There’s a really nice recent overview of what’s found to be effective for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder): Patients Rate Most Effective Treatments for PTSD. I have some things to add from my own healing journey, but first here’s the presentation that goes with the article:
Talk Therapy about as effective as hot tea? Accupucture more effective than pharmaceuticals? Medical Marijuana far more effective than anti-depressants? Exercise and Art therapy among the best things you can do? Yup, I would agree with all of that.
But, personally, I would have a slightly different list, and in a different order. After 13 years of quite extensive personal healing work, using a vast range of modalities, and various struggles to re-integrate into society, I’d put it this way, in terms of effectively lifting or permanently shifting aspects of themes that were part of PTSD, see below. I put at the top those approaches that managed to shift the most difficult obstacles most thoroughly and swiftly, but the order is only an approximation. Here’s my list:
- Ayahuasca / Yagé – an extremely potent heart-opening brew from the rainforest, taken in sacred ceremony with masters shamans deep in the Amazon (so awesome), or locally if available with equally qualified shamans (from here and/or there) in high-intergrity settings. [Caution for charlatans: If you get the vibe that ego’s in charge, trust your intuition and wait for a better opportunity.] – Deep work, not to be taken lightly.
- Rolfing – Structural Integration [added to this list in 2015], which has a surpisingly deeper impact than most other modealities of bodywork I’ve experienced. Read more about it at http://www.rolf.org/
- Shamanic Energy Work that makes changes directly in the human energy field, lifting patterns in their entirely and permanently (Four Winds Society,…).
- Therapeutic Massage / Bodywork (Swedish, Deep Tissue, trigger point, myofacial, craniosacral, Shiatsu,…) (Esalen, Arcata, Heartwood, East-West,…)
- Vipassana 10-day retreats (Goenka, Spirit Rock, …)
- spending much time in wilderness (my backyard, Utah, Vancouver Island,…)
- Acupuncture (2x/week for half year periods) (OCOM, Five Branches, …)
- High-strength sleeping meds to break the worst of insomnia cycles (Loramed,…), only under supervision;
- Medical Marijuana (one of the best for coping, but not for deep healing) Mendonino & Humboldt Counties reportedly grow the kindest buds.
- Financial Support to bridge periods of complete disorientation (tx friends & family, I remember)
- Kindness from friends, support that doesn’t collapse at the first flip/freak-out, (skilled people reaching out)
- Somatic Psychotherapy (CIIS, JFK, Naropa,…)
- Dathüns (Shambhala monthlong meditation retreats, w/ highly formalized daily routines and warrior practices) [Shambhala International, Dharma Ocean,…) Although, must say, working with ANY spiritual lineage (Christian, Buddhist, Hindu,…) over time, with all its chants, prayers and community, I would put higher on this list.
- Daily Routine (structure, stabilizing factors)
- Dietary Changes (cut out gluten, reduce alcohol & sugar, add Omegas, extra DHA, 5000+ IU of Vit. D, extra Vit. C, magnesium, and stress-reduction B complex combo), and making sure to stay very hydrated
- Community living (volunteering if need be) Note: As ‘family’ (or any familiar group) can contain ‘triggers’, a new location with new people can be more helpful than being in familiar circles;
- Artistic Expression
- Yoga, Tai Chi,… (body & breath awareness & martial arts)
- Exercise (swimming, running, dancing,…)
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy
- Soaking in natural hot springs (Joyful Journey has extra Lithium, Mmm…)
- Avoid certain places, settings, dynamics and circles of friends & family
- Psychotherapy (although can be helpful for gaining intellectual insights and perspective; very much depends on the therapist more than anything)
- Talk Therapy (cheaper at a bar, just as good ;-) )
And at the very bottom of my list, more harmful than helpful:
- Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety & anti-psychotics (Paxil, Zoloft, Risperdal,…)
- Coerced psychiatric forced drugging (SO traumatic in itself; INSANE that this is still happening;
- Being tied down, forced catheter urine extraction, the coerced use of Haldol & Thorazine. [Absolute worst of the worst: Sempervirons*, Eureka (*in Dec. 2000)]
PTSD is SO case-specific, though, with vast variations in people’s traumas, personal histories, community dynamics, psychological factors, and so forth, that giving any sort of advice on “what’s best for you” is essentially absurd. What works for one, may not work for another, and vise versa. Good councilors can assist in making decisions. Some of the things that worked for me at one point, no longer work, as well. And things that seemed rather ineffective at the time, may still have a place further down the road to optimal wellness.
That being said – before you react to anything I say, let me echo an excerpt of this blog’s DISCLAIMER: ‘I’m not a doctor, licensed expert or professional, government official, nor an authority over anything or anyone – besides my own sovereign human nature. Even if it looks otherwise, this blog site does not offer legal, medical or psychiatric advice.‘
Also, as a matter of “full-disclosure” (I have no problem admitting what’s true): over a 3-month period (well over a decade ago, at the end of 2000, very beginning of 2001), I experienced what’s known as an extreme case of ‘acute non-genetic PTSD-induced psychosis‘ as a result of various factors, most notably police brutality, inhumane treatment and torture at the hands of Czech police, following protests I participated in against the policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.
I know first-hand, that at its most extreme, PTSD/PTSS can be a completely disorienting, incapacitating, conditioning-&-identity-shattering experience with outburst of utter insanity, otherworldly perception and visions, extrasensory paranormal experiences, speaking in tongues and (sometimes awesome) mad creativity. My main major psychological trauma happened in the early fall of 2000 with being severely beaten by police, with a couple re-traumatizing events shortly after, including being stripped naked under armed guard watch in a soviet-style detention center in the middle of some forest, forced sleep deprivation, being forced to sign documents I couldn’t even read, and later forced medication injections, to name a few. (Many psychiatrists truly don’t quite know what they’re doing… Very sad.)
There have been many times that I believed to have ‘healed up’, and yet months or years later it turned out there was A LOT more healing to be done… It’s now over 12 years ago and I feel that my healing journey will continue for the rest of my life, but the horrible grip those few most extremely traumatizing days/themes had over my life has ended sufficiently enough (or quite possibly completely, but I’m more cautious to declare that now) to know that the rest is just what comes with healing an utterly insane society. This society, with all the wars and brutality in its histories, basically suffers from society-wide PTSD. Denial included.
Google around for more info on PTSD. If you’re in the midst of a psychotic break with spiritual overtones, check out the Spiritual Emergency Network and this related book. Other related additional Resources may be found at ‘Mad in America‘, which has great articles and resources, such as this one: ‘Anti-Authoritarians and Schizophrenia: Do Rebels Who Defy Treatment Do Better?’ by Bruce Levine, Ph.D.
Happy Healing Everyone! ;-)