A day with PTSD

The night before last, I was sitting in my car talking with my friend. I heard a noise behind me. I looked; there was nothing there.

We stayed talking for another half an hour or so, and in those 30 minutes, I looked behind me 4 more times, and wanted to much more than that. I had to check because my brain was telling me there was a serial killer, robber, murderer, behind me just walking up to kill me.

The next day was so much worse. I woke up with dread and horror. It hurt to breathe. Not physically, but emotionally.

Everything I did yesterday was a struggle. I had a panic attack while cleaning my cat’s litter box. Thoughts of defectiveness and incapability plagued me over the simplest of tasks – like driving my car.

Everything was overwhelming. Everything seemed too hard to accomplish.

The bright lights of the cars driving in front of me made me want to hide and run for cover. I felt as though I just couldn’t breathe. The thoughts of suicide came subtly and strongly all at once. Just randomly, as I was getting ready for bed, as I was reading (well, trying to focus on reading).

I am a logical person. I know that getting ready for bed is not a reason for killing myself.

And that just makes it that much worse. It is painful enough to have these thoughts and feelings, but to know that they are misplaced and unnecessary, it makes you think you are insane and unworthy of life. It is truly horrifying to live with.

You wake up the next day, not energetic and ready to take on the day. But tired. Tired of fighting for your life over menial tasks. Tired of the non-stop pounding of tyrannical thoughts racing through your brain. Tired of feeling like you are in a losing battle, so why try?

If you have read this the whole way through and you do not have PTSD, please, hug someone that does. Tell them they are worth life. Tell them you love and appreciate them and the battle they face.

It doesn’t take over my every day, and for that I am grateful. But for a long time, the randomness of it and the all-of-a-sudden of it, made me truly believe I was crazy and there was something seriously wrong with me and my brain. If you are suffering from these thoughts and feelings, you are not alone, and you are NOT crazy. Your brain is still trying to protect little you (whether you were young when your trauma happened or not) so please, just be easy on yourself on PTSD rough days, and take extra special care of the amazing person you surely are.

Love and light,
Rebecca

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Good enough?

What is that little thought inside your head that says, “This is not good enough. If only we had that, then that would be good enough.”?

I know it’s probably the human instinct to be happy. We have to strive for better in order to continue growing, so we have to have thoughts pushing us forward.

But when does that little voice become a nuisance instead of a helper, and what can we do to use it to our advantage?

I have had that nagging voice yelling at me all my life, telling me I wasn’t good enough when I got my associates degree. Telling me I wasn’t good enough because I only got my Bachelor’s and not my Master’s. Telling me I could not possibly be good enough for a real job. Telling me, telling me, telling me.

When is it my turn to have a say?

Now. And now. And now.

Good Enough

As I said in my last article, it is that little girl who is scared and doesn’t want to end up homeless. She is very well-intentioned, but not extremely helpful or encouraging.

It is my job, every day, to talk to her and tell her that we can do this; together.

It is my job to write down all the things I’m grateful for, because they show her that there is more to life than the scary stuff.

It is my job to be the adult and give her play time, time with friends, time to think and wonder and create.

I may have lived through some very painful times, but it is my job to help her see that there is more good in the future. That we can make it through the day. That there is always someone to talk to.

I have gone to Australia by myself, and still, I only focus on the bad things in my mind. But that is my choice. All I have to say is, “Thank you for your input, but I’m doing just fine today.” And go on about my day.

When I can do that, amazing, wonderful things happen, and I don’t even have a reason to be scared.

I hope that you can find your inner strength today, and let someone else in on the fabulous person you are.

Leave comments about how you make it through the day.

 

 

I Don’t Take My Own Advice.

Welcome to our new weekly advice vlog.

Siobhan and Rebecca will be answering any burning desires you have for us. Ask us anything in the comments and we’ll give you our honest opinion about it all.

Examples: PTSD, motherhood, bachelorettehood, Buddhism, sex education, or anything that tickles your fancy. Be bold, be brave. Be you. We will us. We look forward to your questions.

Ten things I don’t hate about PTSD either.

Fuck. After Brian employed Siobhan to find 10 good things about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, she told me about it, and then employed me to do the same.

While she had put time, thought and effort into coming up with her list, I am unable to do that.

My PTSD has me always in the present.

So when people are getting ready to leave a place, I can’t think that I should start my car with the remote I finally have for it to warm it up because I’m too focused on if we are going to hug goodbye and that I have to be ready for it if we are, because I have to make sure you like me and I’m doing this socializing thing correctly.
That literally just happened to me.

Like in my last post, I said it is really hard for me to think ahead because I’m so caught up in that silly old fight or flight nonsense every waking moment of the day. It’s also difficult for me to think back to anything (say, like thinking about Siobhan asking me to think of ways PTSD is good). I wouldn’t dream that was possible, until I read her post.

choose to become

So, I’m giving it a shot. Here goes:

  1. I am always present for my kitties. I know exactly how they are feeling (and if they are about to strike, like my older cat constantly does), and how many dots are on their nose at all times.
  2. I know what is wrong with me at all times. This one’s handy for building up my ability to get my needs met. I always know when I am uncomfortable and should ask for something to be different. Whether I do or not is completely up to me.
  3. I always know that there is not a person hiding in my backseat. I check pretty much every time I get in my vehicle. You know, whenever someone could be hiding back there.
  4. I have a severe empathy for other people. I know what it feels like to be broken, to be lost, to be scared and to feel alone. I can make that space for you and tell you I understand.
  5. am a caretaker to the hurt. I am the friend that will support you, that will cheer you up when you are sad, mad, upset, whatever. I am always aware of every little change in energy, and now, I know that that energy is not always being sent my way, and I can help people out of it.
  6. I have been a survivor for a really long time. I can show you how I got out of that when everything seemed insurmountable and every emotion seemed too hard to feel.
  7. I know who to watch out for. I can tell a change in tone in an instant. I know when someone is about to get loud and aggressive. I do not play that shit, and I do not allow my friends to deal with it either.
  8. I love the shit out of fun. I went through so many years being depressed and laying in bed watching TV. Now, I will go pretty much anywhere for a good time, and I bring the good time with me. It will not be dull around me. As you can see from our first blog post, #nofilter.
  9. I have suffered almost all there is to suffer. I have seen jails, mental institutions and rehabs, and I’ve never been in them. I’ve experienced the loss of both my parents. I have had crippling anxiety and depression and alcoholism and sex addiction and, and, and. My worst circumstances were as a child. There is no stopping me. It is only up from here.
  10. I go to great lengths and have big dreams. I have seen the depths of human emotion. I will stop at nothing to see the brightest of them. I will be a traveling editor. Watch me.
  11. I even have a bonus one! I go hardcore at my spirituality. I never stop growing, learning about myself and how I can become a better human to myself and the people around me. And this might be the best gift I have ever gotten!

healing

Ten things I don’t hate about PTSD

I was officially diagnosed with PTSD a year and a half ago, but for the better part of the last decade that four letter word has been mentioned to me by more than a handful of mental health professionals. Like most people who receive this news I spent a while in denial, after that I was ashamed, and now I split my time between neutral and pissed off. Pissed off at the symptoms that keep me feeling broken.

A few weeks back I was enjoying one of those bad days. It was the first one for some time so this one in particular was kicking my ass. In an attempt to find some solace I spoke to a friend, one of those mentor types, and he had a peculiar suggestion. He empathized with the self-pity cycle surrounding all the downright shitty attributes to my specific mental quirks, going as far as to comment how easy it would be to come up with ten things I HATE about PTSD right off the cuff. Then he inquired if I had ever thought about the positive side to it. Clearly seeing the mixture of confusion and anger growing on my face he elaborated. See he believes, as do I that everything that exists in the material world has a sense of duality to it. Under that logic if there is a negative to something there must be a positive as well. Therein lied my challenge, to come up with ten good things about my PTSD… so here goes.

Ten good things about PTSD…shit:

  1. I always know how many exits there are in any given room and I have probably already visualized multiple different disasters or violent events and which escape route would be the best for each.
  2. I have an incredibly fine tuned gut when it comes to people. I can tell without even having a conversation with someone but by hearing them speak, watching them move across a space, and their facial features as they express different emotions whether or not they are likely to be safe.
  3. That ability to read people has given me a talent in picking out the best people, the gems amongst the coal. With very little difficulty I am able to find these remarkable humans that possess a level of genuine sincerity that is to be admired.
  4. I have about the same information and working knowledge about grounding exercises as most clinical physicians.
  5. This gives me a unique ability for helping people who may be too scared to go to one yet.
  6. It grants me quite a transparent and raw approach to parenthood, I have conversations with my kids that I think most moms would probably be intimidated having. Because my life in run on extremes. When it comes to communicating with other humans it’s either absolute surface or let me show you my soul and see if you understand. There’s not much in between. It allows me a very beautiful relationship with those kids.
  7. I have incredibly fast reflexes. Whether it comes to avoiding car accidents or catching a child moments before their cute little face meets sidewalk; unfortunately the racing heartbeat afterwards is less than enjoyable, but se la vie.
  8. Due to the gratuitous amount of trauma therapy I am painfully aware of the importance of self-care, I have a very in tune relationship with myself. I guess that’s always the upside to being crazy if you’re actually attempting to take care of it, or work on it, or just survive you tend to pay attention to things that other people probably don’t have to. Like actively altering your self-talk to make sure that it’s positive or ensuring that you don’t go longer than a week without taking a shower even if you don’t want to. Like making yourself bubble baths even when the idea of sitting in one sounds awful, but so does everything else. So you draw the bath and you light the candles and you turn on whatever music seems enjoyable or at least the most tolerable and you just sit there trying your best just to sit, even if it’s just for ten minutes.
  9. You are never bored even when you want to be. Your brain is always going, always thinking. Upside of that is with practice and focus you can turn the ever racing thoughts into creative things. Which means even as an adult you have an incredibly powerful imagination.
  10. You’re not alone. Even though you feel that way. When I was diagnosed I was in denial for a really long time. I kept repeating over and over in my head that I didn’t have that traumatic of a life. I didn’t really tell anyone for a while, not even those in my immediate support network. And it wasn’t until I just happened to be driving in the car with this woman I knew, not that well but we were friendly. Out of nowhere she mentions that she has PTSD and like a kid almost giddy I responded with “So do I!” There is something really beautiful about finally being able to talk to some other person about the shadow people who you see on occasion when things get bad. And to not have them look at you with this twisted face of confusion and want to be compassion, but the truth is if you don’t live it, if you haven’t felt it and you don’t know it; you have no idea what it’s like. But when you open yourself up, you realize that you’re not alone. When you finally find other people that do get it, your brain doesn’t have to feel like a cage anymore. All those strange quirks that you have, the ones that you would never want to admit in public just become simple jokes between friends.

How to be organized with PTSD.

I have no idea how to be organized with PTSD.

My memory is shot. It is slowly, slowly getting better, like at a snail’s pace.

This is because my brain wanted to protect me and block out the traumatic things. Greatest aspect of that for me is that it did the absolute opposite. My brain is broken and it decided to remember ONLY the bad parts of my childhood. I can’t remember any actual good memories. Maybe a snipit here and there, all fuzzy and broken up like.

How this translates to my life now is that I can’t remember plans, appointments, things I have to do, like what to buy from the grocery store..

People have been telling me for years, just write it down, put it in your phone, etc.

That would be great if I could remember to do that! 😉 Or remember to then bring the list, notebook, whatever, with me. And then to bring the same notebook every time after I’ve lost them all somewhere in my house. Then I just have 7 different notebooks all with different things to remember and aghh.

It is getting better, but if you have similar issues, here’s some tips I learned.

header-listonic                                 Listonic check mark

Listonic is the best app I’ve found for grocery shopping, or any shopping!
I just put all the items in the list that I need and viola, they stay with me in the store.
Now, this all hinges on whether I remember to open the app while at the store, but it is getting easier to do that each time I use it.

Calendars and Planners.

Again, super helpful when you actually use them! Here’s a link to get free shipping off some great calendars.

CALENDARS.com – The BEST SELECTION of Calendars in the Known Universe. Get Free Shipping Today!

And finally, writing out your day and what you did well for the day at the end of the night. This has literally changed my perspective on myself and my self-esteem so much.

It can be simple things, but they really add up and I feel immediately more accomplished than trying to remember what I did in a day.

Hope these tips help, and please let me know in the comments if you have any special ways you get around the troublesome symptoms of PTSD, or whatever mental ailment you’re rocking!

Follow link at bottom of site.

What this blog really is.

Living with PTSD is hard. It warps your mind into negative thinking, it changes your hippocampus so you cannot remember a damn thing you need to, and it melts down your Broca’s area, so even if you had the words to describe the pain you were caused, you would not be able to express it.

All of that in addition to the flashbacks every time you pass your old house (which is pretty frequent for me as I live in the same small neighborhood I grew up in). The flashbacks come every time you are talking to your sister about the childhood you knew and the childhood she knew. They come when you see a happy father and daughter pair walking the streets, doing something wonderfully simple together, like going to the post office, or even worse, walking into a cafe holding hands. They come when you hear anyone talking about their parents and how lucky they are to have been shaped by such wonderful people, with their values and principles and disciplines (something you know nothing about).

See, I’ve lived my entire life with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or at least as far back as I can remember, which isn’t much because of that good old hippocampus damage I referred to earlier. The only reason I know there is another way to live is because as an introverted extrovert with a broken Broca’s area, I often have nothing to say, so I watch people, intently. I observe the way they do simple tasks that are a struggle for me. I see the ease of ordering at a restaurant, the lack of difficulty finding their way in the world. And I do not mean their dreams or passions. I mean simply remembering what their boss told them to do without asking 3 times. I mean understanding what their boss told them to do without asking 3 times. I mean not having to feel the shame of not knowing what their boss said and trying to figure it out without asking 3 times.

Info about hippocampus and Broca’s area damage and PTSD from “The Body Keeps Score” by Bessel van der Kolk

I have often felt jealousy watching other people do all these menial tasks without so much as a thought to them. I have often been envious of Siobhan, for she seems to do things in such a natural way, life just being a snap for her. That is, until I knew better.
I am blessed to have her as a friend, because PTSD is not something you just realize you have and accept it right away. I don’t want to tell too much of her story because I am intrigued to see what she will come up with on this topic, but I will say that I can see the difference between someone born with PTSD, and someone who acquired this morbid malfunction later in life. And I am grateful for that. I thought my whole life that there was just something wrong with me. Part of that was my unrelenting standards I have learned about through Schema Therapy, but a major part of that was I really did struggle to make the connections in my head that come naturally and easily to others.

It is heart-breaking to feel as though you have nothing to contribute to life. And to not know what the fuck is wrong with you is even worse. I remember being so lost, so hurt, so scared. Could I ever be capable at anything?

I thought I just had negative thought patterns, and that if I tried really hard, I could overcome my difficulties and be “normal.” That was my goal anyway.

I began teaching toddlers in a very upper-class childcare center. I was terrified of speaking because my words would always come out jumbled up. I was anti-social and did the least amount of speaking as I could, which is hard when you’re working with a lead and a co-teacher, and the parents want to know how their child’s day was. I was in hell. My only saving grace was that I loved the heck out of those children, as they reminded me about how simple life can be.

I just let my faith carry me each day, and I have had many exciting adventures throughout my short life. I am grateful to be alive today, and to have so many people in my life who support, love and help me through this journey.

Each day, I learn more of what it means to have PTSD, and more of how to overcome and accept those things in order to live a happy, whole life.

I am living my dreams today, and no one can stop me! (Past, present or future!)

My friend and I climbing a mountain in South Australia.