PTSD Strikes Again

ImageI have chronic post traumatic stress disorder which means I’ve experienced multiple times in my life where my life was threatened to the point of perceived death or I witnessed someone else experiencing the same. In my case, I have experience both several times in my life.

I can go several days in a row and sometimes as far as two weeks before being reminded that PTSD DOES NOT GO AWAY! This week was a PTSD week and I’m pissed.

The combination of having PTSD and also Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has left me almost completely housebound for approximately five years now. For a while I had work I could do at home, only to find the stress of the work exacerbated both conditions to the point of not functioning and my body shut down. I literally lost forty pounds in four months, was bed ridden and had to be treated at the ER for dehydration. That was a little over a year and a half ago. The contract on that job terminated about a year ago and the healing began. I was doing well and started a small private practice in my home and then last week hit.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly I can go from being pulled together and almost medication free to being thrust back into emotional, visual and physical flashbacks, constant state of panic, nightmares, jumping and screaming at sudden sounds and feeling completely unhinged, waiting to fend off an attacker, logically knowing it is not there.

I have found that the more secluded from stress I am and regimented in my routine I have, the healthier and happier I feel. Life actually feels worth living and I can contribute to the community and help others heal. Every once in a while I forget my limitations or attempt to rise above them (take your pick).

Several months ago I attempted this. I did it by the book: go slow, carefully watch the people involved so I’m safe, monitor my reactions and self talk, make sure I have an escape route if I’m too threatened and above all – appear normal.

I have a shaky trust in my ability to read people in my life. Even people I’ve known and loved forever sometimes startle me into a fear reaction. For people who are acquaintances or who I’m just starting to know, this fear is tenfold.

All it takes is for a person to react or act emotionally or physically different from what I expect and confusion sets in. Confusion equals fear and fear causes flairs of PTSD. These changes in behavior can consist of raising their voice, yelling, puffing themselves up, twisting my words or intent, flailing their arms around, pounding on things or behaving in ways contrary of what they say they are doing. One or all of these things sets my automatic brain in motion.

What is triggered in me, I call neuro-synaptic frying. It is very physically painful. My brain floods my nervous system with chemicals so I can survive a life threatening event, even if one does not literally exist.  It feels like my entire body has been stuffed inside an open electrical socket. It hurts for hours and because I also have Fibromyalgia contracts my muscles and scrambles the pain signals to the brain. So the pain, sometimes debilitating, lasts for days and I have to take special neurological medications to calm the signals down.

This happened this week. I’ve almost worked past the, it’s okay you’re not in danger, stage of PTSD. My nightmares are still there, muscle aches, extreme fatigue, second guessing my decisions and desires to run and hide diminishing. They were an eight on a scale to ten and now are a three or four.

I did some reality checking with family to try to get a sense on how much I over reacted, the real threat ratio (knowing me and my PTSD history) and where to go from here (knowing my physical and emotional health and situation).  I went out with people I know and trust. A best friend who loves me so unconditionally it never ceases to amaze. There is the church family with no agenda other than to share love and companionship and of course the love, support and companionship of my own family.  Not to forget the humor, encouragement and camaraderie of Facebook friends.

Even with all that positivism surrounding me, PTSD still slammed its ugly head. It wouldn’t be so bad if I could just say, I have reservations about or I see inconsistencies I don’t know if I want to be involved in or I need to watch closer.  No, all that is colored by the lenses of PTSD making the ability to make any of those above stated comments almost impossible at this point. I can’t even say, gee I wonder what is going on with that person that things occurred the way they did. That, I hope will come later, but not now.

I am glad I originally pushed myself, tested the waters because I learned some new things and met new people.  I have to ask myself where is the line between putting oneself out there knowing the limitations and accepting the risk verses, staying safe, healthy and happy?

I’ve meditated, prayed and contemplated to no avail at this point. Perhaps what I did wrong was move too fast even though I thought I was going slow and trusting too quickly. Or maybe it has more to do with not honoring my limitations and working within those parameters.

I can say I’m damaged, but I tell my clients you’re not damaged you are unique.  I say, you have witnessed things other people can never imagine or they go to the cinema to experience. That wisdom and knowledge of the fragility of life may make it so you are more like a piece of fine china and not a plastic cup. You don’t throw fine china in the sink or dishwasher and you don’t put it with the plastic cups in the cupboard. Does that make the fine china damaged? No, it makes it precious. I need to learn that I am precious and treat myself accordingly.

About Debbie Hill, deborahhillcounselor.com

Wellness Counselor, Author, Photographer, Interested in living a balanced, compassion centered life, travel, spiritual/supernatural issues, history, all things Disney. If that's not eclectic, I don't know what is.

Posted on March 7, 2014, in Living with PTSD and Chronic Fatigue and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Sheila Peters

    Dear Debbie, While I knew about this, I don’t think, even with my work experience, I could have ever come as close to understanding what you are going through until I read this. Now, I don’t mean I can relate or really understand, because thankfully, nothing has ever happened to bring me to this place. Chronic anything is difficult. When you “look” fine, it is easy for us to forget how something that may not even make us think twice effects someone who is unable to slough off life’s insults. But I did learn something new about you today and I hope I can put this information to use whenever I encounter anyone that I know is suffering from PTSD. Thank you and Thinking of you – Sheila

  2. Debbie, have you tried yoga? I began a type called Svaroopa yoga, years ago, to help me deal with chronic back pain. But what I found after practicing it everyday for about a year, was that I was able to deal with extremely stressful situations by just retreating into a room and going into a relaxation mode.

    It was kind of like Pavlov’s dog theory. When practicing to the same music everyday, while attempting to learn relaxation, which, I will say was NOT easy for me to conquer, the music then became an automatic trigger for relaxation.

    This required a lot of practice, and did not happen overnight, or even in a short time. It did not solve all of my physical issues, as some of the poses were extremely difficult for me to do. My instructor told me that the poses which are the most difficult are the ones that I need to do most. There is something preventing me from relaxing in those poses. Wouldn’t you know that those same poses are directly related to physical conditions that I have not yet overcome?

    Many years ago, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue. I have managed to beat the Fibromyalgia following a very controversial treatment with guaifenesin. Some say that there is no proof that it works. It took me a year to see results. I became much worse before slowly improving. After a couple of years, I can say that my symptoms are gone.

    The chronic fatigue was another issue that I thought was related to the Fibromyalgia. But one day, I decided to have a sleep study done, and it opened my yes to a whole other issue of which I had been aware. I have seen a neurologist for treatment since, and although the symptoms come and go, I feel like I have a much better control over it.

    The worst experience is feeling so out of control with things that are happening to your body.

    I don’t know if any studies have been done on PTSD to see if yoga is beneficial, but I can’t imagine that it could hurt. If you could train your brain, somehow, to switch gears when your PTSD flairs up, then that would help you feel more in control of the situation.

    You made the comment that you get to the point when you are almost medication free, then the PTSD comes back with a vengeance. Perhaps you aren’t meant to be medication free. Sometimes medications are necessary for life to continue. Particularly when they affect brain function.

    We both know that I am not a physician. But I am the type who likes to find possible solutions to problems. i would certainly consider investigating yoga as a relaxation technique. It calms your mind and your body. You deserve to be able to go into your “cave” and replenish. And you do not have to change religions to reap the benefits.

    I wish you pain free days ahead.

    • Hi Barb, I have looked into Yoga, but have not found a cost effective way to learn this and am still trying to learn the difference between types of yoga. I got a book from the library on simplified yoga for people with medical issues. So, it will be interesting. I have been meditating and that helps. Thank you for the well wishes and I send peace and warm wishes in return.

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