Wednesday, December 3, 2014

PTSD

I don't normally get personal on here.  I just don't like the possibility of feeling vulnerable, even though I absolutely love when other people share what they've gone through or are going through.  Usually there are so many people who can relate those posts but don't want to be the first to reveal.  Or, they find some comfort in knowing that someone else is going through the same thing.

Now you all probably know that my dog died suddenly last spring (just eight months after we adopted her, and just nine months after our first pet, our bunny Bailey, died).  From the day I thought something was wrong to the day we put her asleep, it took 20 days.   What not everyone might know is how much it affected the next year of my life.

Of course, anyone dealing with losing a loved one is going to go through a period of depression.   I definitely went through that.  I've always struggled with a touch of depression anyway, so I just figured I was going through situational depression that was just like an amplified version of what I was used to.  I started going on and off anti-depressents for the next few months, dealing with all the undesirable side effects without any of the help that these pills were supposed to bring.  I was suffering from daily headaches and light headed-ness, crying spells every hour, pounding heartbeats, and general helplessness that I couldn't seem to climb out of.   I was confused as to why I didn't really feel like I was going through depression, but I couldn't put a finger on it.

It sucked.  It really, really sucked.  I am used to putting on a face when I'm upset, because I don't like getting unwanted attention.  I wanted nothing more than to disappear from everyone and to climb into a hole on the couch, but I couldn't let myself sink that far.  I still spent time with friends and family, but the only thing that ever went through my head was "hollyhollyhollyhollyhollyhollyimsosadifeelsohopelessandsadhollyhollyhollyholly"  I tried as hard as I could not to bring up Holly every second, and I tried even harder not to end up crying everywhere I went (I wasn't that successful).

The first time I realized that I probably had PTSD, I was watching some show, and some character said something along the lines of "Most people who suffer from PTSD experience fuzzy brains."  Wow, exactly.  That couldn't be more true for me.  I've never had any trouble thinking clearly in my life, and now I was finding myself spending days in a foggy haze; I still barely remember what happened most of that summer.

When we think of PTSD, we usually think of soldiers.  I myself, almost felt like it's disrespectful for me to say I have it when I haven't been through something as traumatic as going to war, and I was embarrassed to say I was going through it.  But the very definition of PTSD says:

"Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event."

Check, check, and check!  For the first six months, I had flash blacks almost nightly.   The lights would go off, I would immediately feel the moment when I was holding Holly's body and it went limp, before I was ready to let go. Quickly, the panic attack would begin.  This also happened anytime at work when I couldn't make my mind go blank.  Thankfully, I was getting by fine at work, which frankly, was a miracle.  I don't know how I did it, because like I said, the whole summer was a blur!

A particularly low point for me were the two weeks I spent sobbing for hours on end about a ring at Nordstroms.  I usually get a gift card to Nordstroms for Christmas, and last year I didn't (because I got a different amazing gift!).  However, I had a ring picked out that I was going to get, and I just decided that I couldn't buy it because I didn't get a gift card.  Why couldn't I just buy it with my own money?  Heck if I knew!  I literally spent two weeks coming home from work and sobbing for hours over this.  Eventually, I just bought the ring and stopped crying (just to be clear...I was not throwing that big a fit over a dumb old ring!  I was just using the ring as a mask to all the deeper emotional issues I couldn't manage to work through at the time).  I think that stupid freak out over the ring kind of snapped me out of it enough for me to realize there was something really wrong.

I was surprised how quickly people make snide comments when I said that I thought I was going through PTSD.  Apparently I'm not the only one who kind of feels that PTSD is reserved for victims of combat.  However, the few close friends and family I talked to about it first with all agreed and supported me.  Thank you (you know who you are!).

The worst part, or, the hardest thing to deal with, has been a newly developed anxiety.  Now, I'm not going to say I was always a carefree, worry-free person.  Of course I worried, got really nervous, etc.  But never to this degree!  Things I never used to think twice about have me crying in the bathroom at work or having a full blown panic attack!   I was never someone who got anxious over regular old things like flying.  I loved flying!  But when I flew to Fayetteville by myself in October,  I was having these dreadfully anxious days over having to fly, sometimes working myself into a full blown panic attack, over something happening to Tim and Mia....that's not me.  I'm not someone who worries about that stuff, and I hate that it's a reality now.

Anxiety was literally hurting me physically for awhile.  For months straight, I spent mornings gagging so hard I had to stop in the middle of the sidewalk to keep from throwing up.   I did through up in my mouth more times than I care to admit (yelch).  Along with another pesky problem, Tim and I realized that this is caused by extreme anxiety.  What?  Who is this person?  This isn't me!  Eventually, the horrible gagging and stomach problems went away as my anxiety stopped being so severe.

I'm working on dealing with my anxiety.  OK, I'm not trying as hard as I could.  But I'm trying a little.  I realized that my anti-depressents weren't helping me, so I quit taking them against the advice of my doctor, and I think I made the right decision.  Overall, I'm in a much better place than I was a year and a half ago.  Better than even six months ago!   I still start sobbing if I think about Holly for too long, but I can think about her now without bursting into tears.  I sometimes start freaking out too much about Tim and Mia dying, but it's not as crippling as it used to make me.  I don't like having anxiety, it's just not who I am, and it's not who I want to be.  But we don't always get to choose that cards we're dealt, and we have to deal with it the best we can.

I have to end this by saying how wonderful Tim has been during this whole ordeal.  I don't know how he handled being in a relationship with me during the last year and a half!  At the end of the day, I always knew that Tim just wanted me to be happy, no matter what it took, and that support was all I really needed.  I love you Tim!

Finishing this post is a little bit of proof to myself that I'm getting better:  I've been working on this post for three months now, and this was the first time I didn't end up sobbing while writing.  Victory?

6 comments:

  1. It can't be easy to share this with the world. I could never be as brave as you and share something so personal with strangers. Heck, I can barely show emotion in front of my closest friends. You're an amazing person and an inspiration.

    Love you,

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  2. I think you're right that there are people out there who will relate deeply to this and be very thankful to hear they aren't alone. I don't have PTSD, but I have suffered from awful anxiety over the past few years, and it's the worst.

    Hope you're feeling better, even a little bit, each day. xoxoxox

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  3. Holy moly. I knew about Holly and knew it was a huge blow to you, but I never knew you were going through all of this. You're so strong to be able to tell this story to everybody, and I love your openness and heart. <3 <3 <3

    Sar

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  4. Victory indeed! Whenever I think of PTSD, I think of soldiers and I can certainly see how people would scoff at the idea of it being applied to losing a pet but shame on those people who made you feel that way.
    As someone who just recently lost her puppy, I can (on a smaller scale it sounds like) relate to that feeling of anxiety and worry in relation to other people in my life. It's really hard to work through but so wonderful you have Tim to be there and support you.
    I'm so sorry about Holly, she was wonderfully loved and so are you. Thank you for sharing, I'm sure you've helped someone and you don't even know it. And if you ever need someone to vent/cry to, I'm here!

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  5. You're so brave for sharing this!! I'm sorry you had to deal with this for so long. It's true we associate PTSD with veterans, but really it is a syndrome that can occur after ANY traumatic incident involving death (or near-death). And it's true everyone has to cope with death of pets, yours was especially traumatic.
    I work with a lot of people with PTSD. I'd say Anxiety is the most common, Depression second, and PTSD third. And it's so sad that everyone thinks they have to go through it alone!!

    Anyway, it sounds like you're finding ways to deal with it. But I'd also say that other medications might help (maybe anti-anxiety rather than anti-depressants), and therapy can be helpful too- maybe if you found someone who specializes in strength-based, solution focused therapy.

    Good luck!! I'm here if you need it.

    <3

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  6. So clearly need to stop depending on the fb/other mediums to get updated on your blog =/. I'm glad you shared this!

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