Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I have PTSD.

I wrote this post years ago and had taken it down just after posting, because as part of my healing, I felt I needed to honor myself and allow my journey to be private.  After re-reading it a few years later, I feel like it is indeed a post that needs to be shared, for its original intent: to help others struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I have since actually recovered from PTSD.  Only a few symptoms still linger, but thank God most are completely behind me, and nothing but the memory of a bad dream I awoke from.  My intense desire and the action steps I took ultimately propelled me to kick PTSD's proverbial booty.  Yup.  I did it.  Anyway, here's the post.  And for anyone in the throws of it and wondering if there will ever be an end to the madness... believe me when I tell you, there IS hope.
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 Hello, my name is Monica and I have PTSD.  

That was probably the hardest sentence I have ever had to write.  Why?  Because by writing that sentence, I am admitting just how weak and fragile I am.  How broken I am.  How damaged.  By posting that sentence on my public blog, I am placing myself in an extremely uncomfortable, vulnerable position.

My whole life (up until about 2 years, 1 month and 15 days ago) I took pride in the fact that I was such a strong woman.  I have been through numerous traumatizing and painful events in my life, just like all of us, but I always managed to push through and come out unscathed.  Strength was my middle name.  Resiliency was my M.O..  My friends and family would recognize and comment on those attributes that I so proudly possessed.  But when all of that changed for me during or shortly after a severely traumatic event (and was exacerbated by subsequent traumatic events), I found myself a puddle of weakness, tears, confusion and utter powerlessness.  I looked in the mirror at my pathetic self, and hated who I saw.  I was beyond humbled.  I was destroyed.

After my family urged me and financially provided a way for me to go, I found myself sitting in a Therapist's office.  He was a very educated man and renowned in the area that I lived for his vast experience and knowledge of crisis counseling and treatment.  He is the one who enlightened me to the fact that I was not a pathetic lump of weakness and lunacy, but was suffering acutely from PTSD.  After listening to me describe my feelings, thoughts, actions and reactions, he made me aware of the fact that I was describing definitive symptoms of PTSD.  Finally, someone that not only understood, but helped me understand!  It was nice to know that there was a reason behind the "Why?", but it was horrible all at the same time.  

At the point of my diagnosis, what I thought I knew of PTSD was that it was what caused Vietnam Vets to go crazy and become homeless alcoholics.  I didn't really think it was an actual illness, but rather a label.  I still know very little about it, although I am a living example of what can happen when it suddenly strikes. In the interest of educating myself a little more, I googled the term "PTSD", and the first site that popped up on my search was Wikipedia's definition of it.  Here is a portion of what it said:

"Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder with characteristic symptoms that can develop after the direct experience of an extremely traumatic stressor such as the threat of a violent death or serious injury.  To fit the criteria of PTSD, the individual must react with "intense fear, helplessness or horror". The characteristic symptoms include a "persistent reexperiencing of the traumatic event", and a continuing avoidance of reminders of the precipitating stressor accompanied by a "numbing of general responsiveness". This event may involve the threat of death to oneself or to someone else, or violent assault on one's own or someone else's physical, sexual, or psychological integrity, overwhelming the ability to cope. As an effect of violent trauma, PTSD is less frequent and more pervasive and enduring than the more commonly seen acute stress reaction.  Diagnostic symptoms required for PTSD include persistent re-experiencing the original trauma through flashbacks, hallucinations or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, a general numbing of emotional responsiveness, acute and unpredictable episodes of anger, and hypervigilance. Formal diagnostic criteria require that the symptoms last more than one month and cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Many people experience a traumatic event but do not develop full-blown or even minor PTSD.

PTSD is believed to be caused by the experience of a wide range of traumatic events and, particularly if the trauma is extreme, can occur in persons with no predisposing conditions.
Persons considered at risk include combat military personnel, victims of natural disasters, concentration camp survivors and victims of violent crime. Individuals not infrequently experience "survivor's guilt" for remaining alive while others died. Causes of the symptoms of PTSD are the experiencing or witnessing of a stressor event involving death, serious injury or such threat to the self or others in a situation in which the individual felt intense fear, horror, or powerlessness.  Persons who are employed in occupations which expose them to violence (such as soldiers) or disasters (such as emergency service workers) are also at risk.
Children or adults may develop PTSD symptoms by experiencing bullying or mobbing.

PTSD symptoms may result when a traumatic event causes an over-reactive adrenaline response, which creates deep neurological patterns in the brain. These patterns can persist long after the event that triggered the fear, making an individual hyper-responsive to future fearful situations.  During traumatic experiences the high levels of stress hormones secreted suppress hypothalamic activity which may be a major factor towards the development of PTSD.
PTSD causes biochemical changes in the brain and body that differ from other psychiatric disorders such as major depression. Individuals diagnosed with PTSD respond more strongly to a dexamethasone suppression test than individuals diagnosed with clinical depression.
In addition, most people with PTSD also show a low secretion of cortisol and high secretion of catecholamines in urine, with a norepinephrine/cortisol ratio consequently higher than comparable non-diagnosed individuals. This is in contrast to the normative fight-or-flight response, in which both catecholamine and cortisol levels are elevated after exposure to a stressor.
Brain catecholamine levels are high, and corticotropin-releasing factor concentrations are high.  Together, these findings suggest abnormality in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
The HPA axis is responsible for coordinating the hormonal response to stress.  Given the strong cortisol suppression to dexamethasone in PTSD, HPA axis abnormalities are likely predicated on strong negative feedback inhibition of cortisol, itself likely due to an increased sensitivity of glucocorticoid receptors.  Some researchers have associated the response to stress in PTSD with long-term exposure to high levels of norepinephrine and low levels of cortisol......"

Yep.  Isn't that fabulous?  That is what I have.  And like I said, while it helps to have an idea as to why I feel the way I feel, it does not change the fact that it really, truly, deeply sucks.  I'll bet if you look further at specific symptoms of PTSD, you may see my picture and read my name next to them, as it appears I am a walking billboard for the affliction.  And I loathe that fact.  Why did I have to be one of the lucky ones who could no longer physiologically handle stress?  And did you read the part about how it actually changes your brain?  Can you believe that?  I can, but only because I've experienced it firsthand.

I am determined to overcome PTSD, if that is possible, and am taking steps towards that end.  My journey is far from over, but I am scaling this mountain anyway because I will never know if I can reach the top if I don't try.  They say admitting it is taking the first step, right?  I feel so vulnerable by going public with this.  But the reason I decided to post this very raw admission is this:  I believe there is a common misconception regarding PTSD, and I want to help put a stop to it.  I used to think people used PTSD as an excuse for irresponsibility, poor life choices and behaviours.  I used to think it was a fictitious mental illness that people used as a crutch.  Again, I have been more than humbled and knocked off of my high horse.  I now know that it is a very real thing, and one people need to better understand.  It is easy to judge someone when you have not walked a mile in their shoes.  Yet even though I have been walking for miles and miles in these very uncomfortable shoes, I still find myself judging myself some days.  I am, however, making a conscious choice to stop doing that.  As my Therapist explained to me, it is the equivalent of losing a limb.  No, you cannot see the injury like you could if you had lost a limb, but it does not change the fact that there is a very real injury inside of your brain.  Being in denial about it does not help.  Looking the other way does not help.  Judging yourself for being injured does not help.  Accepting the fact that you are injured and seeking treatment for the injury is the most responsible choice you can make regarding PTSD.  

Yes, there are people who may fake mental illness for self-serving purposes.  But there are also people who don't.  And this I now know from first-hand experience.  I believe that where there is an illness, there has got to be a cure.  Because of my faith, I believe that Jesus is the Great Healer.  And I know with everything in my being that He is not only going to heal me and bring about complete restoration within me physically, mentally and emotionally, but He is also going to bring forth a Job story in my life.  If I thought my life was so blessed and wonderful before PTSD hit me, just wait until I see what my life is going to be like after I have beaten it.  And all the glory will be God's.  


I wasn't sure if I could post this one today, but if I chose not to write that first sentence and share it and everything I wrote thereafter, I would be submitting to pride.  And I refuse to let anything, much less the sin of pride, get in the way of the great work that God is going to do within and through me.  I want to help bring awareness and enlightenment.  By opening people's eyes to PTSD, maybe I can help someone somewhere out there.  PTSD is a very real, physical and chemical reaction that can occur in more individuals than I think most people realize.  Yes, it does affect veterans, but it also affects people in many various other walks of life as well.  Some cases are chronic.  Some are not.  The exciting news is, either way, there is help.  There is treatment.  There are steps that can be taken to get many of those affected by it on the road to recovery.  It is my personal mission to obliterate the misapprehension of PTSD, and ultimately, to personally defeat it.


~Monica~




Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Woman in the Street

I just have to share an inspiring tesitmony from my friend Kim, who I just got off the phone with.  She is a genuine, sweet person with such a beautiful spirit and heart for God.  She is one of my very best friends.  Kim doesn't enjoy writing as I do, so I asked her if I could write about her day because I feel it needs to be shared.  She excitedly gave me permission.  She doesn't have a Facebook page (weird, right?!), but hopefully will soon, so she can see what I wrote.

Kim has been going through some really big trials in her life, and some of those trials we are going through together.  In all of her adversities, she never loses sight of her faith, and never misses an opportunity to bring God praise not only for the things He has done, but the things He WILL do.  Anyway, she was driving to a very stressful doctor's appointment with her mom in one of the busiest intersections in the city.  While stopped at a red light and in the scorching heat she saw a homeless woman walking across the street with no shoes on her feet.  She looked like she hadn't had a shower in quite sometime, and she was dragging a big black garbage bag behind her, which looked heavily loaded with stuff.  Suddenly, the bag split open and it's contents began spilling out all over the street.  The woman didn't notice it at first, and kept walking, dragging the bag, leaving a trail of debris behind her.  Kim couldn't tell at first what the contents were that were spilling out all over the street, but her mom soon realized what they were.  She said, "Kim, that's food!  That woman is losing all her food!"  At that point, the bag totally burst open, and every single thing inside of it scattered.  Kim felt a strong tug within her spirit that she needed to help her.  They were parked 4 or 5 cars back from where the woman was, and no one else was offering her any assistance.  The food kept spilling everywhere, and the woman looked frantic.  The light was going to be turning green any moment, and her food which looked to be the only food she'd probably had in quite some time was spread all over the busy street.  Kim said, "Mom, I feel like I need to get out!  Should I get out?  I'm getting out!"  Her mom said, "Yes, go!"  Kim lept from her car and ran up to help the woman.  There was so much food everywhere, that even with both of them loading up their arms, there was no way she was going to be able to salvage it all.  She prayed that God would help her be able to save this poor woman's food.  They ran a few arm loads to the side of the road and ran back to get more, but the light had turned green, and cars were beginning to go.  Kim ran out in the street to try to stop traffic, and as she did so, one guy intentionally came very close to her with his car as he zoomed by, glaring.  She took her sunglasses off of her pretty, perfectly made-up face and looked directly at him.  Not a dirty look, just a look like, "Nothing that you are late for could possibly be more important than this poor woman's need for help."  She said his face kinda fell, like he was feeling convicted in his spirit, and he drove on.  The rest of the traffic stopped to let them rush to gather up the food.  One guy in a truck did drive by them quickly as they stooped and scurried to salvage what they could, but as he did so, he  threw an empty box out of his window.  "Praise God!", she thought.  Now they had something to put all the food in.  But it wouldn't all fit.  They hauled that box to the side of the street - the light was now back to red - and God told Kim to look over at a nearby building, where she saw a big empty crate sitting on top of a dumpster.  She ran and got it and her and the shoeless woman began to load up more food into it.  By this point the light was green again.  They were almost finished.  The woman looked up at Kim - their faces were close together - as they were bent over picking up food to throw into the crate.  The woman said, "Thank you SO much!  I just found all this food in a dumpster!"  Kim assured her she would stay until the job was done so that none of it would be ruined or go to waste.  They finished, and ran the crate to the side of the road, and traffic resumed.  Finally the hurried and annoyed motorists could move onto wherever it was they were going.  The woman again thanked Kim, and Kim smiled and told her how happy she was to help.

While she was recalling the story to me, she said, the one thing she saw the most about the woman was her feet.  They must have been killing her on the scalding pavement.  They were hard and calloused and dirty.  The woman had dirty hair also, which looked a little like unintentional dreadlocks were starting to settle in.  Her clothes were ragged and dirty.  She looked like she hadn't had a home in quite some time.  Kim thought to herself, "If God loves this woman whom some would definitely consider "the least of these" so much that he would bring her a miraculous bounty of food and such help in time of need, then I know he will take care of me too!".  In that moment all her worries about money, life stresses, major heartaches, health issues and fears about the future just seemed to melt away and she knew in a very deep way that God would never let her fall... that He loves her enough to not only provide some of her needs, but all of them.  She thanked God for the homeless woman, who opened her eyes, and blessed her with divine insight.  This was to her just as big a blessing as the one she selflessly provided to the woman in the street.

~~~~

“The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'  Matthew 25:40

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"  Matthew 6:26


Monday, May 13, 2013

I Care For You



“I Care For You”
mg - 5/13/13

Vs 1:
As I look out at the rising sun
And see a new day has just begun,
I worry about yesterday and sigh.
Life can be hard.  It can be brutal
But I’ll keep on, for I know that You will
Take all my troubles and turn them into joy.

Chorus:
There is a better way
There is a higher way
If I brought you to it,
I will bring you through.
Lean not on your own strength,
Look up and seek My face.
Cast your worries on Me;
I care for you.

Vs 2:
I have some problems.  You have solutions.
When the unknown seems like a mountain,
I fear that I’m not strong enough to climb,
You reach down and you motivate me
To keep the faith and keep on climbing.
You guide me to courage alone I could not find.

Chorus:
There is a better way
There is a higher way
If I brought you to it,
I will bring you through.
Lean not on your own strength,
Look up and seek My face.
Cast your worries on Me;
I care for you.

Bridge:
I know the journey’s hard,
But is there anything too hard for for Lord?

Chorus:
There is a better way
There is a higher way
If I brought you to it,
I will bring you through.
Lean not on your own strength,
Look up and seek My face.
Cast your worries on Me;
I care for you.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Stronger than you imagined...

"Titanium"

You shout it loud, but I can't hear a word you say
I'm talking loud, not saying much
I'm criticized, but all your bullets ricochet
you shoot me down, but I get up

I'm bulletproof, nothing to lose
fire away, fire away
ricochet, you take your aim
fire away, fire away
you shoot me down, but I won't fall
I am titanium
you shoot me down, but I won't fall
I am titanium

Cut me down, but it's you who'll have further to fall
Ghost town and haunted love
Raise your voice, sticks and stones may break my bones
I'm talking loud, not saying much

I'm bulletproof, nothing to lose
fire away, fire away
ricochet, you take your aim
fire away, fire away

you shoot me down, but I won't fall
I am titanium
you shoot me down, but I won't fall
I am titanium

I am titanium

I am titanium

Stone hard, machine gun
Fired at the ones who run
Stone hard, as bulletproof glass

You shoot me down, but I won't fall
I am titanium
You shoot me down, but I won't fall
I am titanium
You shoot me down, but I won't fall
I am titanium
You shoot me down, but I won't fall
I am titanium

I am titanium

---

Another song I didn't write speaks my heart & sings my mind. "Stone hard machine gun fired at the ones who run"... ...Couldn't have said it better myself. But guess what?  I'm not running.

Stand up for yourself, even in the face of giant bullies & sheer terror. You'll remember for a moment what it feels like to be strong. ...In that moment, memories of strength will merge with the tortured reality of your circumstance and you will become aware that you are stronger than you ever imagined you could be.

~m~

"Titanium" link:
http://youtu.be/JRfuAukYTKg