Tuesday, February 18, 2014

You can't turn back the hands of time.


"Sometimes. hits me in the morning, hits me at night 
That I cannot turn back the years 
So I look out my window, turn off my light 
But I cannot turn back the years"  Phil Collins


    Everyone wishes they can turn back the hands of time on some event in their lives, this is especially true for those who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Where a certain event or series of events in that persons life has caused so much trauma that it literally changes their lives forever.

    For me, I live this dream on a daily basis as I cannot escape the effects that these events has had on me ever since I was a child. Turning back the clock would only be a dream come true, however which point to turn it to I could not even begin to figure out. My memories go so far back that they become distorted to the point of confusion putting events into a single timeline. What I thought may have happened at five years old, may have actually happened at eight years old. What happened in pictures and explained in words are later questioned in medical records or other comments from family members.

     No matter how much you think the past is just that, in the mind of a survivor of abuse or trauma it becomes much more. Questions always circulate in the back of ones mind as to the reason it happened, who was or is to blame and most of all was it something that was asked for. While all these are common questions, the normal curiosity of the mind is to seek out these answers as hard as it is. For someone who has suffered from abuse there is often no place to turn for answers except through counseling and therapy. Even for someone who is in these, time will often hinder the healing process because in reality there never are real answers to these questions.

     After my father retired from the United States Air Force in 1978, he was given all the medical records for me and my siblings. It wasn't until my parents passed away that I was able to take possession of my own records. A couple of years before my breakdown in 2010 I opened my records to seek answers to some of the questions I had, specifically a broken leg I had at the age of two. While the doctors note did not give a reason for the break, I had found on several occasions where the doctor had noted "Questionable Injury". I found one of these to be a broken hand which I never knew about and another was a split penis. It never actually went into details on what exactly the split was or how it happened, new questions came about like how did all these happen prior to age of four. The two things that truly came from reading these records was one, why did these events happen and at the hands of who and that if they happened in today's world the comments of "Questionable Injury" would they have been investigated in some manor.

    Unfortunately the events that I do remember, the ones that caused my PTSD, also will remain unanswered. The common questions of did I ask for it, was it normal at the time, was I a willing participant in things that did happen and the biggest question of all, why me, will all be permanently embedded in some part of my mind. The more I attend counseling and talk about my life, the flashbacks that happen in odd places and dreams or often nightmares only add to these questions and leaves more voids or holes in a timeline that for me is a way to try and seek answers. Then there are events that I know I did on my own that bring in even more questions into the equation such as was I abnormal, was it just because it was the way I was raised or was it just because the abuse happened so often that I never learned boundaries. Even more questions that I deal with and seek answers for and don't think I will truly ever find the right answer.

     Previously in this post, I asked the question of whether or not it was normal at the time or not. You see in the years of our parents, things that happened were not to be talked about or ever mentioned to anyone outside of the family circle. While in today's society it is taught and encouraged to speak up and tell someone about any form of abuse, in society as a whole we have become more familiar with different types of abuse that takes place behind closed doors. There are mandated sources who are required to report any suspicious marks, behaviors or comments made by anyone that they see or hear. Yet in decades past these requirements were not in place and often, well, people just did not want to get involved. An example of things being kept behind closed doors was that of my older brother (my perpetrator) who would sneak underage boys into the house through his basement bedroom window and photograph them nude. Knowing what I went through as a child, I can only imagine the real reason for sneaking them in at night. However, in my younger days we had Poloroid cameras that would print out instant photos within seconds the photo was taken. He had a collection of these and one day my Grandmother found them, took scissors and cut off the heads only to place them back where she had found them. My Mother was aware of the sneaking and the photos but did nothing to stop the activity from happening, just as she knew about the abuse to my sister and myself.

     So as you see the questions I have are very complex by the mere manor they were created. Was it normal at the time because as my brother always told me, "Everyone does it", or was it something more that allowed it to go on for seven years before it stopped. Almost everyday one hears on the news of older men seeking out photos and videos of younger children. Were they part of a generation where this was normal activity and just kept quiet or does it really go deeper then that. Is it an illness that caused them to act out or is it just some type of an attraction that causes these things to happen? Either way it happens without concern for the victim who is almost always convinced, if not by force, that it is normal and is okay. And it is only now after the many wars that we have been in, we truly beginning to understand the effects of PTSD caused by these traumas that can happen to both young and old. 

     Does a day go by where I wish I could turn back the years of my life, you bet there is. Does a day go by where I do not suffer from the deep depression caused by years of trauma, you bet, and I wish I could see a light at the end of the tunnel for me but currently I cannot. There are days I wish I could just wash the pain away and others where I wish I could end it all and be done with it, but I can't do that. I can't walk away like quitting a job I don't like or leave a situation because I am uncomfortable with it. PTSD is something that will be with me the rest of my life and even after years of trying will be the hardest hill to climb. Will I ever see the top of that hill, I do not know but I do know I have to keep fighting my hardest everyday to stay on track or I will never reach it.



Saturday, February 15, 2014

My Anchor

     Today I found I have an anchor that keeps me in the state of depression that I am in, it's called flashbacks. Images and vivid thoughts of the past that keep me haunted by the trauma I suffered at the hands of others and things that I have done to others.

     On Sunday I did what I set out to do, and that was to attend church, to get out of the house and try and start fighting my fears. It was a major step for me and while I was proud of myself and what I did, I sat there having flashbacks where I never thought I would. I fought them and stayed, I did not leave nor did I allow myself to seep into the depths of depression however they were and are very vivid. I can remember going to confession over my past because my parents made me feel that it was my fault and I needed to confess my sins. I could remember the priest asking me to give details on what I had done and having to explain to him everything. I think this is why as an adult and church I am afraid to go to confession or I feel uncomfortable around priests. No, I was never abused by one as so many boys have been so that is not my fear.

     I do have a fear for my children and them going to youth groups involving the church, although I don't want to hold them back in their own faith. It was a youth minister who abused me when I was about 16 years old who used my past to work his way into my mind. I guess this is one of the major reasons I don't like to discuss my past, other then what is on the surface. It goes back to the last post where I discussed finding someone for support and allowing them in to see just what had happened to me. While they may not want to abuse me, I have fears of being taken advantage of in someway. Being venerable on so many levels really makes living such a chore and a job. One of the hardest jobs I have ever done in my life, which is one reason I don't understand how I made it to age 48 except I am afraid of death. I do believe in God however I question life after death because of everything I have been through I can't imagine being able to go there. I guess in someways I still carry some blame as to some of the things that happened.

      Tonight I sit here, almost in a panic and very depressed over things that I did that lead up to me being here where I am. Some say it's because of my past, some say it's just who I am and some say i was in someway always like this. Either way, It does not help knowing this and the other things in my life that happened even had taken place. And while I turned to people for help and was either ignored or given poor guidance the choices I made were, like I was told, my choices and I need to live with them. Well here comes the problem, how does one live with the choices they made when the choices they made were dictated by events in your life and fully understanding boundaries was  just not something that was taught to me as a child. When my whole family carried on the way they did and I lived my life thinking that everything was okay when in fact it was not. How does one accept life as it was all while trying like hell to change it especially when everyone around you carries blame and anger towards you for it. How does one get over the pain when the pain you caused others, they can't get over?

     I just don't know how to deal with the feelings anymore and the depression that I carry. I would love to know that everything is going to be okay, however I don't and can't feel that way. I can't see the path I am on anymore because it is clouded with so many random thoughts and images that I am drawn back by the anchor that holds me there. I don't know how to break the chains that bind me to my past and I can't break free from the guilt I carry from so many unclear images that I see. Example my parents, I loved them however they did nothing to protect me. In the end my mother had the last laugh as she gave everything to my niece yet I did everything in my power to do for them. I never cry for her, I never go to the cemetery to visit my parents and I carry hatred in my heart, yet I am confused because I loved them. Things like this I fight with everyday and most times the fights are to overwhelming to handle. And right now, as I try and stay grounded I have no one to call for that support I so could use right now.

     I feel so bad that I should seek medical attention however I am trying a part time driving job to see if I can get past my agoraphobia and tomorrow I have two pick ups. I am not fully sure if doing this is a good idea or not, not only because of the major panic I have for doing it but because of nights like tonight where I feel I need help because of thoughts running through my head just might hinder the whole job thing. I just don't know anymore what to do, I just don't know.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Where did I go wrong?

     They say that everyone who suffers from depression needs a safe spot in their surroundings or someplace in their mind where they can go to get away from the feelings and thoughts that occur. Counselors and therapist will try and help you create or build that spot with you when discuss grounding, or keeping in touch with reality. But what happens when that safe spot no longer works or makes you feel safe, but rather becomes part of the main source of the pain. What happens when the happy memories are tarnished by bad thoughts.

     Some of my fondest memories are not that of being a child but rather then being a young adult. The safe spot, where support and good thoughts meant to bring one out of depression only now are complicated with fears and rejection. I understand the reasons behind the change, however to try and recreate a new safe spot after all this time becomes more of a job rather then a work of art in my mind. When I was down, drifting or disassociating my main support had a way of pulling me back into the real world with ever so soft yet controlling words I needed to hear and made me safe.

     I destroyed that source of comfort with the demons inside by allowing them to take control of my own life. What I don't understand is why I could not see it or stop it by on my own, in essence the very part of me that was and is me. Could I not understand what was going on was destroying everything I was including my world around me. I became so wrapped up in my own suffering that the people I loved started to hate me because of the effects of the destruction was so far out of control that I became lost, and now years later as I pray I could rebuild I know there is no chance as the pain I caused is so deep that the scars will never heal.

     One side effect of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is called Agoraphobia, where a person becomes so afraid of open places that they become prisoners to their homes. As for me, I need to medicate in order to go out shopping, if I have planned meetings or doctor appointments. They tell you that the best way to overcome this fear is to step out little by little and meet people, but how does one do this when it's that what keeps them in. Face your fears is a comment that is stated most often when that question is asked, but when someone suffers from PTSD facing your fears becomes a fear within itself. And how does one face that fear when it is the very thing that keeps you locked away? Getting involved in groups is another way to break free from these chains, but again the fear of going out takes over.

     The support system I had in place was my one true support for well over thirty years, my now ex-wife. She knew everything about me and what had happened. She saw it, she lived it with me at times and she understood just by the changes in facial expressions when and how I was feeling. She could see the signs coming, sometimes before I even realized that something was going on. She could tell what part of me was forward, she learned to speak to me and she helped greatly by keeping me focused on things at hand. The problem now, besides trying to understand the full scope of it all is how can I or someone who suffers find that right support person. Where does one even go, and the greatest fear of it all is telling your story all over again not knowing just when or how the best way to approach the topic would be.

     As for me, the amount of trauma that I have dealt with over many years on many different levels would only most likely create flashbacks, nightmares and most of all more depression. I have always been afraid to talk to people about my past in anyway because the fear that they would reject me in some form or another. What if I was able to find that someone who was willing to listen but then something comes out where I trigger them into their own past, everyone has a past. How do I teach them to understand me, all of me and how I became the person I am today. Is there enough time left in my life to get to know someone with the patience to understand all while building a relationship? My doctors answer to that was there is no need to tell them right away, but is that fair to the person either?

     Tomorrow I am going to attend church for the first time in over two years, with the help of medication of course. I am going to try and face that fear head on but I have it in the back of my mind that if I cannot stay that it will be okay to leave and return home. I am already nervous about going and I still have seven hours till morning. Problem is, if I take any medications to calm my nerves it will cause me to sleep and the chances of waking up will dwindle and I may end up missing it all together.

     I hate my past, I hate who I have become in the wake of all of it. I hate what I have done and live with regret every single day of my life. I write in this blog, I have no idea who if anyone reads it, but even this form of getting my thoughts and feelings out I can never fully express correctly how I feel. Most days the depression is so deep that I can't write and others I can't express what is going on in my head. I wish I could turn back the hands of time, but no one has that power. The only thing I wish now is that the family I love would understand that I never meant to hurt them and that they would only one day forgive me. I know they will never forget, just as I have not been able to forget but that is just a new chapter in my life to what is killing me ever so slowly.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Panic Attacks, just how does one feel?

     I just got done watching a basket ball game between my hometown Syracuse and Duke on the television. Throughout the game is was back and forth, very close and in the end you might say it was an "Edge of your seat" kind of game. Towards the very end when it was a 2 point game with only 5.5 seconds left and Syracuse was leading while Duke had the ball, knowing from past games, anything could happen. A simple 3 point shot would have won Duke the game.

     While I was standing there watching two free throw shots at the 5.5 second mark my heart was racing, I had a lump in my throat, I was shaking, my mind was racing with what could happen at any moment, I had that empty pit in my stomach feeling. Would Duke throw a 3 point shot and Syracuse would loose or would we be able to block them and go on to win the game. I was not in control of the game, I was not in control of the players actions, I could not control the game I had no control of what the outcome would be. Stress was and had built in me as I "Sat on the edge" of my seat almost wanting to yell at the object in front of me as I watched this all play out. By the time the clock had run down to zero and Syracuse had won the game by only two points my stress level had reached a point where I realized, my feelings throughout the game and in the end very much closely resembled that of a stress or panic attack, but I was not in a panic.

     It made me realize that this feeling is exactly what one suffers from when they suffer from panic attacks, yet almost on a daily basis not just on a Saturday night at a set time. Those who suffer do not have the decision to change the channel or turn the television off when an attack hits. Most always suffers don't even know what causes the feelings or why they suffer at different levels during an attack. What we do know is that the reason we feel this way is caused by a Trigger, something that our mind hits on and brings on an attack. Triggers can be something brought on by one of our five senses or can be a silent trigger, something that we just do not notice or pay attention to. Once that trigger has triggered an attack, every feeling that I felt during that basketball game comes forward and can last for as little as a split moment to days for some.

     For those who watch sporting events and do not know what someone goes through when they suffer a stress or panic attack, this can give a small glimpse into those feelings. I personally have tried to express to others what it feels like and why I react the way I do. Reactions to attacks can be as small as sitting in a chair just rocking to crawling up in a ball in the corner out of shear fear. Just like watching the game, our minds create the feeling of no control of our environment around us. Sufferers will often become very afraid of people, objects, sounds and smells around them strengthening their fear of no control which only make the attack that much worse.

     In conclusion to this short post, the hopes are that in someway the feelings of a panic attack can be explained to someone who does not suffer. The hopes are that as short as this was, it can give a better understanding to those who live with  those who deal with stress or panic attacks on an almost regular basis. It also can help explain why someone who does suffer from attacks, how it can be so debilitating to a person and how it can change ones life to the point they almost become a different person.

 

What happens when your support system fails?

     One of the best ways to get past a bout of depression is to have some type of support system in place when you are feeling down about yourself. Someone who you can call to talk to, someone who is willing to just listen no matter what the situation is. A support person is someone who in times of crises can be there to let you know that everything is okay and that with everything going on in your life that you will be okay. This can be a close friend, family member or even your counselor.

     But what happens when you don't have that support in your life, or the person you have begins to not know what to say or can't listen anymore to your problems because for example, they become too over whelming for them to deal with? What happens when that support, or life line crashes and you have no where to turn for help? Basically your fears become that much stronger, your pain becomes that much stronger and fear of the unknown sets in. You become more a prisoner to your depression and you begin to fall apart mentally because you become more alone in your world.

     But what about coping skills, can't they help someone deal with their depression when it attacks? The answer to that in my opinion is no. While every counselor and doctor tells you to learn these skills, they often do not and will not work 100% of the time depending on the state of depression you are in. This is the very reason in order to deal with, survive and eventually heal, it is important to have this support system in place. Not every state of depression is the same and thus not every coping skill will work with every state. A mild form of depression can be dealt with by simply going for a walk or listening to some soft music to relax you. While a stronger form of depression might require a more aggressive form of coping such as the senses skill that incorporates the five senses to stay grounded. An example of this used by most people is the frozen orange. Touching the cold texture of the orange, smelling the orange, seeing the orange as a real object, hearing the orange as you rub it and tasting the orange are all ways to stay grounded during an attack.

     What is this grounding I speak of? It is keeping the mind in the present, changing your thoughts and keeping them away from bringing you down to an even lower state of depression. The problem here is that if the more aggressive forms of coping skills do not work for a person then the last state of major depression sets in and this is where your support system, or person comes into play. Having that escape route to express just how and what you are feeling, being able to lower the internal stress that contributes to the depression. A support system is the most important part of healing that you can have and something you must maintain in order to reach your goals.

     Going back to the top of this posting, what happens when your support system fails and you are in deep crises? How can you survive an attack without falling into a suicidal situation where most people end up? Seek outside help, someone or something outside your realm of comfort if you can. There are many support hot lines available in many areas, closed online support groups online (such as Facebook) and some are even national hot lines that offer someone to talk to. They are there to supplement a support system in time of need. I say supplement because you may call the same number at any given time and not get the same person you spoke to prior. You may have to explain your situation a second time for them to understand your situation, and this could add to the stress that is contributing to your depression.

     If your depression becomes too deep and you begin to have the thoughts of suicide the best resort for you to seek help is at your local hospital or medical facility. While most people are afraid of this step, it may be just the right step in helping you combat your depression under a controlled situation. While not all who seek help are immediately admitted inpatient, inpatient offers services on a daily basis to help you get stable, get past your depression and assist you in becoming grounded over a few days rather then just that one moment.

          So remember the steps to surviving depression attacks. Try to stay grounded using what ever skill you have to keep you in the present. Keep a support system in place for times the skills you have do not work for the level of depression you are in. Seek outside help if your depression becomes to deep or overwhelming for you to handle. And remember, it does not mean if you are less of a person if you have to seek outside help. They are there for you, trained to help you and most of all they understand what you are going through having dealt with many others who have been there before you.



Friday, January 31, 2014

No, it's not just a myth anymore.

     In most all my blogs I have written I start to write about something and then take it into an educational kind of post, giving stats, studies and basically information about the topic I am writing about. Just like my last post, I started with how I was depressed and led into how depression works. Just like I am some type of professional on the subject when in fact everything is my own thoughts on things I have read put into my own words from memory. No, I do not just read on a subject and type about it, I just open the subject and let my mind work from there.

     Tonight I just need to type my thoughts and feelings down on paper, or in blog form, to kind of get things off my head. I guess that is what I intended this blog to be about, the path I was taking to recover from my illness and put in out there for others to read to help them know they are not alone. But looking back, most posts are more informational then anything else. There really is not a lot of pages where it discusses where I am in my healing or where I am at in the process. Truth is, after years of counseling, therapy sessions and hospital stays I don't feel as if I am very far. I know I have made progress because topics discussed with my counselor are becoming deeper and eye opening, however it is the one step forward two backwards that hinders my life.

     This evening we had a family counseling session that included my ex-wife and my children. It was hard because we discussed a bit about if I hold myself accountable for things that happened after my breakdown, to be exact the cause of my divorce of 22 years. I cried as I answered the question and I also cried as we discussed how I did not feel I was a good enough parent to my children because of my many fears that came from my illness. It was hard to admit these things, especially in front of the older children who were present because they were the ones who missed out on a real father growing up.

     You see, I never played ball with my children. Although my children did not play sports, I never just went outside to play with them or even take them places like normal fathers do. My fears that I harbored inside were stronger then the love I had for my own children. Even going camping I would stay inside the camper during the day light and come out at night, most times when the kids went to bed. Not because I did not want to be with my children but because I was afraid to come outside. I guess this was the first true signs of my Agoraphobia even before my breakdown back in 2010. Now, four years later my Agoraphobia has become so bad that I do not even leave my apartment very often at all. I don't even go to the end of the walkway to get the mail, I have my son do it for me.

     When someone suffers from a Major breakdown as I did, things change. Phobias and fears become stronger, memories and feelings become distorted, thoughts and actions become very unpredictable for a person and this is what happened to me. My actions, thoughts and feelings broke a 22 year marriage with some help of suggestion from readings, counselors and friends. It became difficult to sort things out, feelings and thoughts and under the power of suggestion I became a different person.

     While in my mind I don't fully understand why I did things, said things or dealt with things the way I did it is still very hard to swallow the reactions that came as a result of my actions. I can see why and it makes sense why the reaction took place however if it's hard to understand the action then the reaction becomes very cloudy. And that's one of the biggest reasons I am typing this tonight because I am hurting really bad over the reaction of divorce that was stated to me.

     As I had posted in a prior post, I had an affair that yielded a child and this is an action that was the cause of my divorce. While I do not dismiss the fact that it happened and I am not saying I did not do something wrong it is the events that lead up to it that I am so confused about. I was not out looking to have an affair, I was not out looking for a child, I was not out looking to leave my ex-wife. During the months that followed the breakdown I had told my ex how my feelings were becoming confusing to me. If I was with her, I loved her very much, needed her and thought about her however it was when she was not around it was as if the marriage did not exist. She claims I had read where those who suffer from PTSD and have memory loss they will actually forget they are married and because I had become suggestive and this was where this came from, however I can't believe that a suggestion would have made me do this. One reason I am so confused over my actions and how I became the person I am today.

     So why do I even bring this up tonight and why am I hurting so much if I know what the actions were and I understand the reactions to the events that took place. Words, in explaining to the counselor tonight I realized while I was abused by my parents and that my father abused my mother, I did the exact same thing to my ex during the divorce. The one thing I said I would never do was become someone who abused someone, and verbally I did just that. After my breakdown I was diagnosed with Dissociation Identity Disorder (DID) which I had several alters, one of which was a very mean and angry side to me. This side was very verbal and mean to my ex and made no point in expressing these feelings of anger. This is one of the biggest problems I deal with is hearing the words "YOU" when she say's "you did it" because I don't remember or have very little recollection of actions.

    With all that being said, when it was her turn to talk she explained how she divorced me for the children. Basically she divorced me to protect the children from me, the person I vowed never to become. She said it was because she did not want the kids to think what I did was okay and then referred to the fact my own father, while he abused my mother had an affair. She did not want our children to go out and feel it was okay to do this.

     I guess the topic of an Abuser becomes an Abuser as they get older is not really a myth as I have been told. In my blog post written on November 23, 2010 titled "Abused to Abuser, is it a myth all the time" I realized tonight that she was sucked into my world of abuse and that in essence I have been abusing her all this time. The verbal abuse after my breakdown and eventual affair that caused our divorce was her own way of stopping it, and by saying she did it for the kids is her way of protecting them from me. What seemed normal prior and not so normal after was in fact not normal at all the whole time. And the bottom line is I am to blame, not my past, not my present and not any one person. I made the choices, I made the decisions and I am the one who proved it is not just a myth.....