Wednesday, July 17, 2013

PTSD, A Misunderstood Diagnosis.

    Today I had a meeting with a group of people of a department I am looking to work with. In this meeting we discussed a lot of issues and topics, one of which was my PTSD which raised a few questions which of course the first one was if I was in the Military or not. Of course within recent years due to the amount of wars we have taken part in, the country is becoming more aware of  the term and is becoming a more recognized mental illness in our community today.

     What really surprised me, and almost angered me, is the lack of real knowledge of just what PTSD is and how it can and does effect a person. There almost was a sense of fear in the conversation as if they needed to walk on egg shells. Now this was not a job interview so it was not like anything was off key however questions were asked and it was really evident that the questions asked and the manor they were asked in really showed just how uneducated they were, almost to the point of ignorance which I don't condemn however it shows again just where media and other forms of information lack in the correct conveyance of what PTSD is.

     I know it seems I almost repeat myself and I know we have come along way in understanding the real effects on someone who deals with this diagnosis, however it is the way mainstream media reports on military personnel who return who have this. Today, the United States Army is doing research on how to combat PTSD in many ways as they try and understand what many survivors of abuse have known for years, that trauma does not end once the original act is done. It plays over and over in ones mind for years to come, sometimes hidden for years until triggered by an event that brings the memories forward. Most times, when they have been hidden and they come forward it is even that much harder for a survivor to deal with because the memories that have been suppressed for a long period of time will catch a person off guard and not ready to deal with these "New Found" memories.

     With news reports of soldiers committing suicide hitting major news outlets over the last few years, PTSD unfortunately become known as the war illness as I stated by the questions I was asked. What the media fails to do is present it in a way where the public gets educated to understand why it is soldiers have this illness, nor do they report that this illness has really been around for as long as man has been alive. As with any illness it has only really been in the last few decades where PTSD has been recognized outside the Mental Heath field and in fact recognized by Social Security as a debilitating illness. This illness also brings on many other illness's such as depression and other disorders that the public has known about for many years such as eating disorders. It is only now that they are finding a real link between PTSD and these illness's and a real push is on to treat it.

     With all that said, I feel that more education is needed by the public in general to help understand the real effects of PTSD and how the mind reacts to trauma. It is not an illness that one needs to be afraid of and not an illness that means that the person who has it will not lead a normal life once it is treated and under control thru the help of understanding, counseling and sometimes more often medications. To me labeled as having a Mental Illness does not mean that a person is a threat to others or even themselves just because they have this illness. The truth is, it is the Major Depression that is a side effect that causes a person to do self harm or even taking of ones life. And while depression is so widely known and never questioned by anyone, PTSD is not so well known and that is where the confusion comes in. Sufferers of PTSD alone often never show any signs until one of the side effects become present. And this is where research is coming into play, on just how the trauma does effect ones mind as well as thinking and actions.

     So until the world as a whole understands what PTSD is and how it truly works, I don't see the understanding it getting any better soon. Like I said, compared to depression which the first reaction by the public is compassion, sufferers will always be misunderstood and misrepresented under the great umbrella of being Mentally Disabled. Just like the call to remove guns from anyone and everyone who suffers a mental illness, having PTSD or even depression does not mean right away they should be targets of this label. It does not even mean that a person is what the world refers to as "Being Mental" either. This is why in my opinion that public education is so important and that a better understanding is needed by everyone.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

From behind these walls.

     I previously blogged about walls that someone who has been abused will build inside their mind to protect themselves from further abuse and to hind behind from the abuse they have endured. These walls can sometimes be so strong that even the closest of family members or loved ones have great difficulty even getting a chance to peek beyond them for a chance to understand or to strengthen the bond one currently has with a person who has been abused.

     For someone who has built these walls, even for them they find it very hard to ever let someone in fully. Often friendships and relationships are gripped with mistrust, skepticism and fear which is well hidden from the one whom the person is attached to. Although these issues are not the intention, they are a natural protection that comes from these walls and serve as the main source of stability in ones mind and life. For a loved one who has to deal with someone who has these walls, stress and anxiety will often follow for them as they try and understand just why it is that the person they love so much just can't break down just a little part of these walls to allow them to understand and be able to help which every loved one wants to do.

     When someone is abused, as I have stated before, the mind will build a wall for protection and a safety zone for the person to hide mentally from getting further hurt. These walls can come in many different forms of reaction such as withdrawing from family and friends, eating and living disorders to the way one even takes care of their own body known as personal hygiene. The sense of feeling dirty because of the abuse, the sense of responsibility and other internal feelings of blame will rest and hide within these walls as well. Most often someone who has been abused will always ask, "Did I ask for it" or "Did I do something to provoke it". These questions come from within these walls in order for the person to seek answers to questions that in many cases will never be answered. If they feel that they can accept some of the blame then they can stop any further abuse from taking place ever again by changing what ever answer they choose to use.

     The whole purpose of these walls is protection, protection from the outside as well as the inside. What many people do not understand is that once abused, the mentality of a person changes in such a way that what once was something easy to comprehend becomes quite the opposite. Thoughts become much more complex as they try to analyze just what happened, why it happened, why them and what if anything it was they did to have it happen to them. They begin to look at even the simplest tasks, such as combing their hair, and begin to question if had they done it different could the abuse been avoided. People change because of these thoughts, and it is often the loved ones who see it happen but there is little they can do to convince the person that what they are changing is not really always the case for the reason of the abuse. Some people have gone as far as changing whole life styles in fear that the way they lived before was the main reason the abuse took place.

       When the walls are used to protect from the inside it is often called the safe zone in the mind. Many times when one feels trapped or unprotected from the outside they will retreat into the walls as a way to disassociate themselves from what is happening around them. This practice is quickly learned subconsciously as a defensive mechanism to retreat from the reality of the world around them. Sometimes in doing this the mind will create an alternative personality, or alter, that will come forward to the outside world while the essence of the main personality stays hidden behind the walls, self protected from the fears they possess. This is what is termed DID, or Dissociative Identity Disorder where one takes on the identity of two or more specific identities each having their own traits and thoughts. Only through the process of healing and breaking down these walls can one begin to blend, or combine back to one personality. It is however a very hard process to deal with and takes lots of patients and perseverance of ones counselor and inner self in order for this process to happen.

         While these walls are purely something built in the mental state of the mind, they are very real. Not everyone will have the ability to allow someone in without trust, and as I stated before, mistrust is a main reason the walls are built. It takes time for someone to let their guard down to allow a loved one even close to getting in behind a portion of these walls. Complete care and understanding is a must if you truly want to share in someone's life who suffers from abuse. And although we may be referred to as survivors, the fear and stress of being a victim or abuse will forever remain a part of the person and being able to be allowed behind the walls will not always mean you are fully in. Take the time to understand, listen and be mindful of the situation. Like the game of chess, one wrong move and you could be out faster then you were when you were let in.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Complex Inner Workings

    My previous blog post talked a lot about what has happened to me over the course of the last two years. Obviously there was a ton of details and specific actions in the blog that was left out only because the post could have almost turned into a small book had I truly started from the beginning and wrote about events until that blog was posted.

     But what that post does bring to the forefront is what every person who suffers from any type of mental or physical abuse trauma and that is the fear of being abused again. While the actual event of the trauma weighs heavy on the mind and soul of a person, the fears of reoccurring abuse is what brings on the stress associated with that specific trauma. It's within this stress that the body reacts and takes on a defensive in different forms which could include phobias, terrors in dreams, panic attacks and many other reactions that effect everyday normal living. It is dealing with these that one suffers the most from because a majority of the effects come with no warnings or little to no explanation as to why something happens.

     A good example of this is a panic attack, often striking a person with many different types of side effects such as chest pains, shortness of breath and increased fear. Panic attacks strike most every time with no warnings and often increase in intensity because of the fact that the side effects alone mimic other medical conditions of a more serious nature and one can never tell the difference. One of the biggest problem I see from this is that the individual eventually stops seeking medical help because of constant phone calls to their doctors over these feelings and should something actually occur that added fear of "Crying Wolf" could end up being the real thing. What most people do not do is contact their doctors who prescribe the medications to have them adjusted to help them with panic attacks or will often self medicate which could lead to a more serious situation.

     Once a person becomes abused, not only do they feel the physical or mental abuse but the mind will create any type of safety buffer it can to protect ones self. We do not have control over the minds reaction, and more so than often it is this buffer that creates diagnosis such as PTSD, Agoraphobia, Major Depression and other mental disabling factors. It also falls into the definition of the Stockholm Syndrome as to why abuse or manipulation is able to occur after the initial abuse has taken place. Once faced with another threat of abuse the body and mind will react to protect ones self, and while a normal person might fight, someone who suffers from this will mentally and quickly build walls to protect while detaching themselves from the reality that another attack or abusive situation is taking place. Well hidden behind these walls, the situation is able to move forward and it is then that close family, friends and loved ones become the second victims because of the fact one has hidden and protected themselves that no one can or will be let in unless that person is able to heal.

     That is where the long road to recovering comes into play when it comes to breaking down the walls of fear. Your everyday person on the street cannot understand why one cannot just leave the past alone and move on when it comes to abuse. When a person is abused it goes much deeper then the abuse, like I said it becomes a self protection and that is what the real healing needs to focus on. I personally have been in counseling for many years and have discussed over and over the abuse I have lived, however discussing how to begin to chip away at the walls was not. In order for a person to even start to heal over any type of abuse they must first begin to chip at these walls and that is what is the most difficult thing one will ever have to deal with. In essence breaking down a wall means leaving ones self venerable which no survivor is quickly willing to do. Once a person is abused more then once either by the same perpetrator or a second and so forth the walls become that much thicker and much more difficult to chip away at often leaving a person to live their lives in the same fears, same protection and same frame of mind for many years and for some, forever.

     In summery, one must understand the complex inner workings of a victim of abuse because without this understanding it will and does bring more stress into relationships, work and everyday life. It may take years for one to even begin to understand why someone is acting the way they do or how their thoughts are formed from inside these walls. One must also keep in mind that often times the victim themselves will not understand why or how they react to certain situations because of the way their minds work. Just like in the Stockholm Syndrome why the abused became close to their abusers is best described in my own thoughts is because it gave the victim a sense of control. While this is not always the case, it gives the victim a very small sense of peace to think they are in control. There are many reasons a victim act the way that they do, the problem is getting there to find out why and how to fix it in the healing process.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Unknown Path.

     Tonight is confession night as I again feel I need to start my blogging again. It's been since 2011 when I last posted to my blog and so much has happened to me, my life and the view of my future. Ever since a three week stretch, in an out of two hospitals my life has begun to take some changes in both the way I think and feel. I have been told by several people that they have seen a change in me, and I hope that the path I am on is closer to healing rather then heading towards either another breakdown or let down of emotions.

     Emotions, the key to what keeps me going and what has me starting to write in my blog again. The fact is, on July 9th I broke it off with my girlfriend and also was informed my divorce was in fact final. For those who followed my blog in the past read how strong my family was for me and how I was getting by with them in my life. Fact again is that all that was lost when someone came into my life and in my condition was able to take me away from my family so much to the point I lost my marriage, my oldest daughter and most of all the respect of friends who I had. Although the last two years I was in a relationship with this person, I believed everything that was going on was what I wanted, truth is I don't know what it is even now what I want. What turned out was this relationship was a very unhealthy one that took a major toll on my life, my feelings and ultimately my family.

     What started out as a trip to the hospital ended up in me moving out, leaving my wife and family, entering a new relationship and within four months a child in my life. Only in the last two months have I realized after talking to my now ex-wife and listening to my children did I look closer at how I was feeling in this relationship and just how things came to be. A part of me knew I did not want to be in this relationship because I would always tell my children that I was breaking it off only to remain in it. This cause a lot of mistrust in my children because they had been telling me the kind of relationship I was in was not right but I stayed despite what family and friends had told me. In fact not only did I loose family but I threw away friends for this relationship, something I now look back and regret horribly that I did however what happened was nothing short of manipulation and control over my life and because of my condition mentally I had no idea nor did I see what was going on.
     What should have been easily recognized by any normal person, my mentality allowed things to happen as well as progress over the years and months. You see, after being abused for so many years when put into a situation as a child I would not fight but rather crawl into myself and become numb. This action was the reason that two more people were allowed to sexually abuse me even after the abuse that I have already received. I realized this time, just as in the past, I was under control because of fear. I was afraid to stand up to this person which only allowed the relationship to continue even though deep inside I knew I was afraid of her. My children were not allowed to do my wash, visit and cook for me, not allowed to do certain things and I was never able to
stand up for them even though it upset me that it was happening. Basically I was living my life in fear without the strength or ability to stand up for myself in anyway, just like the child who could not do the same every time I was sexually abused over and over. Problem is, what happened before started at the age of five years old and I am now forty seven years old. Currently it really depresses me because I wonder if I will ever be able to feel safe or even love again and not worry about if it is real or not.
    Someday I hope that I will be able to have my Daughter back in my life, even though I have lost two years of her life which included her going off to college, going on college visits and other events in her life. I know I will never get these back and I will never get back all the things I have missed. I have become friends with my Ex-wife however she is in a new relationship as well that is very healthy and I honestly do support because I see all the things she is doing now that I was never able to do with her. It makes me realize too that after twenty two years of marriage that my whole life I have been mentally disabled just not to the extent I am in after my breakdown three years ago. It also makes me wonder if I would ever be able to make a woman happy because of my disability and my fears. Even speaking to a woman in the apartment complex she stated that she was in a relationship where the guy could not go out very much and just how unhappy she was until she ended it, and she is disabled as well. So it makes me question not only what there is that I have to offer someone but if I could even begin to be happy myself always questioning if what I am in is real or not.
     Well, I am going to end tonight's blog post with all this in mind. I know I am embarking on a new path in my life and that I need to walk this path alone but how far or how long I have no choice but to leave it to God. I can no longer make quick decisions and I need to question my well thought out decisions or I may end up back to where I was before this week. So with that said, I hope you understand and best wishes to you the reader.