The Cellar

The Cellar (
-   Health (
-   -   PTSD - how do you handle the symptoms? (

TinkerC 07-27-2019 02:57 AM

PTSD - how do you handle the symptoms?
I have C-PTSD from multiple traumas in 2017. I live in a (relatively) remote area of Australia, so my treatment options are quite limited. I do have a good psychologist, but she she is not a specialist in PTSD and has said that she sometimes feels out of her depth with me. There are no support groups or specialised therapy within 3 hours of here.

I was wondering if there were others with PTSD in the Cellar, we could possible share strategies that work for us?

I'm also up for suggestions from others who don't have it, but I do have some complications that make it tricky.

I feel like I've lost about 50% of my brain capacity through this (I'm told it should come back in due course). My brain is only just emerging from years of being in survival mode, so it's only recently I have started to try to give it a push.

I can't drive any more (I lose focus too easily). Some days I can't do simple maths. I discovered a few months ago that I have forgotten how to format Word documents (after doing it for decades). Stupid stuff like that. I can't read more than short articles - it just starts swirling - and audiobooks aren't any better. I used to be a big movie fan, but can't handle most movies any more as I can't hold the narrative. Same with useful YouTube videos that are more than, say, 10 minutes long. Brain goes to snow.

I used to do a lot of arty stuff, but one of the traumas was closely linked to art and creativity, and in the last two years I have felt ill even looking at anything arty, let alone doing it for therapy.

I live on a lovely farm in a beautiful area, and am always being told how connecting to nature heals you. It's not working.

I have two lovely dogs and two lovely cats, but also feel disconnected from them. I see their love for me (yes, even the cats) but I can't connect.

I have full on anhedonia and nothing gives me pleasure. Not kittens, not favourite foods, not travelling, nothing really. I'm told it is generally the last symptom to go, which just sucks big time.

Okay, so there's a fuzzy, chaotic picture of life right now.

Please don't take rejection of suggestions as negativity. I have tried a LOT in the last two years, and a lot of the things that you'd guess would be useful are just not possible for me at this stage.

So any others interested in this discussion?

xoxoxoBruce 07-27-2019 07:34 AM

Sounds like you're trying hard to fix it, maybe too hard. Mom said if you keep picking at it then it'll never heal.

glatt 07-27-2019 08:48 AM

I don't know anything beyond a very superficial understanding about PTSD, but if your life sucks, and you think PTSD treatment would help but is non-existant around you, why not move to an area with treatment options?

What is keeping you where you are?

monster 07-27-2019 09:24 AM

Do you see a psychiatrist as well as a psychologist? Is there one within striking distance?

Undertoad 07-28-2019 11:32 AM

Would online therapy be a possibility? I tried googling for it, and the ads were probably more helpful than the search results. But it does seem like there are for-pay programs, where you could get Skype sessions with professionals, if that is an option.

TinkerC 07-28-2019 08:19 PM

I'll try to answer all of that coherently.

Why I don't move? I live on a farm, and don't have the financial capacity to have a second home in Melbourne, which is the only place in the state where I could get specialist help. I also still can't live independently, so would need my husband to uproot to stay with me. Being a carer is not something you can ask of friends for an extended period.

I was seeing a psychiatrist via Skype at my local medical centre, but (competent or not) he did not think he could help me, and that I was better off with therapy with my psychologist. They have not been able to find any medication that helps with, without making me into a zombie. There are no psychiatrists within a 3 hour drive.

I am about to start an online therapy course, which my psychologist is arranging.

Trying too hard? How can I put this: would you say that to someone with a spinal injury who is trying to find ways to move again? Just carrying on does not change the symptoms.

It took me almost a year of multiple strategies to be able to sleep more than 3 hours a night. Some things helped, some did not. I now sleep about 7 hours a night, but badly. I wake often, and the sleep is disturbed. I'm often exhausted when I get up.

I do mindfulness exercises, I get an adequate amount of physical activity with the farming (what I can do of it), have a good diet, try to keep things stable around me, while trying to continue to introduce interaction or activity on a careful basis to build the resilience.

monster 07-28-2019 10:38 PM

You get way more sleep than I do! Hat off to you! I wish you luck, I'm sorry I can't help, but you have come to the right place for a community that cares and will listen and offer suggestions to the best of their ability, and distractions (we're really good at that), hopefully that in itself will be a teeny tiny help?

oh and welcome :)

TinkerC 07-29-2019 12:34 AM

It will indeed help, Monster, is doing so already!

And yes, 7 hours is a decent amount of hours and more than many get, but the quality is still pretty bad. Still, it's still a huge leap up from 3 hours

TinkerC 07-29-2019 01:14 AM

A few of you asked in the Power of Now thread about what sort of traumas they were

It is complicated by childhood trauma, which I won't go into, but I was not in a great state at the end of 2016 when the first major trauma happened.

This is still going to be a very short version. It's quite complicated.

But first I found my best friend was allowing a convicted child sex offender (little girls) access to her two young kids. I had to help have them removed from her.

A few months after that my husband went weird quite abruptly, said some astonishingly nasty things and left to think about what he wanted.

A few weeks later I was captured and held prisoner for 24 hours.

We got back together. But within days of the capture the PTSD exploded in me. I lost 25 kg in the next two months. My hair fell out. I stopped being able to sleep more than 3 hours a night. I lost the capacity to do almost anything.

Two months into that my husband suddenly told me he did not love me, and in fact, since we met in 1997, he never actually had loved me as anything more than a sister. (It was almost a year before it became clear he had had a major breakdown, but there was almost no other sign of it. He seemed to be otherwise just like he always was.) He wanted us to live together as brother and sister, separate rooms, etc. I couldn't do that.

I left the farm and went from couch to tent to hotel to spare room (in four countries) for the next 9 months until my husband's condition deteriorated to the point he realised himself that he was sick, and I returned to the farm.

I needed to stay in one place long enough to get consistent therapy. I couldn't live alone as my brain had all but shut down. We helped each other back through this. Our relationship is still pretty much in tatters but we are both trying to get it back on track (a new track...)

DanaC 07-29-2019 07:22 AM

Captured? My God. That sounds incredibly traumatic

BigV 07-29-2019 10:45 AM


Originally Posted by monster (Post 1036214)
You get way more sleep than I do! Hat off to you! I wish you luck, I'm sorry I can't help, but you have come to the right place for a community that cares and will listen and offer suggestions to the best of their ability, and distractions (we're really good at that), hopefully that in itself will be a teeny tiny help?

oh and welcome :)

Very, very well put monster.

Tinker, you are welcome here. All I have to add at the moment after hearing your story is *Wow*.


lumberjim 07-29-2019 04:21 PM

why is your attention span short? where does your mind go? is it the same repeating cycle of thought? are you re-living the bad things that happened? are they still happening? if they are not, let them go. they can't hurt you any more. not unless you keep going back through them.

I'm not sure how PTSD works.... but in a general sense, I think there is a danger in labeling mental conditions. If you had never heard of it, would you have it? Or the lack of joy thing...anhedonia? just naming it gives it it's own will. something you have. you identify with it. it becomes part of you. now you look to protect it. If I tell you you don't have those things and you're fine, you'll get mad.

I don't want to make you mad, but you are not those conditions. those initials. those labels. you're an animal. these ailments are built up in thoughts. so get under the thoughts. let them be and look at them from the outside. you're the thinker, so you can choose not to think those thoughts.... you just need to create the space first. get empty in your head.

I think I have too much advice. and not enough experience with your mind.

i've had some bruises, and the best advice i can offer is to NOT identify with the bad things that happened. they are not who you are.

TinkerC 07-30-2019 03:18 AM

Naming the conditions actually helped me a lot.

I had had depression since early childhood - had it under control with a variety of strategies I learned over the years - and always assumed PTSD was like that but with some anxiety triggers added to it. It's not. Almost nothing about it is the same. It affects me physically in a multitude of ways I have never experienced before. My metabolism has changed dramatically. My body hums with a vibration at all times. There is a constant hum of background fear (medical term is being hyper alert) whereas I was never a fearful person before. I no longer really trust anyone or anything or any situation.

I read an article in our news about PTSD - casually reading it, not identifying with it - a few months after the capture. It described how it happens, the physical changes in your brain, and symptoms I immediately recognised. The realisation that these were my symptoms altered the way I tackled it. I was trying to tackle it as I had severe depressive phases, but it wasn't working at all.

I met a neuroscientist in Chiang Mai. He said he could not help me psychologically, but he could explain to me what was happening in my brain physiologically. We talked for 4 hours, he drew me diagrams, he explained what this meant in changes to me, and this helped me enormously.

For example, he told me my amygdala will be enlarged as a result of the surge of terror. This happens relatively quickly but takes years for it to shrink to normal size again (under the right circumstances...) - it CANNOT happen faster.

I was just thinking "oh great, so my brain has it in for me as well!"

But Len continued, saying "but your amygdala is your friend." He explained how it is like the animal part of my brain, that it recognised the danger to the survival of the organism and has sort of taken over to maximise survival. In doing so, it shuts down the emotions, because the severity of them causes too much pain and therefore are a danger. But in doing so, it shuts them all down. But it is doing it to try to "save the organism". I told him how I had lost so much brain capacity - had forgotten how to do so many things - and he said yes, it is shutting down all things that are "irrelevant", focussing all the remaining energy on survival mechanisms. He said they should come back in time. Some come and go, but I can feel different areas of my brain (not physically, I mean in capability) firing up then shutting down again, like a sputtering engine. But it's a good sign when they appear, if only for a day.

There were other he things said, like "try to avoid sugar. It's not great for anyone really, but for your brain it's especially bad." And interestingly, for the first year - prior to that - I had lost all interest in sugar, not even fruit. It didn't taste bad, I just didn't want it, or enjoy it as I had previously. There were a few things I did instinctively that turned out to be a very good thing to do, from a neuroscience point of view.

What it changed for me was how I viewed all the positive thinking posts of friends, especially the ones that said "happiness is a choice". I had kept berating myself, asking myself angrily "why can't you just be happy? The life you still have is pretty bloody good compared to most of the people in the world?"

But knowing what anhedonia is, how my amygdala is responsible, and why it is doing it - this made sense to me. No, I can't be happy because my brain is blocking such emotions, and it is doing it to protect me. I have to be patient. Hopefully my amygdala has already shrunk somewhat, and if I'm patient I will feel something again in due course."

I liken it in my mind to a professional runner with a spinal injury. No amount of positive thinking is going to have him sprinting again tomorrow, even if he chooses to. What he can do is plug away at therapy and other strategies (eg correct diet for tissue recovery) to optimise the recovery, control the pain, and to have patience.

For me, the "labels" stopped me thinking in a loop of "what the fuck is wrong with me?! Why can't I just leave it behind me?!" and to understand the likely timeline of recovery.

As for my attention span:
I just find I can't hold onto a thought process as I used to. I'm halfway through a movie and I can't remember who they are, what's happening. I read a long article and I can't remember the details in the first part of it. I can't remember how to format in Word, after doing it for 30 years. I'd been an extremely good knitter (sounds lame, but I was a speed knitting champion and I could knit very complex stuff, with my eyes closed) and about 6 months after the PTSD began, I lost the body memory of how to do it for about 10 months, then it slowly came back.

My mind doesn't really go anywhere quite often. It just goes to snow. If something triggers me, my brain just freezes now - also just like snow.

And I find it hard to write in a coherent way, as you can see here! I'm finding it difficult figuring out how this platform works (simple though it is) and cannot read what I have written, so can't rearrange it more suitably. I'm babbling.

I feel like I'm in a bubble, and cannot connect with anything outside the bubble. And the world around me feels like a parallel universe to the one I knew. Things look much the same, but do not feel the same.

My psychologist said to me a year ago: the bubble is there for a reason. It's protecting you. Don't try to break the bubble, not yet.
A few weeks ago she said "you're getting restless, and this indicates it's time for you to try to step out of the bubble, just for short periods." How to do this is not defined though.

Me coming back to the Cellar is a little bit of a scratch at the bubble. Trying to connect with people.

I do manage to step out for short moments, but I'm stunned each time at the force of what hits me. Sure, I can feel some positive feelings at that moment, but I get hit with the full force of what happened too. I get surges of anger and grief and loss.

I can honestly say I have done some extreme things to step away from what happened. I didn't just change my name, I created an entirely fictional persona, childhood, history and all, who was more capable of survival than me and lived that persona. (That's a complicated story though.) I moved to the other side of the world for a while (from 30C to -30C). But I feel like some sort of cyborg who can behave like a human but is not.

Is this making any sense??

I was hoping others with it could give me some tips on how they deal with particular aspects of it. Do you have the violent shaking first thing in the morning, and have you found a way to stop it or calm it? Have you found a way to feel pleasure, even if fleeting? What mindfulness techniques work for you? Have you found online resources that are particularly good?

And I'm truly grateful for all of you who have responded!

Dude111 07-30-2019 04:10 AM

I wish you luck Tinker in this :)

lumberjim 07-30-2019 08:58 AM

for the kind of advice you mention, I would think that a PTSD specific forum would be better suited to help you.

You've clearly had this discussion before. Your post was quite organized and coherent to my eyes. That's typically the result of having said this all before.

When we think about things, it's a kind of amorphous mass of thoughts, but once we say it out loud, or write it, we are forced to organize it, and the thoughts take shape. Your reply tells me this is not new to you.

Also, you mention a physical difference in your brain.... did you actually verify that? like with CAT scans or whatever they can do? ...or is it supposition taken from that conversation of what COULD be happening as a result of the traumas?

I did a little reading about the amygdala, and it's interesting. How the right and left hemispheres handle positive and negative responses. is it possible for one side to swell and not the other? is your sense of smell more acute?

doubt everything, especially your own thoughts. verify and question each aspect of an opinion. concluding that you are damaged goods removes the desire to question further, so don't disagree or agree with me here. If you have settled the matter, the other possibilities die. Try to come from, 'I don't know' and then find out.

I'm trying to do the same as I learn more about you.

Diaphone Jim 07-30-2019 06:14 PM

I am not sure what the status of medical marijuana is in Australia.
As its use has been more widely accepted in the US, there have been many studies that show good outcomes in PTSD treatment.
It is not in my current medicine cabinet, but in years past I found it helpful in self-treating similar symptoms to yours.

So on your own or with professional guidance, it is something to research and consider.

Clodfobble 07-30-2019 07:15 PM

And if medical marijuana isn't accessible, CBD oil is an effective alternative.

TinkerC 07-30-2019 11:40 PM

Medical marijuana was legalised in Australia very recently but only for a limited range of conditions (mainly terminal conditions) but it is relatively tolerated by police as long as you're not driving.
Nevertheless I do use it. My medical team know and are fine with it. There are no prescription drugs available which can help my symptoms. It helps stop the shaking, eases the physical pain, and softens the background fear.

I'd like to try CBD oil, but there are no derivative products available here either.

TinkerC 07-30-2019 11:49 PM

Re Lumberjim's post - I have not been able to find a specific PTSD forum and don't even know how to find one (my google skills have gone out the window too).

I have had discussions with people on some Facebook pages but they have been US dominated, and the treatment available there is quite different to Australia.

I have not had a brain scan, but there has been no doubt for any of the medical/science people I've talked to, that I do have PTSD, based on the physical as well as psychological symptoms. But what I have been able to read about it makes sense of what I'm experiencing.

My sense of smell is not noticably different, but my sense of taste is. E.g. I never liked beer before this. I used to like a wide variety of global food but now prefer bland foods.

A startling change was my ability to tolerate extreme temperatures. I used to struggle with anything over about 32C, or below zeroC. I flew from a hot Australian summer (no problems - literally no sweat) to northern Sweden in winter (-30C) and also had no issues. I refused to wear a hat (needed to hear who was around me) and had no problems. Then I flew to northern Thailand (around 40C and extremely humid) and again, no problems, no sweat, and I often left the aircon turned off in my room. It was the strangest thing.

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 07:26 AM.

Powered by: vBulletin Version 3.8.1
Copyright ©2000 - 2022, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.