What could I have done different?

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I wonder if there were things I could have done different, or if everything else that has happened would have happened regardless of what I have done. Things like reminding my loved ones that I have been slowly detoxing off meds for 2 years, and to please have a little more patience and understanding with me if I am more anxious. Would it have made a difference? Would they view the events as they unfolded a little differently? Or would the ugliness of my outbursts be just as scary?

I can’t undo anything that was done, so what do I do to atone for my actions? From hundreds if not thousands of miles away from one another? Especially now when many are either frightened or angry or disappointed or disgusted in me, or all of them?

A perfect storm happened and I got caught in the middle and I lost it and now I’m the bad guy. That is what it feels like. Among other things.

Of course….my feelings are all on edge. No sleep again for a few days, heart hurting, feeling alone because I pushed everyone away and now they are staying away. It is so hard to hold on to hope.

Because of me trying to get better, by getting off the damned pills, I may well have lost some of the things I thought I wanted most in my life. I mean how do you atone for throwing hatred around? How to you atone for name calling and threats and all the things I did? How will I ever be able to forgive myself??? I don’t know. I have so many questions and no answers and no one is talking and so it’s just the old tapes running and running and running.

“It’s all you fault”. I heard that so many times in some of the worst situations when I was a kid. Or, “quit wearing your heart on your sleeve, quit your ballayhooing”. Or, if you would have tried harder you could have got the award “(of course no one told me about the rewards offered until after the fact). How about “keep crying and I’ll give you something to cry about”.

So now that I’ve misbehaved, acted out in fear and anxiety with a fight/flight response brought on by multiple stressors as well as going through detox, all those old tapes play because I have nothing new to replace them with. What has happened my whole life is how it is today. I am alone. I wonder if it would be different if there ever was a time when things were so hard that if someone would have held my hand and said I will love you through this because you are worth it, maybe some things would have been different. Oh how I wish so much was different.  I am really struggling with so many emotions.

So what am I doing in the meantime to fill the time?  Today I found a tire for the lawnmower for FREE!!!!  Now that is something to be grateful for because online they were about $25.00 and a wait of a week or so.  The weeds were driving me nuts.  So, I went and picked up the tire, changed out the bearing (it was the wrong size but I fixed it), and mowed the lawn.  Of course I also tended to all the flowers, doing my daily dead-heading.  I paid attention to the new blossoms and what is doing well and what is struggling.  Some of the strugglers…I just keep watering and fertilizing and hope they survive.  It’s all I can do, right?

I also spent some time making myself look pretty, just because.  I am typically not a makeup foo foo type of gal, but I CAN do it!

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I”m going to live through this, I know that.  But what is the cost going to be?  What will the tally be a year from now?  How about a week from now?  How long will it take for others?    Dear God I wish I had some answers or some better understanding.  I’m really doing my best.  But you know that…even if no one else does.

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Day 6 and the worst is over I hope!

Today, I spent some time trying to piece together the last 60 days. It’s hard. There are lots of big spaces of time I don’t remember much. That scares me. It’s evident whatever happened freaked out my loved ones in a big way. I was on the phone saying so many things that were not at all what I was wanting to say but my brain just was somewhat frying. It just was what it was.

Which of course adds to my shame and guilt.  I have not had that occur since I quit gambling. Yes, I’ve lost control of my emotions before, but I have had no “out of body” experiences like I experienced this time. I sure am glad I write tho, because I can go back and somewhat piece together the build-up, the blow, the loss of time, and then I went straight into detox for the Xanax withdrawal. Not the smartest idea in the book. But hey….who said I was thinking in any congruent way during this time?

Although extraordinarily fatigued with pain increased,  I think I’m doing pretty well. I am stronger than I remember sometimes. While I was feeling so weak, I had some idea of what I wanted. I have been on a journey to get off these pills for nearly 2 years. I wanted to get my overall health and strength a little better because I knew I was getting to a place I was ready to deal with some more of my “stuff”.

I did know I was having some PTSD triggers There were some encounters with people I cared about where I felt under attack so decided to disengage from those relationships. That is not something I do lightly. Yet, in retrospect it showed I was getting stronger because I was able to say to myself, “this is not healthy for me”.

In late February or early March was one  occasions and I handled myself with composure (maybe showing a slight displeasure but that is all) and then returned the next day to discuss the situation and stated what behaviors I could handle. That is a HUGE thing for me.

As time passed and other situations occurred I knew I needed to do some digging to see why I so easily get triggered by certain personalities. To be frank, I believe it’s because of my mother and our relationship and her behaviors. There are certain behaviors in women I just cannot tolerate at all. It gets my ruff up so bad and I have to just clench my teeth. Pointing, especially if someone pokes my chest, intimidation posturing, badgering, and overly aggressive. I have a tolerance and then it just is gone. It was like I was doing okay, handling each situation the best I could while trying to be professional in my role as “property manager”, and then it was over the edge.

I had told a few folks about my encounters and how they were affecting me. I had thought I had stated I was getting very stressed and overwhelmed, but again, I believe others hear it as “whining”. It was in late March that I picked up paperwork to get back into counseling. I didn’t get it turned in until mid-April after recovering from the flu. I didn’t get back in until  about the end of June for intake. Back in late March I knew I was over-stressed and had taken on more than I could handle.

In my perception a great deal of the stress came because what I perceived as agreed conversations on what was going on with the property and tenants wasn’t happening. I also had a situation with a friend and it was just the last straw.  I was so overwhelmed trying to get this property ready for renters. I had to help pack up a house that was full of many collections. Tapes(VCR and Cassette), books and mountains of electronics. The entire second story was just storage! I also had to get ready for an Estate Sale. I had never done one before and what a TON of work that is. I also had to help Mr. Chicago’s brother find an apartment and then I had to help him figure out how to make a home for himself in his new place. January was exhausting.

Then in February I was still doing okay after taking a little break, but that is when some of the encounters with PTSD triggers really started. After the first one I was shook up and tearful for a couple days. Then I tried to rectify things in an adult manner and carried on. Then there was another encounter in March. Again, I held my tongue, waited a day or two and then tried to rectify it. I also was telling my family and loved ones about the stress this was bringing me. Yet, no one is around me to actually see what those affects looked like. Often when you have PTSD triggers in my mind I feel like I sound like I am “complaining”. But what I’m trying to convey is I am getting over-stressed and I can’t make prudent choices and I need some help.

I had my trip to Chicago in late March and then came home and landed in the hospital for 4 days with the flu and pneumonia and when I came home and got well enough I had to stretch myself again. I was interviewing potential land renters. I had to run ads and make phone calls and then talk with these people at length regarding their needs and what we could provide for them. I am not a good salesperson. It makes me very uncomfortable, so I was stressing about that. More stress. I am feeling like I am falling behind here. There is so much work to be done and I am coming home after a nearly 2 week absence and it’s time to start the gardens and I still have things to haul to the dump and things to sale and continued encounters that were less than comfortable with some people.

Then came May. I did forget to mention that I had a very serious family issue that occurred in January that was an ongoing concern and stressor until early June. Those of you who follow my FB page remember, Mr. Chicago came out for my birthday in May. It was truly the BEST surprise I’ve ever had for my birthday. The BEST.   During the time he was here I was able to show him a little of what the issues were but by that point I was definitely at a point that any more encounters with triggers was going to set me off. But to him I’m sure they seemed small, each little instance.

That is not so for someone with PTSD. I’ve only had one occasion where it was a single incident that triggered me. Even at that time, I had been under a LOT of stress. Typically when I go into a meltdown mode (post gambling…completely different scenario) I have had a number of stressors on top of a number of triggers. I can only take so much. Which, is another reason I have been trying to get disability.

Having a disability like this doesn’t mean I can’t function or that I’m not smart or capable. It means I can’t take the daily struggles like a person who doesn’t have a  disability. Over the years I’ve tried to explain so much.  I can do a little physical and deal with the pain, but then my stress will get up and so I can’t deal with people or additional stress. Or, I can be medicated and take it gentle on my body and not do a bunch of hard things and my brain works. In fighting chronic pain as well as mental health issues life gets very overwhelming at times.

After Mr. Chicago went home, I thought we kind of had things under control. But that was not the case at all. There were still unresolved issues that came up and a number of incidents that made me uneasy around the 12th of June and that was when I started going over the edge.

After my first blow up, I had a few days where I just was telling everyone “I’m done”.   I am not able to make these decisions. I was trying so hard to take care of the area here and do a good job. I went up and down and up and down for a couple weeks and then settled down a bit. But by then, I was really struggling inside with a lot of things.

I didn’t feel safe anymore. Because I had “acted out” I was scared and embarrassed and pushed everyone away more. I didn’t want anyone to see me unhinged. The lonelier I got and the more I tried to figure out what I could have done different I just got more and more distressed.

I tried to “pull it together”, but I had forgotten that back in May I had purposefully come to the point that I wasn’t gong to refill the Oxycodone anymore.  That had been my goal and I reached it and was doing okay. I didn’t take into account how that my affect my mental health when I was already under stress. I continued to rage and then cry and then rage and then cry. I’ve said “I’m sorry” so many times in the last 2 months and then gone and done the same exact thing.

That is what happens when you have a PTSD breakdown. You feel okay for a few minutes and think you are okay to be around others and then Every Little Thing bugs the hell out of you. Drivers that are speeding and reckless caused me to be the same…trying to chase them down to tell them what crazy drivers they are. Ha ha ha….and who was the undone woman chasing them? Yes…that was me! Hence the limited driving these days.

So June ended and July rode in and yet another big stressor met me on the 5th. Something that made me think of bad things from long ago. I tried to explain to the other my feelings but was met with resistance. This made me feel even more unworthy and increased my angst.

So on 7/12 I had ran out of Xanax and decided not to go to town to pick up my prescription the next day. I had made a choice. Not wise, with my thinking at the time, but it was just me here and I was going for it. The first night I found out some information that truly just made my head burst. My head has been racing and my heart has been racing and I became obsessed with this information and it was rough that first day or two. I was not only going through Detox and PAWS, but I was in the midst of a mental health breakdown and kept getting news that left me feeling so alone and so WRONG for everything. Lots of thoughts of “why am I here?”.

That’s the mindset of a PTSD person. When I am in a PTSD head, I am in total fight/flight mode. I feel horrible. I think I am the worst person in the world. I want no one to see me. I don’t behave in ways that are typical for me. I get quite mean (to push people away) I’ve been told. I typically am NOT mean! I am a lover and a giver and a smiler. But under duress from a PTSD flare I can dish out some verbal bashing and be quite harsh.

I hate that. Which is a big reason for going back to counseling. I know I still have learning to do. I am hoping by completing my detoxification off the narcotics and benzodiazapines my head will be clearer for doing the work I have in front of me.

I know nothing about my future right now. Neither do you…if truth be told. I remember my counselor telling me that I learned early in life, it can all change overnight. In the meantime I am hunkering down and just trying to take care of myself. I deserve it. So do those who love me. I despise scaring them so. Evidently, as I was recently reminded, it’s been going on for some time.   When I get to my lowest I have very pronounced suicidal ideation. I forget about it for the most part when I’m well. I know how that feels as my mother suffered with the same. It is very hard for those around a person feeling like this.

Today has been the clearest my mind has been in a very long time. A very very long time. Even with the fatigue of not sleeping the last two nights (going on being awake for about 58 hours now) my brain is clear. I truly am grateful for being able to finally get off all that.

The cannabis is working. The dosing is not exact, yet. Just like me. I’m working on it. Thanks God for a gentler alternative that comes form the earth!

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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.