Another PTSD fail day

Today was another PTSD fail day. There are some days with this condition when it seems like there’s no way to win. 

I did all of the usual daily maintenance things. Exercise, both cardio and strength. Eating and tracking what I eat. Prayer. Mindfulness practice. Journaling. Bible reading. I took my meds. Afternoon sleep. Plus all the normal house husband duties. 

After all of this work, and yes a lot of it is a struggle, I still ended up mentally fighting through the evening with irrational fears, feelings of inferiority and a general mood one might describe as being a “butthead”. 

The positive side is I also have really good days, or at least times during the day. Plus I managed to stay alive so I’ll be able to try again tomorrow. 

Brodie 

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What PTSD feels like in crowded places

Loudspeaker, 4-Ways

Loudspeaker, 4-Ways (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I got an invitation from a friend of my mine to an event he’s playing in.  He’s in a band by the way.  I would love to go, my wife would love to go.  But, I can’t.  PTSD will not allow for these kinds of activities anymore.  Some would claim that it’s just my age, I’m 42.  But, it’s much more than that.  I remember clearly, right before I went into the Army, going to an AC/DC concert with a friend of mine.  Obviously it was loud.  But it didn’t bother me.  Now, a mildly crowded mall is enough to make me run.

 

I’m going to try to explain to you what it feels like with PTSD in a crowded place.

 

1. Imagine standing in the middle of a crowd of hundreds of people, all of them talking and moving.

 

2. Now, add in loud speakers very close to your ears that are playing loud and constantly change music and/or sounds.

 

3. Now, add in a tv screen in front of your face that is switching channels rapidly.

 

4. Now, add in the feeling that there is some kind of threat in this crowd that you can’t identify, although you are trying desperately to find it.

 

5. Now, add in the feeling that you and your loved ones are in grave danger if you can’t figure out what to do.

 

6. Now, add in the overwhelming feeling of a fight, freeze or fight response.

 

This is a glimpse of what is going on my in my mind and body with PTSD in a standard, run of the mill walmart on a saturday.  There is no threat, but my mind keeps looping back to past experiences and responding to those instead of the present.

 

 

Bullet jewelry therapy

I have a couple of hobbies to keep my brain working and for PTSD therapy. One is going to the shooting range. The other is making things out of the shell casings. I made these ear rings today.

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PTSD dog tags site

A picture I took of myself wearing dog tags I ...

A picture I took of myself wearing dog tags I bought, custom-made in an Army Surplus Store in Montreal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I did a post a couple of days ago about getting dog tags with your ptsd info on it.  I had a request on that post about where I ordered mine.  This is the online store I ordered from: http://www.gotags.com

You could also order them from any other place that does dog tags, or at an army surplus store.  Let me know if you have a favorite place to order such things.

 

 

PTSD loop

Golden mean loop

Golden mean loop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I thought I was just in a really good mood this morning.  Everything seemed to be going great.  Then my wife asked if I was going to have to take one of my spot treatment pills for PTSD.  I told her no, I don’t think so.  I feel fine.

 

Then I noticed that I had repeated a status at least twice on Facebook.  Occasionally, this is one of the first signs that somethings coming in regards to my brain.  I start repeating things and don’t know that I’m doing it most of the time.  In fact, when I started writing this post, I had to go back a couple of times because I had typed the same sentence twice.

 

For reasons I still don’t understand, my brain sometimes gets stuck in a loop.  Think of it like a spam website that you go to.  You go to it once and then each time you open the browser, you get stuck on the same page over and over again.  The only way to get out of the loop is to shut it down and start over.  My brain with PTSD seems to function in the same way sometimes.  I have to take medication to reboot it.  Otherwise, I stay in an endless loop until I finally crash.

 

It sucks, but it is what it is.  I have prayed for God to take this away, but as of now He has not.  I can only assume and trust that He has other plans for me.

 

My new PTSD lack of memory

English: Cases of PTSD and Severe Depression A...

English: Cases of PTSD and Severe Depression Among U.S. Veterans Deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan Between Oct 2001 and Oct 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I was diagnosed with PTSD a couple of years ago, I think.  I say I think because I really don’t know for sure.  One of the things PTSD has done to me is greatly affect my memory.

 

Since PTSD hit me I just don’t remember things.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that I used to have a near photographic memory. Tests were never an issue for me in school because I always remembered the information.  As a police officer, I could make an arrest and then go to court months later and remember with vivid clarity all of the details of the incident.  Basically, once I saw something it was locked in my mind and I could recall it anytime I wanted or needed.

 

After PTSD I rarely remember much of anything.  I have to check my phone or watch multiple times a day to know what day it is.  I have to keep extensive notes of normal everyday things because I can’t recall information when I need it.  Simple things like did I eat lunch?  I don’t know.  Did I make a phone call I was supposed to make?  Don’t know, I have to do some research to find out.  Did I turn the oven off?  I have no earthly idea, I’ll have to go check.  And then at times recheck multiple times before I can get a particular piece of info to stick.

 

For me, this has been probably the most annoying and embarrassing part of PTSD.  I HATE having to call someone like the doctors office to find out if I already called them or not.  If I failed to take down notes, then I typically have no way of knowing whether I have spoken to somebody or not.

 

I’m basically relegated to doing chores around the house.  Cleaning, fixing, upgrading, etc.  I am able to handle our money because of extensive register and note keeping that I do.  I am grateful for these things because it gives me a sense of purpose.  It makes me feel that my wife isn’t having to carry all of the burden herself.

 

It’s difficult to once be a man who could respond to any emergency situation with a clear mind and confidence, and then go to someone who has to triple check before I leave the house to make sure I have my wallet.  I guess in the end this is the new me and I might as well get used to it.  I’m not really seeing a change in the near future.

 

 

Safe in a hotel room

English: Grand Hotel Pristina room

English: Grand Hotel Pristina room (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With PTSD, I always seem to be hunting for safety.  Sometimes consciously, and sometimes not.  Experiences have taught me that a safe place is hard to find.  Of course, this is often PTSD talking, but it seems I’m always on the hunt for safety.

The hunt for safety is one of the reasons why I like hotels so much.  My wife’s work requires her to travel quite often.  Occasionally, I’m able to travel with her.  I finally figured out today the real reason why the hotel stay is so relaxing for me.  It’s not being in a new place, or a change of routine.  In fact, these things are often anything but relaxing for me.  New places throw me off of my routine.  They require more mental energy for me to stay focused.

But, I realized today that I feel supremely safe in a hotel room.  I’m going to try to list a few reasons for why this may be.

First, there is anonymity.  No one knows me here.  I can come and go without question.

Second, no one knows I’m in my room.  Typically, my name isn’t listed on the room.  I am a ghost here.  A person with bad intentions could not find me here even if they wanted to.

Third, it’s a small space.  My hotel room is easily under my control.  There is only one way in or out of the room.  I also don’t have to hunt for something if I need it.  If there’s something I need, it’s in a suitcase.  All nice and compact.  All in one place.

The phone doesn’t ring.  No knock at the door if I put out the do not disturb sign.  And I’m one of a couple hundred other people.  I’m not easy to find here.

You may think after reading this that I’m some kind of fugitive from justice.  Rest assured I am not.  I’ve simply been changed by a violent world and now finding a place of even temporary refuge is more fantastic than I can adequately describe.

p.s. the hotel room in the photo is not mine.  I’m not sure I would stay there, kind of creepy.

The OCD of PTSD

Lego Headphones

Lego Headphones (Photo credit: eldeeem)

 

Part of what I deal with with PTSD is OCD.  This is not OCD as in I have to flip a light switch 10 times before leaving a room.  It is a much more specific thought process.  My OCD tendencies have to do with safety and security.

 

Basically, I have times of being trapped in a thought loop that is centered on keeping my family safe.  Things like: have I locked the doors, should I install new security lights, am I properly prepared for intruders, etc.  You get the point.  There are times when this process will stop my sleep, cause anxiety, and basically makes me miss most of what’s going on around me.

 

I do try to curb or stop these processes, but often I’m already far into the thought process before I even know what’s going on.  One of the the most helpful things for me to stop this cycle is listening to music with headphones.  This seems to short circuit my thought processes and get me onto a new path.

 

Lack of sleep and PTSD

sleep

sleep (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

 

If you read this blog then you know that I deal with PTSD.  There are many ‘symptoms’ that go with PTSD and I won’t try to go into all of that in this post.  But I want to talk about the effect of lack of sleep with PTSD.

 

I had a very little sleep night last night.  Basically, I couldn’t get my mind to shut down.  Now, many people deal with insomnia at some point, so a sleepless night is not unique to someone with PTSD.  What may be unique though, is the affect it has on my brain and specifically my emotions the next day.

 

In the PTSD brain, a person is on some level of high alert for most of the time.  As you can imagine this state of hightened awareness draws a lot of energy.  (case in point: it is much more difficult for me to write this post today than normal). When I have a night of limited sleep I don’t have a chance to rebuild my reserves to fight off the anxiety the next day.  Kind of like a cell phone that has a low battery and then tries to download updates, etc.  The battery reserves that are there are quickly depleted.

 

With no energy to keep up with this alert state, emotions start to take over.  For me it is usually anxiety and tears.  To put this in perspective, I’m a 41 year old male, former military and police, and I just want to cry for no real reason.  So I cope through the day the best that I can, avoiding whatever stressors that I can so that I can make it to bed time again.

 

I’ve come to understand that for some with PTSD, this is an ongoing battle with sleep.  I count myself lucky that this particular symptom is random for me.