4

Always doubled up inside

“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 PTS 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 PTS 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.

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.

 

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6

In my shoes, walking sleep

I’ve been wanting to write a new blog for a while but lacked any inspiration or motivation to get going on it. Also things were humming along quite well so I was doing things and generally making hay while the sun shined. A number of things have occurred recently that have given me the impetus and material to get something down on virtual paper.

I’m currently in another relapse of my anxiety symptoms, whilst this is highly inconvenient and frustrating I’m still functioning, at a slightly reduced level but functioning nonetheless. This brings with it a reemergence of fear, terror on occasion, trembling, crying at points and the old favourite – racing obsessive thoughts. I come at this all now from a point of view of knowledge and familiarity, I know what this all is and that at least makes it more manageable. It doesn’t mean I’m enjoying myself, it still stinks but its not overwhelming.

As always there has been a trigger for this and this is my main reason for writing today because triggers are a funny thing, they are not always necessarily ‘bad’ things and the effect seems to arrive days after the actual triggering event when you’ve forgotten all about it and are wondering why you feel funny now.

The past month or so has been great, I had lots of ‘good brain’ days, feeling upbeat, positive and my energy is getting even better. Hooray! Then my appointment to see the neuropsychiatrist came through, this was made to help me get a handle on my moods and anxiety but I seem to cope with this myself now better than I used to. I went anyway with the aim of talking about a funny sensation I’ve been having for well over a year now that other health services have kind of ignored and something which I myself wrote off as fatigue. I call them my ‘slumps’ they happen throughout the day and have varying symptoms similar to anxiety but they are quite overwhelming and make me tired. They vary in intensity and sometimes don’t occur at all. When I first started noticing them they used to last for hours and cause distress, my face would feel hot, my eyes would feel heavy and I’d end up crying from a rush of emotion they caused.  Now they are less intense and a lot more manageable (this is good news).

So I mentioned these to the neuropsych and said I have tried everything to figure them out (blood tests for EVERYTHING, napping, powering through, vitamins, howling at the moon etc) but there seems to be no explanation yet and I’m quite frankly getting a bit sick of them because they eat into my day. I suggested as a last gasp that I’m concerned they may be an issue with my Temporal Lobe caused by the brain injury. He said it’s a possibility but the fact they are improving is a good sign (I dont tend to get them on days where I’m relaxed and happy so this also could point to them being mood/psychology related, a last remaining crumb of trauma in the body perhaps?). But he said there’s no harm in getting it checked for my peace of mind and just to see. So you find braingirl waiting for an appointment for an EEG and a CT scan to look inside my noggin and check for gremlins.

EEG

If there’s something there its easily solvable with epilepsy meds (which I’m already on) but that doesn’t stop the old voice of doom chattering away telling me all is lost. He also warned me that there could be no reason and that it’s unexplained so I may just have to accept them for now for what they are. I’m prepared for all this as at least it crosses something off the list and I know my brain is ok. Hospital appointments, brain scans, health anxiety. BING BONG TRIGGER NUMBER 1.

I left his office feeling good that something was finally being done, feeling quite optimistic off this I decided to go and do one of my tasks which was to enrol at college, yes, you heard it, I’m going back to school in September. I’m doing a Counselling course, I was nervous about being in the building and even though this is an extremely positive step it is PETRIFYING. People, noise, focus, expectation, studying eek! BING BONG TRIGGER NUMBER 2.

I also signed on the dotted line for volunteering at a local open farm, I love the outdoors and animals so this was perfect for me. Again, noise, people, expectation, being out of my bubble. BING BONG TRIGGER NUMBER 3.

Add to this the delights of a particularly horrendous episode of PMT and we have Hurricane Anxiety approaching from the East.

So yes, I’m feeling a bit rubbish right now in a bit of a daze, worrying, but I know why, I’ve pushed my limits in a positive way and it has impacted on me by my brain trying to make me retreat back to the trenches again. UNSAFE! UNSAFE! YOU NEED TO HIDE QUICK, THE WORLD IS SCARY BRAINGIRL, LOOK WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DO THINGS, I TOLD YOU TO FREEZE AND NEVER MOVE AGAIN!!!

I’ll bounce out eventually but for now I’m scared again and that’s ok, It’s ok to feel what I feel, I don’t punish myself for these things anymore.