The Thought Waterfall

Imagine yourself standing at the top of a spectacular waterfall. Imagine how you might feel if you were to unexpectedly find yourself free falling, unable to fight against the currents that force the water to fall below. Image the intense fear and sense of doom you would feel.

Helpless, you would be severely limited with what you could do to resist the pull of the currents, and you would be unable to stop the water from flowing. Ultimately, you would meet a tragic fate.

This is an analogy of what it is like to get swept up in your own thinking… what ruminating is like for those dealing with PTSD. It’s what is happening when a thought takes on momentum in your mind and you find hours, days, or even months have passed and the thought sequence continues to loop and extend in your mind. One fear-based thought evolves into another unjustified thought, which leads to the next one, and the cycle continues — spurred on by some emotion-generating fear or thought that seems to come to you without cause. And as these thoughts evolve so does the emotional duress that holds you captive. One day you realize just how angry, hurt, frustrated, or guilty you feel.

This is the way PTSD works when you have not developed the ability to manage it. It causes you to ruminate on ideas or thoughts others may never have. Often, these thoughts are based on a fear or thought that is completely unrealistic and will likely never happen. Those living with PTSD can be overwhelmed to the point where we rather remove ourselves from the world, clouded by the fears that have possessed us, and feeling lost and alone in a world where no one understands. Oftentimes, we think no one really cares.

It calls into question your ability to make sound decisions and it seeks to weaken your confidence in self, and your ability to “do the right thing”.

Because of this I ended up pulling away from my wife. I ended up thinking she just didn’t understand so it made sense to keep things from her. Unfortunately, this is something I will have to manage for the rest of my life. Fortunately, I do not have to do this alone.

One of the things my wife and I have done is attend my therapy sessions together. Her attendance gave her realtime insights into what PTSD is like, and specifically, how it manifests in my life. Because of this she has been able to discern my moods and more effectively see when I might have fallen into a PTSD episode. Together, we’ve learned how to communicate about what I’m feeling and implement strategies to keep us focused on preventing any riffs in our relationship.

And because of this, I am reminded that even though my mind wants me to believe I am alone, the truth is I am not.

One of the best things you can do is talk to your spouse about what you are experiencing. You also do your relationship a great service when you partner with your spouse and learn how to better support your loved one. It’s win-win all the way around.