Another addition to my Monthly Mental Health Awareness Series, and this month of May, it is all about PTSD, also known as post-traumatic stress disorder.
This is something I have no first-hand experience of and little knowledge of. I have enjoyed learning more and become more capable of understanding and aware of it.
However, I still felt it more effective for a sufferer themselves to discuss what it is, who suffers, symptoms and what it means long term. If you have followed my blog for a while you will have read this wonderful blogger before. Will Cornell, talks about PTSD below to raise awareness, to read more of his story and about Will, click here, for his guest post!
‘What is PTSD?
Everyone has heard of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, you may have it, or know someone who suffers from the illness. Today I wanted to explain exactly what PTSD is, how it affects the individual, and how that person can recover. It is a terrible disease that plagues our military Veterans, and civilians alike. Though it is more common in Military, Law Enforcement, Medical Professionals, and Sexual Assault Victims.
The definition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)- A condition of persistent mental or emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock.
Who suffers from PTSD?
The condition can occur after almost any traumatic event, car crash, IED attack, physical harm, sexual assault, natural disasters, repeatedly witnessing horrific scenes (first responders), and any number of other events.
It can affect anyone that experiences or witnesses a traumatic event.
Intense, prolonged, or repeated events.
Common among military personnel deployed to combat zones.
Anyone can be affected by the illness.
Symptoms of PTSD.
Symptoms can present in many different ways, or a combination of ways. There are four types of PTSD, but many individuals suffer from aspects of each type. Symptoms can present right after the event, or years later.
Reliving the Event- Can present in many forms, including repeated bad memories, nightmares, reliving the traumatic event, and flashback.
Avoidance Coping- Avoiding people or situations that remind the individual of the event. Avoiding thinking about or talking about an event.
Negative Beliefs- The way the individual perceives themselves, or the world. Overly thinking the world is a terrible place, or something bad is going to happen.
Feeling Keyed Up- Always on alert, hyper vigilant. Trouble concentrating. Sudden mood changes such as anger or irritability, sleep problems. Generally acting in unhealthy ways.
Can PTSD be cured?
In most case’s PTSD symptoms are not completely eliminated. The person may see progress for months, and then something triggers them. Bringing back the symptoms. Most have a reduction in severity of symptoms, but it is something the person will deal with the rest of their lives. PTSD can be treated in many different ways. There are multiple styles of therapy that help with the condition, including, ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), Trauma focused therapy, and many others. Your health care provider may prescribe drugs to combat certain symptoms. The person should sit down with a therapist they are comfortable with and construct a plan targeting each individuals symptoms. Know that eventually in therapy, the person will need to step out of their comfort zone to begin to process specific events.’
I hate to say it, but Will probably is the embodiment of what you expect of a PTSD sufferer, as many people only connect it to the military. But, as Will said, it can affect anyone and does affect anyone, here is Lulu’s story. Lulu has been a friend of mine since I joined the blogging community, and he, unlike Will, has never stepped foot on a combat zone. Yet, still suffers from the debilitating and horrendous symptoms alike.
A Bio on Lulu before I end my blog with more on his life with PTSD. Lulu has multiple mental health conditions, including multiple PTSD’s, several phobias (social, emeto, carno, copro & hemo), anxiety (GAD) and chronic depression. Lulu’s PTSD is extremely complex and has derived from multiple events between the ages of birth to 19. These include him being a victim of a cult, parental abuse, witnessing domestic violence and politically related trauma. All of these things just like Will, fill his days with triggers and repercussions of the traumas.
My symptoms include, in varied levels of intensity and frequencies:
Hyper-vigilance (resulting in GAD),
Intrusive/pervasive thoughts and nightmares, with graphic details that add to my hemophobia (phobia of blood); or flashbacks that come with no warning and can hit me anywhere, anytime, in a multitude of levels,
Depersonalization; dissociation; feelings of surroundings and/or myself isn’t real ;
Time distortions; psychotic episodes
Mood swings; alternating between opposite extremes, such as emotional numbing, or hyper-emotional outbursts, or moments of rage switching to total apathy; chronic depression ;
My hyper-vigilance and GAD mixture are direct results of multiple traumas. They left me feeling vulnerable, a huge portion of my life, more or less daily, more or less in any given situation. This is exacerbated in new situations where the unknown factor plays tricks and keeps me alert as to possible negative outcomes.
Hyper-vigilance is that fight or flight mode, where I expect any number of adversities and oppositions to delay or put my life in danger.
As part of my traumas are about domestic violence, I cannot watch it happening in real or in fiction; couples bickering in the streets, or movies/ tv shows where domestic violence is the main plot, I cannot watch, as it systematically triggers me.
Intrusive, pervasive thoughts or nightmares are those that enter our brain (respectively in conscious or not state) and lingers against our wishes. Again, like that family member, or that person we never wanted as a friend but is there every day, or often enough to be a nuisance.
Flashbacks can also occur, and strike with no warning, even in the most innocuous daily routine activities, or pleasant ones for that matter : during flashbacks, a trauma of the past becomes a new present, lived over and over again, with intrusive and pervasive images hitting my mind, or sensations traversing my body despite my best attempts to ward them all off.
Flashbacks, intrusive thoughts and nightmares are moments where I re-live and re-experience the traumatic moment, sometimes in repeated loops, during which I’m not here anymore.
When flashback occurs, the past makes a flash-forward ; it jumps and connects the past to the present moment, and it becomes utterly difficult, if not impossible, to distract away from it once it’s here, as the onslaught of images and sensations take control and I become uncommunicative, as I’m no longer in the present moment, but brought into the past, in a trip that is faster than any sci-fi means to time-travel, and without the artificial tools to achieve it.
When nightmares occur, they tend to be related to my traumas. I’ve woken up from PTSD nightmares in a sweat; I’ve seen scratches on my arms and was told by my wife that I had them on my back as well. I’m still not sure how I’d even managed to reach those areas in my sleep, as I cannot do that in my waking! At least, I don’t get those scratches anymore, but a few years ago, they were systematic.
As for depersonalization; dissociation; feelings of surroundings and/or myself isn’t real; time distortions; psychotic episodes; all these are those moments where my person, or my life, or my surroundings, appear outside of me, and not me ; things feel like I’m not real and never were, and are ways my brain tries to deal with the overload of trauma, by shutting down my perceptions of reality.
Mood swings and alterations are probably my most permanent and repeated symptoms. I alternate between opposite extremes,
such as emotional numbing, or hyper-emotional outbursts, or moments of rage switching to total apathy ; and have lived with chronic depression all my life. Mood swings can mean that I feel ok one moment but sad, depressed the next, or raging with anger yet another moment.
Even one form of trauma can be difficult to deal with, and I find that there are days my abundant and continuous sources of trauma have been beyond my capacity to even deal, yet along recover from. But, in recent years, things have finally started to change. My symptoms reduced in severity and frequency.
I found a few tools for ptsd relief, too!
I am quite open and talk passionately about my life, and my traumas are all parts of my life, and shaped a lot of my personality traits, and philosophy of life.
Through the sheer counter-example set by my father, I am a feminist and humanist ;
I believe in non-violence, compassion, spreading kindness – but don’t confuse this for “giving the other cheek”, as I’m not into masochism nor into this precept.
I believe in critical thinking, the importance of education and curiosity, and define myself as a vegan, atheist, compassionate and ethical person.
From a mousey, wounded cult and abuse victim, I grew to redefine myself as a survivor. I have been on a recovery path for many years, meeting many bumps and mud on the way, but I keep my course steady : I will surpass all my hurdles, and I aim thriving, after my survival. ‘
‘PTSD is not a disease, but an illness, not something to be ashamed of or scared of. And it must be noted that it isn’t so bizarre that events can change your life forever. PTSD is this but the event is a matter of fear.’
Today Tomorrow Forever
Find Will’s Blog by clicking here.
Find Lulu on twitter and his blog by clicking here.