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!!!!

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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.