I am in my late 40s and have been dealing with PTSD all my adult life. Until a few years or so ago, I did not even know what that was, in relation to someone like me. I had heard of the term, but associated it with soldiers, hostages, civilian victims of war torn areas, victims of violent and horrible attacks, or victims of long term abuse. I have lived with depression for decades, had some minimal counseling here and there over the years, but mostly lived with it by using coping skills and "stress relievers" I had come up with over time.
A couple times in my life I was on medication for awhile and eventually was able to reduce and stop taking it. Counseling did not last long. I was told there wasn't much they could help me with or teach me as far as coping skills. One professional, a Psychologist my doctor referred me to, told me perhaps I was as much or more qualified to sit in his chair as I had taught him two stress reducers I use regularly that have an immediate effect on easing mild to moderate anxiety episodes. He suggested I open up more, find a close friend I trust to confide in and talk to them, or I was welcome to continue with him at $150 per half hour session. It was also recommended to have a drink each evening to relax, a wine cooler or glass of wine, just one, and that would help me relax and sleep better. I was not keen on the drinking as I come from a very long line of alcoholics and had been determined since I was a young child to break that cycle in my family for my descendants. I tried it for a couple weeks and bagged that idea. I took up dance exercise alone at home each night to "burn off" stress. You learn to paint on a smile, laugh, and move on. You learn to Hide it.
All that began to change in late 2014 with a very unexpected incident, and climaxed one fateful day in 2015. On June 28, 2015, an event occurred that triggered something and the spiral downward began. That spiral has continued and worsened. What was once merely living and dealing with clinical depression, PTSD and acute anxiety, is now a living nightmare. I say merely, as when you become accustomed to living with something it is no longer unfamiliar territory, no longer an obvious impact upon you or your life. It becomes almost common place, and you deal with it. Rather, should I say, you function with it. Perhaps even becoming desensitized to the affects and effects it has upon your life. You learn to paint on a smile, laugh, and move on.
This time it was different. Coping skills didn't work. All my little tricks and tips didn't work. My little magic bag of "feel better" tricks was empty. It could not be hidden anymore, certainly not from myself. Others eventually began to notice something wasn't right. I wasn't the same. They saw the withdrawal. They didn't understand, and most took it personal. They knew what had happened. They expected me to just get over it, that in time I could "just get over it" that simply. Just as I had always done all my life. The strong one. The rock. The "smart one" in the group. The "survivor" in the family who stuck to her guns and kept moving forward one step at a time "no matter what" happened. The one who held herself up, kept it together, and held up others in need of support in the process.
One by one, relationships with friends and family alike fell apart. Those I was closest to for so long, those who turned to me for guidance and support over the years, became critical. They were suddenly experts on overcoming and their advise was to "get over it", but couldn't tell me How. I had set boundaries to not bring up or inquire about certain topics or people that triggered me. This went unheeded. So I would distance myself more. Some people suddenly becoming, seemingly in their own right, judge, jury and prosecutor. I had to distance myself even over time, and eventually walk away from such toxic behavior, including my best friend of 40+ years. That was the most devastating loss of all. I had stood by her through so much. There are two people left in my life that I trust without question. They stood by, didn't judge, have been supportive, encouraging, helped me try to deal with this and face it head on, but they are not close. They are a good hour away from here.
I had been spending more and more time alone when my husband was at work. I felt better, safer that way. I found things to keep busy and contented, so it seemed. The nightmares had been getting better, less frequent, but now they were happening on a nightly basis again. The thoughts and anger inside over what happened was still present when reminders were triggered. Eventually, thinking of cutting off from the outside world completely, I decided to go on a camping trip, alone, and get it together. I had the most wonderful time, not having anyone else to deal with. Just me, myself and nature. It was quite therapeutic. I had plenty of time to think, rather than avoid my thoughts. I wrote about it. I wrote letters expressing how I felt about what all had happened between us since the incident. Basically, giving them "my side" in a manner that could not be interrupted. Returning from my trip I soon found those letters weren't worth sending.
There were signs all around me that something was wrong, definitely wrong. I acknowledged this. I tried to change it, and would successfully for a short time, then triggered again I would close up and close off. I often sleep barricaded on three sides, like nothing can get to me except coming straight at me, believing I will see it and can react. Reality is, nothing can get me here. The nightmares are less frequent that way though. I can take a nap in my bed in my room during the day when it is light out and sleep fine with pillows on one side, but at night I am plagued with nightmares and move back to the barricaded couch.
One morning I experienced a bad anxiety attack and started crying. The tears didn't stop for a couple hours, even with taking my PRN anxiety medication twice. I couldn't focus, I couldn't think, it took me 20 minutes to get myself to go to the phone to call for help. I had this overwhelming feeling of dread. I felt I had just deflated, like a balloon, but a little air was left within the bulbous shape. I just wanted to finish deflating and disappear. Let it all be over and just be gone. There was no more hope felt inside, there was nothing but emptiness. I could just lay down, give up and let go. Disappear forever. I was not suicidal, meaning I was not going to kill myself by any means, I just wanted to finish deflating and disappear. Forever. I knew this was crazy, but it felt so real, this feeling of hopelessness, dread, fear, emptiness. So empty.
It all seemed for no reason. I couldn't find or think of a trigger. Weeks later I figured out it may have been from seeing the picture of my best friend and I that was taken this last spring. I asked for help when my husband got home from work, but he didn't know where to take me. I didn't either so I told him to ER. I didn't feel safe driving myself to the doctor or hospital, but didn't know what else to do or where to go. I just knew I was Not OK with having such thoughts and reaction and definitely needed help. He was dumbfounded, so I called a friend in town. She arrived, asked what happened, I'd asked her to drive me to the hospital, she suggested just take another pill and see how you feel in a little while. I swore that day I would not ask for help again. Not here.
I still keep myself busy with things to do, but have little interest in anything. I stay with my son when I have appointments with my doctor in the city. I trust my son and feel safe at him home. I go little elsewhere. I will go get the shopping done that is needed, but do it at night unless my son goes with me. At home, my husband does all the shopping on his way home from work or on his day off. It is getting harder to leave home, for any reason. It makes no sense to me to be this way, much less to be worsening.
At my next appointment with my doctor, I was given a questionnaire to fill out. They do this at each appointment at my doctors office to make sure patients are keeping up with the routine checkup items for their age and gender. This one was on mental health. I had already decided to tell my doctor of the episode I'd had and tell him all about the barricading myself to sleep and that it is getting harder to leave home. The nurse took my vitals and handed me this form to fill out while she took some notes for the doctor. Reading and answering the questions put me in tears. She informed the doctor and he came in to speak with me. He said he was going to grab someone for me to speak to who was presently at the facility, he said I wasn't going anywhere until I've met with her. She came in, we spoke awhile, then she left the room to meet with my doctor. She returned to the room and told me she could help me. I burst into tears at hearing this. We started that day. We will have a couple more appointments, then an assessment will be done. Together with my doctor it will be determined whether to continue with her or be referred for more intense counseling with a Psychiatric Therapist.
All this sounds hopeful. Once it begins. Due to abnormal extreme weather conditions I have been unable to make the commute. I have decided to wait the couple weeks or so it will take for the weather season to settle down, then reschedule. Meanwhile, I have noticed my condition worsening. I not only do not want to go out and be around people, it is difficult to bring myself to do so, almost impossible. I dealt with extreme anxiety following an anxiety attack that occurred today while I was getting ready to take my cat to the vet for a bad tooth she has. An overwhelming fear seemed to consume me at the thought of leaving the house. This is not normal, I know this. My fears are unfounded, I know this. However, knowledge is not making it go away. Self talk and encouragement doesn't help. Dismissing the thought of leaving through finding another way to accomplish what needs done without Me having to leave the house is the only thing that settles it down. I was assured by my doctor and the counselor that I am Not crazy, they can help, yet it feels like I am becoming quite the nut job.
I did some research on-line and came across this site. The chat link does not seem to be working, it just returns me to the same page or takes me to a blank page. I went into the Forums link, most of which have the last postings dated from months ago. Perhaps I can find something else. Perhaps I will just have to do the best I can until I see the counselor again, Lord help me get out the door to go.
This is not me. I have always been a very sociable person. I have always worked jobs of high PR positions. I have ran my own business before. I was always good with people. I have been called a "people magnet" many times in my life by supervisors and employers. I also have always faced my fears, hard as it was, to overcome them at least to the point of those fears not controlling my life, actions and decisions. I was afraid of ladders, not heights, not climbing a ladder, but coming down. I faced that fear, over and over through the years until I could climb and descend a ladder by myself. I used to be terrified of spiders. I held and was even caretaker of my son's tarantula and came to enjoy her. With my son's help of course and much exposure to her prior to ever attempting to touch her or be touched by her. I still get startled over a spider, but am no longer afraid and can stand and watch them without fear.
This one, this progressing fear seems to take the cake. I want to run the other direction, find a corner to put my back against and stay there. I don't, but that urge to do so is getting stronger, to just stay put so I don't have to leave. I don't understand this. It would help to speak with someone who does, at least until I can start counseling.
Thanks for reading,