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Monday, March 18, 2013

PTSD and the homestead

The first time I had ever heard of PTSD was during Desert Storm. I was ten years old. I had a brother, and his best friend whom I considered a brother, deployed overseas in the war. All these men on tv were talking about something that returning soldiers were suffering with, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It wasn't until later in life when I started hearing the term used for the civilian population. Learning what is was in reference to soldiers at a tender age (back in those days, it was still an innocent age) caused me to struggle with it now being deemed a civilian problem. I understood people like Husband's cousin who was blown out of his boots suffering from it, but a motorcycle wreck? Seems a bit mundane to me. But after a very long conversation with my doctor, I now have a better understanding of the mixture of other symptoms that constitute the syndrome.

I have vertigo. It comes at some odd times, and not from heights. It is strongly associated with a fear of falling. The anxiety that proceeds the vertigo by mere seconds actually triggers the dizziness. I get it while ascending steps, or perching down onto a toilet seat. I am unwilling to venture outside, too far from the house because of it, and not alone at all.

I do relive the event. It is hard not to as I am reminded daily of what happened. But those moments don't come back to me when I am doing stretches or watching motorcycles. They come back to me because of certain smells. My eyes were closed when we first went down, my cheek pressed against Husband's leather clad back. The smell of an empty late night road, gas being pumped, cheap food slowly turning in an overheated restaurant, used motorcycle oil searing as it dripped on a pipe. And stale, hot city air twitchy with a cooler, breath saving zephyr. Or a movement, like Husband coming up behind me for a hug. He held my as we sat on that curb. At first I thought I was just mourning. That reliving it was part of the healing. Everyone else had already dealt with it during those three weeks in the hospital. I don't remember a month of my life (yes, including the things I wrote on here). Turns out it is more than that.

I don't have mood swings, what I do have is a sadness that won't abate. It does go from able to smile and giggle to tears streaming down my face, but the sadness lingers. This would be part of the depression. I was diagnosed with depression when I was in 5th grade. I have dealt with it over the years. Cows seemingly my miracle drug. But I can't go out with them now. I have already had to smack Winston (bull) away before he playfully pushed on me. I fear what would happen if they were able to get me to fall. But the depression seems thicker now. I can still get up in the mornings, if only to make sure my family gets to school or work on time. And I have been known to pass the plum out right after the last person leaves the house. I have been forcing myself to do things that made me happy before, at least those things that I am physically able to do; like baking.

I have also been dealing with avoidance issues. Part of that is tinged from the pointed finger nails of depression, feeling numb or emotionally withdrawn from things. I don't remember the entire incident, and I lack enthusiasm. I fake it rather well though. Sometimes you must put on a happy face.

There is part of the disorder called arousal. Because of the emotional numbness, I am not quick to anger, or hypersensitive, however I have a hard time sleeping. I know, I just said I pass out in the mornings. But at night, to lay there in bed staring off into the darkness does nothing to lull me to sleep.

But the worst of all my symptoms is the fuzzy thinking. It's scary at times. I get lost on roads I am familiar with. The other day Large and I were head to the store. I turned to him and said, I don't know where it is. Large told me to turn right, and we were in the parking lot of the store. I could see it, but it wasn't registering. Small gets angry with me. He says I am not listening. But I am! I just don't understand what he is saying to me. Top this with my migraine problem of word loss and I am quite incompetent.

I just got off the phone with Husband's cousin, the one I mentioned in the second paragraph. He wanted to reassure me that it is a more common diagnosis for civilians. He has a book to loan me written by his shrink. He is on some heavy meds for his PTSD. I myself am hoping to be able to deal with it more naturally.

The thing is I am not afraid of motorcycles. The boys and I were out the other day, the weather was perfect for riding. Motorcycles were out in full force and I found myself pining to be out. Physically I am incapable of mounting a bike right now. So I really have no idea what I will feel once I am able to get back on. My anxieties stem from falling, or so it seems.

I have to work on those anxieties. Once my physical prowess returns, I must take back over the chores I have done for so many years. And not just because others don't do them right. Ha! I fear falling so much right now that I will not allow myself to be alone with any of the livestock. I even keep my lovely Urth (cow) at a distance. And I know she is confused to why I no longer stop to scratch her, or use her as a pillow in the bright sunny field to read. She was like my puppy, and I have only petted her once in the last six months.


Even if I was physically capable of performing normal homestead tasks, mentally I am unstable.

21 comments:

Donna said...

Phalen,I am so sorry you are having to deal with this.When folks think of PTSD,they usually think of soldiers who have been in combat. They don't realize that anyone who has been in a life threatening situation can experience PTSD. Rick,as you know,suffers from PTSD and he is sympathetic as well. I hope that you can deal with it without meds if that is what you want,but please don't feel like you have failed if you must go there. Rick is on meds,had 6 years of therapy,and he still has a hard time with his PTSD,even after 8 years. We are thinking of you and hope that you can find the means to control your symptoms so they don't control your life.
Love and hugs,Donna

Warlock Sundance said...

I kinda sorta know what ya mean....and totally relate on the bike wreck fear of falling thingamajiggy...

Maybe ya need some warm air and bright sunshine? Seems like a long winter up there, the doldrums...

You do know that in "our world"...(bikers) WE understand more than others, and it makes us unique. You are going to make it through this shizzle. Give it time. You are in good hands for sure with the "ole man" up there. The fear cannot conquer you.

Today's aroma therapy hint....."sit behind an idling shovelhead...and take a deep breath" (and if that shit don't work....break some dishes)

Phelan said...

Donna, thank you. I think that the PTSD is mild enough that once I can get the fuzzy thinking cleared I will be able to deal with the rest of it. I am hard headed that way.

Sundance, we laid down a shovel. Not sure if the smell will trigger the anxiety yet. Hmmm. . . Maybe I should have the ol' man take me to the shop. Strangely enough though, the smell of dirty solvent soothes me. Ha! I do need some sunshine. But there is another winter storm on the way. My boys are home for spring break, so today I might just head outside with them.

Trish said...

Hi Phalen,

This is a note to say I understand how hard it is to understand PTSD for "civilian" related incidences as you aptly put it. My daughter passed away almost 20 months ago. The first year of my grieving was a "typical" grieving of crying, anger, some happy moments but mostly very emotional moments. Now into my second year of grieving, it is much more insidious. That deep sadness you speak of and the fears that seem almost irrational, set in. The fact that you are not afraid of motorcycles but have developed other fears makes sense to me. My daughter passed away unexpectedly early in the morning yet I developed an intense fear of dusk. Why? I am not sure but my theory so far is that the evening before I was thinking I would wake up the next to the same life I was having however I was wrong as the next day early in the morning I was awoken by 2 policemen at my door. Anyway, the point I'm making is all the fears are there for a valid reason, they have psychological roots to be worked through...like you say you will work through them. Triggers such as smell, visuals etc can be so overwhelming and crippling in the sense that yes you cry but that feeling of sadness you speak of which sits below all of your moods is brought to the surface through these triggers and can be very painful. I feel for you and send you my thoughts of healing.

Trish

HotFlashHomestead said...

Phelan, I am very sorry to hear you have to deal with this in addition to the physical injuries you suffered. Makes sense though, it was a truly traumatic event. Whenever you are ready, please know that it is possible to get up after falling down with only a 10 degree bend in your knee, or no knee at all. I lived with the former, and a good friend lived with the latter. And we both fell down a lot! My advice is to practice getting up from the floor several times a week by yourself (but with family present) so that when it happens and you are alone, you will be able to do it. Wear a knee brace so you won't hurt yourself while you're learning. It may give you a feeling of empowerment to know the technique, which may embolden you to venture out to your lovely cow. ((hugs))

Trish said...

Wow, what a horrible run-on sentence I wrote in the middle of my post! :)

Phelan said...

Trish, I am not a grammar nazi, so no worries. I know how you feel. My son would have been 17 next week. And in a month will be his death anniversary. It took me years to be able to go through those days without weeping or acting strangely. It gets easier with time, that I know. And I hope that someday soon you too will be able to cope as I have. Hugs.

Hot flash, oh I can get up. I learned to do that as soon as the break healed. I had fallen once before, the pain was incredible. But I am still slow. And not being able to get up fast enough while surrounded by 1,000 lbs animals is fearful. I will work through it as my strength returns. And I live in my knee brace. Though have been sleeping without it. My knee (not the cap) still slides sideways. Ugh, horrific feeling. So I am stuck in it until my strength is close to par.

Becca said...

Having to come to terms with any level of mental instability is hard. I myself am currently fighting with my doctor about my rather unsavory diagnosis. You'll work through it, though, and find a place of peace that is right for you. Just keep in mind that it could take a while. Think a couple of years at least.

Phelan said...

Hope all works out for you Becca. I know it will take time to work through, still plowing ahead best I can.

Warlock Sundance said...

well then.....I got a smelly ole sporty.....

Like I said.....you will be fine...you know that old saying..."hair of the dog that that bit ya???"...that is what it took for me when I laid down the FXR in '09.

FancyHorse said...

I'm sorry, Phelan! I don't have anything helpful to add to what's already been said, but my thoughts and prayers are with you.
(((gentle hugs)))

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Ruth Dixon said...

Oh my friend (and yes, I feel I can call you that, even though we've never met), I am so sorry that you are experiencing this. I am proud of you for talking about it though. That will help the healing a lot. And don't let anyone who might say "its not real" get to you. Hang in there...

Doom said...

Yep, sounds like you got hit. Time is what ti takes, and take it. Pushing it just won't help. Just take a risk when all else is covered, one step at a time. You'll never fully recover but you can learn to negotiate the thing, your responses to stimuli, the rest of it.

I hate to have to do this, but I am going to give you a warning regarding treatment. Tread lightly. At least at the V.A., this diagnosis will be sent to the the FBI and you will lose your right to own, perhaps be in the same house with, firearms. Be very careful if you choose to seek treatment. Very careful. And, no, they won't tell you they are reporting you. It usually comes as a terrible surprise.

carol anne said...

(((hugs))) I am so sorry you are going through this. I think the medical profession needs to better treat the whole person and recognize physical healing is only part of the equation. I don't know from where doctors get the idea that after something terrible has happened to physically or otherwise injure you that you're just going to go merrily along your way after they've put the physical pieces back together.


All these cancer center commercials on TV show you these radiant survivors living happily ever after, what they nor your oncologist ever tell you is there is emotional fall out even with the best of outcomes.


I feel guilty that I am struggling and refuse to burden my family and friends, who lived and suffered through the horror with me. I figure they've worried and suffered enough.

Pamela said...

Phelan, I am so sorry you're going through this. I know several civilians who are dealing with PTSD from trauma. Take care of yourself.

Ellen said...

There are lots of us out here. And don't feel alone in that the motorcycle isn't what triggers you. I was hurt by someone close to me, and the thing that throws me into a panic attack? Groups of strangers. Can't deal with strangers on my own.

But it can get better with time and a good therapist.

The move you are making may help more than you know... sometimes getting away from the scene just makes things easier.

You have lots and lots of friends here in the ether. Please remember that when you're feeling low.

lisa pfab said...

I am sorry you are going thru this, but I would urge you to reconsider medicine. I had anxiety/depression that left me sleepless for almost ten years. I tried so hard to deal with it on my own. Nothing helped. I finally broke down and my dr office, now he had on several occasions recommended medication, which I said no to.
That day, I could not say no, I was at the end of my rope. He perscribed Celexa, And Phelan, within 48 hours I could focus, within a week, I was not only having clearer thinking, I was not having anxiety. We adjusted the dose until I could sleep a full night, and I am happier than I had been in ten years. My poor family, I put them thru hell, had I known that the meds would help me so very much, I would have not resisted them. Not only did I suffer, but my family did. I just bring this up, because I dont want to see you d the same thing. Nobody says you need them forever, but sometimes our brain chemistry needs put back into whack. I would urge you to consider asking for medication, if you hate it quit taking it. But your family and you may notice a difference almost immediatly. Good luck dear. If you have any questions, just ask, would be over joyed to help if I can.

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Coffeekittie said...

Yeah, this doesn't surprise me. I too have mood disorders, as they are called, and the triggers are all around me, as you describe for yourself.

"But the worst of all my symptoms is the fuzzy thinking. It's scary at times. I get lost on roads I am familiar with. The other day Large and I were head to the store. I turned to him and said, I don't know where it is. Large told me to turn right, and we were in the parking lot of the store. I could see it, but it wasn't registering. Small gets angry with me. He says I am not listening. But I am! I just don't understand what he is saying to me."

This happened/happens to me, too. My own son, grown now, had to do the same thing as Big more than once, and would sometimes get angry like Small. All I could think of to do was tell him that I have a problem, sort of how it affects me, and that I do my best every day to be a good mom, and sometimes fail, not because I didn't care or that he wasn't important, but due to the way my brain works. Over the years, it helped. Like I said, he's an adult now and so patient with troubled people - not like other young adults I see. Good can come from troubles.

Hugs and hopefully reassurance,
parker

Coffeekittie said...

As regards to a comment by Doom. I also have a mental illness diagnosis: Major Depression with anxiety and PTSD, and Borderline Personality Disorder. Have had this diagnosis on the books for years, and recently was approved for my own Ruger GP100 revolver. It's not true that you won't be allowed to own a gun. What does that is the diagnosis that you are "mentally unfit to care for yourself".

Parker

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