How do you get PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)?
I don’t know that there is a pat answer to this question. Soldiers, those in combat, hostage takings (which I once was in the remand centre while in the line of duty years ago – and while I was not a hostage or even working in the section of the jail where it took place, we were all in lock down for many hours and they brought debriefing teams in to help us cope with what we’d gone through). That was just one day! Not months of recovery from horrific car accidents, war, multiple losses, shootings or other catastrophic events that thrust the human psyche beyond it’s own protective walls holding it hostage for months or even years at a time.
What I understand is that some of us may never fully recover. Shock after shock and trauma after in an 18 month period that was brutally relentless with loss after loss, shock after shock and death after death (literal and figuratively), is the way I got it. Those are what still trigger me.
Today I had to think about how I will pay my rent. The day was fog-ridden in my brain with much of my time struggling to think straight. I have 600 dollars and my rent is 750 (a good deal as it includes heat, hydro, cable, internet, laundry and hot water). So I am trying to figure out how to do this by the first of June.
I had to make a phone call I did not want to make and spent four hours upset about it before I finally followed through. The call ended badly, with him defending my former bestie who deleted the messages I left him on my own former home number on my own former answering machine in my own former home. Instead of saying, don’t worry, I will do what the court told me to, don’t worry, he escalated our exchange. He is an escalator and a blamer. I hung up on him. I wish the courts would just deal directly with him. This left me crying and triggered pretty high but because I slept so little last night due to these worries, I am so exhausted now, I will probably sleep well tonight.
A lovely lady who helped me with a ream of paper work understood PTSD without me saying a word. Their family had a house fire when their daughter was in grade school. No one was hurt but the girl was so traumatized and fearful that she was in her teens before the symptoms of PTSD (anxiety, hypervigilance, overwhelmed, brain flooding, headaches and crying) began to lessen their hold on her psyche. She would even avoid the area of the house long since repaired or tiptoe around it fearfully looking at those rooms as if they could still somehow hurt her. Her sleep was fitful, she couldn’t concentrate in school where she’d been doing very well prior to the fire and nightmares plagued her relentlessly. I understand this. This is exactly my experience but for entirely different trauma/shocks.
There was never any room for my needs in my marriage or many of my friendships and three sister relationships. This is because I was so busy being “there” for them, I never even voiced any needs of my own. Even if I had, they were incapable of hearing me and often “blamed” me or “shamed” me for having any. Then again, I didn’t even know what those needs were. I sure know what I don’t need now.
Once when my mother-in-law and I had one of our all night talks, she said that knowing what you want out of life is the most difficult thing to determine. I think she was right. For all of my life I was taught/trained to put others needs first, to make sure everyone else was happy. It was almost as though I didn’t really exist. Or was invisible. And I was.
If I tried to say ‘hey, I am worth something, look what I just achieved’ I was shot down and abused, my achievement nothing and my abilities criticized though I was successful in most things I did to the point of getting straight A’s or graduating with 97%. Sometimes I want to just lay down and sleep forever, it feels like I’ll never have peace in my life again. There will always be court with torment present in the form of my former friend who has no business in my business. There are always money stresses and yet, some days, it’s all I can do to get myself groomed and dressed never mind try to do more.
I know now that was wrong, that healthy relationships are reciprocal and caring about your needs is what healthy people do. They ask you, they actually even want to know… it’s amazing to me to be this age and just now learning this.
It’s also amazing to think that writing, the desire to write something, anything from a three lined haiku to a rant about recycling methods or just talking about this PTSD experience can give me a sense of achieving something and I really am. I live to write and I write to live.
Taking so much in stride for decades, I was able to put myself on the shelf and accommodate people I loved to the point that they grew to expect it and when I dared complain once of cleaning up after family visiting my own home, I was told promptly, “We are on vacation.”
There is still no room for me even as I fight my hardest to get through these days, when tormented by the mockery of those who shattered my psyche with their nasty, hidden-agenda secrets that expoded my soul in 2011 into splinters of my former self and I have been fighting to find my way back ever since.
The truth is, according the Trauma Counselor(s), PTSD psychologist(s) and top notch psychiatrist who is among the best in her profession and also a local hospital administrator, I may never return to the stores of energy I once had, or felt I had. This may be as good as it gets. And that’s really okay with me. As long as I can write, I will be okay. I told the Trauma Counselor that if I ever stop writing, I will die. So I write when I can in bursts that I can’t predict for brief periods and then I flatline for hours because my eyes hurt, my head hurts, my brain aches and I am exhausted. But it still feels good and I’m glad I can at least write.
Blogging was the best idea my friends ever had because once I started, I felt bad if I didn’t write something for a spell and felt I would let people/subscribers down if I didn’t keep my blog active. It gave me a purpose to get up, to do something, even if it only took 15 minutes, I could tell myself, Yay, you did it!!!
Everything is exhausting and has to be planned to the tiniest detail. Any shocks, surprises, jolts or triggers can throw me and render me incapable of doing anything and not just for a day but for many in a row.
On a good day I am able to attend a class in coping with PTSD or pick up a couple of groceries or even visit with a friend. On the rare extremely good day, I rest up to celebrate a friends birthday out (I do not smoke, drink or do drugs) or even do my taxes which I recently did online. However, when you have no income, that’s an easy chore. Unlike the days when I find I am too anxious to even leave my little apartment because of all the hatred, angst and cruelty in the world.
On dark, hurtful days, as in court in February when SHE had the nerve to show up at MY court hearing with MY husband, SHE who was more close friend, siphoning off my already broken psyche and joining him to verbally and in her own handwriting, abuse me even further to the point she physically kicked me, I plan my death. It feels so unfair, so wrong and so unjust that she got away with that and my life is in tatters.
Make no mistake. This is no pity party. If pity was all I wanted, I would write you the gory details, the like of which I’m sure would almost shock you into PTSD yourself. It really is an unbelievable story where friends and sisters you thought you could lean on blame, belittle, demean and mock you all to make themselves and their ill choices to use you when they need to okay with themselves.
I’m almost used to it now. Wait. I hope I never get used to it because it causes me to ponder whether I can continue on in a world so full of hurt that there is no safe place.
Still, when I think about how bad I once was, unable to speak properly and so overwhelmed with my brain flooding to protect itself, I see some progress inch by inch. It doesn’t take much for me to be triggered (see part 5) by the abuse(s) of others and I realize I’m not stuttering much any more as the frequency and duration of the triggers decrease. Still, court is not done yet.
When I look around my place, it looks better. The stacks of laundry everywhere are shrinking. The days of dishes are getting done up in less than a week now. The patio looks pretty and ready for reading. Last year I wasn’t really interested in anything. This year, I am counting my blessings in new friends, friendships based on reciprocity and compromise with trust and healthy communication the foundation.
This year, I am interested in figuring out how to beat this thing called PTSD. If I ever can. The thing is, a couple of days a month, I get the big idea that I’m pretty good, almost back to normal but when I look at the entire month, I see that two or three days out of thirty is not that great. And the thing is, you never know which 2 or 3 days it will be. Still, that’s two or three days a month more than I had in 2011 after the bomb dropped and more than I had all of 2012 after she physically assaulted me.
It may not seem like much but it’s something. This, these windows of time amounting to two to three days per month of decent time spent are what give me hope that I will be better someday. It’s all I have really. Everything else was destroyed. Hope really does float on dreams of better things ahead.
I know I’ll make the rent okay now anyway, I have enough credit to tide me over until next court in September but that is all. Hoping it is fairly settled at court so I can leave this nightmare behind me permanently.
More next time, my friends.