PTSD it's not just in your head

    PTSD is something that so many people do not talk about because so many feel it's just all in our heads. I can say this couldn't be further from the truth and as someone who does suffer from it, I can tell you it is real and can affect your decisions on a daily basis. It is something that is always there and it does not just go away, it is something that when have encountered that is now with us for life no matter how hard we try and work on moving past it. I want to thank everyone who has helped with this blog and has stood with this company and the more that we have grown. It is truly about people helping people, we will make a difference!

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“...can’t let memories become the death of me...”

    I have spent countless days and nights in an effort to compile this blog post. As the quote says: “...can’t let memories become the death of me...” This has not been an easy task. I have always believed that if I write my problems, illnesses, failures, and shortcomings down, as you would in a journal, they become more real as opposed to keeping them to yourself.

I like to call it, stuffing your feelings in. This is why I do not journal or speak very freely about the demons that have the potential to take over my mind. It is as if I am putting it out into the universe and becomes tangible, realistic, a threat, a danger. Not to mention the anxiety that comes with sharing those thoughts and feelings. Maybe that is my own form of PTSD. Some professionals in psychology and psychiatry may disagree with this approach. As the saying goes: it will eat inside of you like cancer, your secrets will eventually kill you. Be that as it may, everyone has a way of dealing with their own personal traumatic events that they are trying to cope with on a daily basis. As the name suggests, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is just that, dealing with either witnessing or experiencing traumatic events.

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    I could Google PTSD; describe the symptoms, causes, risk factors, complications, prevention techniques, diagnosis, treatment and the correct doctors to consult. That would be far easier instead of having someone explain their experiences whilst living with PTSD. You could Google it yourself, from Mayo to Cleveland Clinic to Wikipedia. However, we do not necessarily walk into a doctor’s consultation and simply express our own diagnosis. We begin to feel different, act differently, think differently, until we can no longer avoid the dark cloud hovering over us. Many a time we consult a GP for the symptoms, such as fear, anxiety, anger, depression, and guilt that begins to change our behavioral patterns. They write out a script for sleep deprivation, anxiety attacks, and depression. Unless you have been seeing your psychologist or psychiatrist for eleven years like myself and they are able to pick up the symptoms from a simple dialogue. This helps if your doctor has known you for many years; you develop a rapport, a kinship so to speak. 

    They get to know you as your own parents/family/friends would. Although, if you are not seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist and only a GP, you sit down during the consultation, explain your symptoms, a prescription is written out for you, and you are sent on your way. A prescription for anxiety, sleep deprivation and depression medication without delving into the crux of the issue. I have nothing against GP’s, in fact, my GP and psychologist work hand in hand with one another to decide what is the best course of treatment for myself. Nonetheless, you walk into your doctor’s appointment for a prescription to treat these symptoms. 

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    Unfortunately, we describe the symptoms, not necessarily what happened to cause these symptoms. There is nothing wrong with that, but PTSD runs far deeper than just popping a couple of pills every day. I learned a very valuable lesson as a recovering addict. Addicts have this saying that pills or alcohol do not talk back to you and become your best friend; whilst intoxicated, you cannot feel a thing. I have had to learn to succumb to the pain, anxiety, and depression. I have not been clinically diagnosed with PTSD, probably because I have not disclosed certain information to my doctors, but I am aware that there are triggers that can set me off; straight into an anxiety attack, depression, suicidal thoughts, and the like. Maybe I have it, maybe I do not. But that is not for me to decide. I just know when certain things happen, or when certain questions are asked, I become extremely anxious and have flashbacks of what did happen. In previous relationships, for example, when a man lifts his hands or screams at me (intentional or unintentional), I have flashbacks of what I have experienced in the past with abusive relationships. I cower like a dog with its tail between its legs. Even writing this is extremely difficult, because it brings back memories that I clearly have not worked through. I either stuff my feelings inside and wait for the storm to pass, then I deal with it myself when I am alone. This can be dangerous because as a recovering addict, you ingest substances to numb the pain and fear. One thing I have noticed whilst conducting research and seeing doctors, very little is discussed about living with PTSD and the experiences that have caused it. This is not an educational post. I wanted to get people involved and explain how they live on a daily basis with PTSD. I reached out to people who were willing to share their experiences with me, confidentially, so that people reading this can actually understand what it is like to live with PTSD. They were kind enough to share their thoughts with me. it is not enough simply reading about PTSD from a clinical point of view, that is all on paper. These two participants were kind enough to share their experiences with me. This may hopefully shed some light on what it is like to experience and live with PTSD:

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Interviewee 1

     I’ve had PTSD as long as I can remember, though it was not diagnosed until later in life, at which point I was told I have Complex-PTSD (PTSD is generally a result of one-time events, whereas Complex-PTSD is a series of traumatic events, or one or more prolonged events – in my case both); General Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, and just for fun, I was diagnosed with Trauma-Related Disassociation. On good days I can function relatively well. Those are the days I can focus on a book and get a couple of chores done. I can maybe catch up on bills and I find myself wallowing in self- loathing because I am dealing with the consequences of my bad days. On great days I can achieve so much and feel good about being productive. Those are the days I get organized, check out my to-do lists and catch up on paperwork. The self-loathing is still present and I find myself apologizing too much. The bad days vary. I don’t want to call them bad days because I find the bad times can last from as little as a bad couple of hours to a bad couple of months. These are the days that slay me. I cry. I feel worthless. I feel useless. I find myself feeling pathetic because I can’t achieve the smallest tasks and I feel shame and anguish. These are the days where I apologize to my husband and express that he deserves someone better. Someone not as screwed up. How he can still support me and love me for this long, I have no idea but I am extremely thankful that he does.

    The worst days vary too. It can be negative emotions that overwhelm. It can involve a great deal of losing time. At my darkest, I have multiple suicide plans running through my mind as tears start to fall because it feels like I am never going to be okay. Those are the times where I reach out and follow my suicide safety plan. In the past, it’s also included. I have not done that in over a year now but the urge still lingers. I use the Calm Harm application. I use the Calm harm which helps distracts me until the urge passes. The only constant through all of these days is C-PTSD triggers. Due to the sheer volume of trauma, I have survived, and the diversity of it, it feels like my whole life is a trigger. Most of the trauma is in the twenty-four years of my life. I survived a domestic violence environment, six years of child sexual abuse, six years of my own domestic violence situation which included three attempts on my life, and so many other traumas. Living with PTSD is tough. Every day includes a battle of some kind. It’s difficult to explain it but I will try my best. For me personally, the biggest issues are the exhaustion that is a result of spending most of my life in Fight or Flight mode. Just walking down the street is a challenge when my body is scanning the surroundings constantly looking for threats. I see everything down to the finest detail and as a result of that, I avoid crowded areas. The information is just debilitating at that point. To give an example, my husband and I were shopping in a store. I had paused to look for the item we needed in a certain aisle. I looked up after what seemed to be a minute, and he was nowhere to be seen. People were all around and it wasn’t even that crowded. I just froze. I just walked by the door and stayed there trying not to panic or cry. Then we have the exaggerated startle response. 

    I am so thankful for my husband’s consideration and his coping with the effects of my PTSD have on his life too. While at his retirement dinner, I was just trying to stay present and the server was behind me. I didn’t hear him because of the noisy environment and he placed his hand on my shoulder. I jumped and panicked and tried not to cry. I don’t recall if I was successful. When I am in the truck and my husband is in the store, even just returning back to the truck he makes his way back in a way that avoids him suddenly popping into my view. I am so thankful for his consideration but I always feel so guilty that his life is affected to that extent by my issues. Then we have the night terrors. Waking up and seeing my wrists pouring blood that was not there. Or crying because I am convinced one of my abusers is in my room by our bed. Those have been mostly resolved. Partially because of the Prazosin I take at night. My psychologist suggested I try it. It’s an old blood pressure medication but it was used successfully on people with PTSD and especially with night terrors. It has been a miracle drug for me. 

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     I think the most troubling issue, aside from all of the above, is the dissociation. One instance that was particularly scary was the following: I had woken up and it was 4:00 on my watch. I noticed my husband wasn’t in bed. I called him downstairs to ask if he was coming to bed soon. He asked why would I do that. I explained that it was 4 am. He responded with the fact that it was 4 pm. I was astonished that I had slept so long. He brought up the fact that I had been awake for most of the morning, that we’d had breakfast, that he had gone out to take care of some errands. I had no recollection of those six hours. I don’t think I could have been more afraid. Even when my husband & psychologist mentions something I have no recollection of it, it chills me to the core. I also dislike when it affects other people in my life. Someone reached out to me from high school. I had no memory of her because so many of those years are not in my memory. She was extremely hurt by me not recalling her back. This was a woman who had been to my house during lunchtime every day. I was devastated that yet another person was hurt by my past and the effect it has on my life. This is just a small sampling of my experience with C-PTSD/PTSD. I am in treatment with an amazing psychologist and with the support of so many in my life. I would like to believe that the PTSD will ease in the future. I would like to believe that I can function on a consistently productive level. That is my hope. Not just for me, but for everyone affected by PTSD and trauma.”

Interviewee 2

 “I did experience and witness trauma that caused very bad trauma and PTSD. Ever since I would remember, my dad was a very aggressive alcoholic whilst growing up. My dad was a very violent alcoholic; it really changed who I could have been, who I should have been as a young girl. I became very nervous, shy, scared, unsure of myself as a person and not confident. I was a very beautiful and loving kind girl that never knew what or how to function. I second guessed myself and I still do to this day. I was scared of what the weekend might bring; when my dad went home and drank, causing a scene for the entire neighborhood to hear and witness. Then I grew up. 

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    I made a lot of mistakes, especially with the things I should have done out of fear. I got married, had two children; my son had a mental illness and he took his life a year ago. My son physically and verbally abused me, he also turned to alcohol and became extremely aggressive and violent, along with his mental illness. That fear and trauma made me consider taking my own life. The system failed our family, and everything was crumbling around me. I did not know where to go or who trust to help him and me. My son tried to kill me, but the system failed us when it came to his mental illness. It was horrible and I did not want him to suffer anymore by being treated as a criminal for being ill so I took the abuse to protect him and our family. As a mother, that was my job.

    I did turn to alcohol; now I suffer every day with depression and anxiety due to this traumatic experience. I have extremely vivid nightmares, especially since my son took his own life. I was afraid of my dad growing up, as well as my son because of their violence. I am now on medication for depression and anxiety, as well as therapy. I am still afraid of any loud noises and any kind of violence. I am in therapy and will always be afraid and unsure of myself for the rest of my life. It is a scary feeling, and to be depressed like this forever. It is something that will never go away, it is something that therapy nor medication can fix. It will be inside of me until the day I die.”

    Firstly, I would like to thank my interviewees for being so open and honest. This is not an easy topic to discuss. The medical industry does not teach us about such harrowing life experiences. This is a day in a person’s life suffering from PTSD. Reading definitions and symptoms is one thing,

experiencing it, is completely different. You are both very brave. I would like to end off with a quote for my interviewees:

“I’ll fly before I fail.”

    The more we share our stories the more we can let others know that they are not alone. You Never know what the person next to you is going through and that sometimes the smallest things can have the greatest impact. If you would like to share your story with us click HERE to let us know because your story should be shared and you are worth it!

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