Tag Archives: noise

Recovering from Good Stuff

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Cinderella shoe cakeI had the opportunity to help throw a bridal shower for a friend this week. I’m paying for it, but it was worth it. There’s some more good news in that regards, but I’ll get to that later.

I had plenty of time to plan. I don’t do complicated. I also had a partner in planning who did all of the things well that I’m not very good at. If I were to be a party planner the rest of my life, I would want her for my partner. It was that much fun. She even talked me into helping her icing the cupcakes with one of those fancy icing bags. I’m better at invites and games and that sort of thing.

I have to carefully allot my time during the week, but the past three weeks have been a lot better. My doctor upped my Risperidone and it’s helped a ton! I’ve been sleepy all the time, which I think is passing as I get used to it, but I’ve been awake a lot more. I’ve had less nightmares and everything else. It’s made life so much more bearable and I’ve also been more able to count my blessings without getting as depressed. My therapist said she could tell a difference, and my friends have been remarking on it, too.

Thus, I felt I had the courage (and ability) to help throw the shower. It was also at our place. I didn’t clean much beforehand as it’s already clean here, but it could have been better, yet I survived. My “have to clean everything perfectly” anxieties were thus lessened in that area. (Our front rooms are usually clean, my room is usually messy…a lot like growing up.)

So, while we were getting ready yesterday, my mind still halted occasionally but it wasn’t bad. I could tell I was headed towards bad anxiety just a couple of times, and after either eating or taking a break I was okay again. It was such a relief! One of the things that’s difficult to explain to people about anxiety disorders is that the “usual” methods of calming oneself don’t always work. We feel “stuck” in the anxiety with very little that helps lower it.

But….not this time. Some loud music someone played briefly on their phone almost got me while everyone was talking. I was leading the game so leaving for a break would have been awkward.

I fell right asleep last night. I did, unfortunately, have a lot of nightmares last night, but they could have been worse. I still felt like I had some control of the dreams. I ended up shaky with my “insides shaking” but I had no limbs flapping. For as much as I did yesterday, that’s quite a feat. Also, I couldn’t get out of bed today until after 1pm. Considering that at times after something so large I could have been wiped out for a few days, that’s also something. I’m fully hoping to get to go for a walk later. I could really use it.

Missing things.

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disappointmentThe past two weeks have been very eventful. I think they’ve been way more positive than negative, even if my PTSD symptoms seem to have a mind of their own. I’ve been able to make it to the most important events of the two weeks with one glaring exception: my son’s high school graduation was a Tuesday evening followed by my daughter’s middle school graduation on a Wednesday morning. So, guess what I missed? Yup, the middle school graduation. I don’t think it was good emotionally for either my daughter or for me. I think my Facebook post will sum it up the best:

Slightly personal. One of the joys of having PTSD: (and no, I won’t tell you where I got it from): I had a good time at (son’s) graduation, but it was a very large, happy (good thing) noisy crowd. I was happy but a bit of a shaking mess by the end. (Daughter’s) Middle School graduation was this morning. I could wake up, but I was semi-paralyzed and could hardly move or speak. I managed a text that I wasn’t doing well, then I missed her graduation. These are the times when having PTSD really stinks the most. I slept for several more hours, having nightmares about trying to get to (daughter’s) promotion. There is no way I can take it back. Then a certain family member was giving me a hard time about having gone to (son’s) graduation instead of Libby’s. Because, you know, as a Mom I always want to make choices like that, and I’m omniscient about consequences. It’s now 3:30 and the tremors still haven’t completely gone away, and I’m still struggling to speak. And (daughter) didn’t have her mom at her graduation.

Mental illnesses aren’t different from physical illnesses in this way. Oh, because wait…mental illnesses ARE physical ilnesses! There’s this weird misconception, which is probably understandable, that because they’re “mental” that people who have them haven’t done the intense mental and physical struggling to try to be everywhere they want and need to be. Just like everyone else, I have to miss things that I want to get to go to more than anything else. I miss things that I didn’t want to go to, and I feel bad about that too! Basically, I have to constantly work on the shame and guilt and good guilt and bad guilt of all the places I both want to go to and don’t want to go to. And some of the things I don’t want to go to are easier to go to (some meetings, for instance) than things I want to go to (I can’t currently do any movies in theaters….how’s that for fun…you want to go there?)  But missing my daughter’s graduation takes the cake. For the rest of my life, this will be one of those things that I remember with much more frustration than having to miss a bunch of movies in theaters for a couple of years, or however long it ends up lasting. I can’t make it up. So, my daughter was really understanding. She was upset and disappointed. It was one of those things that incites a combination of feelings. I can’t get into her head and tell you everything that went on, but I can tell you what I know from what she told me and other family members. I can tell you what it was like when I was lying in my bed with most of my body stuck there and not wanting to move, and my head wanting to believe that it was 1am instead of 8 or 9 am, and wishing that someone could stick me on a stretcher or at least offer me a Skype session of it. I’m trying to work on my anger with people who don’t understand. With the people I don’t know very well, it’s not an issue. With a couple of family members, it bothers me and I do take it personally at times. Then I talk it out with a friend or my therapist and the forgiveness comes back. In the meantime, I’m grateful I wasn’t able to slug the person who suggested that I somehow could have made it. I could have, probably, had I missed my son’s graduation. He was in a graduating class of over 1,000 students. How do you decide not to try to make it to that? I had done okay for the few days prior, so I was  praying that I’d make both. I had made it to his Baccalaureate and my daughter’s awards assembly. It’s so easy online to see the enormous evidence of how much we all judge others based on 20/20 vision and hindsight. I’m the one who is going to spend the rest of my life knowing that I missed my daughter’s 8th grade promotion. Everyone can….I want to use words that I shouldn’t. I love my family and I love my daughter and I’m going to make it past this somehow. The rest of you who are mostly healthy and get to go to both the things you want to and most of the things you don’t…..think about your health. Don’t make it to everything you want to? Welcome to the lives of everyone else on the planet. And I was touched by how many people understood how I was feeling and reached out to both me and my daughter. And this post ended up long, about just one thing, so I guess I’ll move on to another post for the rest. For what it’s worth. I have way more blessings than I have disappointments. At the very least, I believe this phrase that I heard once, “The sorrows may outnumber the joys, but the joys will outweigh the sorrows.”  My blessings here on my trip to CA have far outweighed the sorrows, despite the frustration of missing my daughter’s promotion. And I kept myself from swearing (slightly swearing) over the subject. 😛

On a scale of 1 to 10…

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number-10I’ve discovered that there’s sometimes still a large disconnect between what some of the people who “know” me think I’m going through, and what I’m actually going through.

Have you ever been asked by a doctor how severe the pain is that you’re going through, on a scale of 1 to 10, or 1 to 100? I finally got the courage to ask one time, “So, what is 10? Is 10 going through labor? Because it’s bad, but it’s not that bad.”  I’m still not sure how to do that with friends, or when it’s even worth it. I have just a few friends that I will try to further explain it, because they’re the friends who have felt comfortable in the past asking for more details, and who seems to mostly “get it” even if they haven’t been through it. I learned the hard way, at a more needy time of my life, that even if I think someone who absolutely doesn’t get it and doesn’t seem to want to, even if they ask me questions, I probably won’t be able to ever talk or explain enough. They’re probably not emotionally ready, and I’ll just end up getting hurt, and maybe they will, too.

I still haven’t figured out the pain scale. Doctors seem to be able to figure out what they need to without me trying to gain clarity for myself.

As for my anxiety, thus far the “10” (and worst) for me was the time I had to go to the E.R. My doctor and therapist know what that means. I don’t think that many people have seen a panic attack that’s that bad, though.cure-297557_640

So, a couple of people asked me what it was that keeps me from church sometimes. (I feel a little vulnerable on this one, for some reason, despite the irony of writing it on a blog where I’ve already revealed quite a bit.) Usually, it’s that my anxiety is so bad that my nightmares have kept me from sleeping very well and I can’t wake up. If I can wake up, it’s more tricky. I’m more likely to go to church, but nervous about how I’ll be able to handle it. Last week I managed, but I had to miss a lot because I had to sit outside of Sacrament Meeting and Relief Society because the noise and crowds were too much. This week, I managed to sit outside Sacrament Meeting okay, but by Relief Society, I just needed to lie down. Some people may think, “oh, just do some breathing techniques” or one of the many other things I’ve learned. Those things help me on a regular Sunday, or in the long run, but when my anxiety is hitting a 7 or 8 (nothing most people ever have to deal with, I don’t think) that’s not going to do it. As I said to a friend, “If you had the flu, and weren’t retaining anything you heard, and all you could think about was lying down so you could calm down and get some sleep, would you stay?” Also, I DON’T LIKE missing things. Yes, I do get embarrassed if I start to twitch or I feel stuck somewhere and my mind is about to turn off because I keep trying and trying to do calming techniques and it’s not working, because I’m “running faster than I have strength.” No one was ever promised that none of us would have to deal with a difficult mental illness in this life. I don’t want to make people have to see it. It makes people uncomfortable. On top of that (and probably more important) is that it will keep getting worse until I find a way to calm down, and sometimes the only way to do that is to be able to lie down in a quiet room, by myself, where I know no one will bother me. dice-10

I had to ask a friend to take me home early on Sunday. It was quite a bit out of her way to drive several miles to drop me off, go back to church, then come home again this way. It was extremely kind of her. When I got home, I said, “I don’t want to be here, but I need the rest. But this means I’m missing church again.”

What did I learn from this that I need to work on? I took a long nap on Saturday afternoon, that ended up being full of nightmares and thus not restful at all. I ended up afraid to go to bed on Saturday. I need to try to go to bed earlier on Saturday nights, and learn not to be afraid. Plenty of techniques I can use with that.

I understand those who mean well who think one or two simple things, applied daily, will fix all this. It’s just not that simple. It’s more like a very long list of things that will possibly work, as I go through it and pray about it and talk with my doctor and my therapist etc., will fix this. Please don’t insult the intelligence or the integrity (even if we’re not perfect….I know I’m not) of those of us dealing with serious mental health issues. And obviously I don’t have it as bad as a lot of people: no hallucinating, no long stays (or even short ones) in the mental hospital. But getting over my PTSD is like having a full-time job: but one with odd hours and no sure answers. The answers are looking a lot better than they were 5,10,20 years ago, but one of the biggest battles is yet around the still elusive corner: (will I get approved for disability?)

I’m still kicking

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something will grow
I may have mentioned that for some reason I have had pretty bad depression and anxiety the past couple of weeks. At first I attributed it to

  1. Not getting to be with my kids for Christmas because I had the flu (would have been a two week trip)
  2. Getting to finally see them for one day during a quick three day trip (one day traveling there, one day with them, one day back) and then the subsequent let down
  3. Realizing that I’ve been here (a couple states away) almost four years when I thought it would be 6 months to 1 year
  4. Waiting on my disability hearing, which is supposed to happen this month….but I’m thinking it may not. It’s been a two year wait. I just want it over. I have a lot of emotional work to do on this one, I’m realizing, and I need patience badly.

My stomach has been hurting for days, I got my days and nights all mixed up last week (but not in any kind of “regular “order) and yesterday I just couldn’t eat anything. I didn’t sleep at all the night before, and I was hoping that would get my sleep schedule back in order (something people who know me really well have probably heard 100 times, especially before I got put on sleep meds). I fell very happily asleep early last night, after a fun singles home evening at our place. I woke up at some point to use the restroom in the morning, then slept fitfully with lots of nightmares until….5pm. Yup. I will do another post sometime about my fatigue and sleep issues over the past 23 years. It could be a long one.

So, between not having eaten much yesterday and then sleeping for a really long time, I woke up with really low blood sugar and unable to speak much. A good friend brought me McDonald’s (I eat the hamburgers without the buns….gluten free) and it helped a lot. I had no desire to try to go anywhere, but my roommate came home and said that she was going to volleyball/game night at the church and was only going to stay to play a few games. With as little as I saw anyone last week, I figured that maybe I should go. It was perfect. No one had turned on any music during the amount of time we were there, so it was quiet, and I was able to just sit and watch and realize that the world is still moving along and that I’ll be okay. I joke with people that my brain isn’t functioning enough to do certain things sometimes, which of course people laugh at because they relate, but I need to say it less often, I think, because it’s so very true for me so often. I didn’t try to play board games because I knew that I couldn’t. There was no way I was up to volleyball. I can just imagine the ball coming towards me and me ducking and saying, “Help!” which is kind of funny but possibly a little disturbing.

One of the PTSD support groups I’m in was rather helpful today. There can be so many posts in that group that it seems like most of them go unanswered, but in reply to someone asking a question, someone replied with this great post on a website that is a lot more informative than most that I’ve been on. It seems like most web pages about PTSD (or other mental illnesses) are really general and don’t give any hint of how complicated each illness/category is and how everyone experiences it in so many different ways. I’m going to use it for another post that explains more how my PTSD is the same and different from some of the things they mention. It really made me happy. I feel like it was the direct result to a prayer, as well.

I have so many blessings, and it can be easy to forget them when I’m experiencing things that just seem way too much. My home teacher mentioned a few days ago that that’s when he needs to look at the past for all the ways the Lord helped him then, so that he remembers that things will get better again, and that he’ll get through. Such a good reminder.

Tick Tock

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clock-474128_640Have you ever, while waking up, incorporated the sounds around you into your dream? I woke up early this morning to what I thought, in my semi-conscious state, was the sound of someone loudly chopping vegetables nearby. It took a while for me to wake up completely and realize that it was only the sound of my the ticking clock that my kids gave me, which I usually don’t even notice. It’s pink and shaped like a pig, and it’s a very happy clock.

I’d been having one of my recurring dreams, or rather recurring themes in my dream, which I won’t get too into. Let’s just say that while they were frustrating themes (trying to find a working shower, keeping people out of my room, couldn’t find my suitcase and clothes, not able to work) they weren’t full-fledged nightmares. I’ve gone about a week without nightmares, and I’m pretty happy about that.

“Good” Anxiety and “Bad” Anxiety

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The therapist I saw in L.A. did her Ph.D. specializing in anxiety. One of the things she taught me was that anxiety makes you tired, whether it’s “good” anxiety or “bad.”  I can’t claim to understand everything behind this, except that I do know that those who suffer from large amounts of anxiety tend to be more tired than most people. It made the fatigue I’ve experienced since my mission make a lot more sense.poinsettia-490853_640

I have to be careful yet again lately what I do on Saturday or Saturday nights, or I can’t wake up on Sunday mornings, or if I do manage to wake up, I’m shaking too hard to be able to go anywhere. I went through at least a good six months where I didn’t have to worry about it, so it’s frustrating. Last year around this time I only made it to church maybe 3 or 4 times in a period of 4 months. I think that’s the worst that particular problem has ever been.

On Sunday night I was able to go with my roommate to the First Presidency Christmas Devotional at the LDS Conference Center. Her parents are currently church service missionaries and live across from the Conference Center, and near Temple Square. I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity. We left just after church and drove to Salt Lake. I was okay, but by the end was pretty tired. I joked that I’d see what time I woke up the next day. It ended up being 5pm.  We had home evening last night and there was no way I felt up to it. I ate and went back to bed, waking up around 2am and 5am to eat. I’m still feeling overwhelmed. I think I need a good, big meal. On the good side? I had made it to church. It makes a huge difference in my week if I can make it to church on Sundays.

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If getting tired and anxious from a devotional isn’t “good anxiety,” I don’t know what is. I’m also getting nervous about the rest of the Christmas season. I’m just going to have to take it easy at least half the time. Meaning, not going somewhere every night, even if it’s mellow. Which, with my PTSD, it’s pretty much always “mellow.” I’m no party girl. I’ve been blessed to have found a ride home to be with my kids, now I just need to work on where I’ll be staying. I know that a lot of the stress I’m feeling is still over the unpredictability of my coming disability hearing: both when it will be, and how it will turn out. They only will give me two weeks’ notice. For something so stressful that can change my future so much (I really am in a lot of trouble if I don’t get accepted), I wish it could just be over with. The courts are backed up, so…been waiting almost two years now.

Trigger Tales: the Helicopter

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I had been told several times during my twenties that I probably had some form of PTSD, but since it didn’t hit me in the same way as it did war veterans, I took a strange comfort that it wasn’t the “same kind of ” PTSD that I’d heard about. In fact, it’s a common misconception when people hear about mental illnesses that everyone who has PTSD has it the same way, that everyone who is bipolar has it the same way, etc. It makes sense to order it in our minds that way when we’re fortunate enough to not be having to deal with it. Mental illnesses are like any other type of illness in that they manifest in as many ways as the people who have them.

Starting in about Jr. High, friends in one of my classes figured out that I had an exaggerated startle response. In other words, when they would do some sort of game like waving their hands in someone else’s peripheral vision, the person might move a little. I, however, jumped. I’m not sure why I remember this. In some strange way it was comforting to me, because they hadn’t teased me about it (I guess they thought it was some kind of superhuman reflex) and it was also some kind of proof to me that I wasn’t okay, even if my parents tried to pretend everything was normal at home. Jr. High was also a difficult time for me, probably the worst of my growing up years at home, which translated easier into difficulties feeling like I fit in at school. I went from “brainy” and mostly normal to “struggling socially.” Not too different from a lot of kids in that stage, unfortunately. I found out later that out of my siblings, only one enjoyed Jr. High.helicopter-390488_640

I have two kids, about 4 years apart. My daughter is the youngest and was born in Los Angeles not long after 9/11. My former husband and I had gone through a couple really hard years, followed by a small amount of peace (during which time my daughter came to be) and we moved to L.A. for him to finish graduate school. I was going through severe postpartum depression and constantly on myself, thinking I was doing everything wrong. As my ex once put it, “Do you think you’re responsible for everything that goes wrong in the world?”  At which time I realized that I did, and that it was odd, but I couldn’t seem to make the feeling go away.

We lived in student housing next to the 405 freeway, and not far from the intersection with the 10, and about 10 miles south of what they said was then (and still may be) the “busiest freeway intersection in the country.” It was a nice neighborhood. West L.A. is a nice area. It is still L.A., though, and we frequently heard traffic and news helicopters outside. Once I was walking back from a friend’s place in the student housing complex, and a helicopter passed overhead and on a loudspeaker someone said something similar to, “please stay indoors, suspect is in the area, on foot. Police are in pursuit.”  Not terribly comforting. Needless to say I quickened my pace and told my family.

The kicker for me in realizing that it wasn’t “just” Postpartum Depression (which is not a “just” for anyone, of course) and anxiety was when I was feeling overwhelmed, which was what I’d come to believe my life would just have to be like, and my kids were watching tv or playing in the family room and my ex husband was either walking by or sitting there. A helicopter passed nearby, and in a split second a felt a HUGE adrenaline rush, and I fell to the floor and covered my neck like we used to do in earthquake drills in CA in elementary school. It felt like there was a war right there, like the terrorists had come to Los Angeles and we were about to die. Then in another split second I realized what had happened: that I was “okay” and we were okay, and that it was just a helicopter (and I have never been in a “literal” war zone), but I was not okay. I just started to cry, wondering what was going to happen to me.

Triggers: No More Movie Night for a while

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audrey-hepburn-394264_640I’ve been attending a “movie night” with friends at a friends’ place almost every week for a few months. I will have to explain why this is tricky for me.

Those of us with PTSD have what are called “triggers” that can seem to come out of nowhere, which bring out our “fight or flight” symptoms and make us differing degrees of miserable, depending on the trigger. I think this article from About Health does a great job of explaining triggers. The article isn’t very specific, though, but I’m going to talk about one of mine anyway. I have a lot of trouble with noise. Sometimes it bothers me and sometimes I’m okay, I think depending on how tired I am and what I’ve been dealing with that day or that week. There are a lot of “coping techniques” for triggers, but it depends on, again, how you’re feeling and what else you’re dealing with if the coping techniques (such as breathing, taking a break, etc.) can take care of it right then, or if it’s time to go. Part of the problem with my PTSD is that I’m still trying to figure out what all of my triggers are and how to deal with them. PTSD symptoms (including triggers) don’t all just “show up” right after trauma. They can take years to show up, as most of mine have, and come and go (again) depending on what you’re dealing with in life.

I struggle with action movies. I thought I’d made progress with this recently. I successfully watched both The Avengers and Captain America 2 here at home on my small computer screen. So, when I went to “Movie Night” and their top two picks were two action movies, I thought I was going to be okay. My exit strategy over the summer was to go upstairs and read a book and watch the sunset. We watched Captain America 2, but immediately I could tell that it wasn’t going to be good, even if I’d seen it before. It was on a very large screen, and as people usually want to, they had the sound up pretty loud. When there was dialogue, it was okay. As soon as the action started, my body started to shake inside and the “calm” I had during the day was gone. This was way beyond the degree where I could control it in the moment. It feels like my mind and biology take over and there’s no going back. I had to gather my stuff and go upstairs. One friend insisted on going with me so I wouldn’t be alone (I am very blessed when it comes to friends) and then another followed, saying she’d already seen it and could take me home.gollum-472144_640

When I’m typing the analytical details of my illness, it makes it seem less real somehow, and the emotion is gone. The truth is is that I hate all of this. There are other things that I can do, and that I get to do, for a social life. I don’t have a car and yet friends give me rides. I can usually get the other places I need to go on the bus. I hate the weeks where I have multiple days that I have to stay home and can’t go anywhere because some family issue or medication issue has made my anxiety worse. In the moment of these things that I go through when I’m around people that I know, I  get pretty discouraged. I see that everyone else is just fine with the high volume level (in fact one person requested it higher because she has hearing issues) and they want all the lights out and are annoyed when they can’t all be out. (Not when they know why, though.) But the idea that I will always be in someone’s way and that in so many ways I can’t be normal is enough to struggle over for a while. I don’t know what I’d do without a therapist who understands these things, and has been there before, and for others who are going through it as well. Is it “in our heads?” Well, our brain is in our heads, yes. Can I make it go away through sheer perseverance, ASAP, so I stop annoying people? No. It’s not a particular hobby of mine to want to annoy people that I’m related to or who don’t understand.

However, it could be a lot worse. That’s not always a lot of comfort, but I still need to remind myself. I’ve been blessed with friends and some family who want to understand. I make it to church almost every week (as long as I’m feeling well) and I need it desperately. I need it just as much to see others and their needs as I do to just be out of the house and be reminded that people care. I have two great roommates. I have hobbies that I love, and even though I can’t always do them when I want to, I do believe that things will improve and that I’ll get to. Life has ups and downs, and so does my health. Finding triggers and healing them can be really unpleasant, at first, but if it heals me then I’m all for it. I just wish that it was easier to find the triggers and to know when they were going to show up. It’s part of my “full time job” of healing, finding new methods for healing, and working to figure out how the methods I know already can apply to help me out.

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