In Therapy for PTSD: My Personal Story and Journey, PART ONE
Following the loss of our home and extreme financial chaos, I developed PTSD. Post traumatic stress disorder is common to people who suffer danger and general trauma, and is most often associated with soldiers returning home from the front. In my case, after my husband's sudden and shocking lay-off from a management career and the loss of our beloved home, my symptoms escalated into something resembling a roller-skating cat on Red Bull energy drink. I shook, I cried easily, I jumped when cars drove too close to me on the freeway.
Thanks to the help from relatives and a remarkable, caring Lutheran Church, we were able to survive until our resources improved. Still, the symptoms persisted. I just wasn't me anymore, the lady who wrote, sang and took photos with her Nikon. I became a testament to survival mode and shut down my talents and dreams as we scurried to pay off bills and rebuild our credit. Besides, the Nikon, along with all of our furniture was gone anyway.
This is my journey into therapy, which I want to use as an educational tool to help others who may not be blessed with the services of a wonderful, caring licensed therapist. I was able to afford Celeste as she cut her fees by two-thirds. For those of us who have survived childhood (incest) trauma, be cautioned by my story. As Celeste told me in our first session, the scars of incest are so extreme, adult onset stressors can retrigger the original traumas of sexual violation and set back years of work. (Her words, not mine)
"PTSD is like the flu," she explained, "and can recur." Our first session was mostly about my symptoms of extreme claustrophobia due to our loss of home. (We were now cramped into a miserable studio with only one window). Celeste stressed doing small things everyday to brighten the darkness of grief and loss. Some of these things included, a special daily walk, doing your nails, watching comforting or amusing movies, etc. Intensity must be avoided as it throws more stressors into the fire of PTSD. "Think calm, think soothing, think mellow, and have a plan to rent a larger house."
On days when I felt my mind was in panic mode, I would play online scrabble for hours and color. Coloring is very good for PTSD, especially if you color fun and magical things that remind you of the saver aspects of childhood. Keeping a journal is great, and cartooning even better. I loved depicting myself as a frazzle-headed ragdoll, encountering silliness and trauma. It made me laugh and put everything into perspective.
For pop up thoughts and persistent intrusive memories, I was advised to clap, yawn, or even chew gum. It sounds ridiculous, but aggressive amounts of Big Red gum made its way into my mouth as I drove around town or even laid around watching television. It helped immensely. After several months of having a lovely, warm Therapist to talk to in a safe environment, I started to feel less "crazy." I shared my family history and photos, and received validation and insight.
My Alpha-Stim sessions began in the third month. Alpha-Stim is electro-therapy. It attaches to your ear lobes and emits low levels of stimulation to various centers of the brain. It is painless and even soothing to use, and immediately seemed to erase some of my anxiety. It has been used for solders with PTSD with great success. It seems to soothe the brain while increasing serotonin levels. Not bad for a 30 minute session. Celeste told me of someone she knew who was no longer able to tolerate psychiatric medication--after a few sessions with Alpha-stim, her overall mental health improved to a higher degree than when she was on Prozac.
My journey is ongoing, and I will update and contribute more to this subject as my PTSD is being treated. This is only Part One. I sincerely hope this will speak to those who have concerns, but cannot afford a good therapist.
Update: as of Christmas 2017, I am happy to report I am enjoying life more and making good progress. My therapist is now my life coach and is always encouraging me. I have found great relief from using Lavender essential oil in my home and even behind my ears, to reduce stress and create new sensory experiences.