Reflections from the Other Side of Reason – To tame the dragon

Since 2013, recognized author and community leader for mental health, David Gibson, has battled the inner world of PTSD to find some measure of hope within. He uses his writing to explore how his journey as a survivor has enabled him to come to terms with PTSD and the new reality of his life. His 'Reflections from the Other Side of Reason' not only invite the reader into his life, but offers insights on how to grow and build resiliency. By sharing his experiences he takes away any toll for others to walk down the same road.


In silence it waits.
Pulling its chains.
Plotting your fate.
Feeding on pain.

I am the one from there.

My here shudders from my pillow to my nightmares…

I am from what was or will be.

I am alone in whiteness that slowly turns to darkness.

My here dissolves from my pills to my shadowlands…

I am the night’s absolution.

I wouldn’t kill him, because he looked as frightened as I was. I looked at him … and I saw myself. – Hiccup, from How To Tame Your Dragon

Each of us has our inner dragons and dark recesses that we hide from the world, parts that are often even hidden from ourselves. We push them into the dark recesses of our soul and do our best to never let them be seen.

How do we tame this scary beast within us? Can’t we just send it away, tell it we don’t want it anymore?

As we push our inner dragons away they can become bigger and scarier, sometimes bigger than life. They rear their ugly heads when we are challenged or when we least expect it. Sometimes even the most normal situation will mirror our truth so clearly that we can’t even stand in its presence.

For me, living with the impacts of PTSD, has become my inner dragon and my greatest challenge to how I define myself as a person.  To keep this dragon at bay, I have had to rely on many social, spiritual and mental supports.  But, even these in the end are not enough to confront and subdue my inner dragon.

“What are you talking about?” I heard my friend say to me.  “You are doing so well – you are working, writing and even going out and doing activities with friends and family.  For Heaven’s sake David, you are as normal as I am!” he exclaimed in utter disbelief. 

What a relief I felt after he told me how he felt, now I know how wide and grey the word ‘normal’ is.  I had to remind my wonderful friend that yes I am coping well and trying to be as normal as everyone else, including him.  But the difference is the fact that I have to also rely on the use of medications to get there.  You see this ‘normal’ person also uses 5 different medications to sustain this presence of ‘mere mortal normality’.  I wish I didn’t have to use them, but for now my stability and daily existence is predicated on their use to keep my inner dragon of PTSD symptoms at bay. 

Should I be ashamed? Probably not, but it is something about me that I am acutely aware of and sensitive to. If you were to ask my family should I go off of these medications, my honest answer from their perspective would be an absolute ‘NOT’!!!! Even being truthful to myself, I would have to agree with them as well.

“So what are the medications for?” my dear friend asked me. Well, I said with a deep breath knowing this would take some time to explain to him. For starters, the worst aspect of my PTSD symptoms have been my inability to get to sleep and stay asleep. If you can picture in your own mind what it is like to have your mind racing before bedtime and then to have nightmares that wake you up screaming, thrashing and soaked with sweat, then you might better understand my situation, not to mention the impact on your spouse and children. The next worst aspect of my PTSD symptoms are my anxiety and hyper-arousal symptoms. Being in crowds, loud noises and being surprised are big issues for me these days.

So, for all of this, I take the following medications to help reduce these symptoms:

  • Prazosin which is an alpha-adrenergic blocker originally used to treat hypertension. Today, clinical trials on veterans indicate that prazosin crosses the blood-brain barrier so it gets into the brain and kind of dampens the racing brain effect, which is believed to contribute to insomnia and nightmares.
  • Seroquel which is a potent anti-psychotic drug helps to battle major depression and generalized anxiety disorders. It also helps with sleep disorders as one of the side-effects is drowsiness. 
  • Trazodone which is an antidepressant that increases serotonin activity in the brain. Typically Trazodone is used to treat sleep disorders by keeping people in their deep sleep longer. 
  • Bupropion which is an anti-depressant which is used for anxiety and hyper-arousal symptoms. One of the side-effects is greater energy which is a huge relief as all other medications that I take have drowsiness as a side-effect.
  • Cipralex which is used to treat major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.

All of this pill popping seems crazy to be ‘normal’ and there is definitely a sense of being judged for having to take them, but it is what it is. In many ways I have had to give up my pride and accept this interim reality of living. I know that many folks I have spoken with who use medications, are adamant about not sharing the fact that they ‘use’ medications to keep their dragons at bay.  From my perspective there is always this sense of failure of not being able to just get over it. For many, and for me specifically, this is how we are programmed to believe. Feeling some sense of shame can be a net result of the acceptance of using medication and there is just no other way around it.

So, part of healing in the recovery journey will often include the use of certain medications that help to alleviate ongoing psychiatric symptoms. And yes, while I appear ‘normal’, the reality of traumatic experiences for some, and for me almost five years after the crash, will be to include medications to help stabilize symptoms and this is what keeps my dragon tame.

It simply isn’t an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons – J.R.R. Tolkien

Until next time.