Category Archives: PTSD

Wake me when October ends

Did anyone else have an October with about 3 extra weeks jammed in the middle?
I don’t believe it was just me.

This month has been so much of a roller coaster, I’m still feeling motion sick. I’ve had some wonderful highs of multiple fire performance events and becoming a member of the board of directors for the Autism Society of Maine.

The lows….well…

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and let me tell you, I’m very aware of domestic violence. If you’ve read this blog before, you may be familiar with my stories of my father’s abuse.

The idea that only unknown masked strangers can cause you harm is the “Stranger Danger” fairytale we were fed in middle school. Unfortunately, it is often those we let closest to us that do the most damage. It is these people we care about and depend on who can wound us the most.

If you are fortunate, you can get away from an abusive situation. However, that does not mean the effects of the abuse are done.

Anxiety.
Sleepless nights.
Depression.
Second guessing your own reality. The REAL reality.
Eating changes.
Lack of energy.
Disorganized thinking.
The list goes on and on….

Even if you do not have a medical label of PTSD, the effects of trauma on a person can be dramatic. I strongly recommend people reach out to others in these situations. Friends, family, and professionals can make the world of difference between replaying the same events in your mind or trying to enjoy your life. Trauma is serious issue and one that can continue to affect a person unless it is addressed.
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The biggest thing I lost this month was perspective. It took me awhile to realize, but one of the worst things abusers do is take away your hope of the future. When I’ve been in abusive living conditions, there was the idea that things would always be this way.

October was needed to recharge in so many ways. For those who have seen me in person, it’s almost become a mantra I’ve been repeating.

“It’s going to be better. Soon.”

Soon is November.

(Don’t) Panic

I don’t have many memories of when I was younger.

They all tend to blur together in a random mess of connections. It’s interesting because sometimes memories will be triggered by a specific sense. The smell of Florida is one that always stays in my mind. My mother, father, and little brother would vacation down there in the winter. We staying with my grandfather in his retirement village. We drove down from Chicago some years and I think in there lies some of the reason why I love to travel by car. One time, I managed to back all my barbie gear and can almost remember how things looked out on the porch when everything was assembled. I can almost remember the book I was reading that dropped in the water, or it got dropped in a pool, or it somehow got wet. 

I almost remember which book.

So when I did my Midwest/Southern road trip: Escapism Is Cheaper than Therapy, I only briefly passed through Florida. I say briefly because it takes about ten hours on I10 to cross the top of the state. That was the only time I really paid for a hotel/motel. I needed to rest. That’s when the smell triggered me back to my childhood. I remember an ice cream stand in the shape of an ice cream and a mini golf course.

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When I was younger, my parents and doctors thought I had a heart defect. I don’t know how long, but I know I wore a electrodes attached to a bulky electrical box. Once I week we would connect this box to our telephone and it would transmit things to the doctors at the other end of the line. This was in Chicago and since my father knew so many medical people, I remember these guys had a fancy office.

It turns out it was not a defect, but panic attacks.

My panic attacks are very well defined and they have become even more refined as I get older. They still mimic some of the same characteristics, however there are new more devastating results.

When I was in College, I started experiencing some very bad health problems my freshman year. This was after have a very difficult transition to College because I was still physically recovering from my Traumatic Brain Injury and taking tons of medication to control, in part, anxiety. The worsening health problems came from Lyme disease which I had contracted but never experience a ‘target mark’ so it went undiagnosed for years. As an autoimmune disease, Lyme really can be devastating when I have a bad habit of getting myself so stressed out that I become physically ill.

I miss 279 days of my high-school career due to medical issues. I still managed to get on the honor roll a few times, much to the dismay of several people who did not take my medical issues seriously. I’d love to one day receive an apology for how I was treated by some, but it does no good to stay fully in the past. I’d like to say I’ve forgiven many of them who said horrible things to/about me, however the truth is simply I’ve forgotten about them. The only benefit to some of my TBI is I’ve been able to forget some of the bullying I’ve endured, at least most of the time. Being a survivor of many types of abuse, being treated certain ways can induce a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Panic Attack.

Part of my complete health overhaul has been getting myself in a place where I can remove extraneous anxiety from my life. I have the skills now to know how to remove myself from situations which will induce a panic attack. It’s taken me a bit of time to spot some of my triggers and it is still a work in progress.

My biggest problem lately has been my stress load. It has been getting very stressful in my life and this has compromised my health. I’ve been having non-epileptic seizures recently, which I have not had since the end of September. My lyme disease has acted up because I’ve been so stressed and this is causing me to be tired, thirsty, nauseous, not hungry, as well as increasingly difficult to swallow. My anxiety also is directly connected to my sensory system causing everything to be hyperactive. This means I can hear things from far away, see very well in virtually any condition, smell things stronger or lingering odors, tastes are stronger or sometimes taste completely different, and every spot on my body has a painful sharp needle feeling similar to when a body part has fallen asleep resulting in one limb being paralyzed for an indeterminate amount of time.

This is my life now.

This is crippling and debilitating feeling. It is on these days when the world swallows me whole that I get the most messed up feeling of optimism. I have no idea where it came from except my mother takes credit. It is on these darkest days when I know the good days will mean so much more. I know those days are filled with laughter and happiness. Those are waiting for me on the other side of this cloud.

I’ve known what it’s like to get lost in this anxiety cloud. I know all too well what toll this is as it’s one a pay every few months. Normally, it’s just a weekend break or something and I pick up the pieces and move on.

This time it’s different?

I’m not use to letting people see the vulnerable side of me. Sometimes when I show the breaking, people run away. I break loudly and ‘suddenly’ all because some straw finally broke the camel’s back. I’m pretty sure this is an autism thing, too. The world gets too loud for us and instead of people helping us quiet it down their voices get louder, too. The anxiety causes me to distance myself from some people out of….self-preservation. Some people it takes a lot out of me to interact with them. Those are the people who move and think very quickly while I’m still lost in the corner. The speed at which they move and talk actually increases my anxiety.

I remember in college interacting with people and it triggering me at times when it seemed like their words fit seamlessly together or moved too quickly. Unfortunately, I hung out with debaters, performers, and campus leaders. These are all pretty loud groups and often I would end up overwhelmed.

It’s been said multiple times by multiple people; nobody is ever neutral to me. People either enjoy my company and like me or else they find me frustrating and rude. It’s in large part because I don’t know how to interact with people in every situation and sometimes I say things which come out just ‘wrong’. I’m still actively trying to work on the interaction part, but as I’ve mentioned earlier it is a work in progress.

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Last night I remembered somethings.
I was triggered back to younger days in different paces. These were memories from when I was much younger and but even more recent. The seemingly random pieces of memories, a view of an elevator or a feeling of the carpet in-between my fingers, again share a sensory trigger.
This trigger is the same panic attack long thought of as a false memory or a bad dream. Trying to convince myself it was only a story I once read, I know this feeling too well in my body.

Even as I move around to new states and grow up, this lump in my chest still feels like home.

This is living with anxiety.

When the wave breaks

There are days when it is an achievement to shower and get dressed.

There are days when eating or remembering to eat enough is a victory.

There are days when the safest place in the world is my bed with my stuffed animals.

Having depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) does not make a person weak. It means the weight we carry is just more invisible. It is a weight sometimes only we can see and sometimes other do not understand.

Some people won’t understand why my blood pressure spikes when I see a blue Volvo drive by.

Some people won’t understand why I can’t listen to My Chemical Romance’s song “Poison”.

Some people won’t understand why I get a debilitating migraine and sleep 14+ hours a day from around February 27th to March 6th.

It doesn’t matter so much if people can’t understand why I struggle. The important thing is to realize I do struggle at times and it takes a tremendous amount of work to look like nothing is wrong. There are days when I’d rather spend my energy feeding myself and trying to do something I enjoy.

Sometimes I trap myself into thinking showing my true self is a sign of weakness. This is wrong and this is from years of conditioning from many different people.
I am a strong woman.
I became this strong by failing, by breaking and picking up the pieces after the dust settles.

My strength comes from pushing myself to paddle on in the rough waters and keep my head above the crashing waves. Going beneath the crest does not mean I’ve drowned. Sometimes the water is cool and is needed to wake me up.

I’m not drowning; I’m just going for a swim.