16 Aug 2009
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — PTSD — How To Heal From It by Eileen Nauman, DHM (UK), medical astrologer
Photo by: Eileen Nauman
Copyright E. Nauman, 2006
I’m going to deviate from the Sun signs blogs for a moment because the last one brought on a lot of interest in what I had to say about PTSD and high cortisol levels–and how we might stop this elevation. Below is the answer I gave to the questioner.
PTSD. How to dissolve it. The problem is: most medical doctors do NOT know what to do with a high cortisol level. This is a time when going to a Naturopathic doctor or indeed, a nutritionist, and they’ll see it and have the answer. To lower cortisol level, try an amino acid called L-Theanine. You might contact a health professional in your area about this, but generally, a ‘heavy’ dose is 2 capsules (100 mg each) three times daily. I would suggest 1 cap three times a day and you can always go up. The experience you should have after about 3 days of taking it faithfully is a sense of CALM. It stops the anxiety and agitation PTSD people live with.
You also might explore with a Naturopath your adrenal exhaustion. I have found that 1000 mg Panthothenic acid (non-time release type in 250 mg supplements) and 3000 mgs. Vitamin C a day can ‘feed’ the adrenals in about 1-2 weeks and they’re back online. These are anecdotal pieces of info for you–what you really need is a comprehensive plan across the board (amino acids, vit/min, ect) plus a diet that is shaped around supporting your body and losing the weight.
If you are a woman the other thing you MUST do is get to a medical professional to get your thyroid tested. Often, PTSD survivors or mothers who have had a child or more, will have “borderline low” thyroid function. Many MD’s refuse to give thyroid based upon that result. But you SHOULD have thyroid medication. If the doc won’t give it to you–go find one who will–you want your thyroid in the mid-range of the ‘normal values’ and at that point, you’ll start dropping weight and finally be able to eat carbs, ect.
Also, while on the topic, get a doctor who will have a compounded thyroid for you. It is called L-thyronine (T3) and Levothyroxine (T4). My pharmacy here in Sedona is called Big Park Pharmacy. They compound it and are wonderful. Greg, the owner, ships his compounded drugs to different states, too. All the doctor has to do is fax in a prescription to his pharmacy. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. This type of thyroid is best tolerated by most people (instead of Synthroid). Many things to do here–but all designed to lower your cortisol levels, feed your adrenals and bump up your thyroid to a better level of function. Besides from 40 years old on, the thyroid begins to slow down and MOST women (and some men) need the supplement.
THE ASTROLOGY SIGNATURE OF PTSD
Astrologically, PTSD has some familiar planetary players. Mars for the violence aspect. Uranus for the shock that may remain in the body a lifetime if it isn’t expunged with homeopathy, therapy or other healing tools. Neptune causes the person to go into addictions to escape the symptoms, usually drugs and/or alcohol. Pluto is the big player in PTSD because it rules over transformation, good or bad. It also is the keeper of the contents of our Unconscious where PTSD symptoms lurk and control us. The Moon, by far, is the key player for this dis-ease. A Moon with three or more hard aspects, especially with any of the above, may make you sensitive to PTSD symptoms more than most.
Tragically, a Moon with many hard aspects is a person who has already been beat around and abused in any numerous was. And so, when they go to war or are in some kind of violent trauma, this just adds the icing on the cake of their life. Not a pretty picture.
Pay attention to Chiron, the ‘wounded healer.’ You will often find the natal Chiron playing a direct part in the accumulated PTSD symptoms.
These are the players in PTSD from my experience.
Now, the larger picture is for the astrologer to understand PTSD. I had a wonderful relationship with Ed Schmookler Ph.D.. who is a therapist. He wrote Trauma Treatment Manual, 1996, http://www.trauma-pages.com/s/schmookler-manual.php. It has been revised in 2001. This is a MUST read for all astrologers, whether you are a medical one or not. There’s so many people walking around with PTSD–and many do not know it and it has not been diagnosed. For them, life is a living hell. It’s easy to say anyone in a war will have it –and most will, with few exceptions. The only question for our woman or man warrior is: How BAD is the PTSD? Not if they have symptoms of it or not.
The other is abuse (physical, mental, emotional or spiritual), sexual incest, dysfunctional family situation and rape as causes of PTSD. Everyone is traumatized by violence. Mutable signs are most sensitive (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces) and therefore more easily wounded to a greater depth, than fixed or cardinal signs.
I’m going to segway into PTSD and share my own story of it with you in an effort to help you understand the ramifications of this dis-ease. And hopefully, in understanding it, to give you awareness and ‘tools’ to help those who seek your counsel as an astrologer.
HOW DO YOU GET PTSD?
1. It can be a sudden, unexpected stress. For example, you see or survive an automobile or a train wreck, you live through an earthquake, you see a plane crash (or you survive one), you live through a flood, or some other kind of natural disaster, such as a tornado or hurricane. An explosion can cause it. Being involved in a fire, or seeing one wreak havoc, can also trigger this cascade of symptoms. The attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Centers is ripe for PTSD symptoms–for not only those caught in this horrible holocaust, but those who viewed it on television or heard it on radio not only in the USA–but around the world. So, you don’t need to have been there to “get” PTSD symptoms. We are all vulnerable to such global trauma.
2. Men or women who have ‘gone to war’–whether in armed combat, or the ‘war’ on the streets as a police person, firefighter, paramedic, ambulance attendant, gang-banging, or the war in a dysfunctional family, all qualify. The Gulf War vets, the Iraq and Afghanistan vets as well as the Vietnam vets, have earned their PTSD symptoms from encountering the gory, super-stressful, bloody horror of war–up front and close. Their lives may have been threatened. Maybe not. Just living in a war zone is enough to trigger PTSD in some people. Terrorist attacks can create it. Living in a ‘war-zone’ neighborhood, or the inner city, will trigger these symptoms. Places such as Yugoslavia, now carved up into fiefdom, is another good example–all people of that area have suffered some form and exposure to PTSD. Israel is under constant threat of attack and I’m sure many of them suffer from these symptoms.
3. If the person is exposed to inhumane treatment–and this includes verbal or physical abuse (spousal), incest or rape or actually being a POW, prisoner-of-war, PTSD symptoms will manifest. Torture comes in many forms. If one lives eighteen years in a dysfunctional family, that is a special hell and torture in its own right. One doesn’t need to be put in a cage somewhere in Vietnam to garner the same PTSD symptoms. Either environment will create them. If an individual views atrocity, that can trigger symptoms. Again, it doesn’t have to be in a war zone or in combat–it can be at a train wreck, an airplane disaster, a terrorist attack. As an example, the Oklahoma City bombing has, quite literally, created a city of PTSD survivors. Many police and firefighters view human remains at accident sites all the time–and never received help for what they view. Some did, fortunately–but others did not. Human or animal atrocity affects all of us. The question is just how much. At some point, we all have an inner boundary where inhumane treatment, torture or atrocity, will affect all of us.
Now, the latest trauma, the terrorist attacks on our Pentagon and the destruction of the World Trade Centers in New York City have, once again, created a massive PTSD epidemic in the wake of these assaults on our collective, USA psyche. Bosnia has been traumatized. Right now, it is Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention, Iran and Pakistan. Violence against anyone breeds PTSD.
4. The psychological and constitutional elements of ourselves, which is known collectively to the homeopath as the “vital force” will create more or less susceptibility to PTSD symptoms. Ten people can view a plane crash. There will be ten different, varying levels of reaction to it. Those whose vital forces are more susceptible to this type of trauma, will be more profoundly affected and they will be the ones coming away with PTSD symptoms. Others may be less affected or not at all. Four children in an abusive household will have four different coping mechanisms and reactions to the war-zone environment and each vital force will respond a little differently to it–but they will all walk away wounded with PTSD. It’s just a question of how much damage has been done and where. Some people’s psyche/vital force, are more resilient than others. However, the more long-term the ‘war zone’ that is encountered, the more sure you are that they will all be effected. It’s just a question of how much, at that point.
5. Any of the above situations combined with physical abuse or bodily injury will cause PTSD. Injury, particularly to the head region, will guarantee it. Homes where children are slapped, beaten, thrown around, will have a high degree of PTSD symptoms unless they have a very tough, strong vital force. And even then, they will still be wounded; but perhaps not as deeply as some other individuals who are more susceptible to such a combative environment.
6. PTSD symptoms can worsen especially if there is no social net or fabric in which to seek help or protection from this warlike environment or warlike person. Without an abuse shelter being available, without the means to talk to someone who recognizes the bottom line of the problem, survivors, if left in such an environment, simply become worse over time. A military vet who cannot seek help, is left to suffer in his or her personal hell that only deepens and stains their entire life, year by year. PTSD symptoms, if not caught and reversed, only become worse with time. It ruins marriages, children, and stains the PTSD survivor irrevocably. In a sense a PTSD survivor is still in their POW cage–it just isn’t visible, but it’s there.
SYMPTOMS OF PTSD
1. Re experiencing the trauma. This can occur at any time and it’s uncontrolled, intrusive and can be during their sleeping hours or during the day. It is recollections of the event(s) that are stressful to the person.
2. The survivor can experience disassociated states of consciousness in which he or she relives the traumatic event as if it were actually taking place in front of them, around them, once again. Sometimes called flashbacks, they are usually ‘triggered’ by something. An example is a car backfiring on the street, and the Vietnam vet diving for the sidewalk because he thinks it’s a rifle or mortar going off, nearby. He will relive the entire episode because of that car back firing. Or, it can be an odor that may set off the rape survivor–a particular smell reminds her of her rapist.
Sometimes, there is no noise, an order, a sound and the flashback appears, anyway. It takes total control over the individual and they are helpless to stop it from occurring. The inner torture they experience from seeing and feeling a repeat of the experience cannot be put adequately into words.
3. Along with the flashback, there can be chronic anxiety experienced with it, a hyper alertness, insomnia, the inability to concentrate. Some people experience memory impairment and they can have huge chunks of ‘memory loss’ or they have problems with short term memory. The nightmares or night terrors, can predominate their dark hours during sleep. Sometimes, they are afraid to go to sleep, or they fear the twilight or dark coming on at the end of each day. They are afraid to sleep and will eventually go into a sleep deprivation mode. With prolonged sleep deprivation, they will get a whole new list of symptoms added onto what they are already laboring under to carry.
4. Some survivors of PTSD develop a phobia if they are forced to recall the traumatic event(s). If they are forced into such exposure, it will only open their PTSD wounds even wider. At that point, they can become disassociated in order to survive the re-exposure, or become phobic, such as not wanting to be in a closed room, claustrophobia and must escape to get outside in the wide open spaces and fresh air. Others are just the opposite–they seek the protection of an enclosed area, which is the only place they will feel safe. They may hide in a special room or space that feels safe, and not move from there for hours or days until they feel safe enough to come out once again.
5. A PTSD survivor may also be an emotional like a roller coaster; an emotional barometer swinging from euphoria one moment, to rage or depression, in the next. They can become restless, constantly moving around, moving room to room, unable to sit still for any length of time. They will take off for the mountains, to hunt or fish, is their excuse, but really, it is to be alone, to feel safe in the wilds. Irritability may be high and obvious. Their hands may tremble or they may feel an ‘inner trembling’ within their body, even if their hands remain stable and unaffected. Worst of all, there can be episodes of unexpected explosive anger or vitriolic rage. This may or may not escalate into violent, physical behavior against the unlucky person or child who was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
6. Some people turn to prescription drugs and/or alcohol as a way to anesthetize themselves against this backdrop of nightmarish pain and memory. It is a way to put a distance between them and the traumatic event(s). Some drink alcohol to sedate their extreme hyper arousal state. This hyper alertness is being too sensitized to noise, in particular, but an odor can set off a string of events, just as easily, or a word, a shout or some kind of threat, a touch on their body by another person, as they perceive it. They can’t handle someone walking up behind them and often, they’ll cringe, whirl around and go into a protective position to protect themselves.
If you want to easily spot someone with PTSD, check out a restaurant–and many cannot handle crowds at all, but those who can tolerate it for a short amount of time–will be found sitting in the corners of the room, with their backs to the wall, so no one can come up behind them. It also gives them the fullest access to watching everyone and it is the safest position in a public place–against the wall, with your back up against it, or in a corner seat.
Because this hyper alert state, which is really too much adrenaline and cortisol pouring constantly into their bloodstream that keeps them on ‘alert’, they must seek quiet and being alone in order to ‘come down’ or take the edge off this state. I have found that adrenal exhaustion is often behind a number of PTSD symptoms and many in the medical world haven’t put this together, yet. If one looks at adrenal exhaustion symptomology (chronically, it is known as Addison’s Disease, but there are milder levels of this which go unrecognized or undiagnosed), they would see it is the same as some of the PTSD symptoms: physical weakness, fatigue, low blood pressure, weight loss, dehydration, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and a sub-normal temperature. Mentally, they become insomniacs, they feel as if their body is in pieces, floating around them, they feel disconnected, quite literally, and spacy or as if the real world is not real at all–but some waking dream they are having.
The other side of the coin to continued hyper alertness is the opposite medical state known as Cushing’s Syndrome, where too much cortisol is being manufactured and pumped out by the adrenal glands because on the inner psyche level, the person is still in a combat-preparedness state–and it doesn’t matter if it was a war overseas or the war within the home–it still can pour too much cortisol into our bloodstream creating this hyper alert state. The symptoms are: muscle wasting weakness, skin is thin and wounds heal poorly, there can be high blood pressure, purple streaks on the abdomen, kidney stones, osteoporosis, reduced resistance to infection, temporal balding and in females, menstrual irregularities (amenorrhea), impotence, excessive hair growth over the body, edema, diabetes mellitus and a plethoric appearance. Many will have adipose fat, especially ‘fat pads’ and what is known as a ‘buffalo hump’ on the back.
7. There can be a ‘numbing’ to their emotions to the point where they don’t ‘feel’ any more. This is a symptom of shock, but the shock doesn’t wear off, as it’s supposed to after the trauma has occurred. Shock helps us protect ourselves in the moment from some overwhelming event that has occurred to or around us. We unconsciously protect ourselves by distancing ourselves from the scene we just lived through and this is known as disassociation–splitting off or away. As this occurs, many have said they see themselves floating above their body, watching the scene as it unfolds. They are, quite literally, out of their body, but it is their astral body which has left their physical form in this instance.
Each time they are threatened, their astral form jerks out of their physical body and they may or may not be ‘remote viewing’ of themselves and the incident. Sometimes they just feel ‘floaty’ or ‘spacy’ or ‘like a balloon floating on the air’–detached and away from the scene of the pain and torture. I have found that I have this ability and inevitably, any time I’m truly threatened by something, usually physical nowadays, I see myself above me. The latest occurrence of this happened in August of 1996, when my horse fell in a stream, slammed into the bank and then flipped over backward, carrying me with her. I viewed all of it. I didn’t feel the impact as we landed on her left side against that steep, bush-covered bank.
As she lost her balance and fell over backwards, I saw myself kick away from her, shoving with hands and foot and moving to the right or where she was going to fall. I could have died that day–but when I’m out of my body like this, I’ve always been protected from dying and injury. I walked away from this particular event with some bruises–which I took care of homeopathically–and that was all. So, leaving one’s body does have it’s plusses!
Shock symptoms for a PTSD survivor do not wear off–it stays with them. They have been emotionally overwhelmed with what they saw, experienced and lived through. They live in a limbo state where there is no happiness, but no sadness, either. It is a gray zone, an emptiness, a inner hollowness–an emotionless Twilight Zone. They will tell you that they feel ’emotionally dead’. Sometimes, along with this numbing state will occur emotional detachment–even if it is traumatic, gory or horrific–they will have no emotional reaction to it, at all. They often feel estranged from others, as a result.
In the next blog, we’ll discover what a PTSD survivor needs from you in order to begin the healing process. And, how you can help them. After getting PTSD symptoms, they can be turned around and utilized in positive fashion, and we’ll explore those possibilities, too.
Schmookler, E., Ph.D., Trauma Treatment Manual, 1996, Revised 2001, http://www.trauma-pages.com/s/schmookler-manual.php
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, American Psychiatric Assn., Washington, D.C., January, 1995
The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, 16th Edition, edited by Robert Berkow, MD, Merck Research Labs, Rahway,NJ, 1992.
Butler, K., The Biology of Fear, July/Aug., 1996, The Family Therapy Networker, Washington, D.C.
Nauman, E., POISONS THAT HEAL, Light Technology, Sedona, AZ, 1995
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