Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Put Down that Book!

(Lilly cat is one of my main gurus. You can see why, I'm sure.)

I have mentioned many times that reading pretty much saved me when I was young.  I would just dive into books and stay there for hours and days on end.  I think, too, that books gave me these wonderful glimpses into other ways of being.

Any time I was interested in anything new, my first instinct was to head to the library and read about it.  Part of this was a general fear of living, a fear of anything new, and a safety inside those pages, and another part was that, due to my home life, it was very unlikely (pretty much 100% of the time) that I would actually get to try any of those newly intriguing things.

Living vicariously, for sure.

This habit continued into adulthood and only recently have I started to see how negatively it has impacted my life.

(Thank goodness I did not just stick to reading about dance, for instance...or yoga!  Thank goodness I also DO those things.)

I have also mentioned, only half jokingly, that I have read enough in the field of psychology to be awarded some level of degree.

So when we finally figured out that I suffer from Complex PTSD, I started doing my thing.  I started reading anything I could get my hands on about it.  I started looking for the most current thinking about treatment.  I started digging into the cutting edge work about what they think is going on in the brain.

And then it happened.

Something I thought would not happen to me, for some reason.

Have you ever seen those blog posts written by trauma people that say at the top "Warning: This may be a triggering post."

I always think, "Yeah, whatever..."

I don't know why I have dismissed this.  Perhaps because I have just always seen reading as part of my "medicine."

About three weeks ago, I was reading about how and why our brain will cut up the most difficult memories into sensory chunks, storing them in different parts of the brain and not creating connections between them.  This is why a smell can bring back part of a feeling of a memory but not the whole thing, for example.

This article really stuck with me.

And then...a wave of partial memories started washing over me.  One after another.

It made me sick to my stomach.

I used to get so angry that I couldn't "complete" these bits and pieces of memory, that I couldn't figure out what and when they came from.  Now I know that my brain is a bit smarter than I have ever given it credit for.

Sometimes our brain is protecting us.  Sometimes things aren't meant to ever be remembered whole.  Sometimes our brain knows that that would be too much for us.

We had a couple of very difficult days here at the Lilypad from my reading induced trigger episode.  But we got through it.

And now I have some new rules for myself:

First, no more reading (for now) about Complex PTSD; it really can trigger you, even just the theoretical stuff.  Or maybe MORE SO the theoretical stuff because it allows your triggers to fill in the blanks, so to speak.

Second, no more disrespecting my brain's wisdom.  I go on and on here about body wisdom, and I often bash brain, but brain is part of this body and now I see what it has been up to all along.

This is not about intentionally repressing.  NO WAY!  But it is about appreciating the function and efficacy of the brain's natural tendencies.

It is also about respecting the fact that I know enough of my own story (in great detail) to know why I am the way I am.  I know enough to now notice my triggers and to work with and through them.  I know enough to figure out why I behave the way I do sometimes.

I know enough to heartily and steadfastly work toward health.

I know enough to respect the intuitions of my brain and body and put down those books.


Linnea said...

Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes. After three days of the absolute pits, I laid off, too.

There are many types of intelligence. Thankfully, our brains are smarter than we are.

I, too, am a good set of ears. :)

Lisa said...

Great post, Christine!

Glad you are connecting these dots.

Thanks for sharing this wisdom and insight :)

svasti said...

I think we never really expect something we read to trigger us until it happens. And we never know quite what will do the trick either. Bah!

*throws hands up in the air*

I still think my theory about those with things like PTSD is true - that we HAD to be in our heads and escape our bodies, because it simply wasn't safe for us to be fully present. It was very much necessary at a certain point(s) in time.

Then, when we are healing, we find healing through re-connecting the mind and body. But sometimes of course, we forget. The safest place we know is a disassociated state, as far away from an integrated connection to the world as possible.

It always did seem like a bit of a twisted joke to me. That the things our mind does to protect us can become the things that stop us from healing if we're not careful...

Take care! xo

Anonymous said...

For different reasons than you, I've realized reading can be just as toxic as TV, sometimes even more so. Everyone thinks reading is the greatest thing you can do, but often it can be a crutch and all crutches need to be eliminated (except for brief periods). Also we all should have way better things to do than read, watch tv or anything else that doesn't allow us to truly live.

Christine Claire Reed said...

Oh, no, Anon, my Enlish teacher/MA in Literature/Writer self just gasped at that...better things to do...

Reading is one of the greatest joys...connecting with a writer, across time, across continents...this is a beautiful way to affirm our humanity and our connectedness. Great movies and all sorts of excellent media can do this same thing. It's all ART, after all. :)

I am talking about a specific kind of reading that can become detrimental...the looking for answers that will fix me kind of reading. The kind of reading where we are immersing ourselves in descriptions of the terrors we already know too well.

Thich Nhat Hanh would make the distinction this way: are you reading to water good seeds or bad?


Jaliya said...

What a resonant post, Christine ... My own sanity and presence in the world were saved, in part, by reading ... and there was a time in my life when I read nothing but self-help ... Bought every new and shiny book that promised THE ANSWER ... Overloaded myself. Agreed with you that sometimes we have to lay the factual books down and simply integrate what we've read.

Nowadays I'm reading mostly fiction -- nothing keeps my mind humming like an excellent story.

And yes, reading can be just as immersive as any other habit ... There have been nights when I've kept myself awake and alert by reading ... and nights that I've simply overdosed on the written word. Like sleep, reading can be a great escape ...

Moderation in all things, yes?

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post Christine.
Thank you for your inspiration!
I just finished reading 'Adult Children of Alcoholics' and 'Struggle For Intimacy' this last week. A close friend recommended that I read them. They are both utterly enlightening books that have helped me in ways that most books haven't, but the epiphanies and wake up calls were like sirens, and my new awareness of coping mechanisms and beliefs about myself are being torn down right now. I told my boyfriend, "I am sorry about your girlfriend right now. Think of it like this: you know when you were a kid and you were watching you're favorite television program and the screen goes all crazy and there is a loud screeching sounds and a rainbow striped screen and it says "technical difficulties; will be back shortly'" That's me right now....I will be back shortly!"
I am totally taking a break from self-help for a while. I am just starting to read Vladimir Megre's 'Anastasia Ringing Cedars' books. So far they are really inspirational and well, the opposite of depressing.
P.S. I just have to ask. Have you read 'Pronoia: The Antidote to Paranoia' by Rob Brezsny? That book is about how the "Universe is conspiring to shower you with blessings" I love Rob Brezsny! He is so whimsical and positive. I love his quote, "Evil is boring." :)
Have a wonderful day!