Frozen in Fear: On Treating PTSD

May 16, 2014

We do not have to set time aside to do something that helps validate our experience, while simultaneously coping with it. The lesson expressed in this psychiatry resident's poem.

Time does not pass, when it is near.
The patient feels frozen, by her fear.
To speak, is to relive, that moment in time–
When she thought, “This body, it’s no longer mine.”

She tried to consider, to forgive and forget,
Instead recognizing, how much she would regret.
She would blame herself for a heart broken–
For many years, lived suffering, unspoken.

“Avoidance is a core symptom of PTSD.”
“But how can you ask me to stop protecting me?”
“Your present is being affected by your past.”
“I know that, please help me get through this fast.”

“Breathe deeply. Let’s focus. Look at me. You’ll be fine.”
“It’s like it was yesterday; it’s not better, with time.
This world, this place, it doesn’t feel safe.”
“You’ve dealt with this alone, with strength, with grace.”

Victim, provider, abuser, survivor.
I want you to be, your utmost admirer–
Of your strength, your resilience, your admirable perseverance,
“But first, let’s ensure, your medical clearance.”

“I don’t want to talk about this,“
As she’s sweating and tearing.
“I can tell that you’re anxious.”
“It just feels like I’m reliving.”

“I’m not a victim. I don’t want anyone to feel bad.”
I think, I want you in my clinic; I too, feel very sad.
I see her crying, and it is only clear.
That she, and I, are both frozen in fear.

Biographical statement:

I was born in Bogota, Colombia, and raised in South Florida, before I moved to Boston to attend medical school at Boston University. Following graduation, I began a residency at Boston Medical Center in the field of psychiatry. Currently, I am in my last year of psychiatry training, and I am looking forward to a fellowship in addiction medicine at Boston Medical Center starting next academic year.

It has been some time since creative writing played a role in my life, though I often find myself thinking about what I would write when faced with moments that inspire my inner author and generate sparks of ideas that likely deserve to be written on paper. On this particular day, I felt drained after a long, busy day at work, and decided to sit with my thoughts and attempt to soothe my discomfort. For some reason, I chose to begin writing. Almost immediately, I noticed that my thoughts quickly transferred into words in my notebook, otherwise filled with notes from therapy sessions from the days prior.

I always talk to my patients about the concept of self care, in the form of exercise, journaling, music, etc. This random act of catharsis resulted in my recognition of the use of writing in my life as a form of self care. It reinforced the concepts that I share with my patients and allowed for me to deal with the rest of the day in a more mindful way. Finally, it reminded me that you do not have to set time aside to do something that helps validate your experience, while simultaneously coping with it.