PTSD – It follows you everywhere – And Other Misconceptions
Now, like I said in a previous post some think I have it, others don’t think I do. I think I have a mild case of it. It is all due to just ONE event in life. No one knows until they go through something, how life changing that ONE event can be and how it can affect you the rest of your life.
Now after everything happened on Christmas Eve I would have pretty HARSH flashbacks. I mean REALLY harsh. I was actually placed back into that day. I was actually RELIVING everything. You have no idea how scary that can be. Especially when you don’t know what triggers it. (Later I find that being in the car triggers it the most or even just a song). That first week I was basically living off of Valium. Many know how I am. I REFUSE to take medication if I do not have too. There were times I refused it, but I couldn’t sleep without it because every time I closed my eyes I saw everything all over again. I was reliving it, just by closing my eyes. Can you imagine? Kinda hard to sleep with your eyes open. So, the medication made it so I would sleep. I was happy that I could get sleep. Well I at least was a few days later. The first few days people had to force me to eat, force me to do much of anything. I couldn’t go outside without feeling as if the whole world would come crashing down on me. I didn’t know where this feeling was coming from as I couldn’t be in a small room due to the fact that I was feeling claustrophobic. So why was it worse to be outside??? That is a good question. At that point I only felt safe in a few places. In my friend, Robin’s, house, her car or my friend Allisa’s vehicles. Again, why? I was being claustrophobic, but yet I felt safer in their cars than outside?? These are all emotions and feelings I still question to this day. No one knows why I felt that way and I don’t think anyone ever can. I know why I was feeling claustrophobic, but why was I more afraid of outside than inside??
I remember the first night I was at Robin’s house. I curled up at the bottom of her bed like a cat near her feet and just fell asleep. (Thank you Robin I truly appreciate it!) It had to be a FUNNY sight, but that was where I felt comfortable. I don’t remember exactly how many nights I slept like that. I think it was two or three. I was finally being strong headed and moved to the couch (still unable to go into her spare room due to Adam having been in there the day before he died.) It took me almost a FULL WEEK to enter that room. I still couldn’t be in there for more than a few minutes without feeling as if I was going to fall apart. So I camped out on her couch till January 2nd, when my step dad and I started the trek back to Minnesota. I can’t say it was a mistake because I needed my family. It is going to sound cheesy, but I needed my mommy. Who could blame me, right?
Normal body functions took a few days (eating/drinking) finally came back where I wasn’t forced a few days later. So everything happened on the Monday, then on Tuesday was Christmas. A wonderful family (thank you Christina) invited me over to help me through the day. She was the 2nd person who forced me to eat. Her WONDERFUL WONDERFUL son helped me that day. What a cutie. I still had weak moments of course, but I was mostly numb to the world. I had a right to be. Wednesday, both Robin and I had planned to start cleaning out the vehicles, but got a REALLY late start due to being really tired. Me, I was medicated and still just wanted to sleep. It is a normal thing to want to do after going through a loss or a traumatic experience. It is a part of the depression. Thursday came, a day I dreaded, but needed to get done and over with. I refused medication this day because I wanted to be as clear headed as possible.
What happened on Thursday, you say? Well this was the day that we were finally able to go back to the apartment and clean it out and get everything all packed up. Throw things out that weren’t needed, pack up stuff that is needed, etc. I didn’t go in the apartment. There were points where people put a blanket on my shoulders and I don’t remember it. I just remember taking it off and trying to figure out how it ended up there. I was shivering, but didn’t care. I just wanted to get it done. Many compliment me on my strength. It wasn’t strength I was running on. I was running on get me the F**K out of here. I was running on the fact that it needed to get done. There were a few people that I TRULY TRULY TRULY appreciate for being there.
I want to state one fact: I wasn’t running on strength. If it was strength, I would remember more to the day.
I remember walking in front of the building and I saw in the bathroom window. I saw red. It was in the shape of a person. I started freaking out. Later to find out it was actually my friend Robin. She was wearing a red hoodie. It seems so stupid now, but it wasn’t. I remember breaking down whenever I heard an ambulance or a fire truck. I felt like I was going to go crazy. I am a person who learned early on how to keep things on the inside. If I didn’t I felt as if I would lose control. And that is NOT something I wanted to do. So the “strength” that many say I have or that they see. It’s not there. It is an illusion. It is a front. I may smile, you may see the smile or see me laugh and joke, but really at night I am crying myself to sleep and still having issues sleeping. I am still having flashbacks and nights where I am crying myself to sleep. I guess this is where I get to the PTSD and the misconceptions.
A misconception: I have more strength than anyone else.
Truth: No, I am just really good at hiding it. I prefer to wait till I get to my room and cry into my pillow. I pull into myself and try to find myself instead of confiding in people (these blogs are harder to write than you may think). I feel if I do I will lose control. It’s not strength. It is called survival.
Misconception: You just lost him, get over it. Move on.
Truth: NO WAY IN HELL AM I GETTING OVER IT THAT FAST. SAID DONE. If I feel like going on a date or two to try to some sort of normalcy in my life that is fine. I am not looking for a relationship nor am I trying. Don’t judge me unless you know who I truly am and only a few people TRULY know me on the inside.
Misconception: Flashbacks aren’t that bad or you don’t really have them.
Truth: If you aren’t in my head, BACK OFF. I started getting them more and more seldom, but I do get them. They used to be mostly during the day while in the car at random times. No idea why, but it happens. I have had maybe 3 or 4 in the last wee versus the 3 or 4 in a day that I used to get. The nightmares are still there along with the insomnia. The nightmares ARE flashbacks. I still recoil at the sound of a shot gun (in any way). Even if it is just a mimic of it and NOT TRULY the gun itself or something that sounds like it. Shows that I used to LOVE watching (Bones), I can’t watch. Why? Think about it, why do you think I can’t watch it.
Grief is different for everyone. I don’t necessarily feel bouts of anger towards him. I am glad he isn’t in pain anymore. That is why I am not angry with him. I’m angry with the situation and what it has put me through and where it has put me both physically, emotionally, and everything in between. I feel more guilty everyday for everything than I do anger or sadness. The guilt is what eats me up inside. No, I didn’t necessarily do anything wrong, but I feel as if, I could have done something different. If only I said I love you one more time, or I didn’t spend that extra few minutes at work to finish up a project. Or if I wasn’t so wrapped up in trying to get things done and made more time for us. This is the stuff that runs through my head everyday. Or the what ifs. The what ifs are a killer. What if I had gave him a hug that morning? What if we had REALLY broken up the few times that we said we would? Would he still be alive? But what ifs don’t change an outcome. They just get stuck in your head forever. Along with the guilt. They both whir in your head like your clothes do in the washing machine. (HAHA. Just remember the way Adam always made fun of me the way I said wash and bag. LMAO)
My guilt eats at me everyday. The what ifs are like a dagger to the heart each and every time. It is like someone is stabbing me OVER AND OVER AND OVER again.
I have also gotten this question MANY times: Are you getting help? The answer to that question is that I am getting the help that I need in the way and the time that I need it. I am doing what I have to do to survive. My “treatment” is none of anyone’s business except mine. If I feel as if I need to have a drink once in a while, so be it. LEAVE ME BE. I don’t drink often. In fact I barely do. If I feel as if I need to go walk around somewhere, BY MYSELF, LEAVE ME BE. If I feel as if I want walk off a cliff let me (no I am not really gonna do that, just trying to prove a point). I will do things in my own time in my own way. If the way that makes me feel better is lay my head on my pillow and cry myself to sleep, who cares. It is the way I am coping with it.
Remember the post I did on what ACTUALLY happened??? Yea, Remember how I told you EXACTLY what happened right before calling 911? The part where I heard the bang and saw his head snap back, then I grabbed the phone and tried (it wouldn’t unlock for some reason) to unlock the front door to get a neighbor as I was calling 911? Yea, that whole bit, I remember it piece by piece. It lasted maybe 3 minutes or less. In my flashbacks it lasts MINUTES longer than that. I see EVERY DETAIL, I feel ALL of the emotions over and over and over again. It is as if I am ACTUALLY there in that day redoing whatever it was. It reminds me of a story in Greek mythology where the one guy is destined to hates to keep rolling the rock up the hill and it rolls down again. Never getting it to the top. That is what the flashbacks are like. Or let’s put it this way. It is like doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. My mind is trying to figure out this BIG change in my life. By it trying to figure it out, it gives flashbacks. It is all in my subconscious. (Hence the nightmares) My mind keeps replaying it as if I can come up with a different outcome. Same with the what ifs, but nothing is going to change. And my mind seems to be having a HUGE problem with that. I feel like I am just beating my head against the wall or talking to a brick wall or beating a dead horse. You know those stupid sayings. It is exactly what it is.
Yes, not only do I have flashbacks, but I have bouts of anxiety attacks. They do at some points get to full on panic attacks. I suffered anxiety attacks before, but not to the severity that I have now. No, I do not necessarily want to take medication for it, and when I finally do go back to Colorado I WILL go back to my doctors and be able to get my medication back together again. Don’t push me/don’t force me.
What NOT to say to a survivor of suicide:
Things will get better.
Oh, they must have REALLY wanted to get away from you.
I know what you are going through. (No you don’t, every situation is different)
It was God’s will.
God called your loved one home because He needed some flowers in His Garden
It was an accident, a terrible accident.
He or she was on drugs or drunk.
Why? (HELLO I HAVE NO IDEA WHY!!!)
Don’t say that the suicidal person was not in his or her right mind or was “crazy”. The majority of people who complete suicide are ambivalent and tormented; they may have a character disorder or are neurotic, but they are not insane. Telling the survivors that the person was crazy may invoke worries of inheriting mental illness. Suicide is not inherited.
Below are more things to do/not do around a survivor of suicide.
There are days where my mind tricks me into thinking that it is all a dream and that his smiling face will walk in the door. There are times my mind tricks me into thinking that it didn’t truly happen. That is when it makes it hurt all that much more when I realize that he is not coming home to give me a hug. It is when I realize that I will never be held by him again that I feel dead inside. These feelings come on strong, and take a while to make them go away.
NEVER EVER tell me what to do. I am 25 years old. I am past the point where I need to be told what to do during my grief. Now if I am starting to harm myself in some way (stop eating/drinking, hurting myself, etc) then step in, but ONLY THEN. Otherwise, let me do things my own way with my own time. I NEED THAT. I NEED TO BE LEFT ALONE TO FEEL WHAT I NEED TO FEEL. If I need to talk I will tell you. If I need to do something I will tell you.
Ways to help someone cope with being the survivor of suicide:
Be a good listener.
Be a good listener. Survivors have a tendency to repeat and ramble. They may have a tremendous sense of guilt. It is helpful to listen over and over and over again.
Be patient. Often the survivor is the first one to realize that they are not easy to get along with, but they need people to persevere with them until their grief eases.
Don’t say “snap out of it.” Often the survivor reacts to such a statement by pushing down his or her feelings and thoughts, which slows the process of working through ones grief.
Be the type of friend with whom the survivor can talk and feel comfortable and accepted. Be available to spend time with the survivor. Most people find the best way to work through their emotions is to talk them out with someone they trust. When the survivor tells about their feelings often they are helped in understanding what is going on. Talking also releases some of their pressures. Often while talking the survivor comes up with his or her own solutions.
Survivors have every right to feel sensitive. Some people deliberately avoid the survivors. They will cross the street or pretend that they don’t see the survivors. This adds to their guilt. Such actions are not done out of malice, but rather out of confusion about what to say. It is important to make every effort to befriend the survivor and to reach out.
Vicious and cruel remarks are sometimes made. They hurt the survivor deeply. Don’t repeat such remarks and try to help the originators of the remarks to realize the hurt that they are causing the survivor.
************Don’t start telling the survivors that your child or friend “almost” tried to commit suicide an you “know” how they feel. Your loved one is still alive and theirs is dead.****************
Never say “you’ll get over it in time.” Hopefully, the survivor will learn to deal with it and cope with it in time, but never will they “get over it.”
Discussing the signs of suicide with a survivor is not helpful since the suicide is a fact. Telling them “there must have been signs indicating depression” only lays more guilt on the survivor.
The anniversary of the suicide is a very painful time. Relatives and friends should make every effort to be available, to listen, to call, to visit, to send a note, to do little acts of thoughtfulness.
Accept the survivor’s feelings. Practice unconditional love. Feelings of rage, anger, and frustration are not pleasant to observe or listen to, but it is necessary for the survivor to recognize and work on these feelings in order to work through the grief rather than become stuck in one phase.
Some additional reading that EVERYONE should read:
There have been many things that have come to light in the years that I lived in Colorado. Many health issues. I was diagnosed with Multi Nodular Goiter. Which is an enlarged thyroid with nodules that could be cancerous. Found out they were cancerous. By removing the thyroid, it removed the cancer. I still have my left thyroid. It did not have nodules nor is it enlarged. It is normal. I found out that I am slowly losing hearing in one ear. The other one is SLOWLY going also. I have tinitus on almost a CONSTANT basis in the one ear. So if it seems as if I am ignoring you, I am not. I am just having a particularly bad day with my hearing. My one knee has no cartalidge left and will have to eventually be replaced. My other one, since moving back to Minnesota in the cold is now starting to go also. I have a severe allergy to corn husks (only makes me sneeze uncontrollably). I am allergic to yellow gold. I have GERDS (acid reflux), I have high blood pressure, migraines, my sight is also starting to go down hill, chronic depression, and bi polar. I have to say I am a mess and falling apart. Not many people know half of the medical issues I have been battling for the last few years. And it is because I am only JUST coming to terms with some of them. You may ask, wait, how old are you again? I am only 25 years old, and yes, I am a medical wonder. Not to mention all the PREVIOUS issues I have had. I had my gall bladder removed and removing it had caused more stomach issues than when I had it, but had to have it removed because it was slowly dying inside my body. Meaning it could have burst at any point. I am not telling you this just to get pity. (That is FAR from what I want.) I want you to understand what I am going through and I wanted to get it all written down so that I didn’t have to CONTINUALLY tell people.
My life has been far from easy. With all these medical issues you wonder, were they the cause of my two miscarriages?? Possibly, but many of these medical issues didn’t pop up till later. I have had two miscarriages (three if you count the set of twins as two) in my life. I still do suffer from the grief of them. To know that I could have a kid that belonged to Adam, I do not know what I would do if I did. I would have a piece of him with me always. The 2nd miscarriage happened in 2008 (I am not going to talk about the first as many don’t know about it and I don’t want to talk about that one). It was during a “break” that Adam and I had. After a big fight. I didn’t know I was pregnant, but continued to take my birth control. I didn’t miss a period or anything. That is all I am going to say about both of them. Only certain people are allowed to know ANYTHING about them. and they all know who they are.
I think this is where I am going to leave you all tonight. Brought to you by “Another Flash Back”