Category Archives: THE POST TRAUMATIC STRESS

PTSD MELTDOWNS 

It’s November 26th and I just had what we can call a meltdown.

I teach others to be aware of their triggers. It is helpful to learn what  triggers us; so we may then figure out how to recognize and manage our reactions to triggers.The purpose of understanding antecedents is: if we know what sets us off, we can gather the necessary weapons to battle these triggers. The best weapon is knowledge.

It’s complicated with multiple layers. So here’s what happened-I was having coffee and talking to my husband. We were discussing the effects of the Mestic violence on an unborn child. My lips started tingling that is an indication of me being triggered. So I told my husband I’m triggered right now. I don’t know what triggered me and so I’ll we backtrack to see what we were talking about and it turns out when we were talking about the accident with the violence on unborn children I have a flash back what my ex-husband did to me during two of my pregnancies and the associated emotions hit me remembering that I thought my children would be born dead.

And so good I located the trigger. And now I can add that to the list list of things that set me off. So to speak. Right so that’s a positive but I’m still triggered. So it’s still my buddies to reacting and I’m feeling out of control. So my husband gets up and he comes then he hugs me and my dog comes and she hugs me and we are in the ménage hug. It’s comforting it’s grounding right you’re mine picture body and your senses somewhere else if someone touches you can be comforting and grounding. But beware because sometimes someone with PTSD is triggered a touch can be the wrong thing to do.

So they’re hugging me and I’m talking I’m saying everything that I’m feeling and what I’m recognizing and then I realize my eyes were squeezed yet. And the whole time my eyes are shut and seeing what was done to me am I going to baby. When I realize this but I’m in a flashback I knew if I open my eyes I see where I really was sitting at the kitchen with my husband and dog cooking me.

So I open my eyes and take several deep breath still be returning to homeostasis. I laugh laugh and say fuck going to be primed all day. But Issac of busy doing things that I need to do the presentation we met at the buzzing sensation limited.

PTSD: The Feminist Perspective

I am a feminist. If you asked me to describe myself, the first thing I would say is, “I’m a woman.” Many people are ignorant to exactly what feminism purports. . .especially those who fear it.


The Feminist Movement advocated for women’s rights and women’s sufferage: voting, equal pay, domestic violence and sexual harassment. The movement infers we must work to actively correct gender imbalances and abolish the exploitation of women.

by Instructor Kimberly Moffitt

Look at the world through a woman’s eyes and you will see what we deal with on a regular basis. The feminist perspective is to see things from a woman’s point-of-view in a society governed by men; also to be conscious, mindful and critical of men dominating women at home, work and out in the world.

My own Post Traumatic Stress has been compounded by acts perpetrated against me by men in my home (violent ex-husband), at work (sexual harassment), while running errands (humans without boundaries) and so forth. All aspects of my world, from childhood to current, were effected by the decisions and behavior of men. The first time I was five years old  [My First Kiss] and the last time was July 20th of this year. 

In college, I examined the history and psychology of women, and thus, am grateful to the women who endured before me; who suffered much of the same and worse at the hands of our male counterparts. Way back when, women who reacted to trauma were considered nothing more than hysterical. Today, society has so graciously begun to recognize that violence is a routine part of many women’s sexual, domestic and everyday lives.

Shortly before I was born, in the early 70s, post traumatic disorders were finally recognized more in women. I say “finally” because previously, our experiences as women were tenebrous; under the guise of “private life.”  The privacy society supposedly valued placed a barrier between HER and the rest of the world; rendering HER reality invisible, and HER voice silent. 

In my previous marriage, I was unable to speak up about my own life riddled by sexual and domestic violence. When I tried (a few times): his mother asked, “What did you do to make him hit you?” A friend said they did not want to get involved. A male marriage counselor said to me “Why don’t you give the guy a break?” A psychiatrist told me I was a Paranoid Schizophrenic. The psychiatrist asked if I had someone to watch my children because he wanted to hospitalize me for four to six months. He said it would take that long to see which medication(s) were right for me. This happened twenty years ago. At the time I didn’t know what a Paranoid Schizophrenic person looked like. I only knew two things: I was not mentally ill and the psychiatrist was yet another man who was trying to take or reduce my power. From early on I learned that speaking up about what was happening to me only served to invite further humiliation, and standing up for myself would not be permitted.

As a therapist, my goal is to design a confidential, validating, safe environment for one to speak their truth(s). I suppose I sought the career of a healer because no one offered me the space to overcome without re-victimization and further shame. I was rendered silent and could not point my finger at those who harmed me. I understand what it feels like to be prohibited from speaking about injuries.

A few years ago I had to go before my peers and state which theory/perspective I preferred to use in my work. My favorites are the psychodynamic and feminist theories. I chose to present the feminist perspective. That may seem odd, as my employ is within a male prison. Some presumed I did not know what I spoke of, but look at it this way: a feminist understanding empowers the marginalized to breach their barriers, to support one another, to take action and raise consciousness. My approach is to encourage the silenced; to give them a voice. 

I work with many traumatized people; individuals who have been physically, emotionally and/or sexually abused as children. The initial work on domestic violence and sexual abuse grew out of the feminist movement:when services for victims were organized outside of the traditional mental health system often with the assistance of professional women like Lenore Walker who inspired the movement [Lenore Walker].

Psychologist, Lenore Walker, began describing the psychological trauma of women who fled to shelters as “Battered Woman Syndrome.” In the early 1980’s when abused women and incest survivors spoke about their injuries, they were describing posttraumatic stress disorder; yet it was not clear that what was being observed in these survivors is essentially the same as what was seen in survivors of war.


The symptoms of shell-shock were due to psychological trauma and the emotional stress of prolonged exposure to violence and death. The symptoms produced in traumatized soldiers were like those seen in women who were exposed to continued physical, emotional and psychological abuse.

Who and how a person becomes  traumatized is irrelevant. A trauma is a trauma. . .is a trauma. If you want to be there for him or her do not shame them when they begin to speak their truths.  Treat them with dignity and respect. Do not silence them, rather encourage them to write and talk freely about their terrors. Invite them to feel safe. Do not question their overwhelming fears. Understand, they are haunted by unwanted memories. These things might protect your friends and loved ones against an acute breakdown; which can lead to rapid decompensation.

The focus from a feminist perspective would be to empower: I will not allow my truths to be forgotten. I refuse to be stigmatized. I do not need to convince others that my distress is righteous or justified. I will not be stripped of my dignity. Look at the world through my traumatized eyes when I am angry, crying, short-tempered, or lack affect and recognize that psychological trauma is a lasting legacy.

PTSD: UNSPEAKABLE

    

*repost

Last week I attended the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) conference in San Francisco. I took two courses; 36 hours of training about how to assist individuals and groups in crises. We learned debriefing and crisis communication techniques and were reminded of common psychological reactions to trauma; including important differences between things like distress versus dysfunction. 

On the last day we were formed into groups of eight for the purpose of completing a role play exercise (one of my least favorite things). My group scenario was about a janitor who came to work wielding a knife. Our task was to decide how to role play it. We agreed on a script: we were at a meeting for supervisors when the irate janitor came at us with a knife. One group member offered ideas to aid the script. He looked at me and said,” and you were really affected by this because it happened to you before at a former work place and it was really bad.” 

My heart raced. A memory intruded. I’m at my old job, Advance America, and there is a gun against my head. Something is changing. The air is different. How many times have I been triggered? 100? 500? It’s irrelevant, I decided after realizing there are more to come. There will always be more. In the interim I am hurting and I’m wearing this pain completely; like an invisible blanket no one can see. PTSD is like an insurgent. It compels my senses to go rogue against my body; like a traitor. I retreat into darkness. I’ve been betrayed. I cannot fight against the way the memories seduce me. I’m triggered. I tried not to let it divide me. I don’t like the way it conquers me. I hate it. I gather strength and will the images to shut down. . .one by one. The robbery happened more than a decade ago, yet, I still feel poisoned by it. I’m triggered. It always knows where to find me. It arrives bestowing unwanted memories so that I can’t even remember NOW. I’m relying on someone to remember the way I am invaded from time to time so that they may bring me back safely, but alas, no one notices. They are blind to the way I lose time, and lose sleep, and when I sleep, I wake up heavier, burdened, and haunted for in my dreams I was being hunted. No one notices the patterns of my aches or the way the pain thumps inside my head after I’ve been frightened. No one sees this unseen part; like the times I snap out of it and it takes me a minute to realize where I am and who they are. No one notices the way I synthesize details of my surroundings so that I may recall the present. I remember: tomorrow is Monday and then I attempt to get up to exit the conference room except I can’t move my legs. Someone is speaking to me and I nod my head, but I don’t know what they’re saying. I want to speak and I can’t because the words were displaced before they reached my lips and no one knows I’m triggered. I feel myself tumbling forward and breaking free. There is a roar of laughter and I’m jerked back into the present, but the fear lingers and I feel weakened. Meanwhile, I wonder about the man who put his gun to my head. What is he doing in the present? I’m back in the present and no one even noticed I was gone.  

 My group members suggestion triggered me. I wanted to leave the conference room, but before the role play began, the instructor told us he didn’t want anyone running out of the room in an effort to appear distraught as part of the role play. I wanted to leave, but I did not want to draw attention to myself, nor did I want to explain myself. I sat there in my group with seven other individuals and thought ‘wow this still fucks with me.’ I thought I was over being triggered about the robbery because I am finally able to speak aloud about the incident without feeling as if I am choking, panicking and on the verge of tears. 

Since the robbery, I have become acquainted with PTSD and have learned how to soothe myself using self-talk. I tell myself I am okay and remind myself that I’m not crazy because a motherfucker chose to put a gun to my head and I believed he was going to rape and murder me.    

The business I worked for more than a decade ago was robbed. I was robbed. I was alone when it happened. So much time has passed and sometimes my  responds as if it just happened. Some of you may be able to banish awful things from your memory. Certain things are too horrible to recall. One thought is, people don’t want to talk about terrible things. Another piece is, terrible things are difficult to listen to. Many times people with PTSD are re-victimized and re-traumatized when they attempt to speak their truth. Due to this phenomena we may hesitate to open up because we might become triggered in the process of telling our story and to make matters worse, while triggered, sometimes what we say becomes detached from what we mean to say. This amounts to being misunderstood; especially to the untrained listener. 

  
 
 

I can hear myself when I’m triggered. I’m embarrassed at how dramatic and bizarre I must sound. I understand how difficult this may be for the person on the receiving end. I often play the role of listener for patients, friends, strangers, and family. When I am speaking with a human who is upset, in crisis or traumatized; my duty is to remain clearheaded so that I can piece together fragments of their story. I must be multilingual in a sense; in order to understand the fractured language the traumatized person uses to illustrate how they became riven. 

I tell you about me so that you can see what we have in common. We are connected by atrocity. We are survivors of combat, prison, abuse, assault, disasters, accidents… We survived wars, predators and husbands. We survived one trauma, many overwhelming events, and/or prolonged psychological abuse. Because of our commonalities I want you to know I understand what many don’t: the impact of traumatic experiences and the strength and resilience required to adapt and recover from those unspeakable things.  

Friday

Ice Breakers

Rive

Car Accidents and PTSD

Stalked:The Conclusion, Chapter 18

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Dale was found guilty of, Attempted Murder and Spousal Battery. He was sentenced to serve a term of 15 years to Life. “To Life” means he could potentially spend the rest of his life in prison. His prison term: Life With The Possibility of Parole deems him eligible for a “Lifer Hearing” where he would go before the Parole Board. The Prison Parole Board would determine if Dale was suitable for release back into society.
Dale went before the Parole Board recently (August, 2014) and was denied parole. He will be eligible to go before the parole board again in five years when he is 63 years old.

Dale has been incarcerated since 2001. The last time I heard from him was in, 2010.

I shared all the letters I received from Dale. Letters he continued to write after he was ordered to cease and desist all contact with me.
He continued to write after receiving a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). He wrote after he was served the Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO).
I turned over all evidence and reported every infraction; yet, when Dale went before the Parole Board, none of the violations involving me, were in his file.
The DVRO expired after three years. I didn’t bother renewing it. I suppose my reasoning was similar to that of many victims who file restraining orders: they don’t help.

Shortly after receiving his last letter, a woman called my cell phone on Dale’s behalf.
A stranger contacting me must of been what Dale meant when he wrote about finding a way to secretly get letters to me without being caught.

From what I gleaned: Dale used his superficial charm to befriend a fellow inmate. I don’t know whether favors were exchanged or if the new friend did Dale’s bidding out of kindness.

Dale wrote a two paged letter to me and gave it to his new inmate friend; who mailed the letter to his girlfriend. When she received the letter, she called me and said,”I have a letter for you to read from, Dale.”
She relayed Dale’s instructions: I was to read the letter and return it to the woman. She said, “I know where you live. I can come to your house, but I don’t want to be rude and just show up. So you can meet me here at the Chevron gas station on Bradshaw and Micron. You can meet me here, read the letter and return it to me or I can come to your home.”

The woman was affiliated with an incarcerated man. She took risks carrying out Dale’s bidding at the request of her boyfriend.
I met her at the Chevron gas station with the goal of keeping her away from my home and my children. I didn’t know what she was capable of.

She was a short, plump, Caucasian woman who appeared to be in her late twenties. She handed me the letter from Dale; which I read with great difficulty. I was distracted by circumstances. The woman stared at me while I read. She watched me the entire time as if she thought I’d attempt to get away with the letter.

The letter was filled with much of the same; attempts to intimidate and professions of love.
When I reported the incident to the DA investigator I had to recall as much of the letter possible as well as provide a description of the woman and her vehicle.
Silly me, I did not think to take down her license plate number. I did, however, have the number she called me from. I don’t know if Dale and his friends received consequences for (a) violating the restraining order (b) witness tampering (c) attempting to dissuade a witness.
I doubt it.

I believe the first prison Dale served time at was, California State Prison (CSP) Solano. While at Solano State Prison he came to possess a cell phone.
It is a misdemeanor to posses a cell phone in prison.
Dale made use of his cell phone by calling my former job, Advance America. He called numerous locations and when he found I no longer worked for the company he set out to find the woman who was formerly my assistant, SH.

SH was familiar with Dale who spent a lot of his time either at my office or calling my office; when she and I worked together.
SH contacted me and told me about her interaction with the incarcerated Dale.
When speaking to SH, Dale introduced himself as “Dale’s brother.”
SH said,”I knew it was Dale. I recognized his voice. I kept asking questions to get as much information as possible. I knew he was supposed to be in jail so I gave him my cell phone number and told him to call me later because I was at work; and that way when he called my cell phone, I’d have the number he was calling from.” While pretending to be his brother, Dale told SH he needed to speak with me urgently because the FBI was looking for me since I lied during my testimony. Furthermore, he wanted to speak with me and warn me because he didn’t want me to get in trouble.
SH said,”I knew something was wrong. All the stuff he was saying didn’t even make sense. Why would the FBI be looking for you, for lying? And they’re the FBI. You’re not hiding so if they wanted you, they would of found you. I told him, you and I had a falling out and that we don’t speak anymore. I told him if I did see you, I’d beat your ass. I wanted him to believe I couldn’t stand you; so he wouldn’t think I’d contact you.” This was very smart of her and I was thankful.

Once again the information was passed on to the DA investigator. A lieutenant at Dale’s prison was informed of his contact made with the outside world via cell phone.
Dale’s cell was searched and a cell phone was found.
The cell phone incident did not come up during his Parole Board Hearing. I’ve concluded, he wasn’t penalized. However, he was transferred to a different institution.
Avenal State Prison

At Avenal, Dale was in close proximity to his parents who visited him often. Dale was also in contact with church going people who believed he was innocent of something; rather than guilty of something.
One of those individuals, a pastor, contacted me. The pastor called my home one fall afternoon and introduced himself. He told me Dale was filing an appeal and urged me to visit him. He said, “Dale knows that you’re married and he’s okay with that.”
I asked,”How did you get my phone number?”
The man paused; then attempted to avoid answering. I repeated my question and he finally answered,”From the white pages.” The man’s goal appeared to be, convincing me that visiting Dale was in my best interest.
I told him I would think about it. I’m not sure why I told him I would think about it when I knew, I wasn’t going to visit Dale. Ever.
It’s that same behavior I tend to exhibit when in the crosshairs of a predator: I don’t say,”No,” and I feel if I say,”No”my life will be in danger. It’s the way my trauma brain functions.

I turned over the pastors contact information to the DA investigator, who let the pastor know the potential consequences of contacting me again.
According to the investigator,”He [the pastor] didn’t know. He had no idea what Dale was in prison for and just believed everything Dale told him. You shouldn’t hear from him again. He said he was sorry.”

Dale is currently an inmate at Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI).

In conclusion:
I am privy to many other details because of who I know. The additional information I am privy to is not public information; nor is it my personal experience and for those reasons I’m unable to make those details public.

I never understood Dale’s personality. I thought he was dangerous, controlling and violent.
He wouldn’t allow me to go to college. As soon as I was free of him I enrolled and completed six years of college, earning a BA in psychology and MA in social work. Ironically, college is where I learned about humans of his ilk.

I am glad Dale wasn’t granted a release from prison.
After receiving a call from the pastor I got rid of my land line. Dale knows my address and my relationship status.
How? I’m pretty sure the pastor looked up information for Dale and provided it to him. A crime for which he did not face consequences. He put me and my family in danger. Supposedly, unbeknownst to him. He thought he was helping his wrongly convicted brethren.
One person said, she didn’t believe I had anything to worry about if Dale were to be released.
She’s incorrect. She’s never been stalked; never had a personality disordered person obsessed with her… she doesn’t know.
When Dale went to prison people told me “It’s over now.” I knew better.
They considered me paranoid when I said,”I could feel him thinking about me.” Then I found out he called nearly all the Advance America’s in my city, looking for me.
A few years pass and I find out he’s been conniving people to search for me and contact me.
He even had someone reach out to my son on MySpace.
He isn’t finished.

PTSD AND NIGHTMARES

 

It’s November 21st at 3:44 PM. I’m having kind of a bad PTSD day. 

It’s been a while (although not long enough)since my sleep has been burdened by hours upon hours of nightmares. 

Last night I slept six solid hours. The entire time I was trapped in agony. I woke at 4:00 AM and clung to my husband whilst attempting to make sense of my world. Sometimes I awaken-and it feels like I’m still in a nightmare. Intellectually, (because I know a lot about trauma brain) I understand I’m awake, but that understanding is battling the part of my brain that is telling me I’m in danger. I ground myself by grabbing my husband or my dog. It’s like I’m literally clinging to the present because my brain is telling me to run for my life or fight…but I’m touching my dog and she’s  reinforcing reality by orienting me. 



I always think of people who are battling PTSD without any education about it. I have hundreds of hours of research and education about it; yet there are times I want to blow my brains out. When people tell me “I hate it! I just want it to stop!” I say “I know.” But they probably don’t understand that I KNOW!
 

In paying close attention to myself, I’ve learned something new: If I have nightmares all night-> I’m going to be triggered upon wakening + primed for panic throughout the day. That means I’ll be easily activated.

3prime

: to make (someone) ready to do something

: to make (something) ready for use

: to cover (a surface) with special paint in order to prepare it for the final layer of paint

Full Definition

transitive verb

1 : fill, load

2 a : to prepare for firing by supplying with priming 

I woke from the first nightmare, grabbed my cell phone and played scrabble, scrolled Instagram and Facebook and online window shopped until I found sleep again…when I did, more nightmares came. Nightmares upon nightmares.

 

One dream was about domestic violence: Every time I left the house I’d see a man come out of no where and attack this woman. I don’t know if they were married, but clearly her goal was to escape him. He’d do the same thing every time-Storm toward her,grab her,dig his right hand into her skull so that his four fingers went beneath the skin..then he’d drag her off like a bowling ball while she screamed in agony. Observers on the street were yelling “Someone help her!”  I took flight. The last time he grabbed her, he didn’t drag her off right away. I knew he was going to kill her. I ran while trying to call 911 on my cell phone. He was killing her and I knew I would be next as well as others in the vicinity. I yelled my husbands name really loud and that woke me. I actually yelled for him in my dream and in real life.


What was that dream about? I was in a violent relationship in the past, but I don’t think that’s key. I need to look at my world to see if there is something happening  giving me the emotions I experienced in my dream. Fear.

The other night I dreamt I was in a horrible car wreck and dying. I’ve been in multiple vehicle accidents. I even thought I was dead once after being rear ended. But again, I don’t think the dream was about reliving an accident. Rather, it was about the associated emotion. Fear. 
 

Following a nightmare-I try to soothe myself until I cannot keep my eyes open any longer. I’m avoiding sleep at the moment. Sometimes I think the dream will continue or another nightmare will start if I return to sleep. Other times I cannot sleep because I’m amped from thee burst of adrenaline.

I have a drawer full of Xanax that I can use, but I don’t like taking them. I know they’re there if I cannot regulate my heartbeat. Sometimes the emotions from my dreams linger all day. When that happens, I stay on my property.  


I ground myself by (1) petting my dog after she wakes me up. (2) go on Facebook and Instagram. I usually find funny things on Facebook. I post things and banter. Things on Instagram make me laugh pretty hard and looking at animal pictures make me smile. (3) I work on my blog of (4) I get up and do things with my animals or garden. 

PTSD: Emphatic Knowing

  

What is it called when one is overwhelmed by terror and helplessness? Neurosis?  According to Merriam Webster neurosis is defined as: 

an emotional illness in which a person experiences strong feelings of fear or worry;  a mental and emotional disorder that affects only part of the personality, is accompanied by a less distorted perception of reality than in a psychosis, does not result in disturbance of the use of language, and is accompanied by various physical, physiological, and mental disturbances (as visceral symptoms, anxieties, or phobias).

I suppose one could label me neurotic once I’ve been triggered. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an apparatus that purposefully intervenes with perception. Sometimes it’s a good thing; as it allows me to keenly and accurately pinpoint danger. Contrarily, this altered state sometimes depresses me. It’s pervasive and there are times when I feel afraid for days and days; unable to experience security. The procession is aggressive and I typically go from stoic to disorganized. At my worst, my autonomic functions disassociate and I feel disconnected.


We call this hyper-arousal. It’s intrusion has me expecting danger; a reflection of how my traumatic moments have imprinted, henceforth reflecting a numbing response I have no choice but to surrender to. Trauma devotes itself to some of us and as a result our systems of self-preservation are on permanent alert, which feels like danger may happen at any moment. It’s haunting. 


Physiological arousal or hyper-arousal may look like: startling easily; sleeping poorly; alertness; vigilance; irritability, and explosive or aggressive behavior.


Its persistence can make life maladaptive as one continuously searches for safety and security. 

 
Imagine how difficult it is to feel safe in our current world whilst invaded continuously by calculated acts, disingenuous humans and ceaseless traumatic events that are overwhelming for typical denizens; while it is more difficult for those like me to locate a sense of control, connection and meaning following additional horrors.


 In 1981 post traumatic stress disorder was first included in the diagnostic manual of the American psychiatric Association described traumatic events as outside the range of usual human experience. 

The above definition of post traumatic stress may not be accurate today as it becomes more evident that all forms of sexual assault and domestic violence are so prevalent they cannot be described as outside the range of ordinary experience. 

The fortunate ones have the privilege of labeling “unusually traumatic events” extraordinary.  Trauma overwhelms the ordinary human adaptation to life. Unlike commonplace misfortunes, traumatic events generally involve threats to life or bodily integrity or a close personal encounter with violence and death.

Generally with PTSD the fear involves threats to life or bodily integrity or a close personal encounter with violence resulting in helplessness and terror. According to the comprehensive textbook of psychiatry the common denominator of a psychological trauma is a feeling of intense fear, helplessness, and loss of control. Identifiable experiences increase the likelihood of harm include being taken by surprise, trapped or exposed to the point of exhaustion. The likelihood of harm is also increased when the traumatic events include physical violation or injury; exposure to extreme violence or witnessing a death.



 The human response to danger:

• encompasses both body and mind •arouses the sympathetic nervous system.                                                  •causes the person in danger to feel an adrenaline rush                                                 •a state of alert follows                  •attention becomes concentrated on the immediate situation                  •perceptions may alter

When working with traumatized individuals I normalize the changes that occur with arousal, attention; perception and emotions because each are normal adaptive reactions that prepare us for fight or flight. The difference is , when traumatic reactions occur->the system of self-defense becomes overwhelmed and disorganized. 


With post traumatic stress disorder the traumatized person may experience intense emotion without clear memory of the event. They may not remember everything in detail, but may find themselves in a constant state of vigilance and irritability without knowing why.

Symptoms have a tendency to take on a life of their own. This kind of fragmentation tears apart a complex system of self protection that normally functions in an integrated fashion central.

 
People coping with PTSD  suffer from a combination of generalized anxiety symptoms and specific fears and do not have a normal baseline level of alert or relaxed attention; instead they have an elevated baseline of arousal. Their bodies are always on the alert for danger. They also have an extreme startle response to unexpected stimuli as well as an intense reaction to specific stimuli. It also appears that traumatized people cannot tolerate stimuli that other people would find really annoying. Instead, they respond to each introduction to the stimuli as though it were a new danger; resulting in continuous arousal. Hence, the reflex to escape and avoid certain stimuli.


Numerous types of sleep disturbance are associated with trauma. People with posttraumatic stress disorder take longer to fall asleep, are more sensitive to noise and awaken more frequently during the night. 


At times, it is difficult to resume life’s normal course because the trauma repeatedly drops in and time stops. Those experiences are encoded in my memory and spontaneously appear into consciousness whether I’m awake or asleep.

 

Our dreams are unlike ordinary dreams. Mine include streams of traumatic memories. While awake, small insignificant environmental stimuli can be perceived as signals of danger;thus arousing violent reaction.


Reliving a traumatic experience whether in the form of intrusive memories, dreams or actions calories-the survivor is continually struck by terror and often rage. These emotions are different from ordinary fear and anger and are outside the range of ordinary emotional experience. They can overwhelm the ordinary capacity to process feelings. At times emotional distress is so intense, we may go to great links to feel protected with the hopes of eliminating the possibility of triggering the posttraumatic syndrome.

 

RIVE: The Moment

This is the story of the end or where it began; either way, it is the story of my new forever.

I hadn’t realized I was dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) until I witnessed a violent incident at work.

I experienced a lot of trauma during my lifetime. I didn’t forget, for my trials are unforgettable. . . to me. I suppose I never connected the effects of my injuries: fear, startled easily, rarely trusting, chronic nightmares, reacting dissociatively, distress following trigger, avoidance behavior, detachment, restrictive affect, negative emotions and beliefs, hypervigilance, issues with concentration, irritability, depersonalization and derealization. I had been living with these things for so long I just thought my reactions and behavior were normal. It is normal.  My normal. Normal for a person who experienced many things that are abnormal.

The work-place incident occurred while I was employed at the first prison I was hired at. I had been there a little over three years when a new person came to work there.  A woman. I’d known her for five years. We were in graduate school together and had been friends; although I ended our friendship because her behavior was out of bounds. She lacked boundaries in a major way and was unpredictable. In hindsight, I probably ended the friendship because her unpredictable behavior caused me a lot of anxiety.  She was flakey, unreliable, and socially inept. What it amounted to is, I had difficulty trusting her. How could I trust her if she rarely kept her word and behaved histrionically. I did not like being around her because she always drew attention to herself and I do not like attention. I’ve since learned my triggers and the two things that awaken my senses are unpredictability and folks with personality disorders. The two tend to go hand-in-hand.

 It takes mere seconds for my brain to alert me to idiosyncrasies. I consider it a gift: the way being traumatized repeatedly has sharpened my senses to the point of being psychic. I can watch someone,and before I blink, I will know what they are about and what they will do. I haven’t been incorrect yet. 

I had been manning the unit alone for a few months due to a shortage of staff; which meant I had a caseload of 30 when I was supposed to have 15. It was manageable. Mostly because my team understood my position. One day my supervisor came to me and said she hired someone and was going to place her on the unit with me. I don’t know why, but I asked,”What’s her name?” When I was informed of this new persons name I felt dread. I said, “Oh, I know her.” My supervisor inquired,”Is it okay? Can you work with her?” I said “Yes, it’s fine,” but I knew I should of said, no. I reckon everything played out the way it was meant to. 

I reached out to this woman in an effort to maintain a work environment free of impediments. I texted her and let her know I was informed she had been hired and that she would be placed on my unit. I invited her to lunch and to my surprise she immediately apologized for the downfall of our relationship. She held my hand and cried. She told me how much my friendship meant to her and that she admired me. I trusted her words were sincere, but when it comes to behavior, I’m a ‘wait and see’ type of girl. I thanked her for apologizing and tentatively agreed to try our friendship again.

http://instagram.com/meadowdevor

She started at the prison the week following our lunch date. It only took a day or two for her personality issues to surface at work. People can only wear a mask for so long. She was fine toward me, but she targeted two of our colleagues: a female psychologist and a male psychiatrist. Her antics (lying and splitting) disrupted our team. I don’t think my erstwhile girl-friend is evil. I think she has some unresolved issues, and she allowed those issues to spill over into other aspects of her life. She lacks insight, lies, plays games with people, and bullies them. 

Watching her in action induced anxiety because her behavior was predatory. I work with predators by virtue of my my employment. I was ill-prepared for similar conduct from confrere’s. 

I counseled her about her behavior, which is difficult to do when people lack insight and are personality disordered. I only advised her when she came to me about issues on the unit. Otherwise I minded my business.  I would point out how her behavior contributed to the issues she brought forth. She never confirmed or denied her part. She would only look at me.

One day the psychiatrist decided he’d had enough of her bullying him. I was in one of the treatment rooms conversing with the supervising RN and our psychiatrist was seated at a table writing med orders and charting. The blighter entered the room with hands on her hips and chastised the doctor for not being present when she sought him out earlier that morning. The castigation continued with her pointing and waving a finger at the doctor; a man 30 years her senior. He’d grown weary of trying to ignore her and silently collected the charts he had been working in and quietly walked past her, exiting the room. 

Roughly three minutes after his egress, he returned, and got in the face of his agitator. He was so close I thought he would strike her. I believe she thought the the same because she raised her hands as if preparing to deflect his blows. He yelled obscenities at her as he told her how out of line she was. When he was finished, he walked out and left us frozen in shock. He returned once more and said a few more words before leaving the unit.

I am stuck in a time where people pretty much think about themselves and disregard how their actions effect those around them. She had the narcissistic traits that forbade her to notice much outside of herself. As a psychiatrist, he knew his contender was personality disordered; yet he allowed her to encroach upon his limits until he exploded, and left collateral damage.

One of my triggers are men yelling and/or exhibiting erratic, domineering, abusive behavior. I didn’t know this at the time; if I had, I would of been prepared for what followed his tirade and may have been able to stave off some of the psychological and physiological effects of being triggered.

Triggered: Imagine typing a word or phrase into Google. Google will search and offer many results. I offer this as a comparison for the way my brain behaves when I am triggered. When I saw and heard the male psychiatrists violent behavior toward his female agitator, my brain, like a computer, searched it’s data bank for similar incidents (unbeknownst to me). 

As it searched, it probably cross referenced Dale, who I wrote about in the Stalked Chapters; my ex-husband whom I’ve referenced in several of my essays; Advance America, I wrote about in a piece titled Friday where I had a gun held to the back of my head…so on and so forth. 

The result was my brain alerting me that I and my female cohort were in danger. At the time I was not aware of the message my brain was communicating to my body. I have since decided to become somewhat of an expert on the topic of trauma, responses to trauma, and PTSD.

After the event, I suffered anxiety attacks when I thought about going to work, on my way to work and while at work. At first I didn’t know I was having anxiety with panic attacts. I thought my heart was pounding as a result of being severely anemic. I was very anemic at the time and as a result, occasionally my heart would race or drum in my chest and I found it difficult to catch my breath. 

Finally, I relented and contacted our Employee Assistance Program (EAP). When they asked me why I needed to speak to a therapist I told them, “Something happened at work and I think I have anxiety associated with PTSD.” I was given the names and contacts for several therapists and by chance (nothing is by-chance) chose one who specialized in PTSD. So when I told him I thought I had PTSD he said, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure you do, but I don’t want to label you.”

“A moment of danger can bring about a temporary cessation of the stream of thinking and thus give you a taste of what it means to be present, alert, aware.”

Eckhart Tolle

 

Trauma Related Resources

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The link below includes many trauma related resources including the article, “Rape Trauma Syndrome:The Journey to Healing Belongs to Everyone.”
Trauma resources are available on the following topics:
Addiction
Adoption
Auto Accidents
Chaplain/Police/EMTs
Childhood and Adult Sexual Victimization
Compassion Fatigue
Culture/Race/Ethnicity
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault
Grief
Journalist, Survivors and the Media
Male Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence
PTSD Treatment and Recovery
Partners and Families
PTSD and Health
PTSD and Workplace Issues
Resiliency
School Disasters
Spirituality and Trauma
Survivor Guilt
Trauma Responses in the Aftermath of Disasters
Veterans and Their Families

http://PTSD Resources for Survivors and Caretakers