Thursday, November 10, 2005

ptsd and me

OK, the description by the title says a lot about what I want to do here, but let me tell you a little about me. I'm a white guy (but a bit of a race traitor), mid-40s, good job that I'll never get rich from but pays the bills and is fun. I'm happily married, live in a beautiful place, and life is pretty good -- when I can be present for it.

I also have severe, chronic, complex, delayed onset ptsd. It makes my life challenging, but now that I know what it is, I at least have a handle on what was and is happening to me. PTSD is of course, post-traumatic stress disorder. Let me go through the other parts.

Severe? The last major run-in with it put me out of work for over a year. I had about 120 flashbacks over the course of about seven weeks, what get called pseudo-seizures -- they look like regular seizures but I remained somewhat conscious and aware of my surroundings, though sometimes delusional about that. When I came out of them I wouldn't know what day it was or be able to remember how long ago they happened. Maybe I'll go into more detail about them sometime, but they totally freaked us (my wife and me) out. We had no idea what these were or what to do about them at first.

There was more: intense crying jags, incredible bodily pain (I had an operation for hemorrhoids, which is supposed to be about the most painful recovery you can imagine, and ptsd was worse -- though I wouldn't want to repeat either), and something called intrusive thinking...memories of traumatic events triggered by anything, everything, and nothing; lost forty pounds, couldn't sleep, sex life totally fucked up (part of my trauma is sexual abuse, something I'm still trying to deal with), couldn't focus enough to read, self harm (ripping chunks of flesh out for example), and there was probably more I cannot remember. Ummm, no fun.

We (actually, mostly my partner) did a lot of research when the flashbacks started and I ended up in a treatment center for ptsd (Here's another good one, and a comprehensive list for the US). It didn't cure me, but it gave me some tools to help manage things. Slowly, with lots of medication (which I struggled against), therapy, and lifestyle changes, some of the harsher symptoms have gotten better over the past few years.

Chronic? I have come to realize that I have had some version of ptsd for most of my life, but it has been treated and mistreated and outright abused under a bunch of different names.

Complex? Well, let's see...It starts with childhood sexual abuse (which I still struggle with identifying because as a kid I normalized it and my family of origin is in complete denial -- so much so that I am no longer in touch with them -- too crazy-making), neglect, emotional and verbal abuse, depression, and substance abuse. I left home at a young age and added physical abuse and more sexual abuse onto that from street life. I developed a nasty drug and alcohol addiction, something pretty common for ptsd sufferers (I've been clean now for more than twenty years, but other addictive behaviors have haunted me) and became occasionally homeless. The depression continued, I was suicidal. Substance addictions, sexual acting out (nothing violent, but stuff that I'm ashamed of) combined with intense isolation and loneliness contributed to having a really miserable existence.

After getting clean in 12 step programs, my attraction to sick, twisted people (also part of my ptsd) caused more trauma, some of it worse than the substance abuse addiction. Cult abuse, some serious, life changing betrayals by people I trusted and opened up to, suicide attempts, two three-week stays in the loony bin: I wasn't getting the "happy, joyous, and free" promised by 12 step programs. For their part, 12-steppers (and I guess my own internalized twelve step training) often blamed me when things didn't work, saying I was just not doing things right somehow rather than seeing something was wrong that the program couldn't -- and wasn't designed to -- fix.

Severe spiritual and therapist abuse compounded the traumas rather than treating them. This has been a major challenge in my recovery from ptsd. Trust is a problem. A lot of times I don't even trust that the world is not going to disappear beneath my feet. On bad days, every step is an adventure, like walking on a rotted out rooftop or thin ice.

So yeah, its complex.

Delayed onset? The flashbacks started nine years after the events that caused them, long after I was supposedly "over it." In hindsight, I was displaying symptoms of ptsd the whole time, but no one recognized them as such. I got diagnosed with depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a few other things and got put on whatever drugs the pharmaceutical companies were plugging that week with awful results.

I thought I was a sex addict and went to those meetings for a while, but they all had sex with other people. My problem was with porn and compulsive masturbation. I used this as a painkiller because nothing else worked and I was not about to give up sobriety -- too scared of people to act out any other way. Sometimes internet porn would eat up whole days every day. It is something I still struggle with and will write about more, but I didn't feel safe or supported in the twelve step rooms for sex addicts. My sponsor there was hitting on me under the guise of male intimacy and spirituality and others were perpetrators of stuff that I had been a victim of and were having a hard time seeing it as a problem. Not a safe place for me.

I'm actually pretty fed up with twelve step programs even though at the time I got sober they no doubt saved my life. Here's what one study (.pdf file) has to say about it:

Messages in substance abuse treatment such as Dont work on the PTSD until youve been clean for a year or Substance abuse is the only problem you need to focus on, while well-intentioned, can be perceived as invalidating of clients trauma history. . . clients and clinicians report that when a client has PTSD, getting clean and sober is a bigger hurdle and such traditional methods may not work as well. For example, the tendency for PTSD memories and feelings to worsen as clients get clean is a common phenomenon. . . . Sadly, clients with the dual diagnosis of PTSD and substance abuse have worse outcomes than those with either disorder alone, and may internalize a sense of failure when they do not succeed in standard treatment programs that work for others. Feeling crazy, lazy, or bad is common-- a sense of demoralization, self-blame, and a feeling of something being terribly wrong with them. . . . initial evidence suggests that working on PTSD and substance abuse in an integrated fashion results in positive outcomes in both of these disorders, as well as related areas. Contrary to older views, treating both PTSD and substance abuse at the same time appears to help clients with their substance abuse recovery, rather than derailing them from attaining abstinence.

I got sober under the "older" model. Against the odds, I didn't pick up. When people at the treatment center heard my story, they were amazed that I stayed sober through it. But drugs and alcohol were a hell I didn't want to go back to.

Anyway, that's a little of my "war story." One last thing for now: I have talked to people who have combat ptsd, and the symptoms don't seem a whole lot different, even if the causes seem different. My ptsd is pretty un-macho, though, so if that offends or you can't deal or you think I just need to get over it, maybe you need to look elsewhere or start your own blog. I have no desire to play the ptsd version of what Elizabeth Martinez calls the "oppression olympics."

I guess the next thing I'll do is post some links. Leave a comment if you read this, let me know someone is there.

75 comments:

Beth Danae said...

tough stuff. Not really sure what to say, but good for you in tackling your issues.

I belive that you can't go wrong so long as you never loose sight of what it is you want to change about yourself.

Even when it is hard and you want to give up--stay focused on admiting you still have things to work on.

blessings.

ptsd guy said...

Thanks Beth!

Anonymous said...

That was tough..... I have a question for you. What advice would you give a mother who is in need to help her 14 year old son who has been diagnosed with ptsd and depression? I have been told to look for a residential placement for him to help deal with his abuse he endured from an ex-husband of mine.

GettingBetter said...

Anonymous,

Sorry to hear about your sone. Getting help from somewhere professional is the best advice I could give. I write about how to look for help in How to choose a therapist for ptsd and provide a list of residential programs in Comprehensive list of US Treatment Centers for PTSD and Trauma. Maybe that will help.

Good luck to you and your son!

Anonymous said...

Yes, there are people out here! My young daughter was just placed as an in-patient in Maryland. I'm soo scared I can't breathe, and I know her struggle is far more intense than the terror I am currently feeling. Please know that many of us feel your pain. We may not be the direct "victims" of the trauma, but the knowledge anyone would ever live the remainder of their lives trapped in the horror of someone else's cruelty is heart breaking. I may not know how to help, but know that I care, many people do... and sometimes our efforts to show our concern are misinterpreted as further cruelty (at least mine are)... I pray that you and all victims can continue to work forward with your "eye on the prize", regularly choosing not to continue to empower those who attempted to take away your power. Love to you

amanda said...

DITTO, that should fairly well say it all. When I know there really are people so similar to me I feel a little less crazy, well just a little less. Good Luck-

Good 2b Understood said...

Hi,

I am a survivor of 2 sexual assaults. Now, a year and 1/2 later, I had a flashback. I hope that is the only and last one, but I'm fearful that it may not be.

Mine was not audio, or really visual, it was a 'feeling.'
....My "here and now" suddenly became my 'then,' and for about 20 seconds, i think, I 'felt' the horror of the past in the present. During the 20? seconds, I was cognizant that I was in both the past and present, my reality was both--simultaneously And my conciousness seemed to be alternating between two points in time. I was crying, shaking, hysterical. It was as if my senses of sight and sound became 'feelings.' I don't know how else to describe it...
It sure is comforting to know that there are others who understand what I'm talking about and that I am not a candidate for basket-weaving in a padded room (i.e., going crazy)

7:58 PM

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for all you have endured. Keep your head up and thank you for reaching out to help others! You are a blessing to those around you. And remember Jesus heals those who are hurting.

Gadfly said...

Dang, your story is SO much like mine, except I never had a real homeless stretch and never got involved in cults...

Also the "acting in" with pornography/masturbation rather than "acting out..." exactly like me.

Glad I ran into you in LSR.

Anonymous said...

That is a rough story. Maybe more public/anonymous writing will help, but also maybe you just haven't found the right support group yet. There's nothing like sharing with others who have endured similar experiences to lessen the pain. Better than any 1-1 with a therapist who won't really understand. Keep reaching out and getting this cr*p out of your system.

Keep on keeping on, you'll defeat your demons

- Hope

eli.kai said...

As horrible as it is to wish this upon anyone... i just wish the world understood.
I wish I knew more than people on the internet that understood.
I wish they could all see inside my head so they don't have to all look at me like I'm a peice of foreign matter anymore.
I'm glad, that I stumbled upon you. Glad, and grateful.

Belasco said...

Thank you more than I can say.
~a delayed onset PTSD-Gal

GettingBetter said...

You are quite welcome. Thanks for letting me know.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this very painful story. By the way, it is quite well written. I have used some of your links. PTSD is a very debilitating illness, I struggle with it regularly, and on occassion, sometimes, I win, but mostly not.

GettingBetter said...

Thanks for the props on the writing...made me catch a grammar mistake in it when I re-read in narcissistic fashion :) I don't know how long you have been struggling with PTSD, but I went years undiagnosed and then it took five more years after that and a lot of work to start having good days. Things are a lot better now, although at the time it seemed like it would never ever end, which it would not have until I learned what it was and got help instead of more harm. Good luck with having mo betta days as time goes by, and hang in there on the bad ones. I knew it could never get better, but it did.

Dr. Marji Campbell said...

Hey, I admire your courage! I'm a psychologist and I've been working with AMAC for 30 years. Now I'm working with the military for combat-related PTSD (in Germany, working with the troops when they come in from Iraq and Afghanistan). I love what I do, always have! PTSD is so very treatable if you have a great therapist who is experienced in treating it. EMDR is my favorite technique, btw. Keep on keepin' on, and thanks for sharing!
- Marji Campbell

GettingBetter said...

Thank You Marji, and thanks for reading and commenting.

Anonymous said...

Thank God for your blog! I have been feeling extremely "down" for a few months now, because I have been going to various 12-step meetings and I have been helped greatly but not happy. Everyone else around me that gets clean seems so much happier, and I have been blaming myself for not feeling better...

The thing that has helped me the most is making art. I have been painting and writing and singing and dancing a lot, and it works better than all the therapy, 12-step treatments, churches, etc. I have tried through the years...but I have to do it every day to keep the effects...I am also writing my memoir, but I can only handle a little tiny bit every day. (I have also had seizures due to PTSD lately, and I don't want to make them worse).

I really identified so much with so much of what you said! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

(I don't want to re-traumatize with my story here, but suffice it to say, we are out here, and we do understand at least part of the pain you are going through/have gone through. Hang in there! Your blog gives us hope!)

Anonymous said...

WOW!! I can totally relate to almost everything you went thru especially trying to deal with abusive therapy. I am still unable to trust no one.Its nice to know I'm not alone. Thank You

wireman300 said...

Thank you for what you are doing....just read my life story in yours.Searching for a suitable facility now. What has helped the most? EMDR just about sent me over the edge....a year with a psychologist my night terrors got progressively worse.....having a really hard time just typing this right now.....flashbacks and intrusive thoughts really starting to affect my everyday life....wife showed me this blog....she's the one keeping me from falling into the abyss...what has worked for you? I'm soooo sorry you had to go through what we have.....would'nt wish this on the anyone (except maybe the animals who did this to us)can't believe how similar our backgrounds are....unbelievable

GettingBetter said...

Wireman,

Thanks for reading. I am trying to make sense of senseless misery by writing about it on the chance others are going through similar things, and it seems there are some, which is an unexpected reward for this miserable affliction. I am glad you have a supportive partner. I leaned on my wife very hard, and when I got to be too much for her we found a treatment place that a) got me out of her hair for a month and a half so she could breathe again, and (b) get me into a supportive environment where I could learn tools for coping with the ptsd. We basically hocked the farm to get me into treatment because insurance would not cover it and the only thing it would cover, getting warehoused for a while in a psyche ward, would do nothing over the long run. What my wife and I did when I was in your shoes, with massive support from (non-12-step) friends, I've documented around the site so keep reading, especially the stuff on how to pick a therapist. There are a ton of lousy-to-criminal ones practicing that do more harm than good with serious ptsd. If you don't yet trust your judgment, ask your wife to help you. Mine went so far as to do the initial screenings and hunting and talking to, but ultimately you are the one who has to trust the therapist for anything to come of it good, so if someone gives you the willies, clear out fast. That took me a long time to learn and again, my wife helped a lot. EMDR was great for me but I had to get stable enough first. For me that meant I did it in treatment, where they had the time and I had the continuous support to work through things. Just digging up whatever for an hour with someone who has done a few trainings in EMDR is really risky, as it can set powerful stuff loose, so if it is not right for you now, follow your gut. What I did in EMDR outside of treatment for a long time was simply working on "installing resources" which is a way of figuring out strategies of supporting yourself and finding a way back to safety from flashback land. No mucking about in the past for me for quite some ways into my recovery. A couple of posts that might help are the one on grounding exercises and the idea of a loving network of supportive friends. The first is just a technique for dealing with flashbacks and intrusive thinking, and the second is one of the resources I installed using emdr. I see no reason it has to be installed like software or anything though, so if the image helps, just use it when you need it. Sorry to hear about anyone struggling from ptsd, especially when it is inflicted by other human beings, but it does slowly get better, so keep that in the back of your mind. Even though it seemed permanent and nothing changed for years, coming to awareness that what I had was ptsd was a first step toward getting better, a journey I'm still on. And having someone supportive in my life made the difference by life and death or insanity for me. I am back to being an equal partner in the relationship but for some time I really had to learn hard and I'm forever grateful that when I leaned she was there. It put a strain on us but we have worked it out and it has in the long run made us stronger and wiser. Thank you for writing, and please hang in there.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou so much for your story..have you ever tried or heard anything about ECT..my depression/anxiety has gotten so bad from ptsd that this sems to be my only option. Have tried everything else...

GettingBetter said...

Never heard of ECT...what does it stand for?

catherine todd said...

ECT: Electroshock / Electroconvulsive therapy -
Today, ECT is most often used as a treatment for severe major depression ... In a study, ECT was shown clinically to be the most effective treatment for ...
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroconvulsive_therapy


Note (my own personal opinion): I would be afraid to try this, but some "psychiatrists" recommend it (who knows if "a study" cited above means anything). I can't imagine agreeing to do this to myself, but it has been done for many years to people, rightly or wrongly. Surely there must be another way.

So glad you are keeping up with this blog. Keeps me going in the worst of times (such as right now). Who would have guessed it? Your own story, and sharing of your suffering and pain, can save the lot of us. God works in mysterious ways. Thank you again and God Bless.

GettingBetter said...

Thnx for the clarification re: ect...I've managed to avoid that one so far. I'm glad you find some comfort in the blog and hope you get through this patch soon.

I don't think I am saving anyone, but something I learned in rehab about a quarter century ago that has stuck with me is that a pain kept to oneself is doubled while one shared is halved. The net, and the anonymity it allows, and the self selecting nature of the blogosphere (no one would come looking here unless they needed to, thereby filtering out a lot of harmful people who have no clue what is going on with ptsd) has given me a space to share stuff among like-minded people, which has been great for me because professional "support" has been horrible for me in many cases.

Anonymous said...

I have recently tried a course of ECT and I went with the local hospital on an outpatient basis b/c my insurance somewhat covered it there. I am now at the worst I have ever been..I cry constantly..I can't remember anything except getting stuck so many times at the hospital and just feeling like a number at 5:30 a.m. 3 x week. People have told me of conversations I have had..places I was supposed to meet them..i have a migraine since I started it and nothing takes it away. I feel more like a failure because of all those studies that say it is the most effective and I just couldn't take it and stopped after 6. I was using it as somewhat of a last resort and now am trying desperately to find a great inpt facility..have been to 2 and I know what PTSD and Me is talking about with almost abusive therapists...anyway..sometime i may share more but just wanted to let you know what my experience with ECt is. I am in the health care profession and was very open to this working..Maybe it could work for others in a different setting

catherine todd said...

Part II, con't:

I feel for Anonymous who can't stop crying now. I really feel bad. I wish there were something I could do for them... I would take this as a serious warning about ECT. Let us know how you are doing and if you find anything that helps!

I have to stop writing since all this "remembering" is making my PTSD even worse; hahahaha... but if I don't write it out, how can I get better? Hope I am not ruining" this blog! Your blog is a godsend in a dark and dreary world (when PTSD hits). It helps me remember that the golden sun does shine and with summer rains the grass is green and grows, and I can take the children swimming to the summer-time outdoor pool and all is well with the world. Flowers blooming, birds singing, found a blue Robin's egg today. Thanks for "being here."

Yours, CT

GettingBetter said...

anonymous,

Sorry to hear that you are having such a rough time and that ECT was so disorienting and set you back. Please hang in there and don't give up on finding help. There are good people out there, both professionals and just regular folks along with all the bad and incompetent ones.

GettingBetter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hello_rua said...

Thank You Sir,
My Father,Mother, and older brother (one year)
all died with me alone. My father was talking with me on the couch when I was 17 years old and dropped dead in my arms in mid sentence, a few months later my brother was thrown from our motorcycle when the women in front of him failed to use her turn signal,with no brake lights as well, and he flew roughly 75 feet in the air and instantly crushed his skull and broke his neck while bleeding out half of his blood volume in a matter of seconds
and of course I was there, then my mother had a massive stroke and I was the only one there to hold her hands while she died in my arms as I looked into her eyes as we told each other we loved one another and she then died. And these are just a few of the horrible deaths I have witnessed.
Thank you for being who you are. I am 100% disabled with complex PTSD. I have no family left to turn to and my friends think my disease is associated with a car backfire and me being frightened. Which I never react to. My friends have left me because they do not understand that complex PTSD is actually far worse than a treatable cancer diagnosis. Although they would have been at my beckon call if I had any form of cancer.
Unless you have PTSD no one can understand. and I became a Scholar and a Surgeon yet there is no such thing as understanding PTSD from medical studies unless one is unfortunate enough to actually acquire this disorder.

Thanks Again.
and may all of us who still suffer, find inner peace enough to make it to the next day. Because some of us will recover and look back on these terrible times with wisdom and peace. (I've had it daily for forty years)
Love to all,
Gus London

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your story. You're doing a great service. For the past year and a half my husband of 20 years has been suffering from acute, severe, delayed onset ptsd stemming from childhood sexual abuse. After 22 years clean in a 12-step program he began using again. He has horrible flashbacks.He's afraid to sleep because of the nightmares. He dissociates. He's taking two "atypical anti-psychotics" and an anti-anxiety medication. He's alienated himself from all of our friends. He hasn't worked on over a year and he's receiving disability. After tonight's episode (he was lost and crying like a baby and afraid of everything) I went on line (for the millionth time) and found your blog. You gave me a glimmer of hope. Maybe if I can get him to read your atory he won't feel so alone. Thank you again. I'm... Grateful in New England

GettingBetter said...

arrrgh, I just wrote a long and no doubt thoroughly inspirational ;) note to anonymous and her partner and blogger ate it and spit back a nice empty screen. I should know better by now. Long and short of it: There is help for ptsd, but only once you know what it is. Everywhere in the real world but in 12 step programs, you don't lose two decades of sobriety by doing the perfectly sane thing of trying to relieve unbearable pain through something you know worked in the past, even if you know it won't work long term. Recovering from PTSD was the most difficult thing I ever did in a pretty difficult life and it required all my faculties, every ounce of them (and my wife's!) so using drugs and alcohol is probably not a good long term solution, which you obviously already know if you stayed away for 20 some odd years! And finally beware all quick fixes. They are exploitative and ripoffs every one of them, at least for someone with ptsd. When they fail, they will blame you for not doing it right instead of saying that their fix doesn't work, compounding already awful problems and making them seem hopeless. there is no way out but through, and I wish you and anyone else suffering from ptsd the best in starting making the courageous and excruciating effort to get better from it. there is a way through for you I hope as there was for me. For decades of my life I could not have believed that I could have gotten better, but finding out what ptsd was and finding out how to treat it and committing myself to that, even when I did not feel up to it and had to lean hard on those who really loved me, ultimately paid off in a life that at least for today is more or less livable, something I always thought was just hopelessly beyond my reach, there for others but not me in some kind of stupid joke I did not get. Anyway, I wish you the best.

catherine todd said...

Amen! I just went through a "mini-episode" of PTSD, and it was "mini" ONLY because this time around I was AWARE of what was happening, and was able to "lean on loved ones" for the very first time, thanks to reading that is was in fact OK to do so. Reading that HERE. God bless you, every one of you, who write and comment on this blog. What a life-saver!

I used to think of myself as an "emotional hemophiliac," and didn't know why I "couldn't stop bleeding." I really thought something was just WRONG with me and I "must be crazy" just like I had always been told.

Now I know I go into a kind of shock - PTSD - and it has a name and a resolution and I can pray and call loved ones and there are people who love and care about me and it is OK to stay away from the stressed, harried, cruel or poisonous people that used to destroy my life. Whether it was intentional or unintentional injuries, now I can just say "no" to those thoughtless or careless people in my life. I don't need to be around that kind of negativity, and I don't need to keep those people in my life. I recognize them and give them wide berth. Oh, how my life is improving. Reading about former "toxic relationships" in the past gave me permission to really evaluate my own relationships, and rather than to continue to criticize myself for the actions and behavior of others (and their behavior towards me), now I can literally recognize them for what they are and just stay away. I DON'T GET ATTACHED. I still "want them to like me" (even though they never will, since they like so little) but I can recognize that it's really wanting and wishing and hoping that my mother and father would "like me" when they never will. So acceptance and forgiveness comes into it, but I still have the RIGHT TO PROTECT MYSELF. Re-injury seems to be the biggest obstacle to healing, at least for me, so now that I know this I have the right to stay away. Just like wearing shoes vs. going barefoot when I'm not used to being around negativity.

Now I can CHOOSE for myself how to keep myself safe, secure and SANE. God bless every last one of you for all your helpful and life-changing comments, and God forgive the rest.

Your friend in sickness and health, Catherine

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I found your link while researching PTSD for a writing class I'll be teaching at a non-profit that helps women get back on their feet. I'm really glad I found your site as it feels very sane to me.

It's also helped me realize that even though most of the women I've met seem pretty normal, they probably have a lot of stuff going on under the surface. This is why I’ve been instructed to not work too deeply with them in the self-exploration exercises. If all this is under the surface, then I best tread with care. I've had a lot of therapy myself and done a lot of work myself AND I'm not a therapist. (Your link on what to look for in a good therapist was wonderful, too.)

Thanks for sharing yourself and providing valuable insight. If you have any suggestions for gentle exercises in the realm of writing and creativity, please let me know.

Best wishes,

Ellen

Springer said...

I've recently discovered I have PTSD and found this page while looking for a treatment center.

Reading through all the posts is encouraging. I'm thankful to all who contributed with your experiences.

This is my first time writing a response, ever(this is blogging,right?)

I'm wondering what to expect the first time attending an inpatient program. Right now it's the "Ok, I'll go - No, I wont." routine. Sound familiar?
Thanks, Sam

GettingBetter said...

If the ptsd is disrupting your life and those around you, a good treatment program ( I can only speak from the experience of having gone to one) can be a combination of revelation and lifesaver. If you have the resources to go it can be a big help. But not all places are created equal so do a bit of research first.

Anonymous said...

I'm so impressed with your blog. I was sexually abused by my dad for 12 years. Now, 10 years later, I'm starting to deal with my issues. PTSD hit me hard, too. I'm sorry for you, but glad to know I'm not the only one. Thanks for what you do!

GettingBetter said...

Thanks for the nice words. Glad to see you are dealing with what happened to you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your journey. I am in the middle of healing my complex ptsd and comforted knowing I am not alone. Best to you.

Barbara said...

I read this and felt like maybe I am not crazy. 2 years ago I had my first flashback and I almost crossed the center line in my car. I didn't, but I felt terror from the feelings in my body, and explosive emptimess in my head. I am still in the middle of trying to create safety in my environment. After that day, the flashbacks and body sensations caused me to be barely functioning. It was only my 4 children that kept me breathing I think. As a mother, I have always protected them and thankfully, I continued to be responsive to their needs. The rest of the time, I was a wreck. My husband was abusive which has turned out to be the most complicaing factor I have faced. When our therapist asked him to help me more because of my suffering, my husband was angry. He disengaged from counseling and our family, and then filed for divorce. He left all parenting and financial support of the household to me and I have barely survived. I have done my best, but my own healing is impossible. Last month I almost went into the hospital at the urging of my therapist. I have no family support and since I cannot leave my children alone, I would not go through with inpatient treatment. I shifted only from fear of what would happen to my home and chldren when my husband foud out. He threatend to take everything and show I am the crazy one and he is nice and I shouldn't try to mess with him. My children are suffereing greatly because of the long term duration of the legal process. I have not been able to enforce any of the orders and my husband simply does not comply and then lies and he is believed. I feel like if I give up all my rights, I may not be able to survive and my husband will continue to harm us. But I also worry he will kill us if his rage is triggered by my desire to take care of myself by finding a way to advocate for my rights and for the rights of our children. My husband has always perceived everyone is out to hurt him, and any time I tried to separate my sense of self from his, he retaliated. I never held up under his messages of disapproval and returned to doing everything like he preferred. Anyway, I thank you for your blog. I haven't ever had people to trust, and the experiences of the last few years has shattered my self image. I thought I was ok, but once I could see, the reality hit hard. I still don't know how to recover. I have wondered often if there is anything to reach on the other side of this. I am terrified and ashamed daily, and only continue for my kids. They are lovely strong, smart people who only have me as an adult support. I think of my body as a shield against everything I have learned is not set up to protect their rights. I am further isolated because I don't want to be such a drain to anyone and no one understands. That is why I was so helped by your blog. You made it seem like you could understand. I want you to know I am out here and just your asking made me feel significant. I am happy you have someone to share with and support you. I send you strength. kind regards..

Caroline said...

I have only just come across your page & have spent the last hour reading sections. I am early in my journey of recognising & dealing with PTSD & reading your journey has touched, enlightened & already helped me; perhaps largely as a reminder that I am not alone. One of the things that strikes hardest with me reading your blog, is the beautiful heart behind it. Even in the face of such trauma & struggle to fight it & heal, you are making an amazing effort to share your story so that others may find hope, understanding & inspiration. You have given me, someone you have never met, at least an hour of feeling significantly less isolated, afraid & alone. I cannot use adequate words to thank you for that. You have touched & helped so many (obvious from reading some of the many other comments) & the world is lucky to have people like you in it.
Thank you.

catherine todd said...

Caroline has shared my sentiments exactly. I too extend my gratitude once again.

Ruby said...

thanks for this post. I am seeking inpatient treatment for PTSD and you have helped a lot. I'm going to come back to this page and read more, right now I'm at the library.
I have a problem with Landlords. I get landlord after landlord with bad boundaries who I freak out on, now I'm looking at homelessness again. I do my homework, prefer Charlotte Kasl's 16 steps, and still I feel like a nut. I'm on social security now, if anyone has ideas of resources available to low income people, I'd love to hear them. Am interested in going to minnesota as that's where my family is, but perhaps that's not a good idea.

Sarah T. said...

I am really impressed with the fact that you are so open about your PTSD and are willing to share your stories with so many others, most of them probably being complete strangers.
Part of you last paragraph caught my attention, well your whole story obviously did too, but you wrote: " I have talked to people who have combat ptsd, and the symptoms don't seem a whole lot different, even if the causes seem different" -- you are correct! Recently I wrote a research paper on PTSD for a english class I am taking; the paper was mostly geared toward combat PTSD but after reading your story all of the symptoms and treatments seem to be almost identical.

Anonymous said...

I only just found your blog and i have to say that i am really impressed by your courage. I know that all you have written will be a great comfort to people who are suffering from the same kind of emotional truama.

Catherine Todd said...

I love this blog and the comments on it. Thank you all so much for helping to keep it - and many of us - alive! Reading these words are like sunshine, soil and rain. All that we need to grow.

Lisa said...

I came across your blog today and would very much like to write to you, but am not at the point of wanting to put it out here publicly for all to see. Is there a way I can do that?

GettingBetter said...

Hi Lisa, I'm anonymous too, and need to stay that way. I am sure if you reach out you can get help...there are guides to help with that on the site for professionals, but even a friend. If you read this and still want to talk, get a free temporary anonymous email address and post that in the comments here. I'll keep an eye out and respond to that privately, and won't post your comment (everything gets moderated before posting) but I won't post my email here either. It allows me to speak freely. You could also just send your regular email in a comment that starts by saying "DO NOT POST" -- it will come to me for moderation. Just to let you know, I am not a professional, and have experience but not much advice. ANy advice I do have is probably already posted here! Good luck with your struggles and recovery if you are suffering from ptsd.

Springer said...

Lisa, You are not alone. My healing really began when I found just one who understood.

Anonymous said...

i thought i was alone in the world in this mess. it is good to see that there are people out there who understand what acting out and withdrawing from society is all about with ptsd and did.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your site. I do need some major help. I suffer from PTSD. Most think its a joke but for me at 53 yrs. of age the first dx for many years of strange abnormal behavior. I looked into Life Healing Center but not sure I can travel that far, I am in NJ. I am not a substance abuser my major problem is self worth and honestly.
Can someone help me please?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your site. I do need some major help. I suffer from PTSD. Most think its a joke but for me at 53 yrs. of age the first dx for many years of strange abnormal behavior. I looked into Life Healing Center but not sure I can travel that far, I am in NJ. I am not a substance abuser my major problem is self worth and honestly.
Can someone help me please?

nandervane said...

I need someone to talk to....I have posted a few messages but NO one has responded..I am at a very low point..dont post private email please...

GettingBetter said...

Hi Nandervane,
I'm not a professional, and I do this in my spare time, which is limited, so I cannot get to the comments every day or provide any specific help. I hope you are able to find the help you need. Some of the resources here, like how to deal with flashbacks and how to pick a therapist might help out a little, but I am not equipped, mentally or professionally to take on the responsibility you are asking me to. Please, if you are in danger, call a helpline. There are a list of them at Sidran.org, and they can also help you find appropriate treatment if that is what you need rather than crisis support.

Anonymous said...

Nandervane, In NJ there are many therapists trained in EMDR (see emdr.com). Also U can check thepositivemind.com for self-help, or listen to WBAI-NYC Armond Dimile's show, you can call in the radio show on some days, or listen to archived shows online. For free resources, check out dept of health websites in your area or search issue on info.gov.

If you need to talk, call prayer hotlines. Keep reaching out to any 800 number you can find if you need to talk to someone, there are many. Sometimes family/friends can refer you to their work's Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for free sessions over phone.

What works for me: For flashbacks, play Tetris, or watch youtube videos of metronomes, listen to classical music. Watch double rainbow vid. For depression, eat 1 oz. chocolate, drink coffee. For anxiety, cammomile tea or St. John's wort tea. Vids of puppies and kittens playing. Therapy focused on attachment theory (Bowlby) - rebuilding trust and positive attachment relationship starting w/ a qualified therapist helps.

If religious, sometimes the only one you can really trust is the One that created you, talk to Him when you need a friend.

God Bless Everyone.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, thanyou for sharing your story. I too have long term 12 step recovery & share an almost identical history (except that I experienced tramatic bonding to one person rather than sex addiction issues) & have never married or been hospitalised for mental health issues (although I should have been times over. Apparently, I'm 'too functional' on account of my excellent understanding of what I suffer from & the way I am able to coherently articulate this - as if that matters NOT!). I'm posting tonight as I try to manage yet another wave of suicidal ideation. I am 17 year clean & had 4 years clean before that with only a 4 mth period of smoking marijuana in between. I will return to share more but tonight I just want to re-iterate thankyou. I 'll sign off with the though that the shame & guilt is not ours although I note this does not keep my suicidal ideation at bay... Bless you for being so candid. People like me are out & need to hear that we are NOT alone...

Catherine Todd said...

Anonymous, I call my PTSD attacks "the suicide slide." I can feel it coming on, and it's as if I'm at the top of a VERY long narrow and twisting slide, and I have about three seconds to catch my Self. I've somehow climbed up here and found my Self at the top of the spire, and it curves down and around and keeps going and going...

If I'm able to stop and catch my breath; take a DEEP breath and curl up inside my blanket or just pull it up over my head while wishing I would die, but hoping and praying that I don't and I keep taking a deep breath whenever I can, somehow someway my angels pull me through.

I have those few seconds at the top to do this - to just BREATHE and ASK GOD TO HELP ME - and if I can remember to do this, I am SAVED.

If not, it's all over for a few hours or a few days.

BUT... I always pull through. I have never in my life actually attempted suicide and could never understand why the idea has been instilled in me so strongly. It's as if a negative seed was planted in my body and all it takes is a monster to feed and water it, and so often I have chosen my monster or agreed to caretake it!

I could never understand any of this until I found out about codependency and PTSD. Now I know to pull out all my books that may have been gathering dust on the shelf (thank God they are still there when I need them) and get to reading or doing SOMETHING that will take my mind off the slide into plunging darkness I find myself in.

It gets easier every time. I now know there are no rocks to crash into, nor waters to drown in. I have and will always survive, even though it FELT like "touch and go" for most of my life.

God protects us all and we know this is true because we are STILL HERE. All we have to do is ask God for help. And our angels do come. They are always there. Our angels, God, our Higher Self, the Divine; whatever we choose to call it and however we choose to find it.

"The winds of grace blow all the time; all we need do is set our sails." And ask God to show us The Way.

I am so grateful for this blog and for all the people who write here. Looking back over the comments over the years, including my own, I can see how much I have changed and how much things have changed since I found this safe haven so many years ago.

The biggest change in my life is I now STAY AWAY from negative people who "trigger me." People who "may not mean it" or may just be mean people, including family members who I WISH I could have a relationship with, but can't and don't...

The avoidance of pain and the seeking of pleasure, peace, tranquility is probably the greatest and most productive change I've made in my life. I used to feel guilty about this all the time, but now I know it's a matter of survival. I am not going to kill myself just to let some cruel person have a little fun!

I do want to live and I have lived and I will continue to live. I do look forward to the future now, for the first time in my life, and today I turned 62. So it's been a long road but a fruitful one. Ultimately.

I am Forever Grateful for this. I never thought I'd make it this far, and here I am in the shining sun... all because I finally decided to start TAKING CARE OF MY SELF. I deserve happiness, peace and tranquility too, and all I have to do is step away those that cause chaos and harm. Just step away and stay away.

Dear God, please show us The Way. Amen.

Springer said...

Catherine,

First of all - Happy Birthday!

I, too, get on the 'suicide slide' at times when the despair from the depression and anxiety become too much.

Like you, I had to take care of me (and deal with the feelings of selfishness, which are false to begin with), and I had also to stay away from toxic people, family included.

So, I cheer you on - and remind you we're all part of what author Seth Godin calls tribes, depending on our affiliations (for us - the PTSD 'tribe.')

Thank you, and the others who post here, for reaching out.

Catherine Todd said...

Gracias, amigo... and here I thought I was the only one that had that "slide" in my own backyard! Now I know it's only "there" and can't hurt me or affect me; I CAN "climb down" after sitting quietly at the top and not moving. I CAN "catch myself" in time and never go down it. I CAN live "happily ever after" by staying away from toxic people and toxic situations. And finally, I AM.

I AM.

I DESERVE TO LIVE and blogs like this one re-inforce and show me it's true.

Dear God show us The Way.

"The winds of grace blow all the time; all we need do is set our sails."

Anonymous said...

thanks for the post. i appreciated your insight into a.a. i indirectly sought help for my ptsd there. bad idea. they are not psychiatrists.
sorry for the tough luck but it
helped me to read it. thanks!

Anonymous said...

I am really sorry to hear of all the terrible things that have happened to you throughout your life. With that, I would like to say thank you, thank you for being courageous enough to put all your hardship out there for people to see. That must have taken imense amounts of courage, beyond any I could imagine. But, thank you as well for writing this blog. I myself do not have PTSD but one of my best friends ( one I have had serious feelings for for awhile) does have PTSD. This sight has helped me understand a little what he has been going through. Ive wanted to be there for him, but I really didn't know how to do that.... Until now. I understand a lot then I did when I blindly started looking up what PTSD was and even ways to help him. So, thank you, for helping me become more knowledable on a condition I knew nothing about. I hope you keep posting even after you have gotten through your hardest spells, from what I've read it seems you have a big number of followers, you have definitely have another after today.

GettingBetter said...

I'm glad you foind the blog helpful. Anonymity helped me with the courage to put my story "out there." Writing this blog and hearing from others with similar troubles has made me feel less alone in my PTSD, which was a real problem. That some people have found solace or help from the posts and comments actually makes a difference too, giving some purpose to what only seemed senseless while going through it.

Bradley Lancour said...

I can relate 100%. I've masturbated myself raw at times dealing with the abuse from 1st grade. I've also never been treated until I was ~55. happily married. (2) boys through college. (1) daughter-in-law with my first granddaughter on the way and I have some kind of mental episode where I lost all my emotions and left home walking to nowhere. They found me and put my in the mental ward for a week. Then 3 months of halfway program where you are an outpatient and sign in everyday for therapy/group. To make a long sad story short. IT NEVER ENDS. I break down in tears over nothing. A seconds thought and wham I'm back in the dead zone! I can go for weeks, months and even years at best. You just don't know when. Should I get back on meds? I don't know. I just take each day and hope God helps me keep it away!
My heart breaks for you man!

Anonymous said...

It's 2013 and I just discovered your site today. I am a woman with undiagnosed Complex PTSD.....there is a huge amount of trauma I have lived through, mainly due to a violent and sadistic, psychopathic father. (A true psychopath.)

I feel for you. I have emotional flashbacks daily.....often, many times daily. Until I learned about Complex PTSD, I just thought crying every day, being hypervigilant, hating my life, and wanting to die was "normal." Those are the only life experiences I can ever recall having had. Preetty sad, isn't it?

I clicked on your link to take the "Trauma Bond" test......I am so dismayed to score a 25. It was suggested if you score above 11, you need therapeutic intervention.

My biggest fear is dying before I overcome what my narcissistic and psychopathic parents did to me. They almost destroyed me.

I hope you are still around. How is your life now?

Thank you so much for sharing. I appreciate your honesty and authenticity. Good luck to you.

GettingBetter said...

Hey, I'm still around and hope you are too. I was really busy with work and neglected comments for a couple of months, so my apologies for slow posting. I hope that recognition is the first step toward getting help and getting better for you!

Catherine Todd said...

Anonymous, you wrote: "My biggest fear is dying before I overcome what my narcissistic and psychopathic parents did to me. They almost destroyed me."

I know exactly how you feel - it's the same for me, except I'm not afraid of dying. I work every single day to overcome the damage that was done to me, and I just hope and pray I will live long enough to see me "whole" before I go! I meditate every day:

"The winds of grace blow all the time; all we need do is set our sail."

Please show us The Way.

Good to see you here, and hope you come back more.

Catherine Todd said...

Where is the link for the "trauma bond" test?

GettingBetter said...

http://www.sexhelp.com/am-i-a-sex-addict/betrayal-bond-index

Catherine Todd said...

Thanks... does this link apply to trauma bonds beyond sex addiction?

Catherine Todd said...

OMG. I scored 25 on this test, too. And I've been "working on myself" for 40+ years. Help!

Catherine Todd said...

And I am celibate and don't have romantic relationships, but still am betrayed constantly. Probably because I stay in denial or "hoping things will change," when it's clear they don't and they won't. I am exploited so easily it makes me sick, but at the time I always think I am "helping" and "being helped" and I think I am "doing the right thing." It's only later I realize that I was being taken for a ride by lies, deception, procrastination and more. Got to learn to let those kinds of people GO! Far, far away! And I will learn to live in the sun and not listen to their "stories" or excuses or lies anymore. Dear God please show me The Way.

GettingBetter said...

Thanks Catherine, you spurred me to actually write a post because when I responded to the comment I realized I had a little more to say on this. The post is http://ptsdme.blogspot.com/2013/06/betrayal-bonds-and-sex-addiction.html

Catherine Todd said...


Thank you! I was really afraid I "wrote too much." Heading to your post now. Gracias, amigo!

A. said...

Hey,
Thank you so much for writing and for writing so honestly. I have just started a similar journey. I've been to a lot on my own and with councillors to try and 'make myself better'.

I particularly appreciate you speaking about seeking sexual encounters as this is something I find myself falling into and being completely ashamed of. I have been referred to receive more 'intensive' therapy (likely EMDR) but the wait is proving harder than I was expecting. And I'm worried I might not be stable enough for the treatment. Being alive almost feels like a way of punishment at the moment.

My thoughts clearly jumble. All I really wanted to say was thank you.

Sam Bradley said...

A, Hang on no matter all the things going on in your mind. The fact you still have feelings is good, though they cause us so much pain. It (pain) is a sign of whatever you've been through, not punishment. You are not alone.
Sam

To moderator - this is in response to Oct 29 posting written June 2014