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Clara’s Diagnosis

Hi! Welcome back to my blog!

Clara from book two, Ramatel’s Vow, is the subject for today because I recently had a reader ask about her diagnosis after she fainted. This reader asked if Clara had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and she was pretty much spot on, but with PTSD the symptoms last longer than a month. In Clara’s case this was within a week of the trauma so this would be called Acute Stress Disorder. Both of these are only disorders if they disrupt your life because if you experience some kind of trauma you should have some of these symptoms. A lot of them are designed to protect you if you are in on-going danger.

Both of these disorders are made up of several clusters of symptoms. Intrusive symptoms, avoidance symptoms, and hyper-vigilance symptoms. They are often accompanied by mood symptoms like depression, guilt, and shame. Clara’s intrusive symptoms were nightmares, and thoughts related to the trauma, like thinking she was a coward or questioning her capabilities. She tried to avoid people by pushing asking Ramatel to leave, avoiding the main house, and avoiding getting back into the fight. Then she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was still out to get her, even though she was in Gabriel’s compound. She also had an exaggerated startle response when Jahi surprised her.

The good news, these are treatable symptoms, and we watch her go through some of it, like the baby steps in leaving the house. But you can never go back to who you were before the trauma because you can’t un-create the neuronal connections that formed because of the trauma. Your brain remembers what happened. You can move forward though, and maybe we’ll get to see how Clara incorporates this experience into her own narrative of who she is.

Jahi’s Jewelry Box

For those of you who read book one, you should be familiar with the jewelry box that Jahi retrieves when she is first resurrected. Inside are the gifts she has received from client’s over the centuries that she worked as a prostitute and she used those gifts to remind herself that she was good at something.

In psychology we would call this a transitional object. A transitional object is any object that is used to provide emotional comfort, often until the person no longer needs it. The most obvious form of transitional objects is seen in children who have that one safety blanket or toy, that “wubby” that they won’t relinquish because it comforts them, but adults use transitional objects too. Examples would be keeping some of the ashes of a beloved person or pet on a chain, holding onto the dog tags of a loved one, wearing that pin someone special gave you for good luck, etc.

Have you ever used or needed a transitional object? Don’t worry, your hardly alone in this.

Lets talk about Ramatel

The inspiration for Ramatel, the lead male character in my second book, came from my time in the military and from seeing the many different reactions people have to war. People develop coping mechanisms that may help them during the times they need it most, like when they are experiencing the violence of combat, however it is also important to know when to let go of those coping mechanisms lest they become unhealthy.

In the case of Ramatel his vow to not be broken would have helped him considerably in his predicament in hell, but it didn’t serve him very well when he was on earth.

I see this a lot in my therapy practice. People using the same defense mechanisms that they used as a child or in a difficult situation, which were useful and functional at the time, but now serve only to cause them pain. Most of the time people assume that there is something wrong with them for acting the way they do, but if/when I can get them to take a step back and realize that their behavior really was beneficial to them at the time, they can be a little bit more compassionate to themselves. This leads to less shame, less guilt, less self-loathing, etc.

The next step is taking a leap of faith in themselves and trying to alter the behavior, which is scary if that is how you have always handled things. But once you try it, you are well on your way to healing.

Welcome to my blog!

Hi and welcome to my blog!

I started this blog as a way to reach out to my readers and answer some questions along the way. Several people have written to ask about the characters in my books and the questions often were about the motivations or even diagnoses of the characters. It would appear that the longer I am involved with psychology, the more and more I find that everyone wants to know just a little more about the subject, so I might be able to help you with that.

Lets start with Jahi, the demonic prostitute from book one, Michael’s Passion. The inspiration for Jahi came when I was working as therapist in a women’s correctional institution. Many of the women I worked with were prostitutes and usually drug addicts too. Often they would tell of horrific interpersonal traumas in childhood and early adulthood and yet they were still amazing people. It was awe inspiring to see how high they could rise when people began to believe in them and they, in turn, began to believe in themselves.

You see, we all tend to believe the things that people say about us, or the messages that we receive about other people’s perception of us. Sometimes these are direct message like a parent saying “You are so smart!” or sometimes they are inadvertent messages like a parent coming home from work, ignoring their child, and going straight to bed every single day. The message conveyed there is “You don’t exist” or “I wish you didn’t exist,” or “you are not worth my time.”

I am picking on parents because they have so much influence over a child’s developing brain, but the truth of the matter is that we all get these messages constantly throughout our lives. It may be smile when you walk in the door of your office or it may be someone ignoring a text. As you will note in my books I point out that all behavior is communication, and your brain registers this subconsciously even if you are not aware.

So what does this have to do with Jahi? Jahi was abused and neglected as a child. The message she received was that she was only valuable as a person if she was having sex. Then she met Michael, who gave her other messages which bolstered her self-esteem. When she began to believe them she began to get better.

This is, of course, an over simplification because if years and years of the kind of abuse she received was that easily solved, then therapists wouldn’t have a job, but none the less that is ultimately how it is solved, by someone giving them a corrective emotional experience.