Guys, here’s the thing. I’m tired. Not like “I might grab a nap” tired. More like “I would like to lay down, and become one with the ground and let flowers sprout out of me” tired.
I have to admit that I’m a fighter. I’m a single female with a house, yard, full time job, two dogs, a cat, some fish, a couple hobbies, anxiety, depression, and an autoimmune disorder.
The bit that gets me is that part of my job is helping piece together information on death investigations. There is nothing more soul sucking than a steady stream of autopsy reports, except for maybe watching the slow demise of another human being. That’s eight hours of my day. I love my job. I feel committed to it, and we do good work. It’s just so hard.
When I come home, I have lovely beautiful friends who need me. They need me to support them, and have their backs. They have problems, and I feel like I should help, but I’m tapped out. I’m dry and crumbling. I want so badly to help, but my well is dry.
I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t have anyone to tell.
My therapist has asked me to write down a list.
A list of all the traumatic experiences that have happened to me in my life, that have contributed to my Bipolar Disorder and PTSD.
Right now, my therapist doesn’t feel as though I’m ready for the therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). As far as I understand, I have to relive my traumatic experiences, have the proper emotional response, get over it, then have Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) so I can develop some sort of coping mechanism for the future. But until my medications are adjusted and I’m in a better place, I have to wait.
So, here is my list:
Sexual abuse around age 3 by a family member. I repressed this memory until it slapped me in the face at age 12, causing an intense anxiety attack.
Constant arguing between my parents, thanks to my father’s alcoholism, gambling, and pain issues due to needing a hip replacement. The pain issue turned into an anger issue; turned into a power tool being thrown at my mother, missing, and going through the window and landing at my feet; followed by an argument on a holiday with my father resulting in me taking a heavy duty power torch to the head.
As a “gifted child,” I was bullied a lot in primary school and high school. I still carry some of those emotional scars with me.
Funnily enough, my brain is currently trying to stop me from accessing more memories. Suck it, brain; stop being a whiny bitch and let me write this shit out.
When I was 16, my mother – being severely depressed – attempted suicide several times. The last time she tried, she had an argument with my father (now a better man, nothing like his days in my earlier life), and downed a ton of pills. I found her and her suicide note. I actively suppress the things written on that note, but if I actively access that memory, the note started with “I no longer fear death. In fact, I embrace it.” That sentence haunts me in my dreams. She is fine now, thankfully, but I refused to talk about it with anyone and pretended it never happened.
I was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder when I had a panic attack at high school so bad my heart rate was 180, and I had to be rushed to hospital for fear of doing damage to my heart. Since that day, I regularly have palpitations.
I had a psychotic episode at 17, when voices told me to stab my mother. I became paralyzed in my own bed while lights shone down from the ceiling, and I was convinced aliens were coming for me, despite my logical brain telling me I was being stupid.
I was diagnosed with endometriosis and told I should probably have children before 25. I’m currently a week away from my 24th birthday.
I moved out of my family home to the capital of my state to attend university. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at this stage, and promiscuity, sleepless nights, shopping sprees, and severe irritability kicked in.
I dated a Muslim man for eight months. Toward the end of the relationship, I was emotionally abused, when he called me a dog. I went running into the arms of a male friend.
I decided I was the worst person in the world and went off screwing any guy who looked my way, drinking myself into oblivion, and eating pills like candy, just to numb the pain. I wanted to be used. I asked my male friend – now my fuck buddy – if he was using me for sex. He replied yes. I cried and said, “good.” Turned out he wasn’t using me: he was in love with me; as a result of my promiscuity, and his inability to tell me how he felt, he quit university, broken-hearted.
I started dating my current partner, whom I have been with for five years now. We lived with his sister, her fiancé, and their daughter. His sister is a lazy bully who cannot look after herself, let alone children (currently a total of three). Her fiancé is a violent, alcoholic gambler. After being made a prisoner in my own bedroom, we got our own place.
My diagnosis of fibromyalgia explained my constant pain and tiredness. Yay for inheriting every single shitty illness my parents have.
Recently, I have started to have feelings for a close friend, who also has a partner. While drunk, we have made out twice. I have feelings for him, but he is just attracted to me. I have immense guilt over betraying my partner, who is emotionally stunted. I think I’m just attracted to my friend because he has the social and emotional skills my partner lacks.
I was severely bullied at my last job until I began having daily panic attacks and getting into a screaming matches with a higher-up and former friend.
I decided to self-harm and contemplated suicide when the medication I was taking for five years stopped working. Unfortunately, while the medication stopped working, my now non-existent libido did not return.
Have also suffered Dermatillomania (chronic skin-picking) for most of my life, particularly my feet. It is disgusting.
Currently, I am plagued by insomnia, headaches, anxiety, shame, severe depression, guilt, and every other horrible feeling imaginable. According to my therapist, I have feelings of low self-worth. According to my friends, I have a much lower opinion of myself than everyone else does of me.
I am both numb and emotionally unstable. I can’t cry, even though I really want to let it out. I think of myself as selfish and horrible, a terrible person who doesn’t deserve what I have. I theorize that I have some subconscious need to sabotage myself. Every time something is going well, just to add some drama in my life. Why I do this, I don’t know. And as I have written this list in such a cold, emotionless manner, I find it odd that I can be so numb and feel so many negative emotions at the same time. I feel like a robot.
I don’t want sympathy. At least, I don’t think I do. I am just tired. Tired of struggling through every day with these issues. I want the problems to just magically disappear because I’m tired of fighting.
I know it’s a long road ahead to my recovery. And as much as I don’t want to relive the aforementioned memories, I am also excited for the first time in ages because maybe, finally, with proper therapy…
…maybe I’ll finally get some peace and closure.
You know about my kids now here’s a little about me.
I am extremely stubborn.
I hate admitting I need help.
I have a ton of health problems: anxiety, depression, EDS, IIH, and fibromyalgia. All 3 of my kids have autism with other co-morbidities. My husband is my rock but he can be a pain in my ass.
I take on a lot with the boys because they’re mine it’s not up to someone else to do it and I do see a therapist.
She thinks in dealing with the latest with what I call my shitshow, I lost myself in there somewhere.
I think she’s right in a way, I’m so mentally tired I’m surprised I can form complete sentences.
I’m getting away next week for 10 days.
For the first time in 4.5 years, I’m going to visit my mom, my dad, and my sister. I haven’t been together with the three of them at the same time in a long time.
I’m actually really excited… but scared too.
Scared of having a good time.
Is that weird?
Scared I’m going to be in pain and they won’t understand. Scared of being away from my kids for so long.
Okay, I’m scared shitless.
I’m a girl – check that – a lady. I married a fantastic man. I have a crappy job, but it’s okay. I hobby (yeah, hobby as a verb, got a problem with that?) – I read, embroider, write to pen pals, and water my dead plants.
I get panic attacks. I have Bipolar II Disorder. But it’s okay. I mean, I can’t cure it…so, I live with it, right?
Don’t get me wrong, it blows serious monkey balls most of the time. I’m currently untreated and once my insurance kicks in, I’ll still have to wait another six months to have it covered, “pre-existing condition” and all. (Wait, wait, I’m getting to something.) I’ve got a few problems – so what, right? I’m with the Band and “problems” is one tune we all sing.
So why do I feel like I’m the first person to bring up bed-wetting? I’m no expert. I don’t have any kids. I don’t know anyone who’s ever done it…sober. I never did it as a kid. I mean, well, since I got potty trained. I’m good at being potty trained.
Recently, though, I peed the bed. Not even in a drunken haze. Just while sleeping, like a normal person. That’s what you do, right, sleep? And then, a few weeks later, I did it again!
What. The. Hell.
Add that to the migraines when I’m around blinking lights, a nervous twitch when my sister visits, panic attacks when I, well, whenever – it just happens on the roller coaster of being untreated Bipolar. That’s not enough? Now this?
For fuck’s sake, I’m an adult. I’m married. I share a bed with a man and two dogs. I yell at my little dog for peeing on the kitchen floor, but at least she’s not doing it in the bed. (You should see the looks she gives me, by the way.)
The only two times it has happened – hopefully the only two times it will ever happen – the only commonality I can see is that I had nightmares. I get nightmares pretty frequently, especially when I’m shifting between ups and downs, so it’s not like I can say, “Oh, it was the nightmares which caused them!”
The first incident was in the early morning hours. I awoke to myself peeing and ran to the bathroom. I finished, showered, and continued on with my day. No sheets were wet, just my pj’s. I told the Hub and we passed it off as maybe I drank too much water before going to bed, and was in too deep a sleep to fully wake up. Or maybe I was getting an UTI.
But whatever, accidents happen. We never mentioned it again.
The second incident, a few weeks later, I happened to be sleeping on the couch. (So, maybe I lied. Maybe I peed the bed once and the couch once. Hah! So, I’ve only peed the bed once!) I woke up in a virtual puddle. Thank goodness we have dogs and my couch is stain-guarded so nothing really soaked in. I ran to the bathroom, but I had already drained everything; and it was a LOT.
There I was, soaked in pee, in my living room. I cleaned up myself and the couch, and change into something dry. This was 2:00 in the am. I hate being up at that time – we don’t have cable and nothing’s on. I just stood and stared at my couch, willing it to dry faster. The husband woke up and stumbled to the living room “Are you coming to bed?”
I had fallen asleep watching television (I heart The Nanny reruns).
I had to tell him what happened.
We talked about it.
Did I remember the nightmare? No.
Did I drink a lot of anything before I went to bed? No.
Is there pain? Could I be pregnant? Is that even a symptom?
Have I been feeling all right in the brain lately? Any issues maybe that are bothering me that weren’t before? No.
Nothing seems different. Panic attacks seem more frequent lately, and the migraines last longer. That could be because I’m shifting schedules – downs to ups, you know.
Nothing seems to be triggering this new symptom.
Maybe all my other symptoms increasing in number and intensity are just putting my body through hell. Maybe it’s a new thing. Maybe I’ll do it again. Maybe I won’t do it again until I can see a proper doctor (November 2nd). Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. I just don’t know enough about bed-wetting to be sure about anything. (I’m not even sure it’s hyphenated.)
I do know something, though. I know I have someone special in my husband. I know that even after I had cleaned it all up, my husband cleaned the couch. He still waited a day or two to sit down on it. He was so nice about the whole situation, though. He worried about me, and what this new activity means for me. He said he was sorry my broken brain was making my body do crazy things.
To relieve the new anxiety I had facing bedtime, he even cracked a joke and offered to put me out with the dogs for a potty break before bed. No, really, I laughed. It’s all I could do. But I threatened I might pee on the couch again if he made me laugh too hard. And we laughed at that.
And then we went to bed, nervous about what the night might bring.
No one person is exactly the same as another. Mental illness affects everyone differently.
PTSD is defined as a condition that occurs in some people who have suffered through traumatic experiences. These feelings of anxiety, discomfort, and being scared can happen to people in their normal everyday lives, and those who have PTSD learn that these symptoms doesn’t go away. We suffer from many different symptoms on a regular basis.
Medical professionals feel PSTD is when someone has these lingering feelings for “at least a month or so.”
I can’t remember a time in my life that was “before PTSD”.
I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when I was in my early 20’s. At the time, I didn’t really think too much of it, and I didn’t research it. I was diagnosed with some other issues at the same time and I thought they were the important things I should be dealing with. Looking back on my life, I realize how much PTSD has affected me when I had no idea what it was. Clearly the PTSD is what I should have been dealing with this whole time, as the others are all by-products.
One thing I’d like to touch on is that people without PTSD tend to think that the 30+ year old trauma is what is haunting me today – however I do not normally have flashbacks or nightmares of the very old traumatic experience. It’s like my brain got programmed when I had the first trauma to overreact to all trauma so now, many years later I experience a major reaction to trauma. What may seem small to a non-PTSD sufferer, can be major to the brain of someone with PTSD Your brain tells your entire body to react to this huge event.
Some of my friends could (and probably do) describe me as being a negative person. I’d describe myself as realistic; I try to see all sides of a situation, good and bad. When friends are being very optimistic and point out good things in a situation, I will point out everything – all sides. Pointing out the bad things is why I often get told I’m pessimistic. I try not to, but I live with a constant feeling of fear, worry, and anxiety so it can be difficult for me to feel like things are going my way and everything will be fine. While I try not to spill it, sometimes it still slips out.
Persistent instability to experience positive emotions is described as a symptom of PTSD.
I don’t watch horror movies, and yes I’ve been mocked because I was a “wuss” or a “baby.” Honestly, I just brush it off, because they don’t know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night to a flashback. It’s not a dream, it’s not a nightmare, it’s everything you’re afraid of. There are always things in the back of your mind percolating.
Dark closets and corners hiding things that you forgot about or didn’t see as a problem. Today is day when it becomes a problem, and you’re going to remember it in the most traumatic way (even if it didn’t happen that way). It’s going to scare the living shit out of you, and linger with you like a cloud following you around ready to suck you up at any moment.
Every time your mind starts to wander for the following days or weeks, it will go back there and BOOM.
Sweating, anxiety, heart is racing, your body is shaking. You calm yourself down and after a while you feel back to normal again. Just when you think it might have gone away and left you alone, you walk around the corner and see something, hear something or smell something that reminds you of it and BOOM.
Back into high adrenaline mode. You take some time to calm yourself down. You go back to work, or whatever you were doing. You go on with your day. You’re cleaning up dinner, the kids are in bed and you think “I’m tried, it’s been a long day, I’ll head off to bed now too”. You crawl into bed and drift off to sleep. Then when your guard is down and it’s the middle of the night.
You wake up crying and shaking and sweating and scared. I did not know that these feelings were part of my disorder until recently. Flash backs and re-experiencing the trauma including “what if” scenarios through nightmares is a common characteristic of PTSD.
Most of my early life (pre-20) I don’t remember. I have relied on others to tell me what happened, even though I was there. I generally tell people that I have a bad memory and can’t remember much from my childhood or adolescence. I can sometimes be reminded and recall a memory, but I often can’t remember much.
I had no idea that repression and “lost memory” was my brain trying to protect me from my traumatic events.
It is very well known in my circle of friends that I’m easily startled. Most of them find it quite hilarious.
I often find myself at work and round a corner or open a door that has no window to find someone on the other side. I will jump out of my skin and usually let out a high pitched shriek which will usually get a reaction from the other person (either startle them or they laugh or both). This is a characteristic related to the hyper vigilance aspect of PTSD because I’m often on edge or on alert. It is also common for PTSD sufferers to have an exaggerated response when startled.
When something traumatic happens in my life, I can have flashbacks or re-experience the trauma, or sometimes my brain will play out “what if” scenarios. This usually occurs with the newest trauma but sometimes can go back to something that happened many years ago. If the trauma is very fresh, I can’t get to sleep.
Every time I try to close my eyes the event will replay itself and I’m in a state of panic.
This will continue all night and when I finally feel like I’ve fallen asleep I’ll have to get up and go to work, which leaves me feeling exhausted and unable to cope with getting through the day. This as PTSD-induced insomnia.
Another characteristic of PTSD is self blame, feeling hopeless ,and may including having negative thoughts about yourself.
I’d like to let you know, if you’re reading this PTSD is not your fault. If you are feeling this way, I encourage you to seek medical attention and the support of your friends or family. If that is not an option, there are helplines and even chats you can speak with someone.
There are other things that are on the “common list of PTSD symptoms” that I have not listed. Some I didn’t want to talk about and some I don’t normally experience.
I know that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can affect people differently so I decided to write how it affects me.
Depression and I have been dancing partners for more than a decade now. Sometimes it’s a slow waltz, sometimes a spinning reel, and sometimes I get to sit off to one side and take a nice relaxing break from my dark friend.
Over the years I’ve learned to observe my own triggers and put safety valves in place. For example, I go to therapy once a year, even if I’m not depressed, just to keep tabs on the way I’m feeling. As soon as I discovered I was pregnant in 2008, I knew I had to keep a watchful eye on myself. I was prepared – absolutely certain – that I would end up with postpartum depression, and I was terrified of feeling as low as I could go with a baby to look after. When I hit rock bottom, I can hardly care for myself. How was I supposed to look after this tiny new person as well?
So, I lined up a therapy session at 34 weeks of pregnancy, aiming to build myself a nice set of mental defenses against the coming storm.
I went to my first session, wanting to talk about my anxiety over going on maternity leave. I loved my job, and I didn’t know how I could stand to be at home all day every day with a baby. We talked about it. I cried a little.
No, I didn’t. I cried a lot. I cried so much that I couldn’t even talk. I just sat there on the couch, sobbing so hard that my unborn baby started squirming, and the psychologist had to go get a second box of tissues. I did that for a whole hour, all the while trying to gasp out explanations for my behaviour. Hormones, obviously. Stress. Fear of change, of the unknown. I knew all my triggers.
Later that night, I was at home when there was a knock at my front door. There was a lady standing there who I recognised, although she didn’t know me. She was the niece of a work colleague – and she was a drug addict who was mixed up in all kinds of bad things that I’d been hearing about for weeks at work. She asked me if I could give her a lift into town. Odd request from someone you don’t know and I blurted out the question, “What for?”
She informed me that she was out of her anti-psychotic medication, and if she didn’t get to the pharmacy as soon as possible she was going to end up really sick.
Yikes. I threw out the first excuse I could think of – I told her I was pregnant and tired, and I couldn’t do it.
Mistake. Her eyes shot to my belly, and she spent the next couple of minutes telling me how lucky I was, and how she wanted her own baby, and… And by that point, my other mental dance partner was knocking loudly on the door of my brain – anxiety. I got her to leave, to go ask a different random stranger for that lift, and then I stayed awake. All. Night.
Convinced, utterly convinced, that she was coming back with a knife, and she was going to try to take my child from me.
By the time my next therapy session came around a week later, I wasn’t just a bawling mess- I was a shaking, hysterical, terrified mess, convinced that some kind of evil was heading my way. No ifs or buts about it, something bad was going to happen – from this girl, random strangers, an accident – I was sure that either my baby or I was in trouble, and no amount of logic or reasoning could sway my reptilian brain centre from this fear response.
And at that point I realised that this time, my depression and my anxiety had snuck around that safety valve, and I was in the extremely intense grip of something they hadn’t talked about in any of my childbirth classes:
Before the baby arrives, you’re supposed to be the glowing mother-to-be, fondly looking forward to the arrival of your new little one, taking it easy, enjoying your last days of freedom. Sure, you might get depressed once you’re sleep deprived, struggling to breastfeed and awash with postpartum hormones, but before the birth – no, that’s all supposed to be sunshine and moonbeams.
I was ever so glad I’d gone to that first therapy session, because otherwise I would have been running up against all these feelings with a baby in my arms. Or not, as the case so happened – it turns out I wasn’t wrong about my dire predictions, and everything did in fact go horribly wrong. But by that stage, despite a crash c-section, my baby being airlifted away from me, a month in the NICU, I found myself able to handle some of the greatest stress I’ve ever experienced without breaking down. By that stage, I was seven weeks into my therapy course, taking antidepressants, and acknowledging my fears.
From the simplest (fear of being bored) to the most complex (fearing that I’d end up being too much like my own mother and would turn my daughter into just this kind of wreck), I had faced down those issues, broken them into pieces, examined them, and found that they weren’t as scary as I thought. I’d come to understand some of the most important rules of becoming a mother; first, you can’t control what happens, so you just have to roll with it; second, your best is absolutely good enough; third, you can’t predict the future, so there’s no point guessing.
So, I guess this leads me to a few points about my experience of antenatal depression:
- It exists, and it’s not always the hormones. If you feel down, anxious or sad to a degree where it starts affecting your life or your enjoyment of life, go see someone about it. Your doctor, your therapist – it never hurts to talk, whether you conclude in the end that you’re depressed or not. You might end up with post-partum depression and be glad you put those defenses in place nice and early.
- I was terrified of taking antidepressant drugs during pregnancy for fear they might cause problems for my child. There are safe antidepressants you can take, and my personal experience was that the pregnancy hormones meant I had greater need for the medication than on previous occasions. My daughter’s problems, FWIW, were most certainly unrelated to the drugs, although when I weaned her from breastfeeding at 18 months, I was still taking the medication and as a result she went through a withdrawal process over about a week. She was a most unpleasant character during that week, but both before and after that, she was/is the same happy, delightful little person she’s always been.
- There’s no law saying you have to be delighted about everything baby-related. Birth? Bonding? Nappies? Cracked nipples? Pah! But in addition to those, of course, you get that milky new baby smell, smiles and cuddles, first words and steps and everything else that’s wonderful about kids. Taking a realistic view of the potential downers is important. Don’t expect it all to be utopia, but don’t expect it all to be terrible, either. Parenthood is, of course, a buffet that serves up a little awesome, a little awful, and you never know which you’re going to get.