Statements made by Dutch mental health care professionals while I was looking for help dealing with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:
While I was attempting to be committed to a psych ward: You’re trying to manipulate the system. You just want free housing. This is not the place for you because you have too much insight into your problems.
During an intake/diagnostic session: You are talking about your trauma’s like they’re exciting stories. It’s very hard to take you seriously. I don’t believe you’re traumatized.
During a session I expressed anger I still felt towards an abuser: Well if you’re still upset about that after all these years, there must be something wrong with your personality!
At a battered women shelter: I’m not getting a PTSD vibe from you. I think you’re lying about the danger you were in. I think you’re using hard drugs.
The only statement that is true, is that there’s something wrong with my personality. I had already told them about that. My personality broke in two when I was traumatized. Unfortunately, the existence of these traumas and the consequences thereof were denied. It caused me to be frustrated on top of everything I was already going through, what’s opposite of what you would expect therapy to be. Damaging statements like these uttered by professionals to people in their time of need can have devastating consequences. This can easily be prevented by putting empathy first but there are dangers of therapy that are far more complex then these callous remarks.
The opening statements of this article are taken from my life when I was around 30 years old. I became an aura healing- and reading therapist, and returning to the world of mental health care was unfathomable. This speaks to the despair I was in at the time. I had been reeling with fear 24/7 for 5 months and had completely collapsed as a result of that. I was hardly able to walk, talk, feel or do anything anymore. My emotions had been bothering me as long as I could remember. All throughout my childhood I was sent to and sought out help via school, the mental health care system and other designated institutions that were in place to help people. Similar statements as the ones I opened this article with were common practice. I took them seriously for many years and worked hard following their advice but never made any progress, it left me feeling disappointed. Luckily I discovered alternative healing practices, it was a huge relief to find understanding people that made a lot of sense and treatments that were beneficial after just one session. It was everything I expected the health care system would be like. It inspired me to become an alternative therapist myself. After three years of training, I completed the course and I focused all my energy on figuring out how emotions worked and harmonizing the core of human beings. It took me a few years to developed programs for both of them. Both the clients in my private practice at the time and I made great progress using these programs. After I worked through the emotions that weighed so heavily on me for so long I found a tranquil place in myself. The peace and faith I was experiencing were brutally disrupted after a few months when suppressed traumas from 20 years before rushed to the surface. I was convinced it would take me a maximum of 3 months to work through these traumas with my programs. Yet after 5 months I was still experiencing non-stop fear and completely crashed. I lost faith in myself and returned to the mental health care professionals accepting my defeat. Maybe I didn’t have all the answers maybe they do know better.
The dangers of trauma
A trauma is a huge emotion that enters the human body, mind and energy system like a bomb and wreaks havoc all around. This doesn’t happen with a garden variety emotion. In my case, my personality got destroyed alongside my emotional system. Immediately after a traumatic event that occurred when I was eight years old I had a dialog with myself which led me to the conclusion that everything I did, said and wanted caused me pain. I couldn’t think of any other way to move forward then to let go of everything that came naturally to me and fully adjust to what people of authority expected from me. Even though this conclusion was reached after one traumatic event, it were the years of fear, confusion, threat and doubt I experienced in the years leading up to this event that laid the foundation for this conclusion. The trauma was the straw that broke the camel’s back. For years I disguised my true self and brought forward behavior I thought others wanted to see in me until I forgot this split in my personality had ever occurred.
Before the trauma occurred I experienced feelings of unsafety on a regular basis but in general I felt relaxed and safe. After the trauma I was in a constant state of vigilance. When I got traumatized again one year later I developed agora phobia. Safety, relaxation and health are some of the pillars of the human foundation. My healthy foundation was now completely destroyed. Lies, manipulations and aggression slowly crept into me in order to veil my true self, to hide my weaknesses and on rare occasions push my own agenda. I got entangled in lies, sincerity, a fake foundation, a fake personality, extreme emotional high’s and low’s often changing several times a day and a depression that would last my entire childhood. In short a house of cards. This house of cards would collapse on a regular basis and had me hanging by a tread.
The dangers of therapy
How can you safely break down a house of cards while building a real house in the same place at the same time? Working through the emotions of the trauma alone is not without unbearable mental suffering that in most cases is accompanied by a (temporary) depression. To counter the depression a lot of validation, praise, self-worth, love and acceptance is needed. How do you install self-worth in someone that doesn’t know who she is? How positive can you be towards someone in a depression without offending them and causing them to withdraw? How do you build safety and manifestation while someone’s health is down the drain? Sure these are all normal questions that can be in raised in therapy and individually they can be answered quite easily but when they are all put together it becomes a risky affair.
There is no answer to the question how we can safely break down a house of cards while building a real house in the same place at the same time. The inevitable collapse of the house of cards is a part of the healing process and goes hand in hand with feelings of despair. Support and empathy are most important during this time. This support can be found in (online) support groups for PTSD. People in these support groups are looking for a positive message, a solution, an end date for their injury but they realize that these desires often times can’t be fulfilled. So they take comfort in words like; that’s terrible, I don’t know what you can do about that either and I can’t begin to imagine what you’re going through. When they hear more severe survival stories it gives them hope. They feel validated when they discover others also have a list of physical and mental complaints as a result of the PTSD. Knowing they’re no longer alone and somebody actually understands is priceless. They find comfort in this reality however dark it may be. It’s in these support group I found out that my story of deplorable mental health care isn’t one that’s unique to the Netherlands but it’s a worldwide phenomenon. Everybody that works with people who’ve encountered trauma would be wise to study these support groups.
In fear of being sued a lot of therapists don’t work with trauma victims. Or when a client dissociates or has an intense emotional reaction during the first therapy session, the therapist breaks off the therapy and the client is on her own again. I’ve had a suicidal client years ago that had signed a declaration with her previous psychologist that she wouldn’t commit suicide. When she kept expressing her suicidal thoughts, further therapy was refused. When I begged to be committed to a psych ward I also expressed I had suicidal thoughts and I was refused service. I’m also scared of being sued if my clients are a danger to themselves or others. The responsibility is on the therapists and to cover their behinds they abandon the people that are most in need.
How to proceed
Disillusioned again after not getting the help I needed from the mental health care system I returned to my programs. After years of physical rest ad working with my techniques I gained a lot of energy but nowhere close to the energy of a healthy person. The emotional triggers and nightmares that burdened me heavily for a long time rarely occur anymore. The fear that manifested in my body as tension and caused unbearable pain for 15 long years is a thing of the past. My foundation is still wobbly and the healing process moves ahead very slowly and takes priority in my life right now.
The last few months I’ve been thinking a lot about if and how I should carry on spreading knowledge about emotional recovery. The fear that others will collapse while breaking down their house of cards is immense. Before I had and worked with this knowledge my life was a lot harder that’s why I’ve decided to go on with my mission to teach emotional maintenance to the world. Knowledge about emotions should be embedded in all of us just like thinking and eating. Good guidance and being aware of the risks should be mandatory. It’s important that people know there is support out there. Many countries have support hotlines and the internet is filled with worldwide support groups that have someone ready to be supportive and listen to you all hours of the day. Reaching out to doctors and psych wards can be appropriate and doesn’t have to be a bad experience.
Do you want to know more about my vision on emotions? Check out part 1 of my How do emotions work video series: https://youtu.be/hyNOxtzlgwQ
Author Name: Stefania Pönitz
Author Bio: 36-year-old female, +15.000 hours of meditation in the bank.
The last few years I haven’t worked as a therapist because I thought, who am I to tell somebody what to do, when I’m not a 100% myself? It’s because of the questions I asked, the answers I found and the willingness to bring everything into practice, that I remain standing today. So now I ask, who am I to deny anyone that knowledge? When I was 28 years old, I discovered I had PTSD and I’ve had it for 20 years. That explained a lot! It explained my fascination with emotions and the depth of life and the reason I became a therapist in the first place. When I finally found the answers I had been looking for my whole life through years of education, self-examination, having a private practice and research. My suppressed trauma came rushing to the surface and subjected my techniques to the ultimate test. Turns out my techniques are awesome yet I was wrong to think they would fix everything nor would there be a quick fix! I couldn’t just meditate my way out of this one. The truth is my whole mental, emotional and physical foundation had to be restructured and rebuild from the ground up. It was in one word brutal but I learned more, working on myself then I ever would have teaching and healing others.The last 2 years I’ve been emotionally stable but I’m still working on structuring and stabilizing my foundation. Meditation, clean eating, exercise and connecting with others are the pillars of my
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