The Clash of PTSD triggers and Opiate withdrawal….and the CRASH!!!

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As I look back over the years, so many hopes and dreams, always feeling like I was working hard, trying my best. Right now, it’s actually pretty amazing what I’ve done with the deal I got dealt. My life has handed me circumstances that not everyone goes through. The multiplicity of the stress of various circumstances have created changes in my brain. I do not see things the way you do. Add to that, the medical arena not knowing how to deal with my various symptoms and handing out prescriptions of mood stabilizers, SSRI’s, pain medications, sleep medications, Neurontin for foot pain, anti-inflammatories, anti-diarrheals, anti-constipation, anti-anxiety medications….among the top 10! It’s truly amazing that I am sitting here able to even be partially present in my day.

I have learned over the years what some of my triggers are. Certain smells like old medicine bottles, slamming of a cupboard door, yelling of any type. I can not tolerate perfumes. I notice them right away. The same can be said to the feel of clothing against my skin. It has to be soft cotton and loose and not too hot and able to be layered because I can’t regulate my temperature when my adrenal glands are on overdrive.

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So I’ve been trucking along working my recovery from gambling, slowly tapering off all those medications and got down to where I was hardly taking any oxycodone anymore. For instance, I might even have a day or two that I took none.Unfortunately, in late March on my trip to Chicago,  I got really sick with pneumonia and bronchitis, the flu and pleurisy. I was miserable. So, since I had them, of course I took the pain meds. I was in pain. Right?

Then, just a couple weeks after healing up from that and back down to just one dose a day or less, I have this incredible ride on a 1939 Ford F9 tractor down a hill with no brakes and out of gear which caused me to dislocate a rib, and so I had to take them again. I actually had a rib poking out (still under the skin), and shoved it back in. I awoke the next morning to the bruise from doing it. That was late April.

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In the interim period of time that I am kind of subconsciously getting myself off the meds (this has been a slow steady progression since 11/14) while huge amounts of stress  get added. Big stuff in January, then some big triggers in February. Based on my journaling and emails from February through March, I was trying to share that I was not feeling safe, or in a place of peace. Then after I got well from all my ailments, there were more triggers. I tried telling people. I wrote letters and tried to have conversations about how it felt to be triggered and how someone could help me. But if someone has not had to really feel what having a PTSD flare-up feels like, they can’t understand my language. In my mind, I think it must sound like “WAW WAH WAW WAH WAW: and they think I am just being a complainer.

So here is where I am going to say I gave everyone the best I could and I am really proud I hung on as long as I did without exploding in someone’s face. Well….that is, until I did. But I held on for a couple months under what felt like incredible stress with no one speaking the same language as me. I’m sure over the last couple of weeks not much of my language has made sense. I know my brain feels pretty fried.

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You see, without really thinking about it, I stopped taking the pain pills. I was feeling better. I was using medical marijuana with good success. I had stopped the muscle relaxers and the anti-anxiety medications quite some time ago….except for that night time dose of Xanax which is what the NP prescribes for my severe insomnia. Oregon Health Plan won’t pay for anything less addictive for chronic insomnia, so this was my option for a long time. I still have to wean myself off of it.

Unbeknownst to me, combining ongoing PTSD triggers and withdrawal from opioid’s is a horrible situation. Had I thought about it, I would not have done it, but now I’m 6 weeks or more into it and don’t want to have to go through all this again.

So….things you need to know if you have PTSD and you also are considering detoxing off opiates with medical marijuana!

  • Make sure you are in a really peaceful and caring place. For at least 6 months or up to year. No high stress. No high drama.
  • Do a slow taper.
  • I recommend RSO if you have been on high doses of opiates. A Sativa with high CBD for nighttime for certain. Stay low….stay easy. Ahhhhhh.(this is one place I went wrong. I didn’t have the right strains to help with the additional stress on my body).
  • Make sure you have some creature comforts, like air conditioning, a tub to soak in, someone to maybe lightly rub your back or feet while you breath through the rough moments.
  • Do NOT operate machinery. Especially when titrating medications. It’s not just a balance and clarity issue. The anger that can accompany opiate withdrawal makes driving a serious hazard. I learned the hard way.
  • Be good to yourself. Be kind. Remember it took years to get here. Keep in contact with a medical care provider if you can’t be certain you or others are safe while withdrawing. Realize it takes time.

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I am not having a good time with this and it isn’t looking ladylike when I rage and roar…but I am determined to find peace without handfuls of medications that do nothing in the long run. While all of this is not so great of a time and at times quite embarrassing, if one person reads this with chronic pain or PTSD and keeps from getting themselves from being addicted to prescription pain and anxiety meds then I have done a good thing.

I am sharing this because I want to help others. There are other options to all the pills our doctors so freely hand out. I hope if you are reading this…it’s before you have a 20 year habit that you don’t even recognize it is a bad habit. I was just following doctors orders.

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There is LIGHT and HOPE!

If you have never experienced a depressive disorder, I would imagine you really believe a person can cheer themselves up and get over it by doing things such as “open the drapes”, or “go for a walk”, or “let go, let God”. I used to think that too. If someone was a sad sack I would tell them to get outside themselves and do something for someone else, or to get out in the sunshine (or even to do tanning in very moderate/light levels), Over the second half of my life I have found that if it feels dark internally, it doesn’t matter what you do, except that you do something. It’s when you do nothing that you are turning into the hole of darkness. Even if you still are struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel and it still seems completely dark and not worthwhile. Do something!!! I know from experience…you will eventually see a ray of light that will give you hope to keep going. But sometimes…you have to just keep moving in the dark, doing something, going completely on faith in the darkest of dark.

I am so grateful that I kept on sharing with my friends and a couple family members and my readers when I was struggling. I was doing something. I was reaching out and sharing and being present in the moment. With depression, sometimes that is so difficult.

I believe that most depression is brought about by things of the past (unless you live in a combat zone or 3rd world country and face starvation constantly). For some, a combat zone can look like the chaotic interactions of families, the fightingt that occurs in some relationships, or the dysfunction of many households. Sometimes those are battlefields of their own. If you live in that kind of constant state of anxiousness about what has happened in the past as well as being worried and struggling with what is in the moment, in my opinion, as well as the various definitions I have read, that would be labeled as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Depression occurs frequently with PTSD. http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/tc/ptsd-and-depression-overview It is my experience that if one of them are triggered, then the other disorder also gets triggers. If I have a new traumatic event, or a flashback of a traumatic event combined with increase in daily stressors, then it is likely that depression will get triggered as well, The feelings of depression, that dark place, become an escape as well as a prison.

It is very possible to get stuck in depression. That is why and how suicide occurs. It becomes too unbearable to live another day or another moment in the darkness. Or, if you are trying to escape the ongoing trauma of living in a combat zone or under extreme stress, the darkness of depression can at times become a retreat from reality. There is a very fine line between the two. Escape and prison are but one step away from another.

Today, I am grateful that somehow, by God’s grace, I was able to not become consumed with the darkness and was able to hold on through that dark time until I finally saw and felt the light of God’s love and peace and assurance. It’s always just around the corner.

I think I was able to hold on due to the ties with my support group, my willingness to reach out, and my desire to always do The Next Right Thing in life.

If you are feeling that darkness of depression, or if you have PTSD and the depression is creeping in too, be sure to reach out. Help really is always there. And there is light, just around the bend!

Contact you physician, a mental health provider, a member of clergy, a friend, or a family member and tell them you are struggling and need some help. Let others’ into your life and know you are not alone. Depression doesn’t have to mean darkness for eternity.