The Best Battles Are Always Fought With a Winning Team…

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You know one of the hardest things about having PTSD is the isolation factor. We slowly isolate ourselves from family and friends who don’t understand what’s going on with us and we get tired of trying to explain. The biggest problem with that is it leaves us without a support system at a time when we need it the most. I have gone through my journey mostly alone able to talk to very few people about what I go through on a daily basis.

I had very little help with the exception of some extremely kind neighbours and my daughter who was living with me at the time, but working long hours at a time when I was extremely vulnerable. I was suffering from panic attacks for a month straight on and off through the day and night and I was alone most of the time.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt more afraid or alone during that time thinking any moment I was going to die because I couldn’t breath during them. My dog passed away suddenly 2 yrs ago and that’s what brought on the sudden panic attacks. She had been my constant companion for 10 1/2 years and in 4 days she was gone. I was traumatized to say the least and piled on top of my other traumas it was just too much to bear and I ended up going on medication to stop them.

“A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety and fear. Your heart pounds and you can’t breathe. You may even feel like you’re dying or going crazy. Left untreated, panic attacks can lead to panic disorder and other problems. They may even cause you to withdraw from normal activities. But panic attacks can be cured and the sooner you seek help, the better. With treatment, you can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of panic and regain control of your life.”

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/panic-attacks-and-panic-disorders.htm

There are several symptoms that can develop over time while dealing with PTSD besides triggers, flashbacks and hypervigilance  : such as insomnia, panic attacks, irritability, anger or rage, nightmares, exaggerated startle response, loss of focus and concentration and memory loss and/ or retention.

Isolation is not a good thing though, being surrounded by understanding family and friends is a better choice all around. The key is balance, there are times when you will need your down time or just want some time alone due to sheer mental exhaustion and that’s ok. A good support network is imperative though to help you heal. I suggest that family and friends do some research on PTSD and also on ways they can help be supportive along with your added input of what you need.

One of best ways for trauma to gain a complete hold on us is lack of support particularly directly after the initial trauma. That is why early intervention is a must in stopping PTSD in its tracks before it can gain a foothold in our minds and bodies. We need to be and feel safe and supported with love and compassion because all those were lacking at the time we were traumatized. We need to be able to trust again and feel safe in doing so, therefore we need a good strong support system behind us every step of the way.

I would just like to say that I am not a therapist and the things I speak about in my posts are things that I have found that work for me: they may or may not work for you but you can always give them a try to find out.

I’m tired after being up all night due to insomnia, so I will stop here for tonight before I start to ramble. ha ha ha

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Taking Back Your Power: Love Thyself

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Today I take back my power, fear and circumstances nor other people shall have no power over me. My identity is not based on PTSD, it’s based on who I am as person, as a woman and the core of my being. Sorting all that out can be a challenge at the best of times, let alone with demons screaming in my head that I am pain, that I am less than and that I am a victim. I choose to see myself not as a victim or a survivor but as an over-comer. The reason I choose not to see myself as a survivor is because for those of us who live with PTSD we have lived in survival mode the entire time. I want to live not just survive, I choose to overcome and heal and not just cope.

I let go of shame and guilt long ago, they no longer have a hold on me because my traumas weren’t my fault and that is important for me to know. Flashbacks no longer have a hold on me because I allowed myself to be triggered choosing to work through them rather than avoid them.

“Flashbacks are like little movies playing in your head of the original trauma you suffered. Your body experience all the feelings and emotions you had at the time of the original trauma as if you are really there.”

I used the same method as I explained to use while dissociating: first of all realize that flashbacks aren’t real and tell yourself that while having a flashback even if you have to say it out loud; second of all pull yourself out the flashback and look around the room to see that you are safe and where you are, again say it out loud if you have to and walk around the room and touch things that are tangible so you know exactly where you are; thirdly tell yourself that what you were seeing and what you went through is over and the memories that you are seeing can’t hurt you; fourthly acknowledge and except all the feelings that you are feeling because those are what you felt when the original trauma occurred and they are looking for validation; fifthly let them go so they don’t continue to be trapped in your mind and body anymore, you can say it out loud or in your mind but it’s important to consciously let them go. Repeat for every flashback and you will notice they start to decline.

It’s important to face your fears head on and work through them because one of the major symptoms of PTSD is avoidance. Avoiding your fears only allows them to have power over you and to fester into something bigger. I did this on my own but having a therapist work with you in controlled conditions might be a better choice for you.

Identifying your triggers and working through those is also another step toward healing and you can follow the same steps as with flashbacks when you’re triggered. What was it that triggered you? Allow yourself to feel what you feel and remember there is no right or wrong when it comes to feelings, they just are what they are and they’re all valid.

“For people with PTSD, it is very common for their memories to be triggered by sights, sounds, smells or even feelings that they experience. These triggers can bring back memories of the trauma and cause intense emotional and physical reactions, such as raised heart rate, sweating and muscle tension.”

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder

It’s important to know yourself and your body, when you have been triggered your going to notice you get more anxious or become afraid, your heart rate goes up and your emotional reaction to whatever triggered you will be excessive for the situation. That’s because your mind and body are again experiencing the original trauma that has now been triggered by something like a sight, sound. smell or similar situation. You may or may not have flashbacks during this time or your body may just react due to body memories that your mind has no recall of.

These flashbacks and triggers will continue until you give them what they need: validation, acceptance and show yourself the love and compassion that you needed at the time of the trauma. This because at the time you were traumatized you didn’t receive the validation of your feelings that you required and also rather than accept what happened, you have trying to run away from it, maybe deny it but have done anything but accept it.

Also the love and compassion that you required probably weren’t present either especially the love for yourself. It’s time to give what you needed at the time of those traumas back to yourself, you don’t need outside validation from others and others don’t need to accept what you went through in order to make it true or for your feelings to be valid. You also need to love and accept yourself as the beautiful human being you are in order for your journey to begin back to your true authentic self.

I Have What?

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“You have PTSD” my therapist said. I had no idea what it was, what it’s effects were or the effects it would have on my life and she didn’t explain it to me. In those days of the early 90’s, I didn’t have a computer or the internet to be able to find out what it was and I certainly in my stressed out state didn’t even think to ask.

This was early in a quest for a therapist who understood what was going on with me, however this therapist didn’t delve into my past or my traumas but diagnosed me based on a current situation where I was being bullied and harassed at work on a daily basis.  I would go through approximately 7 or 8 therapists before I actually found one who really understood what PTSD was.  By then I had a computer and the internet and had done extensive research and put some of my own things into place for coping, flashbacks and further on panic attacks, which I had to be medicated for.

I think a lot of people go undiagnosed because of the misnomer that PTSD occurs only with first responders and the military, which is not true at all, it occurs in people who have suffered trauma and that can happen anywhere. Although not everyone who experiences trauma will suffer from PTSD, the people who do seem to be slipping through the cracks if they aren’t in one of the above listed professions. I am not downplaying what people in those professions endure nor am I saying that they don’t suffer from PTSD on a larger scale, because they do. What concerns me is the inability of therapists to diagnose PTSD in patients who do not work in those occupations. The inability to recognize that trauma can and does happen to anyone at anytime, anywhere.

The definition of trauma is as follows:

“Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives. Psychologists can help these individuals find constructive ways of managing their emotions.”

-American Psychological Association-

It’s important to recognize trauma early, because I believe that early intervention can mean the difference between being traumatized and developing PTSD. Talk about the incident, get it off your chest, have your feelings validated, know what symptoms, if any, you are experiencing and begin to deal with them. PTSD is allowed to fester in the minds and bodies of those who keep their feelings and emotions bottled up and who suffer in silence.  It’s the old adage of “you’re only as sick as your secrets”.  You have to let it all out in a safe environment in  order to begin to heal. Safety and trust are paramount because it was the loss of those in some semblance that led to your being traumatized.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop following a traumatic event that threatens your safety or makes you feel helpless. Most people associate PTSD with rape and battle-scarred soldiers—and military combat is the most common cause in men—but any event (or series of events) that overwhelms you with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness can trigger PTSD, especially if the event feels unpredictable and uncontrollable. PTSD can affect:

  • People who personally experience the traumatic event
  • Those who witness the event
  • Those who pick up the pieces afterwards, such as emergency workers
  • Friends or family members of those who experienced the trauma

Traumatic Events That Can Cause PTSD:

  • War
  • Natural disasters
  • Car or plane crashes
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Sudden death of a loved one
  • Rape
  • Kidnapping
  • Assault
  • Sexual or physical abuse
  • Childhood neglect

PTSD symptoms: Everyone is different:

PTSD develops differently from person to person. While the symptoms of PTSD most commonly develop in the hours or days following the traumatic event, it can sometimes take weeks, months, or even years before they appear. There are three main types of symptoms:

  1. Re-experiencing the traumatic event. This may include upsetting memories, flashbacks, and nightmares, as well as feelings of distress or intense physical reactions when reminded of the event (sweating, pounding heart, nausea, for example).
  2. Avoiding reminders of the trauma. You may try to avoid activities, places or thoughts that remind you of the trauma or be unable to remember important aspects of the event. You may feel detached from others and emotionally numb, or lose interest in activities and life in general, sensing only a limited future for yourself.
  3. Increased anxiety and emotional arousal. These symptoms include trouble sleeping, irritability or outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, feeling jumpy and easily startled, and hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”).

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/post-traumatic-stress-disorder.htm

These symptoms can occur right away or take years to develop so it’s helpful to know what they are and what to watch for in order for the earliest intervention to take place.