“No trauma has discrete edges. Trauma bleeds. Out of wounds and across boundaries.” ― Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams: Essays
Trigger Warning: If you have PTSD this could be a potentially triggering post. If you’re feeling a little under the weather I advise caution to proceed.
This post was going to be about something completely different, I had it planned a few weeks ago and was ready to write but then out of the blue (or not) I got a spike in my Post Traumatic Stress symptoms. For approximately 3 weeks I’ve been rendered immobile, exhausted and terrifed. So the nice positive post I wanted to do has been shelved until a later date and I decided to write about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is usually diagnosed using 3 main symptom groups, they are:
1) Re-experiencing the event – feeling you are experiencing the event again physically or mentally
2) Arousal reactions – persistantly nervous, agitated, hyper vigilant, hightened startle response, sleep issues.
3) Avoidance reactions – isolating yourself,shutting down emotions and withdrawal from life.
I have a bit of 1 and lots of 2 and 3 and at times they are completely disabling.
My PTSD is fortunately not constant, I have had months of normal up and down life but 3 weeks ago it was triggered by something (skating, too many meetings in one week talking about my TBI, pushing myself too much, historical memories of coming out of denial around this time in 2013) and it smashed me right in the face again. I’ve been pondering about how to describe PTSD and it’s almost impossible to convey in words how it feels. I have been having intrusive memories of my accident in the form of strange nasal blockages and a runny nose (apparently, I was vomiting liquid and it was coming out of my nose whilst I was unconcious) and no it’s not a cold, its a very specific feeling I have had before in the year post surgery. I would be on the verge of sleep and my brain would go “Hey, remember when you were on the floor blind before you passed out, that was fun wasn’t it?” I was, up until about 5 days ago having nightmares and waking up with my heart racing, I have constant loud tinnitus and high anxiety as well as palpitations. I am jumping at small noises and have been back under the duvet of inpenatrable safety for almost 2 weeks, this is due to fear and extreme fatigue that seem to swoop in from nowhere. Don’t even get me started on the crying at everything all the time and the crippling lonlieness (this is the absolute worst, no one can help you, you are alone in there like some screwed up version of The Crystal Maze that makes you cry and you dont even get a go in the crystal dome). These are the physical and psychological manifestations and I’m enough of an old hand at this now to realise that it is PTSD and not reality, it’s not a danger and it will pass. Knowing this doesn’t make it hurt less but it helps ride the wave.
Seeing these symptoms written down however doesn’t convey how it really feels inside, the actual emotional battering. I would get to the end of each day feeling like I had been beaten up, I lived in my pyjamas again and my skin kind of looked grey and flat. The pain, and I’m talking soul pain here not physical pain, is beyond measure. It’s like a dark hole has opened inside my body and swallowed anything there that resembles human being-ness (if that’s a word). I disconnect with myself, with my partner and the world around me. I have no idea what day it is, what time it is and I feel NOTHING. I don’t love, I don’t find joy, everything becomes a pointless exercise. My thoughts became fast and intrusive and I felt like I was going crazy, things I thought I’d dealt with return as though the progress I’ve made over the last 12 months means nothing. I was literally holding on by my fingertips.
It was at this point I thought I didn’t want to go on anymore and just slipping away quietly was appealing.
I wasn’t suicidal, just tired and scared and worn out. This is when I know I have hit rock bottom. It’s not my intention to bum you all out with this post but this stuff is part of my experience and it’s the only way I know how to inform and support.
The thing with rock bottom is you can’t get any lower and the only way is climb back up. Once the crying starts to subside and the thoughts slow down I know it’s weakening it’s grip, I help it along by trying to accept what is and just rolling with it (this is extremely difficult Jedi Zen level work when you are in the vortex). Then I get ANGRY, I love it when the anger comes as it’s a springboard out of the bottom for me, getting angry spurs me on, it helps me access my strength and the higher emotions I want to reach for. After anger I get sad, I’m sad right now but I’m less tired and more able to engage, I even left the house yesterday for a walk and got it together enough to write this. I look at the timeline of all this and feel most frustrated about two things 1) I have absolutely no say in when this happens and 2) the time it eats, I’ve just lost 3 weeks of my life. I could argue those 3 weeks are important healing weeks, they are weeks that help me learn and grow but sheesh, after 29 months it’s ok to get a bit peeved with THE TIME THIS IS TAKING.
I like to try and end on a positive so I will say yes it hurts me more than anything I’ve ever experienced but it passed, I learnt more about my condition and my coping skills, I handled it better than the last one and I absolutely know I am a warrior.
If you are a PTSD warrior like me please reach out and please know this too will pass.
p.s. The next post will be a guest post written by none other than Mummy Braingirl.