it doesn’t exist because the APA tells us so, right? 😉 Just wait ’til the new DSM is published, then depending upon who “wins” there just may be yet another source for confusion!
    These Dx. are necessary for billing purposes, for Professionals to speak in short-hand to one another about a phenomena and know they’re speaking to the same constellation of symptoms. And that’s about it.

    Respectfully, it seems your X resurrected a lot of previous trauma for you and you’ve been through a lot, Little One: In Childhood you were subject to SA and an Authority Figure-Gma, who turned around and walked away rather than protect you when confronted with your very REAL victimization as a child; an Authoritarian Father (concurrently, another type of Authority Figure-Law Enforcement) who ensured you knew you were constantly under observation on the one hand, yet sent you off at 14 to spend a weekend with your boyfriend-how’s THAT for a(nother) mixed message?! There was your placating mother who modeled an appalling lack of boundaries to a Bully Father (I’m NOT being critical of your observation that she knew no better) but children learn by observation. Further, your very REAL medical needs were superseded by the “needs” of the (I’m shaking my head here) family “pets”-the cats. Who that little child observed out-ranked her in the Family Hierarchy. So look at your primary Role Models and Family Constellation. I’m pleased you’re seeing how childhood experiences set us up for exploitation in adult life: One Perpetrator leads to another and another……

    Please keep “ruminating” if that’s what you’re doing. It’s working for YOU, IMO. You’re sorting, reflecting, connecting the dots. In psych-speak, when we keep repeating the same patterns it’s called “Recapitulation of the Primary Trauma” in an effort to make the outcome of that-or those-previous traumatic experiences somehow come out better, to master the original trauma(s), so to speak. It’s not a conscious choice at all-we’re human, that’s what we do. By it putting it out here in writing, you’re doing a whole bunch of work and you’re benefiting by doing so and so is everyone else who’s following your journey.

    I’ve spent my life working with Vietnam Combat Vets. At the height of the Vietnam War, all references to “Shell Shock” or “War Neurosis” were removed from the DSM and it was a helluva fight to get it back in there and overcome political “expediency.” The Vets who are still alive are now well into their 60’s and beyond. Guess what? They’re “ruminating.” Still. Why? Not because they haven’t “moved on” but rather because each age and Stage of Life brings with it a reflection on what’s come before, a re-framing if you will of our previous experiences and the *Meaning* we attach to them. And that Meaning changes over time, just as we do. This isn’t habit-it’s growth, it’s like changing the aperture setting in your Personal Camera of Life.

    FWIW, you don’t sound “stuck” at all to me: Although I certainly would not have wished this additional pain on you, your X presented you with an opportunity for some deep introspection not just of that relationship, but of all that has come before that brought you to where you are today. And what a “place” it is: For personal growth, for confronting all the very real pain and trauma that preceded, for the ability to create more meaningful, deeper relationships with others and most importantly with *yourself* here in the present as well as into the future.

    It is the greatness I see in every-day people that leaves me with such respect and so deeply touched. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    1. TW, I do appreciate your comment and advise. I don’t know if I should call what I do, ruminating, or a continuance of the introspection that I have always done throughout my life. Either way, it does require thinking and analyzing all sensory input, actions and reactions-whether that be personal or from someone else. without this, i don’t know if I would be able to sort things out as much as I have. In some senses, I am stuck, or at least to some degree. I refuse to let this have the final say, as I hate defeat..especially when I am absolutely capable of coming out on top of any difficulty. I’m only stuck when I don’t see a definite outlined direction to go. It is only for a short time, as when I “move”, the opportunity meets me in mid stride. I don’t know what it will look like til I see it, or notice it happening. The definite strengthener here, is in the continuance of moving!

      I do understand the difference between “acute” and “chronic”. I was in the medical field for 5 years, and as a “chronic” severe asthmatic, I grew up with the 2 terms. PTSD is something that fails in definition, much like Sociopath vs. Psychopath. There is a generalization, but the definitions change 5 times, per 5 psychological professionals. I don’t mean to sound like I know anything about it, other than I’ve only recently understood that I battle some of the symptoms that many associate with PTSD. To be absolutely diagnosed with the disorder, remains to be proved. At this point, for me, it doesn’t really matter in the great big spectrum of life. Trauma happened. I survived. A psychopath happened, too…I survived, though the road to healing is longer and more painful than I have ever experienced in my life. You have taken the time to read my posts, and understand where I’m coming from. I wish I could express what that means to me. Thank you again! You have truly touched something …

      1. @Life, when I first stepped into the ring or maybe crawled there is a better description, they said 18 months minimal before you felt it was pretty much past you give or take…my experience was it took about that long…so if your within that time frame, you’re doing okay…

    2. TW, from what you are describing the primary Trauma so to speak, would the scenario you describe not be considered C-PTSD as opposed to PTSD? From what I understand PTSD is due to a single event…the initial trauma would be the PTSD; however, when one is exposed to repeated traumas over a sustained period of time, (childhood abuse, neglect etc, then say a string of abusive relationships) they layer and hence it is Complex Post Traumatic Disorder. I ask this simply because I agree with your statement but have understood it to be CPTSD. In many cases, the relationship with the PD was not the first TRAUMA many of us experienced it was rather born out of repetition compulsion. That is why the radars did not go on…ABnormal was normal, so we did not see the flags…what the PD did was provide yet another venue to play out an unresolved script and when hit with that blow, it all rises to the surface. In my case for example, I attempted to get screened for a study of PTSD and when they asked the questions, I did not meet their ‘criteria’ for screening. Why? Because even thought I was severely triggered (and never realized nor was I treated as a child for Trauma) all I could do was sit there in shambles rocking and sucking my thumb and talking about my father who was shot and came home to say goodbye to me with the bullet in his chest when I was 11. That did not qualify as PTSD because it was not a ‘recent event’…the PD devalue and discard brought up the abandonment issues from my father’s death amongst a host of other sick things that I had suppressed and blocked for many years to the point of complete obliteration, and when he struck 42 years of my life flashed before me. It was indeed trauma but trauma so deep I could not even register, connect or express what was happening. I lacked the articulation to explain, all they saw was a pile of me on the floor. The greater insult, they did not figure out it was C-PTSD either…they wanted to slap me with depressed. I walked out of there and was locked up in my room rendered literally mute for a month. The APA really needs to get their act together there are distinctions and the method of treatment also varies depending upon the type of trauma. Somehow I was led to do a lot of research and thankfully two years out I’m feeling much better.

  3. I do think that recovery takes time and that time differs from person to person. The longer the abuse was kept internal, the longer it will probably take to “move forward” and “be strong”. Also depending on the person, continuous invalidation by “support” and their perpetrators is enough to instill worsening of their condition. I believe it’s unfair to call rumination a bad habit.. I do think learning to be aware of such thoughts is important, in order to keep them from controlling oneself. But again, that takes time. Lots of time. I think that alone deserves respect. First facing your truths and processing them is required to move forward, regardless of how long it takes.

    1. I agree with you, Alycat. Rumination is a necessary integral part of the recovery process. Without taking time to process everything about the abuse and abuser, one instead denies minimizes and ignores the effects of abuse, only to keep the damage buried. That same pain will fester and explode at a later time if not faced. At the same time, feeding on thoughts about the abuse and abuser can become a habit, and every bit as damaging as the actual abuse. Its something to be aware of and to guard against. Positive self-input is just as important in order to be free from the horrible and negative effects of the lies we are fed during the abuse.

    2. I had another thought… I said in this particular post that it took me months to be able to shake the rumination stalemate. In actuality, it took months for it to lessen. The truth of it, as I look back, is it actually has taken a couple years before it has become a thing of the past, though it was becoming steadily less through time. Everyone processes and heals differently. That’s the beauty of the horrible process. Our journeys are very intimately our own. We also change and thrive in different ways, too. Thank you for commenting. I’m sorry you too understand this process. It means you have had to endure the abuse as well. No one deserves that. Have a wonderful weekend 🙂

      1. Absolutely, it a unique and complex process for everyone walking through it. Thank your for posting and taking the time to read and respond to your comments (even a year later) 🙂 Take care

  4. I am in therapy now. In our last talk, I asked why I thought about one particular scene over and over again. This thought comes at night and it is time to go to sleep. I still cannot understand why my soon-to-be-ex husband could do that! My therapist said that it is called ruminating in PTSD. Give it time though because 5 months after fleeing 13 years of abusive marriage is too soon to say I have moved on. I must not rush myself. In time that thought will lose its power over me. Now that I am aware, I stop myself in the middle of that thought. I make myself think instead that I am out of that situation and that the worse that could have happened did not happen. I really try and then I just cry.

  5. Hi atedinky :).. You have actually accomplished something that is very difficult to do. You see, even though we are aware of our thoughts as we are thinking them, sometimes it’s a type of auto-play. Have you ever tuned someone out, without meaning to? You don’t realize you did it, until it’s all over. Our thoughts are the same way, especially while ruminating.. We don’t intentionally ruminate, it’s just that certain painful scenarios or conversations play over and over in our minds, (especially when it’s quiet, like at bed-time) and we are aware of it, yet at the same time, have no control over it. It’s almost like we are unaware, and have been dropped to a purely emotional state, without fully being aware of the thoughts and memories that are playing in our minds (we’re aware of the thoughts, sort of, but it’s like a movie being played in the other room…like background noise, that has a real power over your psyche as it’s playing…). Phew!.. now that I’ve said all that… The fact that you have forced yourself into a very REAL awareness, you have actually found the key to being able to grow! Good for you!! You are willfully stopping these thoughts, now, and they are loosing their hold and their strength over you, day by day. Don’t be afraid of the tears!! They are your hug.

    The only suggestion I have for you, and please understand that you are the only one who fully knows you, and where you are in the process… It’s good to affirm that you are now safe, and out of that situation, but also try to pull a pleasant thought in, which has nothing to do with the situation you have been in. It will help you to become more grounded as time goes on. The situation and the hell you have gone through, won’t be so prevalent in your mind, emotions and daily life. I’m soo very proud of you! You might not know it yet, but you are on a wonderful road now 😀 I can’t tell you how happy I am for you!

    1. It is still day by day as I move away from that fateful day that I left. I found new things to do or rather I am doing things I love doing before I was told it was a waste of time. Like writing a journal or even curling up and reading a good book. My first trip on my own was to go to the local library and just walk around looking for a good read. There is still a lot to do, for me that is. Here I sigh and stop and not put a label like “a lot” because that slows me down mentally. I should also believe fully that it is really time to do things for me.

      1. It amazes me how it’s the little things we love doing that they can’t tolerate…or maybe its just the fact that we love doing “it” (whatever it is), that they have to demean us, minimize the act (like singing, for me), or making us actually feel ashamed for doing what we love.. When I got rid of my monster, it was just those things that I scrambled to regain. Like you and reading, or writing a journal. It’s what validates us, our lives, and makes us who we are. The monsters are all about invalidating us, in whatever way they can.

        Actually, there really isn’t that much left to do .. You have already put the steps into place, to conquer the hardest part.. Silencing his voice and Reaffirming yourself. It’s really ok, healthy and necessary to put yourself first. it’s ok to say “no” or “I don’t like that..” The difficult part, is practicing it. 😀

        You got this! Keep going! 😀

  6. As I go on with my therapy…
    Those thoughts of what he said or did to me are hazy memories now because I realized- that’s on you, not me! Instead, my thoughts turned to the “what ifs” and ” if onlys”. Ah, the mind has a life of its own. Well, I made my choices and those cannot be undone. What is happening to me now are consequences of my actions. I have to learn to live with that. Not in self-pity but in resolve. Going back to those times that I had options and no matter how I tried- i could not see what could have happened. That will always be the mystery because it could have been better or worse. So here I am still trying to find the “me” that was lost in the “we.”

    1. I cannot tell you how refreshing it is, to see the direction this is taking you, atedinky! Yay YOU!!

      I went through what I call a mourning period. I didn’t mourn the relationship, but I did mourn the time I lost while IN that relationship. I mourned the “me” I lost, too. I spent a lot of time in those same “what-if” thoughts. In the beginning of those thoughts, I was also trying to make sense of all the “why’s and why not’s” of everything he did, everything that I did, and why he chose to treat me so horribly. The best conclusion I came up with, which also helped me to find resolve, was the answer “It happened”, “it just is..”. Simplistic answers, which really weren’t answers to those questions at all, helped me to resign those unanswerable questions, and take the next step in furthering my healing.

      I tried to find “me” again. Here’s the thing… The abuse you suffered has changed you, dear-heart, as it did me. Some aspects of ourselves can be regained. Some will be forever changed. I promise you, though, when you come out of the mourning period, you will be grateful for many of those changes. I’m still healing. I still find myself reminiscing over who I used to be, and actually still mourn parts of me that I lost. I thank God for placing certain people in my life, who actually mirror those parts of me that are yet to resurface. It’s a gentle reminder that I’m not finished yet. It’s like seeing a long-lost close friend. Seeing those same qualities, actually brings peace to my heart.

      From this point forward, you are rebuilding. You are tossing those parts of you, you didn’t like so much, away… and building a stronger you. The house (everything you are and will be) is yours to rebuild how you would like. Pick the draperies, and adornment. Pick the flooring and what-have-you. You are still you, but becoming stronger and better than before!

      I wish peace to your heart on those hard days. Soo very proud of you!

  7. Pingback: Moving Past PTSD triggers | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

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