“He is a guy who is trying to have all his stuff together, keep his head straight, but is just sort of falling apart on the inside.”
-A quote referring to the protagonist from the film, Mensch.
Barely Keeping It Together
Michael could relate to the quote above.
He’d been living for years with a secret. Stored deep inside, it had been pulling him apart from the inside out.
As a child, he’d been molested more than once by a babysitter.
He carried the shame and embarrassment of that incident with him for 40 years. Told no one. “I’ll take this secret to the grave,” he told himself.
He dated a series of women. But every time the relationship got serious, he broke it off. “There’s no way anyone would truly love me, if they really knew who I am,” he thinks.
He struggled with nightmares, mistrust, and edginess most of his life. Lately, he’s become increasingly depressed as he realizes that he can’t form a meaningful relationship.
First Responder – Last Served
Jared is a firefighter.
When he was 19 years old, a brand-new first responder, he saw his first dead victim of a fire. Jared’s supervisor, wanting to keep the public from seeing the carnage, asked Jared and his partner to bag up the body.
For months following that incident, Jared had nightmares and images of the burnt corpse. No one had prepared him during his training how to cope with those images.
He lost his appetite and struggled with falling and staying asleep. His parents, with whom he was living at the time, couldn’t understand what was wrong with him. Neither could he.
Incidents like these piled up over the next 20 years of fire service. Each time, the victims’ faces, scorched bodies, and suffering was a snapshot filed away in his brain, coming back to haunt him when he would try to sleep.
He’d even have ‘day-mares’, feeling like he was reliving those scenes over when he’d go to other fire scenes.
One day while responding to an emergency call, Jared was driving the firetruck when a 13-year-old boy ran across the road. There was no time to brake, and firetruck struck the boy. There was nothing Jared or the other paramedics could do to save his life. He died.
In the following months, Jared fell into a state of depression. It was as if that incident dislodged all the over memories buried inside of him of other difficult things he had witnessed over the years – the tragedies of fire victims he’d not been able to save through the years.
He started sleeping in, calling off work, drinking, and becoming more and more irritable and withdrawn.
Fortunately, Michael and Jared got help.
Each of them, in their own ways, figured out that they were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Searching through the internet, they stumbled across an ad that talked about a researched, tested, and effective therapy for PTSD.
It’s called Cognitive Processing Therapy.
Each of them met with their therapist and started to talk and write about their most difficult memory.
Step by step, their therapist led them gently, but directly into a practical, action-oriented approach to heal their minds and their memories.
At the end of those 10 sessions, they felt like new men.
Michael learned that he wasn’t to blame for what had happened to him all those years ago.
He started dating beyond the typical 3-4 month relationship. Today he’s in a meaningful, committed, and loving relationship.
He’s sleeping better, smiling more, and the nightmares are no longer there.
Jared is finally recognizing that he’s not the vile murderer of a 13-year-old boy.
He’s not the ineffective firefighter he’s always felt deep down inside.
His colleagues notice that he’s happier, lighter, and talking more. He just applied and was promoted to Captain. Life is turning around.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy
Prolonged exposure therapy is another evidence based treatment. It is Action Based. You’ll focus on talking about your experience/s and doing behavior based assignments to get you more comfortable with people or places you’ve been avoiding.
Watch the following video to learn more about this action-oriented approach:
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Therapy is the third evidence based therapy that helps you adaptively process difficult memories in a safe environment. There are no homework assignments for this type of therapy.
Trauma gets lodged in our brain and we get stuck.
Watch the following video to learn more about EMDR Therapy:
It’s Time To Stop Running. It’s Time To Be Free.
For years, you’ve been actively stuffing and running from your traumatic past.
In three months, you can face your past and turn it into a hopeful present and future.
Like Michael and Jared, all you need to do is get in touch.
Let’s get going! Contact me today for a free 20-minute consultation: (224) 419-6144
More Information about Cognitive Processing Therapy
10 Sessions, a two-part podcast series from This American Life.