Most of these haikus are more related to my earlier years of PTSD than the current time of PTSD. I was really in the “living hell” of PTSD from 2007 until December 2014 – now I’m in partial living hell but I’m reorganizing my brain somewhat due to seeing a Somatic Experiencing therapist since October.
Most of the time that I have been contending with PTSD, my brain has been acting like a really high strung study partner throwing flash cards at me constantly. These are flash cards from History Class – well, technically My Trauma History Class. So, I hear a sound and my study partner brain throws a handful of flash cards in my face – DEATH! HORROR! ABUSE! I’m like, dude, I’m not trying to study that right now, that’s historical info. A second later, I notice a sensation in my body and my study partner throws more flash cards at my head – FEAR! TERROR! STUDY IT! LIVE IT! IT IS YOU!! The unfortunate thing is I always, always believe him even though I try so hard to outsmart him. So, the haikus are about that 100% living hell. Now there are not quite as many flash cards and I got some skillz for recovery but there are still a whole lot getting thrown at me – so, partial living hell.
But I digress. Here they are 🙂
haiku # 6
a hawk flies under
lakes of black ice
melting great horrors
OK, so this is a haiku about the healing that goes on unconsciously after going through some kind of therapeutic process. For example, going to therapy usually gently stirs up my mind and helps me open up to new perceptions, more positive ideas about life and self and people, and different ways of reacting to my environment. These things percolate somewhere under the surface.
The hawk is associated with a wide view of life, the big picture, the very long sweeping view of future and our own growth and evolution over a long period of time.
This haiku is about how, as this more expanded self gets stronger, it touches the unconscious, the dark shadows of deep turmoil and pain, and through love, shifts some aspects of the realms of shadow.
haiku # 7
desperate to rest
my soul battles through the night
sleep is exhausting
This is about my experience of waking up more exhausted than I was before going to sleep after just surviving a whole night full of nightmares, insomnia, stress, flashbacks, triggers, terror etc. This doesn’t happen as much anymore, but it used to be a nightly occurrence.
PTSD burns energy. It’s like – I might have said this before but it’s like taking, say, a flashlight battery and trying to use it to run your refrigerator. The energy consumption overwhelms the available energy even if the battery was just recharged, or I guess you could say the battery never has a chance to recharge because the energy is being expended as soon as it goes into the battery. The level of exhaustion is intense.
This can be explained physiologically. Basically, the brain is telling the body to get all systems ready to fight, flee or freeze. All of these systems consume energy as they mobilize to face the attacker. If you are asleep but incredibly tense, waking up constantly, having some kind of trigger throw you into terror, experiencing flashbacks and nightmares – these systems will be going online a lot. And they will drain a lot of energy and this will lead to exhaustion.
If a person has also experienced a physical injury, this can add to the exhaustion as the body repairs itself. Certain medications may also increase tiredness/drowsiness. Problems with sleep apnea, TMJ and jaw misalignment can cause terrible problems sleeping. Nutritional imbalances can cause energetic drain. And also, other psychological issues beyond trauma, such as unprocessed grief, interpersonal conflicts, and other stresses can add to the experience of exhaustion. I’m mentioning all this because it’s good to see the entire picture and how PTSD interacts with all other areas of life. If a person experiences exhaustion it makes sense to evaluate how their system is responding to past traumatic experiences as well as all other factors that influence sleep and energy levels.
the edges of me
have wounds that attract more wounds
I need to grow thorns
I took a course on energy healing and trauma. It was a 10 day immersion course and we covered a lot of material. One thing I learned is that the aura or the energy field around us can change in various different ways after a traumatic experience. Our personal energy field occupies this space around us that we generally think of and feel as our “personal space.” Trauma can cause tears, spirals, empty “voids” and many other formations that represent damage or injury sustained by this personal bubble around us.
Even if you don’t believe in the concept a human energy field, this same idea can be looked at in terms of the way the brain functions. As I understand it, our brain does something called “filtering.” It keeps a whole ton of information that is not relevant to it at a distance and only lets certain information inside – only certain things get close to it, or inside it’s personal space. If this filtering is healthy and functional, it forms a kind of barrier between self and world. But trauma changes this – it strips away the filters and lets every little piece of information come flooding in and ALL of it is personal. All of it touches us. ALL of it is relevant and impactful.
In my experience, there is a kind of “barrier” there, but it is the trauma that is between us and the world, not a healthy filter or healthy defense. The trauma becomes the way we relate to the world. So this is a double whammy – not only do we lose the healthy defensive barrier, but we get the trauma put up there instead – so reality is filtered through past trauma instead of through a healthy defense system! It couldn’t get more crazy making – and, unfortunately, it’s also incredibly vulnerable to more trauma.
Think about the term “thin skinned.” It’s as if our skin is very thin and weak and allows things to pass through it that shouldn’t. The situation can cause so much confusion that we just naturally fall into traumatizing situations, really without meaning to – we just have no system in place to properly defend ourselves.
Also I have the sense that there are some patterns underneath… you know, things like – if I’m hurt at least I’m getting attention, or, my life can never be stable that is too unfamiliar and unnatural, or, if I deviate from the family legacy/custom I will betray my parent. You know, those things that get set up from ongoing difficult experiences in childhood.
This haiku expresses the sense I have that I lost some kind of barrier or defense and am too open to being retraumatized over and over again. I want to figure out how to develop more genuine protection from harm on all levels of my being. This is not about building an unhealthy defense system that is rigid and covers weakness. It’s about building a healthy defense system based on having shifted victimization patterns, healed from past trauma and developed a way of being safe in the world from the inside out.
haiku # 9
today I wanted
to touch the water droplets
the ones from today
This haiku is about the tragedy of being unable to break out of the past for even one moment.
white I have become
full of shivers you don’t see
nothing left of me
This haiku is about hyperarousal, which is the heightened fear state that occurs in reaction to triggers. By “white” I am referring to being as white as a sheet. Like all the color gets washed out of yourself and the world around you. This is what it’s like for me to be in hyperarousal. Really this was more common right after the traumatic events but it can still come up, depending on the trigger.
So, 10 down and 20 to go!
Heidi Hanson is an artist and writer in Asheville, North Carolina currently working on an illustrated book chronicling her journey healing from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
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