PTSD – a meltdown moment

     June is Post Traumatic Stress Awareness month. Are you aware that in addition to combat soldiers, there are many other situations where a trauma or a series of traumas can bring on PTSD? Did you know even children can develop PTSD?  Children that live in homes where violence is routine, where they don’t get their basic needs met, where they are left alone and vulnerable?

     I was diagnosed with PTSD when I was in treatment for my Gambling addiction over 6 years ago. As well as generalized anxiety disorder. I have been to counselors off and on since I was 17 years old and it took nearly 30 years for someone to see what was then obvious.  I do remember one or two people that knew some of my life story commenting that I probably had PTSD but I thought then it was for people who had experienced war or something like 9/11.

     Additionally, I have learned over the years that there is a subdivision of PTSD called Complex PTSD.  This form of PTSD is more common for combat vets, those who have been victims of being held prisoner, or anyone with multiple traumas over a lifetime.  Children that had been abused physically or mentally or left without their basic needs being meet.  Those that were abandoned or left in vulnerable places with no protection over and over can develop C-PTSD. Or a person who has had multiple traumas throughout their life.  While I do have the diagnosis of PTSD, it is my own conclusion that I most likely have C-PTSD.

     Most the times the symptoms are much better than they used to be and I do have tools that I’ve used to keep my levels of stress tolerable. I have been on Effexor XR for over 6 years and it’s been the best medication (and only one I take anymore) for these conditions. So in addition to stress from outside my body I was having additional stressors internally as my body experienced some withdrawls, as after 18 months I had completely weaned myself off all pain and fibromyalgia related medications.  I have been off all narcotics and muscle relaxers  for nearly 2 months.  So having some symptoms of Post Acute Withdrawl Syndrome (PAWS).  The combination of stressors where I live and what my body has been going through with pain and PAWS was ripe for a significant event.

     Last week week I had a complete PTSD meltdown. I had one trigger too many and I had no control of myself anymore.  It was so scary and so terrifying and it completely turned my life upside down.  I frightened my family  and loved ones with ridiculous threats of harming others and disappearing and never to be seen and all types of crazy stuff.  I remember some of it, but there were some times it was like an out of body experience.  That’s called disassociation.  It’s a really weird feeling.  I know it’s me having the feeling, but it’s like I’m watching someone else going through it…or something like that.  Very hard to describe..but very scary.

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     This was the first ever that I can recall that in my mind I was so angry and so hurt and so scared that I had truly violent thoughts against others. Typically I just shut down after the meltdown as a crying puddle of emotions for a week or so.   I wasn’t going to act on them…but stating it out loud and letting my mind go to those places was somewhat cathartic.  In all honesty, I would never hurt a person.  But dang, I sure could day dream about it and verbalize it in the moment.  It wasn’t because I really wanted to hurt someone.  It was because my cortisol levels had become so elevated my brain wasn’t functioning property.

     I’m not going to go into all the physiological components of what happens to a brain when PTSD is triggered in this writing, but maybe another time I will explain how the reptilian part of the brain is what is affected.

     So, yesterday I went in for an intake appointment for counseling…again. I’ve been in counseling off and on since I was 17.   I’ve worked on so many of my issues and I’m so much better.  In fact, I’m feeling strong enough I am ready to dig deep to get to some of the core issues that have caused so much angst through my life. I know that sounds ridiculous to someone who just said they had a PTSD meltdown, but sometimes that’s how this crazy stuff works.  It takes a catalyst to get you prodded to do more work.

     Lastly, one of my biggest components of having a PTSD meltdown is that I push everyone away.  I am embarrassed, I am frightened, I am feeling out of control, and I feel so unworthy of any love or caring of any kind.  I know that is ridiculous now…but in the moment that is how I behave.  The truth of the matter is… that is when I need love and support and caring more than ever.  I need to know I’m worth loving.  I need to be reminded it will pass and I’ll be okay.  I need reassurance that I’m worth having around.  Because at that moment….anywhere would be better than being in my body and my mind.

      I apologize to family and friends for the fear and concerns and the challenges loving me brings.  I can only hope that my star shines more often than the occasional storm cloud that blocks the light.

     I share this as a public service announcement because I am wanting the general public to have a better understanding of mental health issues.  People don’t hold it against a diabetic for having a crisis or a seizure patient for having a seizure.  Please have understanding with mental health.  No one asks for these conditions.  It’s not a sign of weakness or bad morals or anything like that.  It’s an illness in our body.  I’m trying to treat my illness.  Please don’t think I am my illness…I’m still me.  I still love to garden and take photos and love people…well…some of them.  I still laugh and cry over things you do.  I’m not that different, I just have my moments.

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