Living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

I received the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) about ten years ago, after my daughter was involved in a serious accident while walking to school. Before the accident, I worked hard to keep my life, my family and their world so protected that the instant she got hit, my controlled snow globe world instantly cracked, hit the ground, and shattered. In fact, when my son and I were talking the day of the accident, he looked at me and innocently said, “Things will never be the same again.”  Extremely prophetic words that at the time neither myself nor my family had any idea what they would come to mean.

During the year following my daughter’s accident, I was busy with tending to her health, taking her to appointments, trying to work full time, and keeping our household running as normally as possible. Simultaneously, I kept having strange experiences that were making me feel like I was losing my mind. I couldn’t stop and think about what was happening, nor did I have the words to describe it to anyone. It was just an overwhelming sense of fear, and general feeling that I was going slowly going mad.

I was becoming anxious. I started losing all sense of time; finding myself wondering where I had been the last few hours and feeling incredibly disconnected from my body and the world. I was called into meetings at work because my performance was terribly erratic. I felt physically sick all the time. And I kept having these bizarre explosive memories leaving me feeling out of control and disoriented.  I knew something was seriously wrong with me, so I made a call to a psychologist who agreed to see me the next day.

When I started working with my first therapist, I was anxious to tell her everything all at once. I thought if I could word-vomit everything that was coming to my mind, that would be enough to feel better and get back to work.

I didn’t understand that I was having flashbacks, and that I was living in a constant state of crisis. I was writing my therapist letters from a dissociated state which made no sense but felt vaguely familiar as she would read them aloud. I would lock myself in my room for hours fearing that I was going to hurt myself, and I didn’t want to be around my family. I felt out of control, thinking I was losing my mind, feeling like I had failed my myself, my family, and I began spiraling down a very slippery slope.

One of the most important practices to have in place when beginning trauma therapy is to have a safety plan. I needed to develop tools for many things, including distress tolerance. Once a plan was in place, we could begin the process of working on and processing my trauma.

Not only was my therapy about processing the memories, but I also had to start accepting that there were some intense effects of the trauma, and they influenced how I saw and reacted to the world.

I also had to face how my trauma affected my relationships with my family, friends, parenting style, and career. While dealing, and coping with the trauma, there were a lot of “aha” moments. I saw how my behavior and ways of coping with life, were a direct result of my trauma and not because I was a bad person.

Some of my PTSD symptoms still have a good choke-hold on me. As with many illnesses, PTSD can be invisible on the outside. My symptoms include (not limited too) flashbacks, concentration issues, becoming overwhelmed which leads to feeling like my brain is shutting down, difficulty making choices, anxiety/depression, and a sensitivity to triggers. I sometimes use the phrase, “triggers, triggers everywhere.” The wind can blow a certain way, or fireworks, or a car backfiring, even the moon can sometimes bring on flashbacks.

Once I was able to name and accept my symptoms, I needed to learn to work within my deficits. This wasn’t easy or comfortable for me. And honestly, there are still times I find myself becoming frustrated and angry at my PTSD. When that happens, I stop, and use my grounding tools to rest and reset.

Writing gave me the courage I needed to address the pain I was feeling. I would write even when I thought I had nothing to write about. Often, I would write and send what I wrote off to my therapist. I started to find that I could write what I couldn’t say aloud.  At first, it provided distance from having to use my voice, but then I found writing gave me a voice.

Learning to recognize and acknowledge each step on my path towards health and understanding is a long and never linear process that helps keep me in a resilient mindset. I also try to remember to notice the perfect moments. I made myself understand that are 24-hours in a day, and within those hours are some spectacular moments.

I was not going to let the effects of what happened to me keep me from trying to have the life I wanted. I never lose sight of my goals. They are to live with my past, live in the truth, and recognize and relish in the feelings of internal contentment. Some days those goals seem as far away as the furthest star, and other days I understand that, I am living in my truth, I am content and understand that I’m not just a survivor of trauma, but that I am thriving despite my trauma.

Thank you, Alexis and the Never Give Up Institute for inviting me to be a guest writer on your blog. The work you do is truly inspiring!

Alexis Rose
Author, Speaker
https://atribeuntangled.com/blog/
atribeuntangled@gmail.com

Thank you, Alexis Rose, for your enlightening blog on PTSD. I know my readers will appreciate your insights, vulnerability, and power to survive. Thanks a million for being a guest blogger on my website.

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Childhood Trauma and Substance Abuse

I received this article from DrugRehab.com today about childhood trauma and substance abuse. I thought my readers who were abused as children would find this information helpful. Please remember that the connection between trauma and illness is a vicious cycle. It becomes even more deadly if you use alcohol or drugs to cope with your unresolved trauma issues. Get help immediately.

I want to thank Trey Dyer for writing this enlightening article.

Childhood Trauma and Substance Abuse

Adults aren’t the only group that lives with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Children also experience trauma at high rates. Many adolescents suffering from PTSD turn to drugs to numb the physical, emotional and psychological pain of trauma.

Childhood PTSD

Anywhere from 15 to 43 percent of girls and 14 to 43 percent of boys in the United States experience a traumatic event, per the National Center for PTSD. Among this group, up to 15 percent of girls and up to 6 percent of boys have PTSD. Children who experience traumatic events grapple with a swirl of emotions. For example, sexually abused children often exhibit fear, worry, sadness and anger. They may also feel isolated or as though people are looking down on them. This can cause low self-esteem and an inability to trust others.

Risk Factors for PTSD in Children

RISK FACTORS FOR PTSD IN CHILDREN

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects children in different ways. The more traumas a child experiences, the more likely he or she is to develop PTSD. Children and teens who go through intense traumas have the highest levels of PTSD symptoms.

Children ages 5–12 often do not have flashbacks or difficulties remembering their traumatic experience. Instead, they think there were signs that foretold the trauma and believe these signs may show up again. As a result, they stay cognizant of their surroundings to avoid future trauma.

Young children may also show signs of trauma in their play. For example, children who survive a school shooting may gravitate toward video games that involve shooting. They may even carry a gun to school themselves.

A teen may endure traumatic events, such as physical abuse, sexual assault, vehicular accidents or cyberbullying. Symptoms of PTSD among children ages 12–18 are similar to those found in many adults: aggressive behaviors, mood swings and isolation. Teens with PTSD may also self-harm or exhibit promiscuous behavior.

Substance Abuse as a Coping Mechanism

Looking for an outlet, many adolescents with PTSD turn to drugs or alcohol.

Overall, 25 percent of physically assaulted or abused teens reported lifetime substance abuse or dependence, per the survey.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice

According to a survey by the U.S. Department of Justice, 17 percent of boys who witnessed violence reported substance abuse or dependency. This statistic was similar to that of girls who witnessed violence.

The survey also found that 27.5 percent of sexually assaulted girls reported substance abuse or dependence in their lifetime. Among sexually assaulted boys, the number was 34.4 percent. Many of these children went on to commit delinquent acts, such as robbery or aggravated assault.

Overall, 25 percent of physically assaulted or abused teens reported lifetime substance abuse or dependence, per the survey.

A 2010 study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors found that PTSD contributes to the development of marijuana abuse or dependence among adolescents.

Another study, published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, found that PTSD led to alcohol, cocaine and marijuana use. The study found that levels of physical, sexual and emotional abuse in children were strongly associated with cocaine use later in life.

Remember to “never give up” on your journey to be healed from unresolved trauma.

Alex Acker-Halbur

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Resources for Trauma Healing

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting two authors who have written books about how they survived trauma. Their books are “true story memoirs” that beautifully illustrate the resilience of how to cope with trauma and survive. These are amazing stories written by amazing women. I encourage you to read their books to gain healing tips on how to resolve unresolved trauma.

Then I Am Strong: Moving From My Mother’s Daughter to God’s Child
by Meg Blaine Corrigan

Meg Blaine Corrigan has overcome longstanding emotional and physical pain. Her distress deepened after she was raped when she was in her 20s . . . and advised to just “forget” the experience. This story is an insightful, humorous, and courageous look at the life of one girl growing up in a profoundly volatile family — an alcoholic mother, codependent father, and over-conscientious sister — as they live in the shadow of the bottle.

 

Untangled: A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph
by Alexis Rose

This is the story of facing the truth and risking the consequences of breaking the silence of inter-generational ritualistic abuse and mind control programming. Through years of self-exploration, Alexis Rose learned to accept the effects of the trauma that echoes through her daily life as PTSD. Ultimately, this book is about resilience; hope for victims who have suffered trauma and for the people who support them.

 

If I Could Tell You How It Feels: My Life Journey with PTSD
by Alexis Rose, Art by Janet Rosauer

This book is a series of essays and poems about living authentically with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Alexis Rose takes us on a journey into the reality of living with triggers, flashbacks, and the challenges of working through trauma. Rose writes with intimate vulnerability about the tough subjects of family, friendships, loss, grief, parenting, and therapy.

 

These books are “must reads” and I encourage you to hear how difficult, yet enlightening, true healing can feel.

Never Give Up!

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