PTSD Awareness Day

June 27 is PTSD Awareness Day and June is National PTSD Awareness Month. There is a misconception that only service members in the Armed Forces can get PTSD. Anyone can have Post-Traumatic Stress. This can happen after any type of trauma such as being robbed or assaulted. It is not exclusive to military combat. People who experience consistent trauma for several years, such as Prisoners of War (POW) or children who grow up with abusive parents, can develop Complex-PTSD. This is not recognized as separate from PTSD but more like a subcategory. Though most of the symptoms are similar there are a few differences.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder. Sufferers often deal with both anxiety and depression. Symptoms can be severe making it difficult to find medication or treatments that work. I suffered childhood trauma and have lived with PTSD most of my life though I was unaware for most of it. I often use writing to cope with many things I struggle with. I have had difficulty making friends and more difficulty keeping those friends. Most of my struggles I brought on myself. Its only in the last year that I’ve tried to change how I talk to and about myself.

Last year, I self-published a collection of my personal writing from different blogs into one book. Mushaburui: A Mental Health Journey. I shared many things I went through at those times. Many people would comment expressing how much they could relate or how much they appreciated what I wrote. So, today and tomorrow, June 27 – 28, the eBook is free on Amazon Kindle. I hope my thoughts I shared in the book will help others. Click the title in this post or check my Projects Page.

To anyone living with PTSD or any mental illness, you’re not alone. Never give up. Never surrender. It does get better, but first you have to be kind to yourself. That means changing how you think about and talk about yourself. Good luck.

Poetry Monday: Another Morning Battle

Resting on my shoulder
Purring in my ear
Coco watches what I do
My little supervisor
Callie sleeps on the couch
The crabby old cat
I drink my coffee
And write of trauma
Just to get it out
It’s cheap therapy
But soon I’ll need
To pay for the good stuff
I can’t cope on my own
But poetry, Coco, and Callie
They help me keep going
And sometimes a friend
Reminds me I’m important
I wish I had more friends

From the poetry collection Cats, Coffee, Catharsis.

Life Won’t Break Me

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Life has a way of throwing you curve balls when you least expect it, but when you need it most.  I have spent years feeling that I needed to do something; that something was off and needed fixing or realigning.  I felt that I couldn’t pursue all my goals or reach my full potential until I accomplished something or learned some lesson. I had no idea how right I was at the time.  Repressed memories have started resurfacing.  Only a few for now, but I know more are on the way.  Some of this has come from talking with my sister about childhood trauma I had forgotten.

Some memories I recall clear as day, but for some reason they disappeared from my life for many years. There are other memories my sister has that I have no recollection of and probably never will.  Those memories are the ones that have to most impact on me because so many things about my life and personality now have an explanation. It was jarring to the point of destroying my personal self-image.  I felt everything I knew about myself was now a lie.  I thought I was no longer the person I had led myself to be.

This change in self-image I don’t think would have occurred if I was not going through some hard times. I am currently unemployed and having trouble finding work.  I have had several interviews and, as of today, have a couple more scheduled, but there is still no income being generated.  I have no more money to use to survive.  My sister and niece are staying with me until they get a place of their own.  Three people in a tiny one-bedroom apartment can make one more anxious than they were before.  I don’t think I’ve hit rock bottom yet, but I’m close.

Some many factors affecting my mood and mental health have in a way opened parts of my mind I had closed off and now everything is falling into place.  Seeing domestic violence at 4-years-old and this violence continuing for several years has had a tremendous impact on how my young mind developed.  I need professional help to deal with wounds I’ve ignored for so many years and to get a proper diagnosis.  I know I have anxiety, but I’m learning that this is not the problem but a symptom.  Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is likely the official diagnosis.

“Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD; also known as complex trauma disorder) is a psychological disorder thought to occur as a result of repetitive, prolonged trauma involving sustained abuse or abandonment by a caregiver or other interpersonal relationships with an uneven power dynamic. C-PTSD relates to the trauma model of mental disorders and is associated with sexual, emotional or physical abuse or neglect in childhood, intimate partner violence, victims of kidnapping and hostage situations, indentured servants, victims of slavery, sweatshop workers, prisoners of war, victims of bullying, concentration camp survivors, residential school survivors, and defectors of cults or cult-like organizations.” ~ “Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_post-traumatic_stress_disorder.

Of the many symptoms caused by this disorder in children, I will only list the ones that I am aware of within myself.  These are also from the Wikipedia page.

  • Problems with relationship boundaries, lack of trust, social isolation, difficulty perceiving and responding to others’ emotional states.
  • Poor affect regulation, difficulty identifying and expressing emotions and internal states, and difficulties communicating needs, wants, and wishes.
  • Fragmented and disconnected autobiographical narrative, disturbed body image, low self-esteem, excessive shame, and negative internal working models of self.
  • Difficulties regulating emotions, including symptoms such as persistent dysphoria, chronic suicidal preoccupation, self-injury, explosive or extremely inhibited anger (may alternate), or compulsive or extremely inhibited sexuality (may alternate).
  • Variations in consciousness, including forgetting traumatic events (i.e., psychogenic amnesia), reliving experiences (either in the form of intrusive PTSD symptoms or in ruminative preoccupation), or having episodes of dissociation.
  • Changes in self-perception, such as a chronic and pervasive sense of helplessness, paralysis of initiative, shame, guilt, self-blame, a sense of defilement or stigma, and a sense of being completely different from other human beings.
  • Varied changes in the perception of the perpetrator, such as attributing total power to the perpetrator, becoming preoccupied with the relationship to the perpetrator, including a preoccupation with revenge, idealization or paradoxical gratitude, seeking approval from the perpetrator, a sense of a special relationship with the perpetrator or acceptance of the perpetrator’s belief system or rationalizations.
  • Alterations in relations with others, including isolation and withdrawal, persistent distrust, anger and hostility, a repeated search for a rescuer, disruption in intimate relationships and repeated failures of self-protection.
  • Loss of, or changes in, one’s system of meanings, which may include a loss of sustaining faith or a sense of hopelessness and despair.
  • Disconnection from surroundings accompanied by feelings of terror and confusion.

I see everything in my life defined by these symptoms.  I recently realized that my joy and desire to write horror or speculative fiction is my brain’s way of trying to deal with or get me to remember my past trauma.  It is also my way of escaping.  As a child, I had a counselor who helped me create a kind of survival kit.  When my parents would argue, I would pull this out this coffee can wrapped in construction paper and remove the many toys I kept within.  My sister described it as going off into my own little world.  That’s why I write; to escape and go off into my own little world.

This is the difficult point in life where I must rebuild myself from nothing.  I feel I’ve lost who I was, but somehow have finally become who I always was or should be. Is it weird that I have this new zeal and ambition for life?  I don’t think so.  Everyday gets me closer to being happy with the person I’ve become and the person I am. This was the lesson I needed to learn. This is the beginning of the rest of my life.  I must deal with this before I can truly succeed in this world.  I’ve been beaten down so far, the only place I have to go is up. And nothing will stop me.