Posts Tagged ‘mental illness’

The “F” word(s)

Two words you often hear in conjunction with PTSD are fight or flight.  These two “f” words are powerful indicators of the physiological response that one experiences while being triggered. For me, this response was caused by a myriad of triggers, and the involuntary response of fight or flight proved devastating each and every time.

Fight or Flight.  Your body’s response to adrenaline, your body’s response to a perceived “true” danger that is now physiologically circuited in your body system as if it were truly happening then and now.  Believe me when I say this, even if I wanted to “talk” myself out of this response, the involuntary nature of the body would not allow me to.  When you experience trauma, that trauma can be caught in your neural networks, creating a pathway of a fight or flight response whenever your body perceives, (a trigger), the trauma.

My fight or flight response generally consisted of an immediate panic attack, complete with screaming, and huddling to the floor in a fetal position.  The nature of my response included fight (the panic), flight (the dropping to the floor), and another “f” word I would like to introduce as “Freeze.”  The arrest of all “sensible” activity whilst being triggered caused the “freeze” component of my life.  The inability to do more at that time, the inability to pull out of it, the inability to move forward.

Other “F” words I can associate with PTSD….frustrating, friendless, f***Kd

Thanks for Reading,

Lauren

Too Personal

I’ve been told by some people that they won’t read my blog because it is “too personal.”  Yes, vaginas, sexuality, rectal scarring, anal winks, pooping, mental illness, yes, it’s personal.  But sometimes, it is easy to confuse “too personal” with shameful, dirty, and stigmatized.

I write my blog to free myself of the stigma that surrounds my circumstances.  It’s not easy to be suffering with issues that no wants to talk about, read about, hear about, listen to, etc.  To date, there are many medical issues that have reached the acclaim in our society that make them easy to talk about, empathize with, and join together for a common cause.  However, I am sure that there were people that needed to champion those causes and efforts prior to them becoming easy to talk about over a cup of tea.

I believe that I am one of a growing number of women who are no longer going to be silent.  Medical interventions, successful therapies, and political awareness only come about when there is a movement to have our voices heard.  Birth Trauma and the physical and mental devastation it can leave in its wake is an issue that I am not ready to concede is “too personal.” 

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

The Crap He Puts Up With

This post is dedicated to my husband….and the crap he puts up with.  Figuratively….and Literally. 

While engaged in full-blown PTSD, my husband was always there, fully supportive of the shell of my former self that I had become.  Immediately after the birth of our child, but prior to any real diagnosis, my husband recognized that I needed help, support, and unconditional love.  And, he gave me all these things without question.  My husband did ALL of the housework, ALL of our life maintenance (bills, shopping, answering phone calls, making appointments, filling our cars with gas, driving, etc), and most of the childcare.  Yes, I fed our child, however, my husband changed her, brought her to me when she needed to be fed, helped me play with her, attended to her in the night when she was crying, etc.

A typical day for me during full-blown PTSD looked like this:  My husband waking two hours before me to work on the house, grocery shop, or do bills.  My husband waking me up gently (alarms were a trigger for me), my husband handing me the baby to be fed, my husband burping and changing the baby, my husband urging me to shower, my husband ironing and washing my clothes, my husband making my breakfast, my husband getting the baby ready for daycare, my husband handing me my ready-made lunch and placing my work stuff into the car (which he always made sure had gas), my husband driving my daughter to daycare (even though it was right across the street from where I worked-leaving her was a trigger) before he brought himself to work, me going to work in a haze, me leaving work, me picking up my daughter, coming home and feeding my daughter, me sitting in a comfortable chair with her until my husband came home from work, my husband making dinner, playing together as a family, my husband helping me with bedtime routine, me sitting in my chair, my husband cleaning up the house, both going to bed, my husband helping me through nightmares, twitches, and teeth grinding while simultaneously attending to the baby in the other room. REPEAT DAILY.

That’s a lot of figurative crap to put up with.  Not to mention the literal.  Fecal Incontinence is not pretty, and yes, there is a lot of literal crap.  Was I doing the laundry?  Was I emptying the trash filled with used incontinence pads?  Was I purchasing the pads, enemas, and fiber supplements? No, it was my husband.

Now, I would never claim my husband is a saint, but, I know he’s a better person than most to be able to navigate the trials of PTSD and fecal incontinence with grace and courage.   It is my hope that everyone could have someone just as wonderful to help them through their own trauma, however; the reality is some marriages cannot sustain the angst that sickness and trauma thrust upon the parties involved. Our marriage has survived and strengthened through this major medical trauma in my life, and I am truly grateful that my husband was able to remain by my side holding not only my hand, but my heart throughout the duration.

Thanks for Reading,

Lauren

 

EMDR

EMDR are four letters that, for me, never were linked in a meaningful way prior to my trauma. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is the therapy that helped me climb out my PTSD.  At the risk of botching up the “official” explanation, check it  out here: http://www.emdr.com/general-information/what-is-emdr.html  

EMDR, to me, was a true lifesaver. It is a well suited therapy for trauma in the way that it does not employ just “talking” about the problem.  “Talking” about the problem is a trigger.  Talking along with moving my eyes in well defined, therapist directed way, allows for desentization and reprocessing of the trauma, as well as the triggers that are ever present in PTSD.

Recently, I was discharged from EMDR therapy.  I had exhausted all my triggers, and worked through the trauma.  Does this mean my memory of the trauma is gone?  Not at all.  It means my memory of the trauma no longer creates a panic type response.  Successful completion of EMDR means I can talk about the trauma without falling to pieces.  Successful completion of EMDR means I can spread the word about a therapy that works wonders for those suffering with PTSD.

Thanks for Reading,

Lauren

Familar Routines

One thing that people need to know about PTSD is that is paralyzes you.  With me, this paralysis was evident in my lack of spontaneity, my loss of freedom, and the limited choices and locations that were “safe” for me to engage in or visit.  One of PTSD’s major hallmarks is avoidance.  I avoided my many triggers and essentially guarded my mind against potential triggers by avoiding many people and locations.

Some people with PTSD develop agoraphobia and will not leave their house, their safe area.  Although never diagnosed with full-blown agoraphobia, I definitely experienced the panic that new areas, or areas with known triggers had on me.  For three years, there were a lot of things I did not do, experiences I did not engage in, people I did not meet, and places I did not see-all because of PTSD.

When I did venture out, it was never on my own at first. I always had a person with me, an advocate, who could steer me away from potential triggers, or help to calm my panic ridden self if a trigger was unavoidable.  After time and through therapy, I was able to safely navigate these areas as long as I had an “escape” plan at my disposal if the panic set in.  The places that I personally deemed “safe” were a trip to the library (children’s section only-adult books may prove to much of a trigger), a once a week extended family dinner, and certain classes at the gym (where the average age was 65-less likelihood of running into a pregnant woman in class). Today, I have come to the realization that these familiar routines that I developed were truly a lifesaver to me during those times of crisis.  Thank you to all those who made those experiences possible, I am forever grateful.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to ALL!  As I think about this past year, I reflect where I was last New Year’s Eve.  Hoping and praying for something to feel “normal” again.  Not even knowing or imagining that something like Interstim would happen for me 8 months later.  Not realizing that my therapy (all of it) would end within the year.  It is truly amazing that a year can bring so much closure.  But, I would like to point out, it is not merely the passage of time that one needs to get over PTSD and physical problems.  It is through lots of therapy, hard work, medical interventions, and patience that one can overcome life’s obstacles.

With that perspective, I must keep in mind that my resolutions for 2012 won’t just happen.  I will need lots of hard work, and patience, to meet my goals.  Thank you, 2011, for showing me that medical interventions are amazing, therapy really works, and hard work can pay off.  Looking forward to a great and productive 2012!

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

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

 

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

Teamwork

In earlier posts I have talked about how I want to be a support to others who need help navigating the stigma of mental illness as well as a guide for those interested in the Interstim Bowel Incontinence therapy.  I should point out that I would not be able to do this if I did not have my own special support system.

My family-My husband, my daughter, my mom, dad, sisters, extended family..they’ve been by my side since the very beginning.  Listening to what I wanted to share, supporting me through my treatments, crying with me and encouraging me during my setbacks, and cheering my successes!

My friends-Old friends who kn0w the “before trauma” me and trust that their unconditional friendship will see us through to the other side.  New friends who understand that there was a “me” from before and trust that they will like her too!

My medical “team”-Rectal Surgeon, Physical Therapist, EMDR Specialist, Psychiatrist, OBGYN, and other medical professionals who have helped with one test or another

My legal “team”-Lawyers, Social Security Disability Right Advocates (this has not panned out financially, but it’s nice to have the members of your team that try to fight for justice!)

My Literary “team”– this team is in the works, my book is written, just need to work through the steps of publication!

Teamwork.  I know I am the major player, but there is no way that I would be able to recover without a team of knowledgeable and supportive individuals. THANK YOU!

Thanks for Reading,

Lauren

“Boss Level”

Last night when my husband came home, I met him with a tear streaked face and incoherent mumbling.  I’ve found that during this latest medication titration session, I’ve been able to hold it together until my biggest support walks in the door, and then I fall apart. 

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that this last medication titration has been the absolute worst.  Most likely, because this titration is the last step in the process of getting off my medication.  Headaches, brain zaps, stomach aches, fatigue, and so much more have plagued me for the last week or so.   Mix the medication titration with extended family drama, and you get a pretty grumpy individual.

Cross medication titration, extended family drama, and my time of the month and you get this statement from my husband. “Uh, oh, I’ve reached Boss Level.”  (For those of you who need an explanation-according to Wikipedia ” A boss is an enemy-based challenge (and a computer-controlled opponent in such challenge) which is found in video games.[1] A fight with a boss character is commonly referred to as a boss battle or boss fight.[2] Boss battles are generally seen at the climax of a particular section of the game, usually at the end of a stage or level, or guarding a specific objective, and the boss enemy is generally far stronger than the opponents the player has faced up to that point.”source-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boss_%28video_gaming%29

Pretty good assessment on my husband’s part.  And, his statement made me laugh, then cry, then laugh again, then cry again, OK, you get the point.

Thanks for reading!

-Lauren

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