Last weekend, I attended a workshop hosted by Bessel van der Kolk, MD at Kripalu Center in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. It was a follow up to his book “The Body keeps the Score”, Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma, 2014. It was both a powerful experience as well as a triggering one.
I thought I would share with you my reflections on the weekend that I sent to the 100+ participants. This is something I could never have done before I started this blog.
To all Participants,
My name is Janet Cate and I was delighted to be a co-participant in last weekend’s workshop. I would like to share some of my reflections of the weekend with all of you. I have severe, complex, chronic PTSD from early childhood and long term trauma. I have spent the last 10 years trying to eradicate it. I have tried any treatment money could buy to “cure” me. I have used body work (Reiki, Acupuncture, massage and Rolfing), EMDR, Mindfulness, Yoga, Meditation, Somatic Experience, Neurofeedback, Equine Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Talk Therapy. I pulled out all the stops with the ultimate goal of being able to get back to my work of trying to improve urban education for all children.
My work had spanned 15 years of inner city teaching where I was surrounded by students with early developmental trauma. Then, I got my Masters and Ph.D. and had 10 of years working with student teachers and new teachers through my job as a College Professor. It was a huge part of my life. It was my purpose. Unfortunately, in 2006, I had to take a medical leave of absence and have not been able to return to work since then because of the severity of my PTSD as well as the associated chronic fatigue and chronic pain. I live with the grief and pain of this loss every day.
However, it has been through the gift of talk therapy that I have been able to build a new and sober life for myself. It was in talk therapy where I learned to be heard and seen. It was in talk therapy that I learned my worthiness and rooted myself in it deeply enough that I was able to choose to live a sober life. It was in talk therapy where I learned what it was like to feel connected, attached, and bonded to another person. My therapist and my husband were the first people I had EVER bonded to. It was in talk therapy that I learned how to have conflict and repair the relationship.
It was through talk therapy that I learned how to be part of an intimate relationship with my husband and to build a beautiful family life for myself. It took me 15 years of marriage before I could really say I felt safe in my marriage and in my home. This was after 15 years of being treated lovingly, gently, respectfully and kindly. As a trauma survivor, this was something that was foreign to me and it took me that many years to trust in these qualities.
It was in talk therapy that I have created a purposeful life for myself. It was in talk therapy that I learned how to manage my PTSD so I could thrive and be able to leave my house to attend this conference and how to manage my PTSD successfully while at this conference. That is why my husband and I were in our chairs along the wall for the weekend, it was a way of using one of my tools for managing PTSD.
It was through talk therapy that I have been able to create a lively online community life with other people who have severe, chronic, complex PTSD through the use of my blog http://www.JanetCate.com. I have also joined other online communities that are committed to changing the world paradigms into more socially just ones. This is something I have been committed to my whole life.
I feel I live a very rich, contemplative life while being involved in the greater world as well as sustaining a very rich family life. I am not able to go back to work but I know I have the drive to make a difference in the world and contribute to the betterment of society even though I cannot hold a full time job.
So in the end I feel that the treatments Dr van der Kolk supports need to have a talking therapy component so people with early childhood and long term trauma can create the life they are worthy of and deserving of. Remember that his own statistics indicate that only 30 % of those with early childhood trauma were “cured” with EMDR, which represents only one treatment option.
I still am trying to figure out what it means to be “cured”. For me, it means living compassionately with my nature including my physical body (which is definitely affected by a great number of traumatic experiences) while also pursuing my greatest potential. That is what I strive for every day. These are my thoughts that I wanted to share with all of you who were with me at the conference.
Thanks for listening to me.