In a nutshell, it's important not to believe everything your heart and your head tell you in the midst of PTSD, but it is important to listen to your gut. In the midst of PTSD, the head gets led astray because of the the stress hormones and the part of the brain that's being activated, then that fires up the emotions which tug on the heart, and before you know it you have the perfect storm that makes you feel like life will never be any better than it is right now, so why bother continuing to try? Have you ever felt that way? Most of the people I've met with PTSD, whether military or other, have expressed that to one degree or another. But remember, if the stress hormones are pumping and the limbic system is consistently active and hypervigilant, that means that the rational, calm, part of the brain responsible for rational thinking and safety isn't being activated. So if you are in the safety of your home and in the presence of people you love, should you be ducking for cover behind your sofa or trying to secure the perimeter of your home? Probably not. But your brain is telling you there's danger, it might be re-experiencing a previous event, and your heart now thinks it has to protect too because there's a chance that something could happen right now. When those kind of feelings kick in and you feel really stressed and needing to either react or bolt out of the situation, check in with the gut. The gut will know the truth, even if the brain and the heart are firing off. Look at what's happening in your environment. Is there reason for you to feel danger?
It's a really fascinating experience when you can first tap into that. The first time I had a flashback and was able to recognize that my gut knew I wasn't in danger, I was totally confused. My brain was convinced. My heart was pumping and feeling very emotional, but my gut said, "What's your deal? There's no danger here."
Now, just to put this out there. We have these hormonal response for a reason. The limbic system is there to help us in the event of real danger and each part of the brain serves a very distinct and important function in our day to day life and survival. The problem is that when we have been traumatized by an event this function somehow seems to forget to turn off or if it does turn off and goes dormant for a bit, it seems to come back with a vengeance later. Do you know of anyone who came back from theater and thought they escaped the peril of PTSD because they felt fine? Maybe for months afterwards, maybe even a year?? PTSD can be a sneaky little thief in the night. It can slip in immediately after exposure, but many times it slips in months later or sometimes even a year later without someone even realizing what's happening to them. It starts out as a series of what I call, "strange happenings" that seem totally explainable for one reason or another. But compound them and things get really confusing really quickly.
The way I see it is that if you were in theater you would trust your gut if something felt "fishy", so why then do we not trust our gut here with our own lives? Ponder this for a bit and see what you come up with. I can't say that my experiences will be the same as yours, but again, I share what I share to help make you think about what you are experiencing. Consider the idea that the negative things you think about yourself and your life may very well be the limbic system sending off "danger" alerts that may not be totally warranted. PTSD often parades around on high alert when in fact, the day is sunny and bright and the children are laughing, the bunny's are hopping, and well, the only thing dark is the neighborhood inside our own brains.
The photos are both from Google Images.