PTSD can be compared to a faulty burglar alarm that is triggered and goes off for no reason. Someone suffering from PTSD is triggering their fight or flight response unnecessarily when there is no present danger. The rational, thinking part of our brain (pre frontal cortex) can be thought of as the policeman in this scenario. He tries to reassure the owner (PTSD sufferer) that nothing is wrong but he can’t be heard over the alarm. This is why well intentioned advice to ‘move on’ or ‘get over’ what happened is pointless because the connection has been made and so it is extremely difficult to rationalise or to wilfully stop the thoughts or feelings.
The fight or flight response one of our most primitive survival systems and is designed for to allow us to act in the face of life threatening danger.
The highly aroused emotions of fear and helplessness present during the trauma become inextricably, biologically linked to the memory of the event.
RECALLING THE EVENT IN A SPECIFIC WAY WHILST FEELING SAFE AND SECURE
IMAGINING COPING IN THE FUTURE AND RESPONDING DIFFERENTLY
This therapy is a brief intervention that seeks relief of PTSD symptoms after 2 or 3 sessions. Occasionally the process needs to be repeated but in the majority of cases people report a significant diminishing or complete eradication of PTSD symptoms.
If talking about the traumatic birth experience makes you feel uncomfortable there is no need the share what happened to you. You will need to remember it yourself but you can do this without re-telling.
This treatment is equally effective 3 months after the event as it is 3 years or even longer after the event. If PTSD symptoms are still evident then the treatment is useful in eliminating them.
As a result of the complications from my traumatic birth I developed post-natal depression in the first week of Ellen’s life. Ellen had developed colic by this point also which didn’t help the bonding process.
We recognised it early on and I received counseling within a CBT group run by the NHS. This helped in as much as getting me out of the house and meeting other mum’s who were struggling. Gradually I began to pick myself up, but I was far from being happy. I felt a little like I was going through the motions, getting through each day. At the time I was grateful for just being able to do that. I obsessed over the birth and would think about it constantly. What I could have done differently, what the midwives could have done differently, etc.
I finally got around to sending Alex my birth story in August, eight months after the event. She suggested I come to see her for a session. At the time I thought I might as well, it couldn’t hurt, but didn’t fully believe I needed to. How wrong I was!
We started the session with talking over the events of the birth and the time that followed. I gradually let my guard down and started to realise that it was far from a resolved issue. Alex asked astute questions that I think nobody had dared to ask me, and I hadn’t dared to ask myself. I had a lot of pent up guilt over the whole situation, and a lot of anger. It also became clear that a lot of my feelings towards it were damaging my relationship not only with my daughter, but with my husband too. I had a very poor attitude towards myself, and blamed myself for a lot of things that were beyond my control.
As I entered a deep state of relaxation, the emotions I had locked away came to the surface. It shocked me that I had buried all of this so deeply. I was finally honest with myself. Alex talked me through letting go of all the negativity, playing it through in my mind a few times and then destroying it. Discarding it.
I walked away a lighter person. How corny it sounds but the sun was shining and the birds were singing. I sat in the car before driving away, took a deep breath, and felt a huge sense of relief. I was free of despair! It was something I had learned to live with, not realising I didn’t have to live with it at all.
I would say that day was the turning point in my new career as a mother. I have found the joy that it brings, and oh my – what joy! I no longer ‘go through the motions’ of motherhood. I am savouring each day, and above all, can’t wait to add to my nest and do it all again!
I can highly recommend birth trauma treatment. Birth isn’t always beautiful; it can be a hugely traumatic thing. I was so ashamed to admit that it had affected me so much. It still seems to be such a taboo subject. I’m so glad I opened up about it, and so grateful to Alex for helping me to let go.