Last week I mentioned that I hit a speed bump. It’s been building for quite a while now and culminated when Trainer D called me out on December 5. That’s when I really knew something was wrong. I had been struggling with wash out feelings for a while and knew that certain events in 2014 had left me reeling. But they were major gains and even though I took some huge physical hits, as I told Coach R, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Still, I was sitting there wondering…if I am cognitively intact and everyone keeps on saying (wanting to encourage me) that “Your brain works just fine,” then why I am I struggling with XYZ kind of thoughts? Oh dear. The implication for me was A) I am weak, or B) I am a bad person (stated in my parlance, I have a particularly grievous sin problem). That’s not what people meant, but that’s what I felt. I applied my powers of logic to this situation but I felt like while my logic was sound from every angle I knew deep down that it wasn’t accounting for all of the nuances of human behavior we spend a lifetime picking up on that I have been trying desperately to relearn post brain injury.
When things get that bad people do one of two things: 1) Shut down or 2) Ask for help. I felt myself shutting down – that’s what I mean when I refer to the instinctive desire to retreat. But it’s too late for that and I knew that retreating was not an optimal solution, anyway. So I asked for help.
I officially have a fabulous new Mental Health Professional (MHP). I have had 4 Neuro-Psychs in the past. It was kind of standard issue when I was an inpatient and when I became an outpatient we focused on cognitive evaluation and pain management. Now I knew I needed someone to talk to.
The Place tried to get me to see someone early on but I was adamant that I would do no such thing. Energy is like capital, I explained, I only have a fixed amount and I have to budget it. Right now getting ready to go anywhere is like an Olympic Sport and I have enough appointments. I DO NOT want to talk about this. I want to learn how to walk.
So I did.
Now that I know how to walk and my physical condition is improving to the point that although I still have a very heavy Recovery Schedule I am very grateful that I have the energy capacity to seek help and fill another time slot on my calendar. I live at a very high level of introspection and talk about it in my writing so I was essentially ready to talk and ask for the specific kind of help I need.
So now it’s official: I have Delayed Onset PTSD.
I have been reading the symptoms for a long time now, but I have managed and coped however I could – it was probably helped by the fact that I moved away from OR so I didn’t have to deal with any of that except in the manner in which I chose. All that fell to pieces a year ago when we went back to OR to dispose of my belongings. I was unraveling and getting so stressed I stopped eating food on February 17, 2014 when E&R and Co came to visit.
I was down to two protein shakes a day and some attempt at solid food at lunch to appease my father. I got away with it because I had gained so much weight after my injury from the mobility change and the drugs, and because I was clearly becoming so unhinged the goal was just for me not to pass out from stress.
One day I was walking down the hall and Mommy came from another direction and whistled a greeting. I jumped. I cannot jump spontaneously. As it is I need Coach R to jump at all, and that is a recent development. So I jumped and hit the wall really hard.
That night Mommy came to talk to me but I didn’t hear her over the sound of my faucet and teeth-brushing routine. She knocked and called out but when she appeared I screamed incredibly loud and she took me by the shoulders and told me that This is not okay and she was going to send me to Boo Boo’s so I wouldn’t shrivel up and die from stress.
The eating thing was up and down for the rest of the year with a decided downturn in Q4. As soon as Trainer D put his foot down and I knew Smurfette was watching my calories in My Fitness Pal I saw with my own eyes that I had been undereating for several months. All of this makes so much sense given my PTSD diagnosis – how I’ve felt, the eating issues…everything.
But as soon as I started eating enough to not get flagged by MFP I started shedding weight since my body was getting out of the long-term effects of having to cannibalize itself. I was able to start Training harder with both Trainer D and Coach R, Gen put my body parts back in place when things got loose, and CMD oversaw my progress with her ever watchful gaze.
Then I found out I had PTSD for real and I got nauseous again. And the pain was triggered in my shoulder and both hips. It has been B-A-D. But overall I am happier. Frankly, I am relieved that there is a name for my distress and it is treatable. I have avoided talking about PTSD even though I had a hunch I had it bc it is a condition that many Veterans deal with and I have a lot of respect for that and didn’t want to talk about it without being formally diagnosed.
But now I really wanted to talk about this bc so often we don’t. There can be cultural and social stigmas associated with mental health issues. Thankfully, since I was so distressed in Q4 I was forced into more open communication with my family, and they (predictably) have been super supportive of my getting professional help.
This is one of my own quotes I keep on coming back to:
If you are already a believer and are depressed, the very last thing you want to hear is someone telling you that you feel like you do bc you are not praying enough, reading enough, trusting enough, etc. I get that. The implication (intentional or not) that I’m the way I am due to lack of effort on my part makes my hair stand on end. But as a person who has teetered on the edge of internal chaos for more than a decade (that’s right – I was totally like this BEFORE I got sick, too! I found God’s grace to be the only viable way for me to function so I loved talking about Him then. So much more has happened so I’m even more enthusiastic now! ) let me just say to you in love: There are definitely physical aspects to mental health that must be addressed. There is also a place for professional help (remember to pour everything you hear through the filter of scripture). However, you are responsible for exploring the limits of your mental capacity for wielding the Sword of the Spirit and communing with God through prayer. You will not know how much you can handle of these undiluted power sources unless you try. Take baby steps.
The thing is that I think I found the limit. I made a good faith effort to ask the Lord for a solution, and He provided it in the form of professional help. I am very grateful for His leading in this matter, and when I’ve told Daddy about the help I’ve received so far his response is simply, Praise the Lord.
One of my problems is that I spent so much time pretending to be “with it” I fooled everyone into thinking that everything is fine and dandy. But then the flashbacks started and I began remembering things from our trip to OR and, horrifyingly, the early onset of my illness.
People can have a similar problem when they recover physically well enough to resume their Old Life and often want to do so before they are mentally 100% ready. They “look” okay so other people assume they are okay and forget to make allowances for brain injury/other medical trauma and that person is stuck thinking – This is what I wanted (to get back to my life)…but why am I so uncomfortable?
So if you’re thinking of asking for help, I’d say, go for it. Just spend some time thinking about what you want to get out of it. I wanted to start of with the “jumpiness” or “heightened flight or fight reflex” thing I have going on. I do this thing where if I think you’re good I’ll test you without telling you about it just to check. But I didn’t have to test my MHP at all. She sailed right in during my intake appointment with a technique similar to what I have been taught for pain management. Essentially, it’s if X happens, you do Y. That kind of information was exactly what I was looking for. So I came home and thanked God for bringing me to the right place.
The thing is that technique is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot more to talk about and we will. And apparently I’ve got a lot to learn. Example – this morning – “Define ‘be kind to yourself.’ What are the behavioral characteristics of that sort of thing?” Let me just say again, although I hit a speed bump I am happier in general. That’s why I posted Overflowing last week – it was important to me to go on the record without having any overt change in circumstances. I can’t explain it – it’s like Decision Day itself. God does not speak in an audible voice, but He teaches me things in other ways.
So right now, although I am happier, I am exhausted. All this talking about feelings makes me want to go to sleep! Plus I’ve been going to see lots of docs so I’ve been even busier than usual. In fact, I’ve had such a hard time sorting through all of this and pulling myself together it appears that it’s time for me to retreat for a while. The difference is that this is not a retreat for lack of options. It’s an intentional rest so I can attend to some important things. So I’m taking a break. After all, someone’s got to plan Ed’s next birthday party. I’ll be back on April 20th. :) bye.