As a recurrent PTSD sufferer since summer 2010, I want everyone to know what this means. I did NOT lose my intelligence. I LOST my COPING SKILLS.
Just because I tremble a lot or often stammer when I say things or have to take medicine to keep me from curling up into an embryo forever more does NOT mean my brain lost everything I ever learned. What it does mean is that my brain overloads and I can’t think straight sometimes.
Any kind of stress or pressure, unfairness or abuse from ANY source can trigger my symptoms even worse. I misplace words in my mind and cannot think of the correct one as in compilation and completion, etc. The only thing I seem to do well these days is write. If I am fooling myself about that, I apologize for my errors or typos.
It’s hard work to decipher what someone else means when you read jumble on a page. It’s even harder to decipher what you mean with a million words swimming in your head with a veil of fog separating you from accessing them and the angst rising in your throat in stammers and gasps that you are frustrated about.
Sometimes I feel like an old, old lady. I must do everything so slowly and carefully to make sure I don’t forget anything important. I have become one of those people who hold the line up for ages and cannot help it because if anyone behind me complains or sighs impatiently, I drop things and take even longer, shake and sometimes cannot think at all, ask the clerk or service person to repeat what they said three or four times. It’s horrible. I was always so respected professionally and personally for my excellent communication skills. But they fail me often these days.
Since I never knew much about PTSD, never in my life took anti-anxiety or antidepressants until the summer of 2010 when I lost my mother, job, dog, boyfriend and had a major health issue that landed me on my face on the bathroom floor, breaking my nose in three places (all of this after five straight years of marriage crises, emergency health crises, my mother getting cancer, making major life changes, moving, loss of income, etc etc etc). Other times when my blood pressure dropped (it stopped by the time I got into the specialist and they still don’t know why my blood pressure dropped so suddenly or so often), I would crack the back of my head on a wall, once went down in the park and came to with my head on my purse, luckily, my right hand and knee bleeding on the path.
As one who dislikes medication of any sort, I refused. At first. Then when I went fourteen days without sleep after Mom died, I had to do something and went to the Doctor. Before I go any further, I need to say I really can only speak to my own experience. But I know many have endured same from what I have read online to date and the books I have around me helping me realize this really can be temporary.
Though, when I asked the therapist yesterday if I would ever be the strong woman I once was, she said only, “It is possible. There are no guarantees.”
Part of me knows this is fair answer. She has no crystal ball. But I still wish I knew because each time I am “TRIGGERED” as in the past week, every single symptom roars up with a vengeance and I feel more and more frail about fighting it. As if I’ll never be free of this.
Because the processes of dealing with my ex and the loss of a long time friend because of his and her sleazy, conniving actions and choices, just keeps reawakening all the pains and hurts I lived through in the marriage many times over already. Over. And Over. And Over. Yet they continue on, torturing and tormenting my already raped and violated psyche, each knowing I have no support because they took it away. Neither caring if I am suicidal or dead. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I believe they both WANT me dead and won’t stop until they have their way.
Oh yes, I know what self-talk, re-directing and grounding are. Too well. But they don’t always work. Sometimes I don’t even have the energy to call a friend. Even if that is precisely what I should be doing.
But I do know this. Anyone suffering through anything does not need to hear what they already know:
Well, what can you do for yourself?
Oh, Sensitive One, don’t you think if I knew the answer to THAT, I would not be in this situation at all.
This will pass, in a couple of months, things will improve.
You should be over that by now.
Over what? It’s like grieving. There is no certain time frame. It takes as long as it takes.
If it keeps being retriggered by the nastiness of others, you are already into the symptoms before you can think straight… when I stammered on the phone the other night, my ex said “N-N-N, Jesus, Janice, here we go, poor Janice the victim again.”
No. Not victim. I survived all your evil doing AND BLAMING ME for it all plus your alcoholism, smoking, gambling and internet addictions while we were married. I also survived you mocking me yet again when I am in such a weak position although I shook like a leaf for hours afterward.
Unfortunately, I have had one blast after another hammering at me since summer 2010 with no family support whatsoever other than long distance relatives who send email messages. Just the other night I finally shared with my former best friend the true reasons my marriage failed. Prior to that, nobody knows what I really went through. They know snippets but only what I could share without coming unglued. Now my former friend knows the information I only ever shared with therapists before HE triggered me again the other night.
Some day I might make it public but I don’t have any need to destroy his life in the way that those two have so perfectly destroyed mine. And she is a nurse. Yes. Working in health care and yet CHOSE to trust him over me. Idiot. They deserve one another. I told her she suffered from fairy tale imaginings many times over the years and she has just proven it. In spades. How can she even WANT a man capable of such things? I sure as hell don’t and I was horrified SHE does – until I found out all she knows about his is alcoholism, gambling, smoking and internet porn addiction. But you’d think, wouldn’t that be enough to put you off? It sure as hell put me off him. As a husband. He was never a good husband. He even called himself “just a paycheck” many times, admitting that he was really really sorry for all the years of pain he caused me. But those lucid moments of his were few and far between.
We were friends after I left and we were so peaceful as friends, my sisters said, you two are way better friends than anything and it’s true, we could still have long conversations or attend functions without being nasty to one another. But SHE has now made that impossible, too. As well as removing herself as a trustworthy friend. Two more losses for me. Imagine.
The therapist counted my major losses in the past five years and reached nearly twenty, most of those in the past two to three years. Loss after loss after loss. My GP says, Janice, when are we going to get you out from under that dark cloud that keeps following you? I don’t frigging know. Some days I can barely get out of bed or think straight. When I was helping my senior friend recently, I panicked all the time that I would forget to do something right for her and one day I left the keys to her home in the door all day until I left that night.
On bad days, I stagger like a drunk person. On good days I probably look pretty happy but inside, I’m still nervous that it’s only temporary because I am struggling to break out of something I find so difficult to control, it’s like it overtakes me before I know it. But whatever kind of day I am having, I am not suddenly “stupid,” I just lost my coping skills.
As a Highly Sensitive Person who has always been the helper, the caregiver or caretaker or peacemaker, the one who resolved conflict between a brother and sister even as I was sick with H1N1 myself so that they would attend Thanksgiving in the presence of one another for Mom’s sake. The kid who went to the grocery store and stole macaroni at thirteen to cook it for the little ones.
The wife who hid everything so well for nearly 35 years, she was able to achieve much professionally, personally and appear the competent one who had it altogether so that people from mom and sisters to friends and co-workers would call on me for advice or help with their situations or problems. I have no idea what it feels like to be taken care of nor what it feels like to “lean.” I have no safe places to do so. They all prove deceitful since I have been fighting PTSD, adding to my battle. Just battle weary.
It would really be nice if people stopped judging just because I don’t have a cast on my head. In my opinion, if anyone is stupid, it is those ignorant folks who mock, turn away, don’t even try to be kind and understand. Though my face was black and blue for nearly eight weeks in early 2011 from breaking my nose in three places. Still, it was the craziest thing because my face wasn’t aching after the first couple of weeks, yet everyone was so sympathetic and helpful, horrified to see my purple blue face against my pale complexion. I even went to an interview with it. I had no choice, I had to try for the job.
That’s another big worrry. I still don’t have a job. Anyway before I get myself all stressed out again with hyper vigilance and angst, to have as fitful a broken sleep as I had last night, let me just share this quote and tell you that writing helps me, I don’t know what works for others but writing helps me. Kindness also helps me because it confirms there are still some kind hearted people in the world who do not wish me ill as those who emotionally abuse me so obviously do. Here’s the passage:“This man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavouring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched. It is a fact, however surprising. And when this occurs to us we are moved to deal kindly with him, to bid him be of good cheer, to let him understand that we are also fighting a battle; we are bound not to irritate him, nor press hardly upon him nor help his lower self.”
Credit: 1903, The Homely Virtues by John Watson, Courtesy, Page 168, Hodder & Stoughton, London. (Google Books full view) link
- PTSD and Suicide Risk (everydayhealth.com)