PTSD triggered yesterday – What that looks like

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     Yesterday after I got home late from a long day at the pain clinic and having my very first EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) session for Complex PTSD regarding old traumas from childhood. The specific situation that came to mind to work on was one involving lots of blood, broken glass, police, ambulances and near death situations. Situations a 16 year old girl should never have to manage dealing with.
When I got home from my day I felt the need to shake it off a bit. The work we did around the trauma had left me a bit keyed up.  Nothing a 2 mile walk wouldn’t help.
I have found my walking habit to be an excellent stress reducer as well as I believe it is helping me with sleep! I have a route I have found that is just a little over 2.5 miles which allows me to reach my daily steps goal.

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     So off I went with a smile on my face and feeling pretty good for the completion of ten weeks of education at a local Pain Clinic.  I learned so much from them and am extraordinarily grateful that I was given that opportunity. Their encouragement and motivation is part of what got me on a daily walking plan to start with and led me to believe that in time I can actually be a real runner! 🙂

     It started to get dark and so I switched up my route a bit and needed to walk past the house and up the block a bit to actually get my entire cool-down completed. I was just 2 doors from being back at the house when a pit bull comes charging at me across the main street barking.  I froze!  My stomach tightened, my hands curled up inside my shirt close to my heart.  I was flooded with memories of being bit on my right shin when I was 12 years old.  I was doing my monthly collections for my paper route.  I had dealt with this dog before and had arranged to deliver the paper to this customers mail box rather than their door.  I had called them to let them know I was coming to collect and they said they would have their dog contained.  It charged through their screen door when I showed up, and bit me leaving a bloody leg and a big goose egg.

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I was by the crosswalk sign on my side of the street, pit bull comes from the left where the mailboxes and little bit of white care are.

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This shows it better.  I was at the crosswalk sign and pit comes from where white vehicle is.

I hollered at the presumed dogs owner across the street, “Control your animal,call him off”. The dog was literally at my feet sniffing, and fortunately, not showing any signs of aggression.   Over the years I have gained enough presence to not bolt or lash out or cry or act out in any way around dogs I don’t know.  Yet I was scared.  I repeated my request across the street “Call your dog”. The man would not do anything.   I was terrified.
I was repeating over and over “call your dog sir, your dog is not being restrained”.  He finally called his dog, yelling out at me, “I didn’t tell him to attack or anything, you are fine”.  I was still frozen in place with his dog at my feet and his dog was not responding to his owners calls.  I said, “Sir, you need to get control of your animal, this is against the law”.  That is when the man began to be rude. One of those shitty pit bull owners who have no respect for others and have pitties for all the wrong reasons. I was getting more scared as time progressed.
Finally, on his own accord the dog went back across the street. I again yelled out “you need to keep your dog under control or I will report this, I have been bit before”. The man was cussing at me and oblivious of any wrongdoing on his part.
I admit, by this time my PTSD symptoms were so triggered that I hollered back a few expletives and proceeded to head to the house and immediately called and reported it to the police.  I was shaking and wound up and felt sick.  I could remember EVERYTHING about when I was bit before and my body was responding just how it did on that day!
Today while out on my walk/jog, feeling so confident because I reached my goal pace of 4 miles per hour, the closer I got to home the more tense I got. I felt my shoulders tensing. I felt my stomach tensing.  I felt everything tensing.  Was the dog going to be out again? Was the man going to be nasty and confrontational?  I was worried about it and it was taking away from my awesome feelings of accomplishment and relaxation I usually get from my walks.

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Even though I cognitively can process the difference between the situation when I was twelve years old versus now, my body and all the cells in it still remember.  THAT is what PTSD is.  It is the body remembering and behaving in the same way as it did when a similar situation that was traumatic occurred in the past.
I was able to complete my walk and the dog nor the man were out there to cause any upset when I arrived back to the house. I believe with just a little bit of EMDR or just a bit more processing I can figure out a way to continue my walks without the PTSD trigger being present.  Before I had started this treatment that I am doing with a therapist, I would have likely been unable to continue with something I enjoy, due to the fear (real or perceived) related to something that happened decades ago.  That dog last night did not hurt me.  Had I never been bit before and not experienced that trauma I likely would have just reached down and said “hi there fella” and gave the dog a pat.   Those old fears still get in the way of my life today.    Which is why I need to do some in depth trauma work.

 

(I haven’t found a dog yet I don’t like and most of them like me…it’s those dog owners)

My one experience with EMDR on old traumas was good and I am looking forward to doing more work. We didn’t get through the entire experience we were working on yesterday, so it will get visited again. After just that little specialized therapy yesterday I am not so afraid of doing this trauma work.  I believe it is going to be very helpful in me having a life free of fears that I have had for all my life!!!   Then I will  have the life I dream of and deserve!!!!

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.