Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Understanding my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Today is a difficult day. I feel stressed and anxious for no particular reason, and I find that harder to deal with than when I have a specific trigger. Specific triggers allow me to understand what is going on, and I can easily relate them to my initial trauma. Today's anxiety, however, has no root cause; I simply feel a bit lost and overwhelmed.

This has made me reflect on the actual name of my disorder: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Today, I have made sense of this name. I am reacting after a trauma- therefore, 'Post Traumatic'; my reaction is stress-related- therefore, 'Stress'; and my reaction is caused as much by a chemical imbalance in my brain as it is by external experiences- therefore, 'Disorder'.

It is this final section that is most important- what I am going through is not necessarily rational, and I won't necessarily be able to control it. It is a disorder. As someone who is used to being able to control everything, I need to fight the urge to try to 'fix' what I am feeling and simply go with the flow. With the help of my counsellor, my partner, and my medication, my trauma will resolve itself- but sometimes I will have to simply live through difficult days without having the power to change them.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Triggers That Be

I have been reflecting on the specific incidents that have triggered my PTSD responses, and how they relate to the incidents that have caused my trauma.

In a nutshell, I was raped at the age of 15 whilst in foster care, and then entered a violent, drug fueled and emotionally manipulative relationship with the perpetrator. These are incidents I have never worked through, sorted out or spoken to anyone about. I have always had trouble verbalising specifics, but now that I am faced with working through PTSD, I am aware that the time has come for me to open up and speak about my experiences.

In part, the idea of doing this frightens me; my automatic response is to avoid the reality of this situation and simply focus on the positive aspect of having recovered from depression. When triggers occur, however, it is hard to keep avoiding; instead, I shut down completely, not wanting to speak or think or take any kind of action that may mean delving deeper into the root causes of my physiological experiences.

Over the past week, the triggers have been:
  • Being at a friend's house whilst the girlfriend who just broke up with her moved her belongings out- it was full of angst, drama, yelling and physical threats to my safety;
  • Having a fiend bring up a conversation about my ex-boss, a controlling, manipulative woman who brought my PTSD to the forefront of my life;
  • Having a salesperson tell me off for touching a product;
  • Witnessing a negative verbal interaction between my partner and a stranger over a car park; and
  • Seeing a male who resembled my rapist/domestic violence perpetrator.
I have dealt with each of these by going into an avoidance zone; a place in which I do not speak or think immediately after the event, and one in which I must muster every ounce of strength to maintain a fabricated version of my persona. As soon as I am home, I relax into a state of silence and darkness. I have also experienced fear, both within the situation itself and in the time following.

Within each of these triggers runs the common theme of conflict, and this conflict is often partnered with a threat to my physical safety or a representation of emotional manipulation. These are exact parallels to the trauma-causing incidents, which means that whilst my mind is avoiding dealing with the specifics of those, my body is responding to them in every way.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Journey Begins

I received some big news yesterday. The insidious disease that has controlled my life for the past two years, depression, has "lifted". Lifted to depression means what remission means to cancer; I am better, although I remain at risk of relapse and only time will tell if I am completely cured.

Along with my good news, there was some bad. I have been experiencing a new and unusual set of symptoms recently, including a feeling of anxiety, fear and that of being overwhelmed. There have been very particular triggers (being present around conflict), and a significantly different set of responses to those I had due to depression. A light bulb immediately went off in my counsellor's eyes when I started talking through these feelings; within minutes, we were going over a set of symptoms that represent my new diagnosis, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

A rush of emotions hit me when I heard the news that I was free from depression but now in the holds of PTSD, and they have been swirling around my body ever since. There was a jittery excitement for the first little while, as well as an intense sense of relief. The relief was not only present due to the fact that my depression has lifted; being diagnosed with PTSD has given me a set of answers to the confusion I have been feeling for the past month due to the sudden onset of new and unusual emotions. Knowing what was going on made me immediately feel somehow freer, and that feeling has stayed with me.

This morning, I awoke feeling slightly overwhelmed by the situation; depression was something I understood, but PTSD is a whole new experience. I have spent this morning researching the disorder online, ordering books that I feel would help me, and coming to terms with the new journey that I am about to undertake.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

All About Me

Whilst my Blog Header would suggest that I am defined by a certain series of negative events, there is much more to me that I wanted to share with you.

I am a passionate, optimistic 24-year old woman living in Australia with my partner, two cats and two dogs. I adore craft, reading, graphic design, surfing the web and having silly times with my furry family. My partner is the best thing that could ever happen to anyone- supportive, kind, open, understanding and absolutely gorgeous. She is my rock!

In between the list of events that have caused my Mental Health issues, I have led a great life. My mother was the best mother in the world, and the relationship I had with her is a significant part of what has allowed me to survive my life experiences. I have travelled the world continuously, and have not only seen some of the most spectacular places on the planet but have also shared some incredible moments with people the world over. I am well-fed, well clothed, well educated and have a gorgeous family. There is a lot I am grateful for.

I find, however, that writing is what I turn to when times are low. I have written my way through some of the most dramatic of my life's moments, and being able to express myself in this way has had some truly powerful effects. Normally, my writing is limited to an audience of journal and pen; however, I felt inspired to share this element of my journey with the world in the hopes of either hearing from people who have experienced similar things, inspiring those going through tough times to keep on going, or educating those who have never experienced Mental Health issues as to the realities of their grip.

I hope you enjoy my journey with me; whilst it will be difficult at times, I have no doubt that I will make it out the other end and live the life that I dream of living.