I wanted to make a post about PTSD and what it does to you.
I don't think people that don't have it or haven't had or seen a full blown anxiety attack can fully understand. So I thought I'd try to write a bit about it to try and explain. My mother loves me and I love her dearly, and I know she worries a lot about me. I think she may have some PTSD in a mild form, but I don't think she fully grasps how crippling it is for me. A few years ago, when my husband left, and I had to leave a job because my employer was beginning to punch walls and I felt fearful of that situation, I think my PTSD took a really bad turn for the worst.
I'd had occasional anxiety attacks prior to that, but I was lucky, I had never had one in public. So for the most part, while it was far more serious than people knew, it was not nearly as serious as it is currently. When those things happened, I continued to try to work, I tried to continue on in the same manner trying to take each day as it comes. I tried not to worry over much about the future or the fact that things were not their best. I went on this way, until I was starting to have other medical complications due to other things such as my PCOD, and arthritis and it was beginning to seriously affect my life in a negative way. It was making me very ill, there were a lot of call offs, doctor visits etc. My sleep was affected badly, and I began to worry in hyperdrive. I was already anxious because of the type of job I had, and because my personal life had also suffered. I'm a worrier by nature, but this was beyond the normal typical amount of worry, where a thought about something that needed being done comes to mind, you think about how you might go about it and make a plan, this was worrying for the sake of worrying. I was worried about my health, my job, etc.
It turned out that I had a cyst that needed surgery, and that's ok, but my sleep was worse and worse. I was falling into a full blown state of what seems to be ongoing insomnia. Some stemming from anxiety which can be handled in part with some over the counter herbs that help make you tired, and from keeping noise going to calm and hush a noisy mind. The other parts that affect it are not as easily handled, such as back/arthritis pain when the weather changes or whatever the case may be. Wet/dry, cold/hot and vice versa tends to wreak havoc on me. And then there's the weird things going on with sinuses that causes one of my ears to sound like a kettle drum at times. Talk about annoying, how are you supposed to sleep with a wiggly ear drum?
Well, after the surgery, and after some hard work to try and fix my sleep patterns, I thought I was on the right track, and ready to return to work. That's when it happened. After a few days I began to be particularly aware of the effects of the stress of having people yelling at me all the time. Because the PTSD was in a heightened state, I would sometimes have crying fits at work, though trying to sound as if I was fine on my calls, and still take the time to be efficient at my work. Then as this worsened, one day on my way home, the worst experience I've ever had happened. I began to feel the tightness in my chest and between my shoulders indicating that I was about to have a full blown anxiety attack. I was on the highway, and so I tried to breathe my way through it to keep it from happening, but it happened anyway.
I'd like to say a little bit about anxiety and the differing degrees of attacks that happen to me. I have chestpain every single day from it. Some days I am insanely dizzy because I'm sure I'm not breathing right or something going on. That's mild, but still cripples you by making it so you feel you can't or don't want to chance going anywhere due to what might happen if you do. I'd had them like this prior to the driving incident but never paid it as much attention until after that incident. After it, the level of fear associated with the anxiety went off the charts. You'll understand momentarily when I describe a full blown attack I'm sure. But there are days where I might have the tightness in my chest and back but not have it go into a full blown attack. There are few people that have ever witnessed such an attack, and the ones that did, caused me more anxiety due to the reactions to the attack.
A full blown attack for me is like this, it always starts with the chest pain, then the tightening in chest and between my shoulder blades, then if it's going to spin out of my control, my neck begins to get really tight and painful, I cease being able to feel as if I can breathe, and hyperventilate. If I'm at home, I hang myself upside down off my bed to try and stretch out my chest and lungs as much as I can to try to both alleviate the pain and force my lungs to be able to take in good air. If someone is present, I try to get them involved by digging their fist or elbow or whatever as hard as they can between my shoulder blades to try and alleviate the tightness in the muscles and break it up so that it will stop putting whatever pressure it's puttin on my body not allowing it to get the good air I need. The two people that have witnessed one of these both reacted poorly the first time, I'm hangin upside down off the side of the bed, and they're running back and forth asking if I need an ambulance, and when I ask for help they look helpless and tell me they didn't know what to do. As you can imagine, not being able to feel as if you can breathe right and giving someone directions on how to dig into your spine to try and unknot muscles and help shorten the time of the anxiety attack is definitely a tricky business. And it causes more anxiety trying to tell them that you do NOT in fact need an ambulance because it will pass, it's just going to take a while.
Now, imagine this on the highway, alone, in the car, trying to make it home without passing out or dying. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. It is crippling because any time you feel the warning signs that there COULD be an anxiety attack, you don't want to take the chance and go anywhere for fear that it will happen and put you or others or both in danger.
So now you know two of the ways that PTSD affects me, but there is so much more. People tell you, don't dwell on the past, and that's very good advice. I don't do that, I don't think they understand that. I don't have control over the PTSD and it's not dwelling on the past that does this to me, it's just a by product of things that did happen, and then further fueled by circumstance. Granted, I can't escape these things, because I'm to the point where this is so serious and affecting my life so much that I've had to work up the courage to call the VA in order to schedule an appointment for re evaluation of it. This has taken me years because it causes me so much anxiety to think about doing this. I just KNOW they're going to want to talk about what caused it etc and it's just not something I like talking about. Obviously it's not pleasant. Otherwise I wouldn't have PTSD in the first place, and I'm not sure if everyone with it has to dig deep to find that courage, but I do. I know it causes me anxiety and therefore I tend to try and avoid it, not ignore it mind you because it's a bit impossible to ignore. Something that affects your life every day of your life is not exactly something that you're able to ignore.
Of course circumstances being what they are, it's not helping things much. Currently I'm unemployed, have no income to speak of, and recently filed my taxes, which were put somewhere else, apparently, though I have not seen any reason for that. So while I relied on that, I also acknowledge that it's not something I had, therefore I'll have to simply deal with the fact that I don't have it still. The end of this past month I ended with a balance of .15c in my account, and eggs and pancake mix left in the pantry. I've turned off just about everything I can, and unplugged everything else I could find to unplug, and my electric bill still went up. So while it's upsetting I just have to laugh because it's like the electric company knows I'm unplugging and turning everything off so they're raising the cost and charging me more. I know that's not the case, but I have to find some humor in it all, or it will simply sweep me away.
LOL they say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, but at this point, they forgot I don't have sugar, or water and so I have to simply eat them as is. That's just a metaphor of course, I do have water. The absurdity of it all does make me laugh at times, because I can't spend all my time chewing on my nails huddled in a corner. That's not going to do me any good. So I think up ways to poke fun at the situation. May as well, it's poking me so I figure I'll just poke back. *poke*
I did finally work up the courage to call the VA, and so hopefully things will be headed in the right direction.