She prayed to God; she bargained with God; she screamed to God….no answer came. She turned to the divine universe…she asked for the answer….none came…for just a moment she wondered if she should sell her soul to the devil for the answer….she was already in a living hell…she felt forsaken.
She suffers daily from PTSD. PTSD is known as posttraumatic stress disorder.
What is PTSD
PTSD may seem like a relatively simple concept, trauma…that has long-lasting effects. Recent scientific study shows that experiencing a traumatic event can change the way our brains process the event. The brain can be affected in such a way that makes a person feel like the event is happening again and again. Repeated experience of the traumatic even can prevent healing and keep a person stuck in a pattern that may induce anxiety, sleeplessness, anger, grief, or an increased possibility of substance abuse.
When the traumatic event happened to her a few months ago, her psychologist said she went into shock. Before she had experienced it, she always thought shock was a moment when something surprised you or caused you disbelief. Then the feeling would subside in a short amount of time. This time was different. Her whole world changed in a matter of twelve hours, and it happened in a way she could not process. Her psychologist described it as brutal. The shock came from having accusations thrown at her that were not true and not being given the chance to defend herself and prove her innocence. The accusations came from a person she thought knew her better than any other person in the world, a person that would stand beside her, and a person she had complete faith in. Her mind could not process the event. A loop started playing in her head; her mind needed to understand what had happened, but that piece was missing. On the outside, she looked normal, but on the inside, she could no longer function in a rational way. She could not make a decision; she just did as she was told, because she had lost the ability to think of anything but the traumatic event.
With shock and PTSD she felt like she was in a prison. The bars were locked; she was innocent, and no one would listen. She wrote letter after letter, email after email, read book after book, trying to find the missing piece. Her mind was in a loop and without the answer, she could not be free. She was no longer herself; she was only a shell walking around trying to find the answer to an unanswered question. She felt as if she had gone crazy. The world expected her to get over it, because they had only experienced shock the same way she had before this incident. It was impossible for her to understand and to explain to others why she could not find strength in herself. Her daily life and relationship to others had become disrupted by PTSD. She had lost the magic.
Factors that may lead to PTSD after a traumatic event
· Combat stress
· Witnessing people injured or dying
· Being physically harmed
· The intensity of the trauma
· Being hurt or losing a loved one
· Feeling you were not in control
· Not able to make sense of what happened
· Having communication cut off so you can’t get the answer to the question, “WHY”
The effects of PTDS on her
She fell into a very deep depression. She felt like what was important to her was gone so now nothing was important to her. Her own life no longer mattered. She went to work every day, engaged in normal conversation with people, but she was always on the verge of tears. Sometimes she could not control the tears that would fall; then she would have to try to make some excuse that made sense as to why she started to cry out of the blue. All she wanted was the answer to why, she obsessed over it. She could not let it go, because she felt without the answer, without the chance to understand, without the knowledge as to why she had been so attacked by harsh words and false accusations; she would never be able to function.
She could no longer listen to music, which had brought her joy before. A song would bring her to tears and more thoughts of self-destruction. She had memories so vivid she lost sense of reality, not sure if it was a memory, or if she was experiencing it for real. She lost interest in clothes, in exercise, in even brushing her teeth. She had flashbacks of the event like it was happening again and again and again. She had no peace. She drove herself crazy wondering, if she had said this, or done that, maybe this would have not happened. She felt guilty that she was feeling the way she was when she knew so many people had suffered so much more. Many times she thought she would just get in her car and drive away. Drive to where nothing was familiar and no one knew her. She wanted to run from the pain and shock. Instead she found relief by drinking. Her one to two glasses of wine turned to four. Then she could forget for a moment.
Signs of PTDS
· Feeling upset by things that remind you of what happened
· Vivid memories
· Feeling emotionally cut off from others
· Feeling numb
· Losing interest in things you used to care about
· Thinking that you are always in danger
· Feeling anxious, jittery, or irritated
· Experiencing a sense of panic that something bad is about to happen
· Difficulty sleeping
· Unable to keep your mind on one thing
· Having a hard time relating to and getting along with your spouse, family, or friends
· Loss of interest in sex
· Severe headaches
Her reactions to PTSD
She became obsessed with her hobbies. Her hobby gave her something to occupy her mind. She was an intelligent lady, and she knew the loop her brain was in, was going to make her go crazy, unless she could find moments of relief.
She had many thoughts of ending her life. She thought it would be easier than the constant torment her brain kept bringing her back to and the pain she felt in her heart.
She pulled away from some of her old friends and latched on to some new friends. The new friends did not know the way she was before the PTSD, so she didn’t feel the pressure to be her old self.
She was irritable to her family who were trying so hard to help her. She knew she was not being good to them, but for some reason, she continued lashing out at them about little things. She felt she just brought destruction to those she loved and did not want to cause them anymore pain. She felt everyone else was good and she was bad because she could not heal. Her mind rationalized they would be better off without her.
Treatment to PTSD
Two types of treatment have been proven to be effective in PTSD: counseling and medication. In therapy for PTSD techniques are taught how to respond differently when the thoughts get stuck in your head.
Case after case has shown that counseling and medication in combination can produce positive and meaningful changes in symptoms and quality of life. They can help you understand and change how you think about your trauma and the memories associated with it.
Talking to others who suffer from PTSD has been proven to help with recovery. Only someone else who has it or has had it can understand what it does to you and your thought process.
Step by step, you need to introduce exercise back into your life; you need to do something for others, and you need to reconnect one person at a time.
PTSD is not cured quickly in most cases. People that are loving and soft hearted are more likely to get PTSD than those that have been able to build up a harder shell and emotionally distance themselves. Those that love deeply, grieve deeply.
Four months later
PTSD still haunts her, but she sees improvement. She can go several days without thoughts of ending her life, crossing her mind; compared to when it was all she could think of a few months prior. She is experiencing moments of joy again. Her focus is coming back so she can concentrate better.
She still has vivid memories and flashbacks. She still wants to stop the loop in her brain. She no longer feels like she is crazy, but she also does not trust her thought process fully. She still prays and does not understand why God will not allow her the simple peace of the answer she needs.
A very dear friend once told me that people go through three stages..grief…anger..and blessed indifference. She is still in grief stage. Her therapists would like to see her express anger, however she is unable to. They have tried many techniques to help her find the anger, but she stated she had too many deep and sincere feeling to express anger, and she knows she will never reach the stage of indifference. She has felt intense hurt and it lingers every day. She constantly plays back scenes in her head trying to figure out what happened. She can never find the missing piece…she keeps seeking it….she sleeps no more than two hours at a time…her mind will think she found the answer…then she realizes all she is doing is guessing…there are still times she wonders how she can go on. Her mind and heart keep wondering how she could have been so wrong…when all she did, she did out of deep love. PTSD rules much of her day.
She has trouble with relationships because she does not feel like she knows exactly who she is anymore. She feels herself coming back bit by bit and celebrates each time she recognizes her authentic-self, working to make her strong again.
She worries about the veterans who have PTSD. She can now understand their anguish and wishes she could help them in some way. She has reached out to others with PTSD and given them someone to talk to. Hoping she can make a difference.
She can set goals again and is determined to achieve them. She knows she is strong, even though she does not feel strong. She wants to be well.
If you are experiencing any or several symptoms of PTSD, be brave and get the help you need. PTSD is real; it is painful; but most importantly, it is treatable.