View Single Post
Old 07-30-2019, 03:18 AM   #13
Old member back in a new form
Join Date: Jul 2019
Location: south eastern Australia
Posts: 14
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!
TinkerC is offline   Reply With Quote