Last night I watched an episode of “Vera” – a TV murder mystery series in the same kind of vein as “Midsommer Murders”. ‘Vera’ is a Detective Inspector (I think that’s the proper title) and is a curmudgeonly sarcastic older woman who calls people “luv” and goes about her job with ruthless efficiency. I like “Vera” because for one thing it’s run for several years now. And I identify with the character.
How does that tie into Beckie’s topic for “Working on Us” this week? The episode in question dealt with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in a veteran of this Middle East mess that America and the UK are caught up in. I have been educated today because I had no idea there was “complex” PTSD. We grow as we learn.
Now generally Beckie gives us a series of questions about her topic, and then a visual image (or more) to write about. Today she’s doing something different:
“This week is going to be a little different, meaning I’m not going to set prompts in place. Due to the sensitive nature of this topic, I’m requesting you, the reader, to write a narrative of your experience that caused your PTSD-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and CPTSD-Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the treatment you have received.”
- Write your own post and create a pingback to the original post here.
- There are no right or wrong answers. Write in any format you see fit. (Answer’s, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, poem, short prose…anything, and/or narrative).
- You can do one or all prompts.
You have from October 9th through October 15th to submit your entries.
- Please re-blog the original post in order to spread more awareness.
- ( If you the blogger have a suggestion/question you want to ask in the future weeks, please submit them in the comment section of this post).
- Let’s see if we can get some men involved in this week’s prompts, your viewpoint/feelings are validated here too!
- Plus, as an added bonus, whoever responds to the following prompts will automatically be re-blogged to promote your blog site and spread more awareness!
CAUTION. Given recently expressed opinions – this particular post might be seen as dwelling on situations and things from my past that I can’t change. Maybe that’s so. But open discussion, to me anyway, is the best way to heal. To remove the stigma and shame that sufferers of mental illness innately feel or have programmed into their psyche from a young age. I do not indulge myself in ‘victim thinking’ and I don’t identify as being a victim. Things ARE what they are. But talking/writing about the painful/scarring bits helps me. If such ‘therapy’ isn’t something you admire, then don’t continue reading. I won’t be offended.
Post traumatic stress disorder has been around a very long time. Probably since there have been wars and people who fought those wars and battles. Less recognized are the people who are civilians and who get involved in the war by dint of where they geographically live, or because their country is deemed weaker by some other power and is taken over. Religious persecution (to me) carries its own burden and sufferers of PTSD arise because of that too.
Complex PTSD (in my opinion) comes about because of severe trauma. And someone who has had a very traumatic event might not develop PTSD at all, depending on their emotional health.
I developed PTSD from several events over my life. Starting when I was four. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse might do that. I did. But I was never diagnosed with the condition until I was in my mid to late 30s.
Factors that gave me PTSD were:
Sexual abuse starting at age four.
Foster placement in a home that wasn’t suited to being a foster home.
Abuse – sexual, psychological/emotional and physical at the foster home.
Having a biologic parent with a fairly severe mental illness.
Having not one, but two abusive long term relationships as an adult.
Bear in mind that I’m not playing the ‘poor me – I’m a VICTIM’ card at all. As mentioned I never knew the behaviors I exhibited because of my PTSD weren’t ‘normal.’ I thought EVERYONE felt the same way, just some were more adept at coping.
What an eye opener!
The list of my symptoms (gathered from the chart above) are:
- Re-experiencing the trauma through intense psychological distress in the form of ever worsening anxiety and anger.
- Chronic insomnia
- Clinical depression (dysthemia)
- Avoidance in the form of feelings of isolation and estrangement.
- And all of the symptoms of hyper-arousal.
- Not listed, but to me a symptom: Extreme anxiety which might express itself in agoraphobia or severe isolation.
I married a Vietnam Veteran. Who, coincidentally had on-going childhood sexual abuse. Hubby was a poster person for PTSD. He also suffered flashbacks, numbing, and detachment; but did not (consciously) have depression. Towards the end of his life he began to experience nightmares of things he witnessed in Vietnam. The rest of the symptoms weren’t his burden.
Perhaps that’s a telling factor. Even in similar groups like soldiers, the expression of PTSD is widely varied.
What ‘treatment’ have I sought?
Given that PTSD wasn’t a recognized diagnosis until 1980 and as mentioned, I didn’t know what that aspect of my mental illness was, I never got treatment for it until 2014. I labored under the mistaken assumption that PTSD was for soldiers alone. I believed the mental health care workers that my symptoms, while having roots in the childhood trauma, were part and parcel of my depression (not the other way ’round) and social phobia/anxiety.
Fortunately a therapist I saw from 2014 to 2018 led a group for women who had PTSD. Domestic violence, rape, sexual abuse, trauma (victims and witness to violent crimes) and stalking victims were in that group. I think I was perhaps the mildest case in there. Some of the women had stories that made me cry. Others told stories that made me thank God most ardently that I hadn’t suffered their burdens. One thing we all shared in common was the fact that every woman, no matter what her story was, felt objectified and lost most, if not all, of her personal sense of self worth and esteem. There was a huge amount of guilt and self blame like “I shouldn’t have been there (place where trauma occurred)” or “I shouldn’t have drunk or got high because then the trauma wouldn’t have happened.” “I should have been STRONGER and walked away.”
Many of the women in that group were addicts – drugs or booze. Others developed addictive behaviors such as becoming compulsive gamblers, sex addicts or (as in my case) food addicts. Everyone finds their own way to numb the pain.
In that group we were taught meditation techniques, mind exercises for helping with insomnia and other things designed to help us realize we weren’t freaks nor “bad” because something bad had happened to us.
Everyone has pain and grief and burdens. Some of us require a little more help with all that than others do. I admit to being a tiny bit jealous of the person who can put it all behind them. I’m doing better at it, but it’s not over by a long chalk.
Tiny baby steps every day. Pushing old boundaries that were, at one time meant to keep me ‘safe’ – in my mind at least. Learning healthy ways to set boundaries (because one of my other characteristics was having/setting no boundaries at all in interpersonal relationships). I still have trouble with that last one but I see progress.
A sibling and I were talking and he mentioned that he thought “I always *insert old and now discarded personality trait*” when it came to confrontation and standing up for myself. My automatic response, in the day, was ‘flight”. I’d run away from the problem and firmly ignore it, in the misguided hope that because I was ignoring it, it couldn’t see me. It would disappear. Yeah. That kind of thinking has been one of the most challenging to overcome.
Learning to do it without becoming enraged is the other side. After I started feeling more autonomous and sure of myself, I began to really get angry. All the years of pent up anger just flooded out and it was ugly to see. I don’t like that about myself, but again…baby steps. I’m learning to cope with that aspect of myself right now.
Thanks to Beckie for hosting these fascinating discussions of mental health challenges. 🙂