PTSD is an anxiety disorder that arises from trauma. It can result in flashbacks, nightmares, panic, physical symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, hyper vigilance (a feeling of always being alert and on guard), replaying and reliving a situation over and over again, amongst others. While treatment can help manage and reduce these symptoms, it is possible for triggers to cause relapses in the severe and distressing symptoms of trauma. In effect, a trigger will make the mind relive the original trauma reproducing the original feelings associated with the event.
I have PTSD. I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2010. At the time, I went through therapy (CBT) and spent time re-processing the events and working through triggers as I came across them. It was a hard time and took a lot of work to get through. Eventually, the triggers became few and far between. I wasn’t gripped by fear and anxiety. I didn’t spend every day re-living the trauma.
When I had CBT after having Boo to treat post natal depression and anxiety, we went through my PTSD triggers and made sure that I wasn’t having a trauma response. I wasn’t. The anxiety and depression I have experienced since then has always been a totally separate issue to PTSD. In fact, I think the birth of my daughter helped to heal that trauma. The PTSD seemed to have been put to bed. I forgave the person involved. I forgave myself. I let go of the pain. My PTSD resulted from a traumatic miscarriage. The birth of my daughter felt like I was released from the remaining sadness.
When I started blogging, I was feeling very anxious after a miscarriage and realised that I needed to address my anxiety. This is something that I am very aware of since having PTSD; it is really important that I keep my anxiety levels in check. At the time, I was concerned about my anxiety, but was happy that I knew how to overcome it.
Then I had another miscarriage. And other events were very stressful. Without realising, these 2 things occurring together triggered my PTSD. Since then, I have been in a constant state of panic – my chest hurts, I can’t sleep, I wake frequently from nightmares when I do sleep, I am withdrawn. I have felt suicidal. Basically, I have felt dreadful and not at all myself. My response really concerned me – I couldn’t understand why my mental health was unravelling at such a speed. Of course I was sad about the miscarriages, but the way I have been feeling has been much more than that.
In order to explain how this triggered my PTSD, I need to explain a little how I developed PTSD. I have PTSD because I had a traumatic miscarriage. At the time, I felt very afraid and threatened. My adrenaline was pumping all day, every day. I felt like no one believed me. I felt like I had no option but to leave everything behind.
The 2 events that happened recently essentially mirrored the trauma I went through all those years ago. Whilst the circumstances are dramatically different, many of my feelings were exactly the same. My PTSD was triggered in full force. Up until that point , I had felt low and anxious, but I was coping. After my adrenaline surged during that stressful event, the trigger was pulled. I have been in a state of trauma ever since. Insomnia. Hyper vigilance. Panic. Intense anxiety. Unhealthy behaviours. Isolation. Irritation. Sadness. Fear. Doubt. Recurring nightmares. Flashbacks.
So why has it taken me over 2 months to figure out that this is a PTSD response? Well, previously, a key symptom of my PTSD was flashbacks. The flashbacks I had were of being hit. I would wake up being punched in the back. But the flashbacks I have had lately took me through the recent event that caused my adrenaline to surge. I didn’t recognise them as flashbacks because they were not what I was used to. But each time this flashback invaded my brain (if you speak to my husband, he will tell you that this has been OFTEN), it took me through the event again. Sights. Smells. Words. Even what I was wearing. They were flashbacks that were intruding on my thoughts. Finally, after speaking to the community mental health team, and going through it with a close friend who knows my history, it suddenly clicked.
This is PTSD. The way I am feeling and responding is PTSD. This is a trauma response and I know how to handle that.
I KNOW HOW TO GET BETTER!!!
I cannot tell you the joy I felt in that moment. Sheer relief and joy that I knew for sure that I can find my way out of the darkness. My mental health hasn’t taken a sudden nose dive for no reason. I am not irredeemable.
So where am I now?
Well, in a way, nothing has changed. I have just been through a tough time. I am healing but I still hurt. A lot. I am still gripped by anxiety, but I am able to remind myself that I have nothing to fear. I can calm down and release my chest from its cage. I now need to work through those events. For the last 2 months I have been frozen – I have been stuck in a terrible moment. I need to start moving forward from that now. And thankfully, I finally know that it is possible.