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BLOG: Hope for Post-traumatic Growth

Being Tender yet Tough with Veterans

As any subgroup of Americans, military veterans cover a wide spectrum of personality types and pre-service adjustment history. While there is almost universal agreement that veterans should be honored for serving, across the board admiration without constructive criticism may be unwise. Not every hero acts heroically all the time. Sometimes folks with adjustment difficulties need …

Perseverence + Resilience + Patience = Hope for Recovery

I sometimes say that my middle name is “Perseverence.” It could also be said that Resilience runs through my veins, which is, in part, why writing a book with Matt E. Jaremko–Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt: Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims of PTSD–is so gratifying, because it will help SO MANY PEOPLE. …

Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt will release in summer, 2018!

I am beyond thrilled to tell you that Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt, a creative non-fiction book written by Dr. Matt E. Jaremko and me, has found a publisher, Ayni Books. Our book should release in early summer, 2018. The best way to describe it to you is to borrow from our book proposal: …

Introduction to our book: Trauma Recovery: Sessions with Dr. Matt

For the past year, I have been collaborating with Beth Fehlbaum to write a book entitled: Trauma Recovery: Sessions with Dr. Matt. The first draft of this book is in the process of editorial submission and review but here we begin to discuss its purpose and anticipated impact. An overview of the book is provided …

Excerpts

Periodically until our book releases, we plan to share an excerpt so you can get to know more about what’s inside:

PROLOGUE

The Internal Dialogue of a New Patient Being Sick and Tired of Being Afraid and Stuck

Fear. Raw, exhausted, angry and anguished. Fear.
I am here. If Hell exists, it surely feels like this.
I called this doctor because if I didn’t, I was not sure that I would still be here—that is, alive—today, to be parked outside this psychologist’s office, staring through my rain-spattered windshield, catching random glances of the steps that will transport me from where I am, in the darkness of the pit, to hope.
My hands are shaking so hard that I may not be able to open the car door, and the bones in my legs seem to have disappeared along with the courage I had this morning when I was looking forward to this, to relief, to the possibility of hope. All day, I have thought of nothing but this appointment, and with every passing hour, my chest tightened and my stomach churned. My arms feel heavy. My nerves are shot. My chin quivers even though I’ve made up my mind not to cry anymore, because that’s a joke, and both my chin and I know it.

I unfold the paper I scrawled the appointment info on and look at it for the –nth time today: Scott Matthews, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist. Today’s date, 15 minutes from now.
The paper’s starting to look like it’s been in the rain: the day I made the appointment, my teardrops smeared the ink, and new ones threaten to make Matthews look like Matt—which is kinda weird since that’s what my friend told me she calls him: Dr. Matt.

I wonder if it’s possible to throw up when fear is all I have inside me?
What is he going to ask me, and should I tell him everything? What will he think of me if I do? He may not even want to help me once he gets to know me—if I tell him everything. But if I don’t, how will the hurting stop?
Maybe my friends are right; maybe my mother-in-law is right; maybe that article I read about getting over bad stuff is right; maybe I don’t need to be here after all: I can just think about something else and make up my mind that it won’t hurt anymore and . . . and . . . dammit, if I cry, I’m gonna have to go in there looking like I’ve been crying and nobody walks into his office while they’re crying, do they?
The thing is, none of those people telling me, “Just get over it” know what it’s like inside my head. They don’t, and it pisses me off that they all think it’s that easy; that I can just snap my fingers and it will stop hurting to be . . . me.

I close my eyes, inhale a shaky breath, and exhale a sob past the fear clutching my windpipe. When I open my eyes and regard myself in the visor mirror, I fully expect to see handprints on my throat.
There are none. It’s all in my head.
But that’s the problem: I can’t get it—the stuff that makes my life a living hell—out of my head, which . . .How did I get to this place? To—to here, where my mind is my enemy. I sort of remember being happy, what that felt like, and I’ve tried for so long to use some elusive emotional muscle memory that will snap me out of this and elevate my—my—SELF—from the dark pit I find myself in every day, from the moment I awaken and remember the Hell is real. This pit has claw marks and my fingers are raw from attempting to escape it. But I am tired, and I have no more will to try on my own.

I need help.

It’s a house. The doctor’s office: it’s a house; I think it’s called a Victorian, with a steep-pitch roof and the first floor is rounded on one side. The trees in the front yard nearly dwarf the house. The place just screams “permanence.” Rose bushes nearly overtake the wrap-around porch on one side, and ivy climbs a trellis on the other. Doesn’t look that scary. Come on, now, just take a big breath and open the car door. Feet on the ground. See, that wasn’t so hard. Next goal: make it to the front door.
Wait! The door’s opening, and a lady is coming out, followed by a gray-haired man. They must be together—no, she’s leaving, and he’s turning to go back inside.
I think he saw me. I’m tempted to dive back into my car and drive away, but instead I force myself toward the man, who is waiting at the top of the steps.
To my surprise, my wobbly legs are able to carry me across the small parking lot, onto the sidewalk, and up to where this slightly-built man wearing a crewneck t-shirt, jeans, and boots is waiting for me. He smiles, and his eyes—they’re this clear, cornflower shade of blue—are kind.
He extends his hand. “I’m Scott Matthews. Most folks call me ‘Dr. Matt.’”

I manage to introduce myself—I kind of choke on my own spit—but if he notices, he doesn’t say anything. He just invites me in, and I follow him.
My insides are vibrating with fear. But as we pass through the reception area, a woman behind a tall counter says, “Hello.”
Dr. Matthews stops to introduce us. “This is  practice partner, Leslie Treviño. Her office is that way”—he gestures toward a hallway—“and mine is just over here.” The place smells faintly of lemon, and even though this home is a therapy office, its homey décor is welcoming.
The wood floor creaks as Dr. Matthews leads me to a smaller office.  He excuses himself a moment, and while I’m waiting for him, I look at the artwork on the wall just outside the office.
3 framed pieces of embroidery read, “Little and Often Makes Much”, “Hope is the Opposite of Fear”, and “Success is Survival. We’ll all tuff it out”.
The floor announces his return, and Dr. Matt joins me at the artwork. “Ready to get started?”
I read the words aloud, even though my voice shakes: “Hope is the opposite of fear.”

Dr. Matt smiles. “One of my patients made that for me.”
“Do—do you think it’s true? That—that if a person has hope, they can be—not so afraid?”
He nods. “I do.” He moves to his office and holds the door for me.
“If I have a choice,” I say, “I choose hope.” I follow him in, and I tell him my story.

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