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March 2010

Prolonged Exposure Therapy: Session 1

today was my first session of Prolonged Exposure Therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder.

I hope it is the first step to getting my life back.

today's session covered the protocol for imaginal exposure and in vivo exposure as well as a relaxation breathing exercise. the therapy is designed to expose the boogy-man to the light of day, so to speak.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy: Session 2

I experienced an unfortunate glitch in my treatment protocol when I discovered that my iPhone's voice recorder application is basically worthless. the recording of session one was there, I swear! then I synched and suddenly it was two seconds long.

sigh.

since my only homework following session one was to listen to the recording once, I figured I could just as easily read the handout. so I did. and it was good! this jumped out at me:

... if you believe that experiencing flashbacks is a sign that you are losing control, you may try very hard to push the traumatic memories out of your mind. However, the more you try to push these memories away, the more they will intrude on your consciousness and the less control you will actually have over the memories.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy: Session 3

this session was downright painful. it was painful because I had to face the pain I'd been running from for years. it was the pain that marked a cross-roads in my life, or could have, had I been in a position to make decisions for myself.

it was twelve years ago, and a simple mistake was blown out of proportion when I embarrassed "The Ministry". that's what we called it. that's how we thought of it, with a capital T and M, as significant in our lock-stepped, cult-conditioned minds as the difference between a sculpted god of the pantheon and the "One True God".

Prolonged Exposure Therapy: Session 4

during my third and fourth sessions of Prolonged Exposure Therapy, my therapist and I took some time to talk about my in vivo exposure assignments. my third session was to spend some time in my yard, gardening, landscaping, pulling weeds. spending time in my yard is an activity I used to enjoy but interacting with my neighbor over the past two years has made me feel more like a scurrying rodent who waits until there is no human presence then darts out into the open on high alert in case she needs to run for safety, hurries through the necessary tasks then runs for safety at the slightest hint of danger.

with in vivo exposure, I'm to place myself in mildly stressful circumstances, stay through the anxiety spike, then allow myself to leave once I've relaxed. so, I spent time in my yard, working in areas that were the most likely to attract my neighbor's notice. he's unable to refrain from commenting on whatever I'm working on, so interaction is virtually guaranteed. he didn't disappoint, and I survived the anxiety spike and stayed at my task until I regained the relaxed feeling that working in my yard used to give me.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy: Session 5

I think I'm learning to step out of numbness. I mentioned in my last post that I was angry. I explored that feeling in session five of my Prolonged Exposure Therapy, as I had thought about it quite a bit between sessions. I broke it down, distilled the cause of my anger to the least common denominator, and when everything else was gone the cult leaders stood alone in my mind's eye with one outstanding quality: greed.

I was angry. so, so angry.

I was so isolated, so alone. complete immersion in cultish culture was required. fear was cultivated by leaders, members were shamed into cult-approved behavior. interactions were controlled, friendships discouraged. we all lived in a group, emotionally isolated. we spoke in code; ex-members call it "wayspeak". it served to keep us culturally separate from our communities.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy: Session 6

for session six of Prolonged Exposure Therapy, I chose to focus on the final act of domestic violence by Scott (the man I was then married to) against me.

it was both more and less damaging than the previous event I'd focused on, the gas-lighting session by cult leaders that destroyed my ability to trust others and to make decisions on my own. it was more damaging because it brought me closer to accepting death as a solution to my pain than anything I'd previously encountered, even the verbal and physical abuse I suffered at the hands of my mother.

it was less damaging only because my psyche was already so damaged that it couldn't have created in my heart any more of a sense of worthlessness than I already harbored against myself. it is possible that if Scott, along with the cult leaders, had not destroyed my soul so completely in that closed-door session a few years before, I would have found the strength to gather up my children and walk out the door after he attacked me.