Monday, March 18, 2013

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - Do I Really Want to go Back There?

As I was telling some friends, with less than 48 hours to go before I return to the mental health hospital I was in last Fall for a mood and anxiety treatment program, I find myself feeling very reluctant. Why? Because this program is for PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. For those of you who may not know what that is, it is a disorder usually caused by a traumatic event in a person's life where he/she felt that his/her life or the life of a loved one was at risk for being seriously harmed or even destroyed. Many war veterans and police officers suffer from PTSD for obvious reasons, but serious car accidents, a life threatening illness, sexual abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, rape, burglary, being threatened with a weapon, natural disasters, and robbery to name only a few can also result in PTSD.

In my particular case, the psychologist labelled my PTSD as "severe and complex" which means it was ongoing and repeated (severe), and it began before the age of 8 years (complex). Apparently, when the trauma occurs before the age of eight, it is much more difficult to address since many of the memories are buried. When I was being assessed for possibly having PTSD, in the first section of the survey were twelve questions where each question ended with the statement ".... where you felt you or a loved one were under threat of being seriously harmed or killed"... I answered "yes" to seven of the twelve questions. I had to stop there when filling out the survey, because seeing it all on paper made me realize just how sad it truly was, and I began to cry. Before then, "it was just my life", "that's just the way the cookie crumbled", "the cards I was dealt", "nobody has it easy" kind of thing, but looking at it on paper made it real, it could not be avoided or overlooked any longer, I could see how wrong it was especially considering I knew my abuser, someone who was supposed to protect me and keep me safe during those very early formative years. I had two other abusers later in my life as well, we tend to be drawn to what is familiar. You can imagine how that warped my entire view of the world, who to trust, whether anyone was really safe, or how to view alleged "loving" relationships. So what I did as a result, a coping mechanism, was become so independent that I needed no one, there was no need to trust anyone or ask for help only to be disappointed, because I could take care of myself, the same way I always took care of my siblings as well as myself. A very lonely existence which put a great deal of pressure on me that resulted in depression, insomnia, hyper-vigilence, unexplained fears, difficulties with relationships, and isolation.

So, the closer it gets to my admission date, the more afraid I become. I'm so scared of going back there, not to the hospital, but the place where all this pain began, my childhood. Pain I haven't even really felt, but I know I'm going to feel. I find myself crying a lot because I don't want to go there, I don't want to be that little girl without any control or power again, I don't want to feel what she so skillfully buried and kept hidden as a means of survival. I'm not strong like everyone thinks. I don't want to remember what happened, I just want it to stay where it is, in that box in the back of my mind labelled "toxic- do not open".... but I know it will help me live a better life in the long run, a happier life. Treatment for PTSD has been known to improve so many other conditions which I've already named, conditions like depression, which can be fatal, so for that reason, I must find the strength.

I've decided, as well, that as I learn about my PTSD while in the hospital, I'm going to share what I've learned with you the readers. Not everyone gets the opportunity, as terrifying as it may be, to be admitted to an eight week treatment program, so I am going to do my best to post my experiences, feelings, revelations, and hopes while I am in this program beginning this week. I hope you'll come back to see what the view from the inside is like.... it is my hope you will find it helpful. It is my hope that you will seek treatment for your own mental health problems.