Archive for The PTSD

Through My Eyes

In doing the research for my book and writing about my personal experiences, I have come to many important insights.  First and foremost that one must understand is that trauma is in the eye of the one being victimizedIf you feel helpless, fearful, scared, traumatized; you are!  It does not matter what other people may feel during that experience; it does not matter how other people may recover from that specific incident, it matters through the eyes of the victim.

Recently, I found an  extremely helpful link on Babel: The Voices of a Medical Trauma, that explains trauma through the eyes of the patient, the medical notes of the chart, and the hospital’s response.  http://www.pulsemagazine.org/Archive_Index.cfm?content_id=119  This was a critical piece for me to read and understand.  I really related to the idea that the eyes of the victim, and the experiences of the victim, were not all reflected in the medical notes and hospital response letter.  The fact that they do not match does not indicate in any way that this woman was not traumatized by her experiences. 

In looking through my own medical records, I have found significant discrepancies between what happened and how I perceived it to be.  Whether this is shoddy record keeping, or the way I viewed the trauma through my eyes does not matter.  If the patient feels traumatized, the patient needs treatment consistent with one who has been traumatized, regardless of the notes on the chart.

Thanks for Reading,

Lauren

 

It’s the Holiday Season

For the past 3 years, holidays have been anything but joyous occasions.  Dodging the inevitable and seemingly benign, “How are you doing?” question was not easy and the avoidance of such questions not readily understood by many.

The holidays are a time where we often see people we have not seen in a while and those friends and family feel the need to catch up.  When one is mentally ill and physically injured, inquires about health and wellness serve as an unacceptable intrusion, especially when you are suffering with PTSD.

I remember dreading family get togethers, and would anxiously rehearse my answers to “Are you ready for number two? How’s work? What have you been up to? through angst ridden tears and panic attacks.  My overwhelming sense of how to handle these inquires was avoidance, and I often found myself leaving the room when these questions were asked and letting my husband explain my absence.

This is truly the first holiday where I am ready, and able, to talk freely and without reserve about my journey with a traumatic birth experience.  I am ready to share, are you ready to listen?

 

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

The Anger

One thing that I haven’t truly addressed yet in this blog is the anger that has been a part of my life for the last 3 1/2 years or so.  The anger that was generated from a sloppy birth experience and follow-up care, resulting in physical and emotional damage.  The “why?” and “how could this happen?” mentality that manifests itself in an anger at the doctor, the hospital, and sometimes myself.

In writing my book this past year, I had a title all picked out, “Asshole.” After the asshole that delivered me, and after the resulting damage to my asshole.  Clever?  I think so.  Until recently, the anger I have felt at my delivering doctor has been profound.  It is only through extensive therapy that I have found it in me to let it go in order to be a more productive and healthy human being.

The bottom line is, my story, my life, is not about naming names, or vengeance. It’s not about anger.  This is a story of advocacy, of healing, of empowerment.  I’d like every health care professional to take note of my story during his or her day-to-day dealings with patients such as myself or prevent future clientele such as myself.  I’d like every pregnant woman, women considering pregnancy to take note of my story, and make better decisions because of it.  I’d like every adoring spouse to take heed in the strength and sacrifice of my husband during the many ordeals we have weathered together.

Thanks for reading!

-Lauren

A Broken Mind

A couple of years ago, I broke my elbow.  After breaking my elbow, I wore a sling and a modified cast for a couple of months.  With the visual of a battered and bruised individual fully apparent, people would ask, “Are you OK?” “What happened?”  People would sympathize and relate, “That must really hurt.”  “I remember when I broke my ___.”  People would go out of their way to be helpful, “Can I get the door for you?” “Do you need any help with dinners/shopping/childcare?”

The moral of my story is, broken bones receive support from everyone; loved ones, colleagues, acquaintances, strangers., broken minds, not so readily.

A broken mind, a mental illness, is not something that people can readily see.  It’s not something that people will readily ask about.  It’s not something that people always want the back story for.  In fact, a lot of times, people shy away from mental illness because of the stigma attached to it.

What I would like to let the world know- a broken bone and a broken mind both need support, both need sympathy, both need help from others.  Both broken bones and broken minds require professional treatment as well as a support system of loved ones, colleagues, and acquaintances.

Thanks for Reading,

Lauren

Panic Attacks

My panic attacks were very severe.  They started with the development of tunnel vision, in which my peripheral was narrowed visually and I was unable to hear anything besides my own negative thoughts.  I then physically crumpled to the floor, often assuming the fetal position.  My breathing became rapid, my chest tight, my face flushed, and tears just flowed out of my squeezed shut eyes.  Often times, I would begin screaming as visual, verbal, and tactile stimuli from the trauma began to assault my senses.  I sometimes would begin choking, as it felt as if my airway was closing.  Twitching and facial grimace tics were also a very real and painful part of my panic, due to the adrenaline rush that was going through my body.

These panic attacks, or the very real fear that I was going to have a panic attack, kept me from my life.  They kept me from engaging in activities in which I perceived that there may be a trigger to the trauma.  These panic attacks caused me to live a very sheltered life at the height of my PTSD.  These panic attacks can only go away through skillful therapy in which your triggers are neutralized.

Here is a great article on Panic Attacks:  http://anxietypanichealth.com/2008/10/01/im-dying-what-a-panic-attack-feels-like/

Thanks for Reading,

Lauren

Food Numbing

Throughout my therapy, I have learned many new terms.  One such term is “food numbing.”  When I was pregnant with my daughter I gained about 60 pounds. (yikes!)  After I had her, I lost about 30, and then slowly crept back up another 30.  So, all in all, even after having my daughter I weighed about 60 pounds more than when I initially got pregnant.

Immediately after the trauma, I realized I was eating, eating, eating.  It didn’t matter what, as long as I was chewing.  High carbs and high caloric foods were my drug of choice.  Upon talking to my therapist I have realized that food can really truly function as a “drug of choice.”  When you are suffering from PTSD, the serotonin re-uptake inhibitors in your brain are not functioning as they should, essentially, they are broken.  This leaves one unable to complete the loop of the “feel good” serotonin that usually  provides a calming and pleasant kick back function for your personal wellness.  High caloric and high carb foods help to complete that cycle for the time being, they provide a temporary “food numbing” phenomenon that tells your brain, “this is good, keep eating, it calms you.”

Initially, I was only able to cut the “food numbing” vice when I went onto anti-anxiety medications.  The medications provided a “fix” for the “broken” serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and allowed the cycle to proceed as before.  In reducing and titrating off of my medications, I am finding that I am slipping back into a food numbing coping mechanism.  It is in realizing this that I will be able to replace my high carb and high caloric foods with other activities that produce serotonin in a non-detrimental way. 

One such way is exercise.  In joining a gym I have found that a good work out can produce those same feel good enzymes as medication and food.  Bonus-It helps me lose the weight too!

Thanks for Reading,

Lauren

You Don’t Smell as Bad…

This morning, as I hugged my husband good-bye, my husband proclaimed “You don’t smell as bad as you used to in the mornings.”  Now, to some this may seem as an major insult, but to me, this “compliment” is a source of pride.  During my extreme throws of suffering with PTSD, I would ultimately wake in the morning smelling of sweat, a foul reminder of the nightmares, insomnia, and anxious restlessness that accompanied my “sleep.”  To not “smell as bad” means that there has been a critical change in my night-time routine.  It means that the PTSD is less and less reactivated during my hours of sleep.  It means, I am getting better.

Thanks for Reading,

Lauren

PTSD

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and Childbirth

It’s pretty rare to hear that acronym and childbirth in the same sentence.  However, it is not rare at all to develop PTSD from a traumatic childbirth experience.  It’s important to note that the trauma is in the eye of the one being “traumatized.”  In my case, pain, fatigue, feelings of helplessness, postpartum hemorrhage, poor communication, and a pervasive feeling that I was going to die on that hospital bed contributed to my PTSD. From the limited information I can rustle up, I have read that anywhere from 1-6% of women develop PTSD from childbirth.  That is a significant statistic when you are one of the percentages that deal with it, or one of the many loved ones that care for someone falling in that percentage.  It is truly bothersome to me that this mental illness is not linked to childbirth on a regular basis in an effort to get those afflicted into treatment quicker, and to apply preventative measures that limit the cases in the first place.   I can’t tell you how many times I have begun to explain that I have PTSD from a traumatic childbirth experience when the listener responds, “Oh Postpartum Depression, oh, I know what that is!”  Postpartum Depression and PTSD are different diagnosis, although both mentally debilitating to the person afflicted with the diagnosis.  It’s important to differentiate PTSD and Postpartum Depression because the treatments for both are very different and the illnesses deserve to be looked at as two separate entities.

Thanks for Reading!

Lauren

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