A PTSD Memoir: Therapy Works

By David-Elijah Nahmod

David_Elijah_NahmodDavid-Elijah Nahmod is a film critic and reporter in San Francisco. His articles appear regularly in The Bay Area Reporter and SF Weekly. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

David developed Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD) after surviving gay conversion therapy as a child and has found that many in the LGBT community suffer from severe, often untreated emotional disorders due to the extreme anti-gay traumas they endured. This column chronicles his journey.

So I’m back in therapy. I was inspired to do so when I realized that a recurrence of my PTSD symptoms was creating problems between me and a close friend. When I felt triggered, I would become somewhat manic. I would start talking and be unable to stop, going on and on about all the terrible things that had happened to me.

This is not uncommon with people who have PTSD. Our condition is caused by experiencing severe trauma–reliving that trauma is often our primary symptom.

The friendship in question was particularly valuable to me. After years of meeting gay men who could only be described as embittered, bitchy queens, I had finally met an intelligent, educated gay man who was a genuinely nice guy. He cared about other people. I didn’t want to lose this friendship. He had been supportive above and beyond the call of duty, but at one point our conversations had become all about me and my sad little life. The support had stopped going both ways.

No matter what we’ve been through, no matter how much pain we’re in, we mustn’t forget that other people also have needs. No man is an island, as the old saying goes.

And so I started meeting with Jim, a gay therapist who specializes in working with LGBTQ trauma survivors. The gay conversion therapy I lived through as a child, and the more recent attempts by gay bloggers to inflame anti-gay and anti-Semitic hate against me for nothing more than a cheap laugh (which I’ve written about in various publications) certainly qualified me as a trauma survivor. Though writing about these incidents was cathartic, I hadn’t, in recent years, been taking care of myself. It was time to do some real healing work and get myself back on track. Jim and I are now going into the second month of our client/therapist relationship. Our first few sessions made me realize how damaged I now am: there were many topics I needed to talk about: anti-gay religious abuse, growing up in a home with abusive parents who wouldn’t accept me for who I was, being bullied in the neighborhood for being gay, getting caught up in the gay-on-gay bullying that a traumatized LGBT community now inflicts on itself–where to begin?

For our first few sessions I ranted, jumping around from topic to topic. But it felt great to get it out. It’s a beginning.

Christopher Pennock is an actor with a long list of credits on TV, in theater and in film. He’s best known for his runs on the daytime dramas Dark Shadows and General Hospital. Chris and I are Facebook friends. At about the time I was beginning my own work with Jim, Chris, who has suffered from severe bouts of anxiety and depression, posted about his recent bipolar diagnosis. Chris can verify that not getting help when help is needed can damage a person’s relationships with friends and loved ones.

“My marriage has suffered greatly, but I think we’re going to be OK,” Chris told me. “It has gotten much worse this past year when I invited all 5,000 of my Facebook friends to my birthday party!”

Chris reports that his career had also suffered, but that a combination of medication, therapy and spirituality are getting him and his life back on track. “The meds are just starting so I’ll let you know in a month or so,” he said. “My spiritual path is Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhism, the White non monastic sanga, with the emphasis on Dzogchen, Tantra and Chod practice.”

Chris is not ashamed of his condition, and in fact, no one who lives with a mental illness should feel shame of any kind. It’s not something we chose.

“I say they should embrace their sensitivity and love their neurosis,” Chris said. “Know that there are so many truly great people with much more severe mental illnesses.”

And now things are looking up for Christopher Pennock. “I’m gonna renew my marriage vows, gonna act in 3 TV mini-series, a new feature film, and we’re continuing our exploration of Waiting For Godot at The Actor’s Studio.”

Chris, who is also a comic book artist, it starting work on a new graphic novel.

Therapy works. It gets you back on track.

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