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

 

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57 thoughts on “Wait, What? I still have PTSD?

  1. starkinsanity September 2, 2016 / 10:55 am

    I was so confused that you had written back, but I think 26 wrote the original comment so that’s confusing! We are taking it easy and trying to be kinder. It helps that in our group, we assign different tasks to different people. I’m usually the one who comes out and does coursework, nineteen handles medical stuff, sixteen is still learning what she can do and fifteen switches in with me to help with the coursework. Hugs to you! Fourteen x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alexis Rose August 14, 2016 / 12:18 pm

    Thank You for your comment. If you decide to read Untangled, it would be great to hear your feedback. I LOVE that you wrote a book on how to write a memoir. It is a daunting task for some on where to start and the difference between a memoir and an autobiography. I hope it has been selling well. 🙂 Alexis

    Like

  3. Diane Taylor August 14, 2016 / 12:12 pm

    PTSD is still not fully recognized, and we need your story (and others like it) to inform some, and to reassure others they are not alone.
    Interesting that your choice of title for your last post The Gifts of a Memoir is so close to my book, The Gift of Memoir, which is a guide book on writing memoir.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. rain poet August 10, 2016 / 7:47 pm

    Your voice and words resonate deeply, thank you for being brave.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Alexis Rose August 10, 2016 / 7:33 pm

    Thank You. I appreciate your feedback. Sometimes those vulnerable posts are hard to publish. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. rain poet August 10, 2016 / 7:16 pm

    Well done for reaching a place where you can reach out to others, and share the gift of healing and resilience by communicating your experience and wisdom. Thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Alexis Rose August 10, 2016 / 12:26 am

    Thank You for reading my post. Im glad you connected with it. Yes, I think being gentle with ourselves helps a lot. I have to remind myself to do that too. Take good care and have a good evening! 💜Alexis

    Like

  8. starkinsanity August 9, 2016 / 11:54 pm

    Thank you for letting us know that the constant brain fog we get is part of PTSD. We tend to beat ourselves up about it, but this post reminds us to try and be gentle to ourselves. 14 is pretty damn good at studying, as is 15, but we all still struggle with the two-hour crash. Thank you for writing this! X

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Alexis Rose August 7, 2016 / 4:53 pm

    Thank You for your wonderfully supportive comment. I really appreciate both your feedback and encouragement. It helps to keep writing. Im so glad we’ve connected! 😀 Alexis

    Liked by 1 person

  10. blkkat49 August 7, 2016 / 4:48 pm

    I cannot imagine your struggles, but I can’t help but acknowledge your accomplishments. It takes courage to face and accept the things that might hold others back. It takes a special kind of person to open up and share their life the way are doing. Actions like this help us to know we’re not alone. Thank you and thank you for following my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Alexis Rose August 2, 2016 / 5:28 pm

    Thank You for your very supportive comment. No doubt, I will keep fighting the good fight. It helps to have wonderful encouragement like your feedback along the way. 💜 Alexis

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Izrael August 2, 2016 / 5:04 pm

    Whatever your son said was the truth. You need to take time for your PTSD to heal. Take things slow and easy first. It will take time and patience for you to overcome the illness. You should be proud with how much you have already achieve in terms of beating it. You are a cancer survivor which shows how strong of a fighter you are. Keep on fighting this battle dear. Much love.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Alexis Rose August 2, 2016 / 2:51 pm

    Thank You for this wonderful feedback. That helps me keep writing. Have a great day! Alexis

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Alexis Rose August 2, 2016 / 2:50 pm

    Thank You so much for reblogging this Jason. I really appreciate it!!

    Like

  15. michnavs August 2, 2016 / 2:17 pm

    I am still in awe … thansk OM for reblogging this..

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Opinionated Man August 2, 2016 / 1:43 pm

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    This was a good read. It was also informative. -OM
    Note: Comments disabled here. Please visit their blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Alexis Rose July 30, 2016 / 8:03 pm

    Thank You Catherine Im glad you could relate and yes, I understand that feeling of being happy to relate and sad that its relateable. Im glad we’ve connected. Have a wonderful weekend! Alexis

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Catherine Whitfield July 30, 2016 / 5:21 pm

    Reading this article and the comments, as sad as it sounds, is somewhat reassuring in some ways and no so in others. They say time heals, I hold onto that… It does feel much easier now than it did even a year ago. Sending healing thoughts xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Alexis Rose July 30, 2016 / 3:12 pm

    Om my gosh Bethany, I’m not sure how I missed this comment. I apologize! Thank You so much for this. I’m glad we can find ways to connect so we don’t feel alone with what we deal with every day. I’m so glad we’ve connected. Have a good weekend! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Alexis Rose July 28, 2016 / 11:52 pm

    This is great insight and a wonderful coping tool you’ve found. Thank You! 💜💜

    Like

  21. Nancy J July 28, 2016 / 11:15 pm

    Triggers are caused by certain tones in voices, images and sound around us, in music, on TV, sights, etc. Some are invisible and blindside us. I started a trigger log. I write down what I am feeling, what time it happened, and what happened just before the trigger hit. It helps me recognize them more easily now, which, in turn, helps me manage my reactions. Hope this helps.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Alexis Rose July 28, 2016 / 2:08 pm

    Wendy, I totally understand the angst you are feeling. I think everyone is different in what they want or need to remember and how it helps their healing journey. Just like no ones trauma is the same, I think our path to health isn’t the same. So I say, do what you and your therapist feels is the best for you. Plus it takes a lot of time. It’s a long road, and never linear. There are still days, when I get triggered and say to myself, “I thought I already dealt with that.” I have been working so hard for 8 years and Im still trying to figure out how to live with PTSD everyday. But I keep trusting my process, even though it’s so painful at times. I’m so glad you wrote what you did. I think there is comfort in knowing we aren’t alone dealing with effects of our trauma, and maybe there is comfort in being able to write (say) to those of us who get-it, how it feels. Thank You for responding to the post. I have a lot of respect for you. Have a good day today! Alexis

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Wendy July 28, 2016 / 1:53 pm

    My father recently died, I had to go to the funeral, I’ve had to see pictures, I’ve been surrounded by things that bring back so much. things I buried a long time ago. Things I can’t put together in my mind. I’ve avoided most of these people for a long time. I know what some did. I don’t know all of what happened. I’m not sure if I want to. Is that so wrong? I don’t want to hate any more. I just want this to be over. But the dreams won’t stop, and the feelings won’t stop, and I’ll see something on TV and it’ll bring back things, I’ll read something…..it won’t stop. I don’t talk about this openly because I don’t remember everything. I know some. But the major components are a blur. I don’t want my sister to hear any of this unless I can remember it all. Since I can’t remember it all people will think I’m making it all up. I’m not. I can feel what happened to me. I can smell it. The scents bring back flash backs.
    Is it wrong to just want it to stop.
    I finally have a good relationship with my sister.
    My father is gone.
    Do I really need to do this? sorry to just let it all out here.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Alexis Rose July 28, 2016 / 3:18 am

    Thank You. I really appreciate that! 💜💜

    Like

  25. Alexis Rose July 28, 2016 / 3:16 am

    Thank You, Robert. Its great we can all support each other. I really, really respect you and what you write. Have a good night (or morning? Depending where you live) Alexis

    Liked by 1 person

  26. carlalouise89 July 28, 2016 / 3:05 am

    Really fantastic post! I loved it!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Robert Matthew Goldstein July 28, 2016 / 3:01 am

    I think that this is an important issue for people in treatment for trauma. Recovery sometimes means learning to live with symptom flare ups. I’m so happy for you that you’ve gotten this far–thank you again for writing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Alexis Rose July 28, 2016 / 2:54 am

    Thank You so much for reblogging this. I really appreciate it! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Alexis Rose July 28, 2016 / 2:53 am

    Yes, I totally agree with you! There are many levels of trauma for some of us. Im grateful for what our minds do to protect us enough to survive. Thank You for this very insightful comment.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Robert Matthew Goldstein July 28, 2016 / 2:48 am

    Some of us are more traumatized than others.

    The symptoms may completely go away only to resurface years later.

    Psychiatry still doesn’t understand the complexity of the human mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. bethanyk July 27, 2016 / 7:50 pm

    Every single word of your post helped me to not feel alone in this.thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Alexis Rose July 27, 2016 / 7:20 pm

    Thank You Jackie. Its all so interesting to find words to describe it. And, so frustrating when those triggers can happen by virtue of seening someone who reminds us of a perpetrator. Hope the rest of the day goes smooth as silk my friend. ❤️❤️

    Like

  33. Jacqueline S. Zeigler July 27, 2016 / 6:03 pm

    So so true. And so hard to accept. Just because I’m down to one med, started thinking I was “cured.” It’s alot more like remission, although that doesn’t really does tube it either. It’s just at some times it’s easier to cope than others. Trigger today. A snot nose punk who reminded of a perpetrator. Who would have thunk?😑

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Alexis Rose July 27, 2016 / 5:55 pm

    Thank You for your feedback. Yes, that comparing and wanting it to be better can be a slippery slope for me too. It takes away the hard work that we’ve done in our healing. I have to be careful, which is why Im so grateful for all of our blogs. 💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Alexis Rose July 27, 2016 / 5:53 pm

    Oh that me feel so validated and so sad at the same time. But since we both can relate to this, Im glad we can do it together. 💜

    Like

  36. Alexis Rose July 27, 2016 / 5:52 pm

    Thank You for responding. There is such a comfort in knowing we arent alone on this path dealing with this! Im glad we’ve connected!

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Alexis Rose July 27, 2016 / 5:50 pm

    Thank You for your feedback Sheri. I SO know what you’re talking about when it comes to a song. Its so frusttating, you just want to listen to the radio without thought and sing! Glad you can usually shake off the triggers. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Alexis Rose July 27, 2016 / 5:47 pm

    Thank You so much Tamara! Wow, I appreciate this so, so much!! 💜💜

    Like

  39. grace to survive July 27, 2016 / 5:21 pm

    It helpful that you share this because I often compare myself to others finding myself lacking. It is important to show myself more compassion for my struggles, not less.
    I especially like this part: ” stop, sit down, reflect, rest and try to focus on the goal of what I want for my life.”

    Liked by 1 person

  40. thesumoflifeisthetotal July 27, 2016 / 5:12 pm

    It’s a long road. I’m a bit better than I was but it doesn’t take much to tip me. I expect I’ll have it forever…but I also hope that it won’t always effect me to the point that it has. You’re not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Sheri July 27, 2016 / 4:50 pm

    It’s so frustrating when a snippet of a song or a photograph trigger PTSD so many years after the fact. I end up with misplaced anger with myself for not being as healed as I assumed I was. A small amount of grieving is then necessary, and I can usually shake it off and keep moving forward.

    Liked by 2 people

  42. Tamara Kulish July 27, 2016 / 4:05 pm

    I Tweeted this article! Powerful!

    Peace, Tamara

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Alexis Rose July 27, 2016 / 3:35 pm

    Thank You for commenting. It always feels really good when I open up like that and someone can relate. That vulnerable place when you hit publish! I’m hoping to continue to heal, and grow and change and apply the tools I have learned. If I need help, I’m sure I will seek it out…well, at I hope at this point I would. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  44. tarnishedsoul July 27, 2016 / 3:28 pm

    I am an ex-cop and there are times I have wondered if I will always have PTSD. I have other mental ailments, as well, that are more significant. But I have come to realize and accept that there is no definitive “cure”, only methods of management. Our experiences in life are as unique as we are, so our ways to deal with things will also be unique. I would suspect you and your therapist have done an awesome job of coming up with ways to deal with things, and now you are at a point where you can take these skills and apply them yourself. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

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