Take a Moment

Take a moment, rest

be proud of who you are.

You are beautiful

as perfect as

the flower growing 

in the earth. 

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©words and photo Alexis Rose

 

Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

http://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph/dp/1514213222

https://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph-ebook/dp/B013XA4856

 

 

 

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Wait, What? I still have PTSD?

The past few months has been a whirlwind of powerful and positive changes in my life.  My son got engaged to a wonderful woman and we are over the moon excited for the wedding. My daughter, who has struggled so fiercely, is happy, in a good relationship, excelling at the University, and is realizing that she is the intelligent, insightful woman that we all see. I have come to a place where I have processed and accepted my past. I have a huge toolbox of distress tolerance tools and have gotten the answers to the big questions that were hanging out there in my mind, my therapist and I are beginning the process of ending our therapeutic relationship, and finally, I have been hired to do some marketing for three different small business owners. That is nothing but wonderful, exciting, and also painful at times strides, and I make sure and acknowledge how the past few months have propelled my trajectory of healing.

So, why do I still have symptoms of PTSD? Why do I still have flashbacks, why am I still triggered by certain sounds, why can’t I make my brain concentrate for more than two hours at a time, without it shutting down and becoming so overwhelmed that I begin to decompensate? I mistakenly thought that just like when I had cancer and five years later was declared cured and a survivor, that when I finished therapy I would be cured of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s how I approached therapy from the beginning. My therapist, nor anyone else put that thought in my mind, and I never really talked about it, I just thought, Oh, I’m sick, I will do this thing called therapy, incorporate all the tools I’m learning, and then I will be cured.

For me, however, that is not going to be the case. I have some long-lasting effects from the trauma I endured. From the reading I’ve done the past few weeks, and the understanding I have about the extent of the trauma, I’m still going to have PTSD. I’m not intimating that this is a forever illness, I don’t know what the future will hold. But I have accepted that even when therapy stops (or if I need the occasional tune-up) I’m still going to suffer from symptoms. When I was talking to my son about this yesterday, he looked at me and said, “you wouldn’t expect someone in a wheelchair to stand up and walk just because they are done with physical therapy, would you?” I replied, “of course not!” I wonder, is it the invisibility of my illness that makes me so uncomfortable, or is it that I have an illness that makes me so uncomfortable. Maybe both.

I like the simplicity of the picture I included in this post. It’s a simple way for me to understand that try as I might, there are reasons that some PTSD symptoms still have a firm chokehold on me, but I also like the positivity, knowing that this beautiful flower in the photo will only grow through the muddy, murky water. The symptoms that I still struggle with the most are flashbacks, concentration, and getting extremely, sometimes paralyzingly overwhelmed.

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. Could be the time of year, anniversary dates of trauma, or getting triggered. I know I need to be patient with my flashbacks. It wasn’t until about six 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 when I lived in a house with a roommate. I was telling him how I would wake up each night and witness an 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 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 has 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.  The nice thing is, that I have been able to freelance a bit and use my marketing skills.  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.

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.

When my therapist and I had a talk last Friday, and he told me that, “Yep, I will still have PTSD when we are finished working together.” I was disappointed. I wasn’t disappointed that I was ending therapy, I was disappointed because as he was patiently trying once again to help me accept that some wounds are extremely slow to heal, but will heal, I wanted to hear you’re cured. The same words my oncologist said to me just a last year ago.

I have to keep reminding myself that I am working hard to heal and it’s 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 it, which detracts from the reasons I have it and can interrupt my healing process. When the anger and frustration wells up, and start to boil over, I make myself stop, sit down, reflect, rest and try to focus on the goal of what I want for my life. I can acknowledge my progress, watch my children fly from the nest and make adult lives for themselves, and feel good about my ability to contribute to a life I want to have, and still, understand that I have (at least for a while) this invisible illness of PTSD.

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Thank you for reading Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

 

I’m the Hero of my Story

My body is streaked with sweat and dirt from my desperate search to find safe shelter.

I’m barefoot, in a grimy torn t-shirt and shorts; my hands and feet caked with dirt.

My hair is filthy and matted. My mouth is dry; I can smell and taste the gritty dust that hangs in the air.

I sit down on a curb at the side of the road, and I know it’s over.  

All the questions are answered. 

I’m unbelievably weary, all my energy spent in the act of sitting down.

I’m devastated…emotionally, mentally, and physically, and the worst of my wounds are invisible

And I will heal. I’m Okay, I will heal. 

My eyes fill up, but no tears fall. I can only sit amid the rubble, trusting the safety of the gray, silent sky.

But I made it up the many, unforgiving mountain climbs. 

I’m on the other side looking at the carnage, and metabolizing my truth, and I know

that I’m resilient, I’m courageous, I fought through. 

And the words of Joseph Campbell resonate within me. I’m the hero of my story. 

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Thank you for reading Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

http://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph/dp/1514213222

https://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph-ebook/dp/B013XA4856