Tag Archives: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

#17 PTSD: Not just for Veterans anymore!

In light of current problems that I have been struggling through, and to be honest constantly struggling with most of my life, I have decided to write an informational post about something that many, many people struggle with: PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a traumatic event, experienced or witnessed. This can include: combat exposure, child sexual or physical abuse, terrorist attack, sexual or physical assault, serious accidents, and natural disasters.

According to nimh.nih.gov:

“When in danger, it’s natural to feel afraid. This fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to prepare to defend against the danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a healthy reaction meant to protect a person from harm. But in PTSD this reaction is changed or damaged. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened when they’re no longer in danger.

“PTSD was first brought to public attention in relation to veterans (then called “shell shock” or “battle fatigue”, but it can result from a variety of traumatic incidents. Currently, many scientists are focusing on genes that play a role in creating fear memories. Understanding how fear memories are created may help refine or find new interventions for reducing the symptoms of PTSD. For example, PTSD researchers have pinpointed genes that make: Stathmin, a protein needed to form fear memories and  GRP (gastrin-releasing peptide), a signaling chemical in the brain released during emotional events.

“Individual differences in these genes or brain areas may only set the stage for PTSD without actually causing symptoms. Environmental factors, such as childhood trauma, head injury, or a history of mental illness, may further increase a person’s risk by affecting the early growth of the brain. Also, personality and cognitive factors, such as optimism and tendency to view challenges in a positive or negative way, as well as social factors, such as the availability to use social support, appear to influence how people adjust to trauma. “

When people find out that I have PTSD, I get a variety of responses:

“You’re an adult, just get over it.” Being an adult has nothing to do with trauma and a person’s ability to process through it.

“You’re not old enough to be a veteran.” Trauma doesn’t just happen to veterans.

“That is a very lame excuse.” It is not an excuse.

“You don’t look like you’ve been through a disaster.” My friend asks “Have you ever looked into her eyes?”

There are many things that people do not fully understand about PTSD.

Graph about PTSD

Though I do not feel that it is anyone’s business what exactly happened to me which caused my PTSD, I have experienced more than one of these ‘probable causes’.

Whether or not you get PTSD depends on many things:

  • How intense the trauma was or how long it lasted
  • If you were injured or lost someone important to you
  • How close you were to the event/person
  • How strong your reaction were
  • How much control you felt you had over the events
  • How much help and support you had access to and received after the event (and how long after the event you began to receive assistance)

7-8% of people in the US have PTSD or will struggle with PTSD at some time in their lives. 10% of women develop PTSD and 4% of men.  According to ptsd.va.gov, women are more likely to experience sexual assault and sexual assault is more likely to cause PTSD than most other events.  Women are also more likely to blame themselves for trauma events than men.

More about sexual assault: www.ptsd.va.gov/public/ptsd-overview/women/sexual-assault-females.asp

Most people with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder repeatedly re-live the trauma in the form of nightmares and disturbing recollections during the day. The nightmares or recollections may come and go, and a person may be free of them for weeks at a time, only to again experience them daily for no particular reason. Anniversaries of the event are often very difficult. In severe cases, they may have trouble working or socializing as a result of this interruption in their daily lives, which may induce panic attacks, manic episodes, seizures, and/or other intense emotional responses that may be unsuited to social and workplace situations. Ordinary events can serve as reminders of the trauma and trigger flashbacks or intrusive images. A flashback may make the person lose touch with reality and reenact the event for a period of seconds or hours or, very rarely, days. A person having a flashback, which can come in the form of images, sounds, smells, or feelings, usually believes that the traumatic event is in fact happening all over again at that exact moment.

(psychcentral.com) Below is a list of many of the symptoms that those with PTSD can suffer from.

  • Symptoms in adults:
  • Intrusive memories:
    • Distressing memories of the traumatic event
    • Reliving the traumatic event (flashbacks)
    • Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event (nightmares)
    • Severe emotional or physical reactions to something causing recollections of the event.
  • Avoidance
    • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event, and therefore not processing it, setting back recovery.
    • Avoiding places, activities, or people that remind them of the event
  • Negative changes in thinking and mood
    • Depression
    • anxiety
    • Inability to experience positive emotions
    • Severe apathy; feeling emotionally numb
    • Lack of interest in activities
    • Hopelessness, shame, or despair
    • Memory problems, brain fog
    • Not remembering important aspects of the event
    • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
    • Employment problems
  • Changes in emotional reactions
    • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
    • Paranoia; always being on guard for danger
    • Overwhelming guilt or shame
    • Self-destructive behavior
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Easily startled or frightened
    • Feeling jittery
    • Hyper-arousal: alert, over-focused on surroundings
  • Physical symptoms especially tend to include chronic pain, heart arrhythmia, fainting, strokes, stomach aches, head or back aches, and other psychosomatic (or emotionally-induced) problems.
  • Symptoms in children (ptsd.va.gov)
  • Birth-6yrs
    • Upset when parents are not close
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Trouble toilet training
  • 7-11yrs
    • Act out trauma in play, drawings, or stories.
    • Have nightmares
    • Become irritable or aggressive
    • Will want to avoid school or friends
  • 12-18yrs
    • Similar to adults
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Withdrawal
    • Reckless behavior (substance abuse, running away, sexual behavior)

Now, these are common symptoms that not many people tend to associate with PTSD. Some people may assume that those exhibiting these symptoms are overreacting or seeking attention. It can cause those inflicted with PTSD to feel like a “freak” or like they are “crazy”.

Here are some examples of real situations that I have witnessed or experienced myself.

  1. Someone was walking down a hall snapping a belt that was folded in half. They were bored and it did not occur to them that they might cause anyone distress. H relived a scene from their childhood. H’s father had whipped them with a belt on several occasions. H, Upon hearing the snapping of the belt, regressed into childhood memories and re-lived the abuse of their father. H hid in a corner, rocking and crying until the flashback subsided.
  2. R spent several years living in untidiness to extreme. R lived in mold, animal excrement, and bugs. Over a year after being moved to a clean environment, R found a spider on their clothes. Later that day a door was left open and R had a panic attack. Their mind was back in the mess that they had left behind. Uncontrollable fear led to petrification, followed by a deep need to escape the situation.
  3. Sexual Assault:Too Many people have experienced this. In the case that a person has been traumatically sexually assaulted, any sexual act may trigger physical and emotional recall. The afflicted may be sent into intense panic and mistakenly confuse their current partner with their attacker. In these cases their partner needs to be very understanding and patient.
  4. Child Abuse:In the case of someone who had been abused as a child, any time they are awakened by a noise or by someone unexpectedly, their body may surge with adrenalin. They may believe they are being attacked and will “defend” themselves with–possibly–deadly force before they realize they are awake. Throughout the next several hours, an afflicted person may experience irritability with heightened stress throughout the day.

Flashbacks like this can occur with varying severity, depending on each individual’s situation.
“Sometimes large numbers of people are affected by the same event. Most people will have some PTSD symptoms in the first few weeks after events like these. This is a normal and expected response to serious trauma, and for most people, symptoms generally lessen with time. Most people can be helped with basic support, such as:

Getting to a safe place
Seeing a doctor if injured
Getting food and water
Contacting loved ones or friends
Learning what is being done to help

But some people do not get better on their own. Posttraumatic stress disorder can be treated usually with a combination of psychotherapy and medications.” – psychcentral.com

Treatments can include:

  • Therapy
    • Cognitive therapy
    • Exposure therapy
    • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
  • Medications
    • Antidepressants
    • Anti-anxiety medications
    • Prazosin (sometimes for nightmares)
    • Sometimes Antipsychotics

The current treatments that I am using include: Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, and EMDR. Now, EMDR can take a long time to work through Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. If you have PTSD and you give up—on any kind of treatment—early, it will be no help to you at all.

Most people do not understand just how much PTSD and the growing understanding of it means to me. Not only do I suffer with it, but many people I know and love suffer with it for several different reasons. I know people who have survived wars, either as a refugee or as a part of the military. I also know people who have lived through child abuse, spousal abuse, sexual assault, and battery. And even that list is not all-inclusice.

There are so many people that have a negative view of PTSD and treat those that suffer with it like they are liars or attention seekers. These people downplay the trauma that PTSD sufferers have gone through. I have been told several times that I blow my stories out of proportion when I am actually leaving out the worst parts.

I hope to help people understand PTSD better.

If you know someone with PTSD there are several things that you can do to help them through a flashback and come back to the present. Not all of these work 100% of the time, and some PTSD types can have dangerous repercussions. So be safe and cautious.

Remind them that they are going to be okay and that they are safe. (If you are currently in a dangerous situation, it is not ethical to lie to them, but if they are in danger of hurting themselves or others, do what you can to keep them calm).  Reassure them that they have not done anything wrong.

One of the best things that I learned from therapy was to activate my senses, or to try to find something to stimulate each one of the senses to help refocus on the present.

I have found that taste and smell usually go together, a strong taste will usually be strong enough to smell. Popular flavors to use as a taste-smell combo include mints, cinnamon, horehound, and root bear. Really anything with a strong taste that you enjoy should work. Sight and touch usually work together as well. I have found objects with an interesting texture, such as a stress ball or a small stuffed animal. Take the time to look at all the details of it while you run it through your hands. You may also use sound in the sight/touch method, focusing on a person talking, rattling keys in your hand, tapping a surface, or listening to music. Getting as many senses active as possible is key.

For example, put a piece of hard candy in your mouth. You can taste and smell the flavor, and you can feel it inside your mouth. You can also focus on the sound that your mouth makes with the candy. Does it click against your teeth? The only sense missing in this example is sight. Look around focus on what is around you; try to keep yourself—or the person that you are helping—in the moment.

Remember that during the PTSD episodes, we cannot be logical, we are not doing it for attention, it is not childish, and we cannot just “get over it.” These are very real memories that our minds make real to us again. We did nothing to deserve this, and we only want to be healed. Help spread the truth about PTSD.

Thank you

The Resident Femme

Sources:

www.ptsd.va.gov

www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/basics/definition/con-20022540

www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-tramatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml

www.psychcentral.com/disorders/ptsd/
www.ptsd.ne.gov/what-is-ptsd.html

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#6: Mental Illness – Part 2: The difference between “Emo” and Depression

(Read part one here)

As a life-long sufferer of dysthymia (chronic minor depression), I have experienced the phenomenon of being referred to as “emo”. My goal today is to explain the difference between “emo” (emotional) and depression.

These two terms are widely different, almost opposite.

Emo: the act of being overly emotional. Using “heightened” emotions as a possible way to find both positive and negative attention. This sort of behavior CAN stem from depression based on certain problems, but is generally just teen angst.

Being “emo”, one is generally fairly /active/. They—those that are considered “emo”—are fairly forward in their actions and behavior. Everything tends to be a melodramatic, over-exaggeration and over the top reactions. Everything is intensely one thing or another and there is never usually an in between. Everything could be considered a tragedy.

I will repeat: teen angst.

Depression, however, is much more complicated. Depressed is not the same as sad, or emotional. Sad is a specific emotion, and depression consists of … duller? emotions; sometimes a lack of proper emotions at all. There is a huge lack of motivation, energy, hope, etc. . . One is trapped in what seems to be an endless cycle of internal pain, confusion, hopelessness, and sometimes fear.

When people who are depressed “react” things are generally less dramatic, but more helpless. They are not fishing for attention, just feeling hopeless and lost. There are few people whom they will feel motivated to talk to, usually they won’t even let people know of their symptoms. These people tend to be quiet, reserved… And accused of being “emo”.

I speak from experience here, though my words may seem distanced. My depression has basically been my whole life. I didn’t really know that there was more than my lack of “normality”. I was diagnosed with Dysthymia February of 2014. I was sitting in the psychiatrist’s office and he asked me when my last happy memory was.  I couldn’t immediately pull up a happy memory. I sat and thought for a long while and still couldn’t really bring anything up.

Now, let me  go off for just a moment, not everyone understands depression. I have been told by several different people to just “get over” my depression. For some people, as I have mentioned in a previous post, depression hits as a “one off” thing. They have a passing down-ness and can get passed it rather quickly. However, every single person deals with life in a different way.

For one thing, our bodies are built differently. Balances of emotions, hormones, life experiences, and more, help to determine how we can handle our lives. So those that don’t understand the overwhelming control that depression takes over its sufferers should not criticize those that are there.

Now, to return to my story: The psychiatrist asked me several other questions and determined that I have dealt with chronic depression since early childhood. Though I didn’t want them, I was prescribed anti-depressants. My first couple days I felt very strange… I felt like something was wrong with me, and this was wrong.

Even now, if I want to remember something happy from my past, I have to think really hard for several minutes, and even then, the memories are short and vague.

In high school I was a little melodramatic, most of us are. However, I kept mostly to myself. I didn’t have many, if any, friends. Either I did not eat lunch or I ate alone. Typically I either sat in my class or reading in the library. I honestly kept to myself a lot of the time. I tended to wear darker colors because it was easier. Fewer decisions and bright colors got you noticed.

I was not, however, an over-the-top attention-seeker, not intentionally.

Taking this to the next step, I also have PTSD. The symptoms of this caused me to sometimes act out in strange ways, these could appear to some to be attention-seeking behavior. These actions were usually reactions to my anxiety, flashbacks, high stress levels, and trying to find ways to make the internal pain go away.

After I was raped, My behavior got more confusing. Brace yourself, this is where I get “crazy” though I am not supposed to use that word… in the raw sense of the word, at the time, it was true.

My logical self didn’t know how to make sense of what had happened to me. My OCD intensified. I was “dirty”, I was “broken”, I was… those were thought of a self-punishing, PTSD-triggered OCD, Dysthymic, scared woman.

I was alone for the first time, living in a freshman dorm, and for a long time I was “that strange girl” (honestly I have been that girl all through my school career, because I didn’t know why I acted the way I did. I own it now and thrive off of my differences.) It took me overly-long to admit to myself that I wasn’t at fault. Sadly I kept my secret for several months more, wondering why no-one liked me, why I wouldn’t make friends.

One night, a hall-mate burst into my room while I was crying and demanded that I talk to her. Bless her heart. I finally had a support. My story flowed out of me through broken memories that couldn’t have made much sense to her, but she pulled me into her arms, held me while sobs racked my small body. She repeated to me again and again that it wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t broken. I wasn’t dirty. I was strong, and beautiful, and confused. It was the first time I had gotten so much out and I had gotten love in response.

She gave few enough details to others in the hall that she considered close friends, just enough for them to understand why I was so “strange” but not enough for anyone to have any ammo to judge me. I honestly don’t know what she told them, but suddenly I had friends. Over the next few days I was approached by different people insisting that if he ever showed up to the school, they would tear him apart.

For the first time in my life I felt accepted, welcomed, protected, by friends. I think I have gone off on a tangent. The point of all of that was to attempt to give you an insight into how I lived with my depression. Understand that even now: I struggle with my depression every day. I have a combination of both therapy and anti-depressants… but that doesn’t make me weak. Even though I am still fighting my depression, I am not a lesser person I am still fighting. I am strong.

The most important thing to understand: depression is an illness and it cannot change overnight. Those with depression need support and love. Do what you can to try and make their day a brighter one by being supportive. KNOW that they may not have a different attitude that day, but know that they felt your love. I know that it’s a tiring process. Trust me: I know. But do not doubt that they are also tired of being depressed. If we could change at the drop of a hat, we would.

If you yourself, or someone that you know, has issues understanding depression or how depression affects others, and this post did not help, I urge you to read or share part 1 of the mental health series. Thank you.

I encourage you to comment: agree or disagree with me. I will try to explain everything in a scientific way if needed.

Thank you.

(Read part three)

The Resident Femme

*Note: I may not be a medical professional, but I have lived with depression my entire life.

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#5 Mental Illness—Part One

This specific post was originally written in June of 2014.

I am just going to come right out and say it: Everyone has issues. Not everyone’s issues are of the same caliber. Some people only deal with mental illness once in a rare while, maybe it’s a wave of depression, a really anxiously lived day, a random moment of insanity. . . But there are those whose lives are controlled by Mental Illness.

Mental Illness Is not an attempt at attention, and some people deal with similar situations in different ways. Some people take the pain inside and it festers. It turns into a black poison that tears their soul apart. THIS DOES NOT MAKE THEM WEAK! This means that they are dealing with this pain again and again every day until they learn how to work past it. This makes them strong.

It may seem hard for some to realize this; however, I read something on my Facebook yesterday that I would like to share with you all.

“I don’t like the phrase ‘A Cry For Help’. I just don’t like how it sounds. When somebody says to me

‘I’m thinking about suicide, I have a plan; I just need a reason not to do it, ‘ the last thing I see is helplessness.

“I think: Your depression has been beating you up for years. It’s called you ugly, and stupid, and pathetic, and a failure, for so long that you’ve forgotten that it’s wrong. You don’t see any good in yourself, and you don’t have any hope.

”But still, here you are; You’ve come over to me, banged on my door, and said: ‘Hey! Staying alive is REALLY HARD right now! Just give me something to fight with! I don’t care if it’s a stick! Give me a stick and I can stay alive!’

“How is that helpless? I think that’s incredible. You’re like a Marine: trapped for years behind enemy lines, your gun has been taken away, you’re out of ammo, you’re malnourished, and you’ve probably caught some kind of jungle virus that’s making you hallucinate giant spiders.

“And you’re still just going: ‘Give me a stick. I’m NOT dying out here!’

“ ‘A cry for help’ Makes it sound like I’m supposed to take pity on you. But you don’t need my pity. This isn’t pathetic. This is the will to survive. This is how humans lived long enough to become the dominant species.

“With NO hope, running on NOTHING, you’re ready to cut through a hundred miles of hostile jungle with nothing but a stick, if that’s what it takes to get to safety.
“All I’m doing is handing out sticks. You’re the one staying alive.”

I read this and cried. It is a very true thing for most people. It is a constant struggle to feel normal while trying to live with the world around you

I personally have PTSD, OCD, Conversion Disorder, and Dysthymia. I have been living with consistent anxiety and depression: pretty much my whole life.

I have finally gotten to the point where I was able to accept that I needed to seek help and my current agreement with my therapist is that I will not currently discuss what has caused my issues. Yet. I can let people know that I have the issues, but it is not healthy for me to tell anyone details as to why or what happened.

What I will say is that I have three major things that happened to cause the PTSD, things that I need to figure out how to work through so that I am no longer afraid of the world around me. I sometimes feel like it has been forever. I honestly had no real idea what happiness was even supposed to feel like. I was started on anti-depressants and I remember telling a friend: “I feel like I am malfunctioning. I am glitching and I need to be sent in for repairs.” I did not feel like how I knew myself to be for so long. I was finally being pulled out of my depression and being put into a healthier mental cycle and it felt WRONG.

It should never feel WRONG to feel enjoyment in your own life.

For a very long time I believed that I did not matter. Everyone and everything came before my needs. Because of this way of thinking, I became very sick. I was in a situation where I was living in pure anxiety for several weeks on end. I could not eat, I could not sleep, I couldn’t take notice in myself or anything around me. I was close to 130lbs and I lost almost 30lbs in 2-4 weeks. I was had already had stomach issues and could hardly keep anything down, and now I wasn’t eating.

My moods got worse and I continued to fall deeper and deeper into both mental and physical illness. It has been almost a year and I am still working on getting my stomach back to the size it was before. I have to forcefully remind myself that I have to eat at least three meals a day. (I have alarms on my phone for crying out loud!)

I do not know how to explain how my life is to people. I need the medication I am on right now to survive. They are keeping me in a place where I can value myself and not let myself be buried deeper and deeper in other people’s crap.
I was told in sixth grade that my only weakness was that I cared too much about others and not enough about myself. She never saw me as a broken human, she always saw me as a whole, beautiful, human being that was helping people so much I was hurting myself. It took me a long time and many people repeating these same words for me to understand what they meant.

My life is helping others, but if I do not take the time for me first, then I will not survive. I will wither away and die—literally.

Mental Illness is not something to be taken lightly. If you know someone who struggles with any at all: (Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, Schizophrenia, Anorexia, or one of many other mental disorders, etc.) Please be a support to them.

It is a mistake to accuse them of acting out for attention. In most cases, people are not trying to get you to see them, they are trying to follow what their brain is telling them to do. They hurt and they are afraid. Offer love and a kind shoulder. Offer healthy activities and just be a friend. I know that when I had the loss of friends around me, life got a lot worse. I had nowhere to turn, and so when I needed people and support the most… I locked myself away.

Now that I have friends in my life, people that are willing to sit and help me through my downs… I find myself still having issues with reaching out. It was impossible for so long that it is hard for me to ask for help now.

To my friends: Please understand that I am not trying to hurt you if I start to push you away. It is a safety mechanism. I am afraid. I know that I am hurting and that I do not want to end up hurting you with the $#!+ that I am going through. Sometimes it’s for the best to insist on being in my life, on MAKING ME get out of the house and distract me from what I have been dwelling on. ASK  me if I am working on my senses—hell you don’t even need to know what it means! Just know that it is important to my mental health right now. Ask me if I am alright and if I need some time to breath. Ask me to be a friend, because even if I am not reaching out for it… I need friends more than I ever knew I did.

This kind of turned into a strange rant about mental health. I hope that this post helps people understand that mental illness is not an act. LOVE THE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE WHO HAVE THESE ISSUES. (Also, do not take possible mean things personally; we learn that to survive, it may be safer to be alone. Usually we do not realize that we are pushing/have pushed people away until it is too late.)

(Read Part 2)

~A Girl on the Edge of the Wild~

AKA
The Resident Femme

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