Light in my Shadow

Manage PTSD with Mindful Drawing

I’m not saying that mindful drawing can help everyone manage PTSD – I don’t feel it’s right to make that call. This post is about how I learned to manage PTSD.

My mindful drawing practice has deactivated every one of my awful symptoms that haunted me for decades, and I absolutely believe these benefits are repeatable.

If you’re looking for a way to manage PTSD, I’m hoping that this post will encourage you to give mindful drawing a go.

There are many causes of PTSD. Mine - from 'developmental trauma' - is just one cause.

Regardless of the cause, ALL types of PTSD are characterised by traumatic events which are just too big for us to process. Because it cannot process and move through you, it becomes ‘stuck’ inside of you.

Because it’s stuck in our cellular memory, we relive it over and over. It haunts us.
Before I go any further, I should mention that this post requires a trigger warning as there is a description of childhood trauma involved.
One of my three psychiatric diagnoses, is PTSD resulting from developmental trauma (my other two, Substance Abuse Disorder and Gambling Affected Disorder – addiction – are linked).

My most recent diagnosis was in 2016, but I have psychiatric assessments going back over a decade stating the same thing. The cause of my PTSD as well as my symptoms, was pretty obvious.

My PTSD was created from my upbringing.

I was born into a religious sect where fear was programmed into us for the purpose of control. We were taught if we ever left or didn’t obey, we would become ‘unsaved’, cursed, and when the end of the world came we would burn in hell screaming for all eternity.

We were kept isolated from ‘the world’, and were brainwashed with fear-based teachings repeatedly, from as early as I could remember.

When I got out with my sister and a friend at 15, we were cut off from our family (my Mum, step dad and my little brother) and disowned by the Church. We became the ‘unsaved’. I began having nightmares of the end of the world which was terrifying. I began to dread sleep.

Many kids who grew up in this organisation went on to develop serious mental health issues - because they were CREATED IN US.

What damaged me the most was the physical beatings I received as ‘punishment’ from the ages of 9 -15.

My step father was very strong, he was controlling and he was very heavy-handed. I was rebellious and disobedient which infuriated him. I was just a child. This ‘discipline’ left my body severely bruised, and once I lost my hearing for three days.

As a highly sensitive child however, the greatest damage was done to my mind and soul.
I vividly remember screaming as loud as I could many times, so the neighbours would call the police or someone would help me. And no one ever did – not my Mum, not the neighbours – no one. It left me feeling like a cowering wounded animal and I felt very alone and confused.

I wasn’t able to understand being hurt by people who are meant to protect and love you, so I pushed it away and repressed it for years. I hid behind my fringe and I withdrew further into my inner world over time.
These incidents stayed locked inside me until I was over 40, because I was never able to process it. I didn’t know how. I didn’t know it would become repressed, hidden in the shadows of my subconscious to constantly create havoc in my outer world. All I knew was how to avoid my emotions, and I did this mainly through addiction.
From the age of 15, I learned to block out my emotions, thoughts and symptoms with an increasingly serious alcohol addiction, gambling addiction, weed and meth addiction.  I ‘managed’ my PTSD this way for over two decades, which damaged me further.

Addiction never helps to manage PTSD.

I had no awareness or insight to my situation – I never even stopped to think about it. But addiction turned out to create a whole new level of hell for me.

None of us who self-medicate know this. We just do what we do to try and stop the pain. And what we often do is numb ourselves any way we can.
manage PTSD
All sorts of things would trigger me. Seeing certain imagery, reading the news with subjects of child trauma, even the opposite – anything to do with happy families would trigger me. Smells like tent canvas, or gas burners from our camps, biblical words, accordions and anything that had to do with a parental/maternal nature. Physical touch of a caring nature (like hugs), made me want to recoil and crawl into a fetal position.

Any 'anchor' to my childhood took me back.

When I was triggered, I’d feel the emotional anguish as fresh as if it had just happened. I’d have physical sensation of wanting to hug myself so tight to protect and nurture myself. Often I wouldn’t be able to control my emotions. I wasn’t able to have healthy relationships with a partner because of my rejection wounds.
I also became a very fast, shallow breather as many traumatised children do. I was always on alert and on edge. Never calm. Never safe.
Silence made me extremely uncomfortable so I always had music AND a movie on. I wired my mind to skip around very fast using distraction techniques.
Every time something triggered me, I moved my thoughts fast, or I’d automatically smoke a bong, or take money and gamble. I’d turn up my music, scroll the internet, or to gulp red wine out of the bottle like it was water. I had no self-care because I didn’t love myself.
Manage PTSD

And I repeated this for about 25 years, gradually needing more and more to keep it locked in the vault.

So that was it. My life likely would have stayed that way if fate didn’t intervene.

On the 14th of November 2014, I lost my dad to suicide. He’d previously left the church when I was 5 and we were forced to disown him. When I left the church at 15 we got him back. I was 39 when he left our lives for good.

I just couldn’t deal with his suicide. Over the next two years my addictions went through the roof, which triggered a spiral down to rock bottom and that was that. My life imploded in the most excruciatingly painful (and public) way and BOOM it was over. I lost everything.
Rock bottom eventually handed me the greatest gift I could ever imagine.

It’s what led me to mindful drawing.
When I began mindful drawing, I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d triggered the beginning of positive change. This is when I began to manage my PTSD.

It taught me to put the brakes on my thoughts and programs repeatedly. I planted small seeds of enjoyment and gratitude which gradually grew. I felt my lifeforce rising for the first time in a long time, and in combination with focus and attention on what I was drawing, this was raising my gamma brainwaves.

Several times I entered some kind of ‘altered state’ of higher awareness. When I’d come back, I’d instantly see an old part of my story in an entirely new perspective.

The only way I can describe it, was as if a part of my higher awareness – that part of us that exists outside the reaches of our conscious mind – brought this new perspective back in through my subconscious mind.

And when it did, it ‘overrode’ my current program. Now, I could look at it with a detached perspective – I wasn’t STUCK in it.

Complete paradigm shifts are often reported to occur in the high gamma brainwave state.

Suppressed grief from my dad’s suicide also began unblocking at this stage. What I was doing was unblocking these ‘locked’ incidences from my cellular memory, moving it through me, to finally be processed.

How mindful drawing helps to manage PTSD

It works because your thoughts and programs are now on pause – where previously, they were wired and trained to suppress what is ‘stuck’.

Now they are no longer ‘suppressing’, and in combination with feel-good things your mindful drawing practice is cultivating, like growing self love, gratitude and joy, it is opening the door to healing.
It’s opening the door to movement, of that which is no longer suppressed. And this allows blocked events to release. This allows you to manage PTSD and free yourself.
It’s not a huge horrible thing to process either, because mindful drawing is holding you firm. You’re not just sitting there in confronting silence with a monster that’s been released, your attention is fully focused on what you are drawing while the background repairs are going on.

These days, I no longer have any active addictions.

This is massive for me. When I began to manage PTSD, my addictions became possible to move past for the first time in decades. I still had a heap of work to do to rewire my habit brain, but now the root cause was gone. It was no longer necessary for my ‘survival’.

I no longer have flashbacks and I don’t have any remaining triggers. If I write about it (like now, with this post) it still brings out tears in me. But now I can view it from a safe space. I am a detached observer, rather than someone who is stuck in it.

Little side note: I've forgiven my mum and step dad.

It’s not their fault. When you’re on a healing journey, you get to the point where you let go of blame, hate and resentment. You have to, because you cannot heal while holding onto such low-vibration, toxic emotions.

Plus now I understand that they both just passed on trauma that was passed down to them. They never knew any other way. I know they both love me very much, and I know they feel bad for what happened, even though the words have never been said.

These days my step dad paints me lots of rocks. SO MANY rocks. I know this is his way of showing me he cares. This is how he says sorry.

It’s hard enough to live with a traumatic event once – in real time. But to relieve it over and over is a terrible burden. If this is you right now, I see you.

I hope you'll give mindful drawing a try to help you manage PTSD, just as it did for me.

Mindful drawing will connect you to the part of yourself that knows how to heal. You don’t have anything to lose except your suffering, and you have a whole lot to gain. I can teach you how to do it here.