Daily Strugles of PTSD
Courage to Get Help
This is an inside look at a day in the life of a PTSD sufferer. It is a recount of some of the trying times, I endure on a daily basis. I have taken snippets of a week, to give an insight to what I go through and the challenges I faced, during a week's time span. My hopes are that this will give those are suffering and who have loved ones, whom may be suspected of suffering, the courage to seek out help.
I hope that anyone whom has been suffering from PTSD or any of it's variants, can identify with the emotions and attributes of which may be in this, will be able to see that there is hope and there is help for the yourself and your loved ones.
Rise and Shine! It's Saturday!
It's 4:00 am, my service dog is bouncing around on the bed, trying to wake me up, for his morning walk. As I lay there, trying to wipe the sleep from my eyes, he becomes impatient and decides to get on the pillows and push me off of the mattress, and onto the cold tile floor. Colt, then proceeds to roll around on the bed, and lays his head on the pillow, for me to go through my usual routine of getting dressed and getting his collar and leash ready for him.
After returning from the walk, and all business concluded, I head off to the kitchen and brew up some much needed coffee, to start my day out. Of course, I go into the living room and gather up my medications and return back to the kitchen to take the morning dosages, for mood and to reduce agitation.
After pouring my coffee and putting in the required amount of sweetener, I turn to the bathroom and begin to start shaving and brushing my teeth. I avoid the mirror as much as possible; as it makes me see what I perceive is a "monster" (myself) and the demons of the past, glaring back at me; but intermittent glances to ensure that I don't miss any place an errant whisker of hair, may be taunting my missing it.
I have to illuminate all of the little apartment, that I share with my service dog, as to eliminate shadows and dark corners, throughout the place. If I don't, then I am constantly reminded of the place where my trauma occurred and I start seeing silhouettes of the people who inflicted the horrors of my trauma upon me, in the shadows.
Once the morning rituals are completed, including feeding my companion and washing the tile floors that are throughout my apartment, I get ready to conquer the world, provided there were no issues with my anxiety being drummed up, by my momentarily glancing in the mirror while shaving.
Most cases, I can not bring myself to eat breakfast and so I normally will down a piece of toasted bread, and some coffee before grabbing Colt and heading out to face the world.
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The Grocery Store
Pulling up to the grocery store, not much in mind except the list of items I have to get, to stock up my cabinets and refrigerator. I exit the car and proceed to the door of the grocery store. "I have been here so many times, that I normally have no issues or concerns; so go get what you need and get out as quickly as possible," I think to myself.
Walking in, all seems well. I scour a glance at the walls, the cash registers and cashiers, the people near the door, and even the person behind the bakery counter. No issues here, continue on. After shopping and gathering up some things, I decide to go to the deli and get some lunch meats and other stuff, normally located near the deli counter and am hit with a myriad of scents and aromas that fill my nasal cavities, with the scent of comfort foods and fresh meats.. I am feeling like I am in heaven.
While selecting my meats, the jingling light sound of keys hitting the floor, sends my mind reeling. I notice feelings of panic, my mind starts to race a little; but I am able to gather up the things I ordered from the guy at the deli counter, and decide to move on past to back to the bakery counter.. Once again, the smells of fresh bread and cakes being baked, filled my nose and my mind begins to settle down a bit; but I am noticing everything around me in details most people would never think of.. I am speaking of position of the bakery attendant, and his body language his stance and tone of voice. The lady next to me, shuffling in her purse and her posture, the cracks in the wall behind the ATM Machine, and my ears are picking up the buzzing in the air. My head is becoming numb and my fingers are tingling.
After collecting my bread and goods, I rush off to finish my shopping up, gathering up some trash bags and little things, then off to the check out counter. I notice that I am extremely on guard and very attentive to everything around me, including the motions of the cashier gathering the food items on the belt, to be scanned. Looking behind me; I notice the lady who was shuffling in her purse and the person who dropped their keys directly behind me, in line. I am feeling like I am being followed and that these people were "up to no good" in my regard.
The urges that flood my mind and the adrenaline rush is almost more than I can bear and I have to get space between me and these people; get them into open spaces, to prevent them from pinning me up, where I have no escape or room to move should I have to institute an attack to eliminate the perceived threats.
After paying for my purchases, I leave the area of the cashier and realize that those people were in no hurry to follow me and were just taking care of their purchases and minding their own business.. However, I have to take added time to scan the parking lot, to ensure that no one is out here, to impeded upon my movements to the vehicle.
Poor Colt is wondering all the while, why I am being triggered into survival mode, and is trying all he can to distract me, to try to keep me in the moment and to realize that there is no threats around for me to be on guard. He is trying to remind me that I am in the present and not in the midst of an attack, as I was in all of my traumatic events.
Anxiety Disorders, Can Impair Perceptions
I know that there is no secret that Anxiety can make the perception of your surroundings, seem like something quite different than what they are. The level of anxiety, with my PTSD, can be very disorienting and debilitating by:
- Increasing heart rate and blood pressure
- Activating the "Fight or Flight" responses associated with "Survival Mode" mentality.
- Breathing Increases, which further disorientates the thinking processes
- Adrenaline flow is increased, many times, during the events of High PTSD triggering
- Typically, emotions will follow such attacks and in some cases can be alarming hours after the initial attack(s), when one goes to reflect on the days activities.
Shopping Malls, Here I Come!
Well, Groceries are put away, and I have to go shopping for clothes at the mall. I have planned to shop, almost all week. I don't get any time to do so, during the week, as I am on call most of the week and every time I try to do anything, I get interrupted in some of the most inopportune times. So today, is the day.
Off I go to the same mall, I grew up in. I have seen this mall move from being an outside/open air mall to being enclosed. I have seen major stores go out of business here, and new super-chain stores move in and out of this mall. I have seen this mall at times, over the years, become a virtual "Ghost town" mall; with only a few shops and kiosks, spread out among the property.. now, it has been re-vitalized and is thriving once again.
I planned on walking around a while, then going into Sears and some other stores to get towels, some pants and shirts and maybe some new shoes. But who knows what I might come out with. Colt and I navigate the parking lot, and enter the enclosed super structure that houses the small shops and larger chain stores. all is well, and I am feeling somewhat care-free..
It's early, and mostly the mall seems to be vacant of visitors.. A sporadic sight of shoppers, going in various directions, some seemingly mindless routes to their shopping goals, some more methodical. I am walking along the walls, keeping panes of glass that reflect the center isles of the mall and the kiosks in sight, through the reflections off of the glass.
As I transverse the mall and gather what I was there to get, I slip into a stall to try on some new jeans. Checking in, with the attendant, I enter the stall which is at best a 6x7 stall with a mirror on the wall; which I quickly turn my back to and begin surveying the stall for cameras, for listening devices, for any means that someone could reach into the stall and back away from the door, being careful to place my things on the bench out of reach of the gap at the bottom of the stall door. Then I back away from the door, as far as I can from the door to prevent being grabbed myself, and begin to change into the new pants to check them for the fit.
Leaving the store, with my new pants, shoes and other things that I purchased, Colt and I start the walk towards the entrance, where I entered the mall.. People seemingly came out of nowhere, and now the mall is packed up with visitors. The aroma of someone's perfume sent me reeling into another of the days frenzies, which made me hasten my pace to get away from her location. However, the odor filled my nose and I was not able to calm down before getting into my car..
My heart pounding, gasping for breath as my respiration increased due to the panic and anxiety attack I was finding myself deep into, I fumble with my keys and finally after what seemed like twenty minutes of fumbling (actually only a minute or two at most), I retreated into my vehicle and we begin on some exercises to bring my adrenaline, my heart rate and breathing under control; to allow me to bring myself back to the presence of mind that I was fine and okay with myself and not amidst an attack.
After about 30 minutes of sitting in the vehicle, security came up and inquired as to my welfare. I got out laughing and joking around, trying to discount what had happened; but he knew I was in trouble. He asked me to exit the vehicle, and I dropped due to a bout with vertigo; from the high blood pressure and breathing rate, that I was still at and had came down from.
After another 10 minutes of reassuring the guard that I was fine, he finally left me to my own devices and went about his way. I just told him I had not eaten today and that I just needed to find a place to get something on my stomach. He was okay with that at the time and decided that I was not in any danger of passing out or of getting into harms way.
Interview: Causes of PTSD
Well, I survived the day, for the most part.. After unloading the car, I turn to get something to eat. It's been a long day, for me anyways. Popping dinner in the microwave, I go feed Colt and fill his water dish. The day was somewhat eventful; as my days go, and I am exhausted from dealing with watching my back side, running errands and finishing the days chores. Time to relax and wait for my dinner.
Turn on the Television, and I tune it to a mystery crime show (my favorite), and begin to watch it and even become entrenched in the story line. I hear the bell on the microwave, sounding that my dinner was heated and ready to eat. I was so engulfed into the story, I decided to let the food cool, in the appliance, and watch more of the movie.
It doesn't take much time, and I began to reflect on the day.. Guilt start creeping in, as to why I always seemingly am on guard, why am I always so unnerved as to dis-allow myself to enjoy a day out. Why am I this or why am I that? Then memories of my traumas come creeping in, and I begin to weep uncontrollably, now understanding why I am all alone and the emotions build from there. It does not take long until anger starts coming in at both the people involved with bringing my traumatic events to bare, and at myself.
Time just slips by, as I drift into the actual events of all of the trauma's that invaded my life and I start going into a seemingly dream like state where the multitude of life involved trauma's replay in my head and are visually being re-experienced. My neighbor poked his head in to say hello, and realized he would be better off leaving; and not disturbing me. Well, this causes my feeling more guilty and ashamed of going through what I am, and pushing him away; so another round of anger and guilt plays out.
Before I know it, the time on the clock suggests that I had lost about 3 hours of time, bouncing in and out of sporadic "Flashbacks" and any recollection of the events that might have occurred in that time, are gone. Colt is on my chest, staring me "dead in the eyes" trying to bring me back to the present time, and to make me cognizant of the present.
Finally, I get up petting the smooth long hair coat of my companion, and retreat into the kitchen; after realizing I had food in the microwave. When I open the door, I find that the food was cold and not edible, so I toss it out and head to bed..
Now my days vary in intensity, and this is one such day that I experienced a few weeks ago. Initially, I was going to use snippets of a week; however, I found one eventful day to draw upon which was applicable to this article. Not everyday, do I have these episodes on a on-going basis; as this one was.
If hope that by reading this, it will or might give indication as to allow the person who does not experience this personally, but may have someone in their lives that do, will urge them to get professional help. It will tremendously improve their quality of life, and may allow them to feel more safe, in public and at home.
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