Demons that Lurk Beneath…Part III

(Part I can be found here) (Part II can be found here)

The demons grow in anonymity. They love the dark and seem to feed on things inside of us that we can’t put our finger on.

Sometimes, you don’t even know what it is that’s creating such turbulence inside until you tell a friend what you’re feeling.

Then, like the sun shining brightly upon a field, you begin to see what’s swirling around inside.

Then the power of it lessens, its claws lose their grip, and you can breathe again.

It has always amazed me how much clearer I can think after I’ve journaled and shared with someone about what’s inside.

It’s magic.

In Part II, I wrote about the first step I took in recovering from the demons.

And, you don’t need to be someone from an EMS background…we all have demons we wrestle with.

For brevity of this post, I quickly touch on the things that helped me and I know they’ll help you.

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You have to start somewhere. Some go straight to counseling, but not me. I tried as you’ll see, but journaling for me was the place I started, then…

  • Talk to someone.

At first, I tried to talk, but I got a blank look in return.

I shouldn’t fault anyone, I mean, unless you’ve held someone in your hands that’s bleeding out, how can you even grasp what that’s like?

Then? I stopped. Stopped trying to relate any of my dark experiences with anyone.

I would cruise the internet visiting suicide and PTSD pages. On every page, at the top, was a bullet point telling me to talk to someone trusted.

What a crock! I didn’t trust anyone so who was I supposed to talk to?! It only made me madder.

Once, I used my agency’s counseling services.

What I encountered?

The first 15 minutes of my session a psychologist explained her pricing plan. Really? I told her nothing of importance and got the hell out of there.

I never went back. I buried my crap even deeper.

Back to the journal I went. It helped me work through the anger. And, it made me realize that not every professional is concerned about money.

So, who to trust?

Ease into it. Leak a little information to those you think you can trust and see what happens. Take it from there.

On getting “professional help”, AKA-counseling…do it.

However, paper on the wall from some university does not impress me anymore.

What I do now in finding a counselor is this…

I ask others in my vocation to recommend a professional that understands the peculiarities of my work. I research their experiences. What have they seen? Is this counselor going to be able to relate to me outside of a clinical setting?

Finding a counselor hasn’t been easy but it’s worth it when you find someone you can work with.

Bottom line is this, sharing what is going on inside of us with a confidant is like turning on a flood light inside…demons run screaming!

Next…

  • Your 4 Pillars. I think of life in terms of a table top; life can toss anything on your table and it’ll hold strong if its four legs are sturdy.

– Spiritual — There’s ton of research out there on the benefits of meditation. This has nothing to do with me telling you what to believe. The time you take each morning (even if it’s 5 minutes) to quiet yourself and either pray or meditate, will give you fresh clarity and vision for the day.

– Physical — So much of what goes on during the day gets stored in our bodies. Especially traumatic events. Stress grinds away at us. Exercise comes in many flavors. Pick one type, or a few, to get moving during the day and burn off that stress. Start slow and work your way into it and do something that’s enjoyable.

– Mental — The brain is amazing. It will be busy whether you like it or not so might as well give it something healthy to chew on. Read, do puzzles, take an online class, do something to exercise it. This is a great way to start living more intentionally.

– Emotional — Apathy is the lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern. We stop feeling. We turn it off when we go through traumatic events and it’s supposed to be a short term coping mechanism. Unfortunately, it becomes a way of life for us and the death of healthy emotions means the death of many good things around us that we used to hold dear. Here are few things I put under the Emotional category…

– Gratefulness was a huge leap for me in the process of healing. UC Berkeley’s website called The Greater Good is packed with research.

Studies show that practicing gratitude actually rewires the brain. I needed that. I needed this broken system, organ, muscle, whatever you want to call it, rewired.

I worked a child abuse case once. Investigation took over 6 months. I reviewed over 33K porn photographs. It burned a hole in my head. I thought to myself for months afterward, “I wish I could take my brain out and soak it in Clorox.”

Practicing gratitude helped me rewire my thought patterns and emotions.

Here’s a simple actionable way of practicing this: Every day, think of ten things that you’re grateful for. Grateful for who is in your life and why. Grateful for the food you eat. Grateful for the shapes in the clouds (remember how we did that as kids?).

I do this everyday. After a while, I began to view people, events, and life in a different way. It changed my filter set. I’m grateful for it!

-Surround yourself with positive people. If you want to change and get out of the mire in your own head, you must change who’s around you.

If you’re around folks who are always negative, filled with drama, and packed full of gossip, you will find your energy stolen at the end of the day.

Surround yourself with people that after you leave their presence, you feel refreshed and hopeful about life.

  • Do the hard work of loving yourself.

When your vocation is to help others; you serve without care or thought of yourself.

You give and give and give.

But, rarely give to yourself.

The demons will scream that you are not worthy. You are a failure. You are stupid.

It’s hard to love yourself with such negativity sounding off in the dark.

Do this, first thing in the morning, look yourself in the mirror and say, “I love you.” Sound weird? Maybe, but it works.

Here’s a quote I had on my mirror for a year. Now, it lives on the desktop of my computer to see every day.

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – To breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love” ~ Marcus Aurelius

  • Stop talking negatively about yourself. This is hard, but as you begin to love yourself, it becomes easier to say things positive to and about yourself.

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The demons are real. But…

So are the actionable steps listed above.

Looking back over the past few years, I am amazed at the changes I’ve gone through and those changes are a direct result of implementing the above strategies.

Strategies, that when you begin to practice daily, will have a profound effect in the way you think, feel, and interact with others, and yes, even with yourself.

If you made it this far…I appreciate you.

You’re not alone. You can heal.

There is hope!


Photo by Justin Dickey

Posted by Christian Martin Jr.