I like the simplicity of this picture I borrowed from Google images. It’s a simple way for me to understand that try as I might, there are reasons those PTSD symptoms still have a firm chokehold on me. The list can be long depending on the time of year and triggers. Today I’m going to write about the three most frustrating for me. I’m still in the process of managing my symptoms, and I understand how they look today may not be how they look in the future.
Flashbacks-The fiercest of my symptoms. They can come at any time, although I can pretty much guarantee that certain things will bring them on. Especially if I need to process something (yet again) that is nagging at me. Could be the time of year, anniversary dates of trauma, or being triggered. I know I need to be patient with my flashbacks. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I understood that I had been having flashbacks for about 30 years. I was casually telling my therapist about an incident I witnessed every night after going to bed. I was telling him how I would wake up each night and witness and event happening outside my window. I was telling him this because I thought it was so unusual that my boyfriend and roommate slept through this every night. He looked at me quizzically and said, “you were having a flashback.” I lived in a very quiet, safe area and what I was describing couldn’t possibly go unnoticed by others. Especially if it happened more than once. I was stunned. I just never thought I was having flashbacks, I just thought it was extraordinary that I had such heavy sleepers every night in my house. So I learned that I since I have been experiencing flashbacks for about 30 years I need to be patient. Ugh! Flashbacks. Ugh! Patience.
Work-Unfortunately the severity of my symptoms have left me with the inability to work full-time, well really even part-time. I’m cleared to work 2 hours a day if I’m having a good day. I simply can’t concentrate. My brain shuts down. I went from having a wonderful job, with stellar benefits to disability. I was in the marketing and recruiting industry. The nice thing is, that I have been able to freelance a bit and help business’s with marketing ideas. But I can’t be in an office setting. My startle response is off the hook sometimes. I was doing some work in a wellness center. When someone would walk in for a massage I would startle and yelp! Talk about feeling unprofessional. And the poor customers who are coming in for a relaxing massage are starting their wellness experience by apologizing for scaring me. Awkward for both of us. Granted I live in the mid-west and we apologize for everything, but still it was awkward. If I push my brain and don’t listen as it starts to shut down, and do just that one more thing it can start a chain reaction of symptoms and send me down for the count for a couple of days. Writing and marketing Untangled, and writing on this blog has been wonderful. I am able to write, which is a skill I developed because I used writing as a healing tool. Writing for me is the light from the dark.
Overwhelmed: The inability to concentrate can be over-whelming for me. I know what I want to and what I want my brain to do but I’m simply unable to do it. I’m too overwhelmed. Making choices at the grocery store, menu choices from a restaurant, even jumping in the car to run errands can feel daunting. Just too many moving pieces. Sometimes as night approaches it feels overwhelming because I know it’s highly probable that sometime during the night I will have nightmares. I practice good sleep hygiene. I’m mindful about what I read or watch on t.v. I set my intentions, find and acknowledge the perfect moments I had during the day, all my bag of tricks, but the nightmares still come.
And sometimes it’s nothing….I’m overwhelmed because I’m a survivor of trauma and have PTSD and that’s just the way it is, even though I wish it was different.
I had to learn and keep reminding myself that I am working hard to heal and it is not anything I did or am doing to cause these symptoms. I’m not perpetuating them, I am living with them. When I lose sight of this I find myself getting very angry at my PTSD. Well, to be honest, I’m often angry at my PTSD, which detracts from the reasons I have it and can interrupt the healing process. So when that happens, I make myself stop, sit down, reflect, rest and try to focus on the goal of what I want for my life.