Posts Tagged With: PTSD

Day 1683: Blending

I’ll be blending several elements in this post, as usual.

My therapist, George, tells me I’ve been blending my traumatic past  experiences as a child in the hospital with my present experiences as an adult.  This blending results in heightened and often inappropriate anxiety,  fear, and hypervigilance.

Yesterday, George and I were blending our wisdom and our commitment to healing in a therapy session, separating out the experiences of  my frightened, wounded, and powerless  10-year-old self.

Here and now, I’ll be blending my photos from yesterday.

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That last image shows people in my Wednesday morning therapy group blending their experience, hope, and love to create a list of coping strategies during difficult times.

At the end my therapy session with George, yesterday afternoon, I told him I’d be blending my love for music into today’s post with this song for him.

I’m blending my thanks to all who helped me create this post with my thanks to all my readers, including YOU.

 

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Categories: personal growth, photojournalism, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Day 1427: PTSD

Because I’ve experienced several traumatizing events in my life, starting when I was a child, I have been given the diagnosis of  PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

However,  I also have Psychological Training for Surviving Disasters AND  Pretty Thorough Skills for Durability.

When Practiced, Those Suffice Dependably.

I am now Prepared To Share Different PTSDs I’ve been experiencing recently:

  • Post-Thoracotomy Stress Disorder
  • Pacemaker Transplant Stress Disorder
  • Pain Tolerating Stress Disorder
  • Physical Tasks Stress Disorder
  • Painfully Taking Stairs Disorder
  • Political Talk Stress Disorder
  • Post-Trump Stress Disorder
  • Pre-Trump Stress Disorder
  • Presidential Terror Stress Disorder

To relieve my various PTSDs, yesterday I Photographed These Scenes Deliberately:

 

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Do you have Photographically Tired Stress Disorder or any other form of PTSD now, my Patient, Terrific, Stupendously Dear readers?

Here‘s a PTSD song by Joe Bachman:

 

Peace, Thanks, Sincerity, and Devotedness.

 

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 45 Comments

Day 243: Freaked-out-nomics

I’ve been freaked out lately, even while I’ve been trying to keep my pledge of “no worries” for 10 days.

Why?

Lots of reasons.

  1. There was a “perfect storm” of circumstances where I live, which resulted in some significant water damage.

  2. I thought I had picked up an ailment on my trip. (I had not.)

  3.  I am going even more public — including where I work — about my being the longest surviving person in the world with a cardiac pacemaker*, as I am participating in an American Heart Association charitable walk.  (Of course, I’m going more public about my pacemaker world record by doing this blog, too.)

  4.  This morning, I spent many hours trying to create and send e-mails asking for contributions for this charitable walk, and at different times it looked like (1) none of the e-mails had gone through AGAIN!!! and (2) the e-mails had all gone through and were going to bombard people with the same request many times.

Some of the reasons I listed above may seem more minor than others.

But when I get freaked out, many things can feel like Life or Death situations.

There are very few situations that are Life or Death, but sometimes my perspective gets out of whack.

At times in my life, I’ve dealt with life-threatening situations very calmly.

At other times, I’ve dealt with non-life-threatening situations with all my alarm systems blaring, full blast — Danger, Danger, Danger!

During times of Full Blown Freak Out, I’ve encouraged myself — and others — to ask these questions:

What is hurting me right now?

What danger exists to me, here and now?

Hold on. I’m going to breathe, sit quietly for a few seconds, and ask myself those two questions.

The answers are:

Nothing.

None.

Better.

Thanks for reading today.


* In 2014, I found out that I am NOT the longest surviving person in the world with a pacemaker. See here for more about that.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Day 209: Two sides of the same coin

This post was inspired, somehow, by watching the show “Breaking Bad” with my son and my bf last night.

Not sure what I’m going to write today. That’s not an unusual situation when I sit down to write a post, but it’s true, even more so, this morning.

Several years ago, when I facilitated writing groups, at a Psychiatric Day Program, I would often suggest that people write freely without editing. Sometimes I suggested people write with their non-dominant hand.

Not sure how to “free-write” with my non-dominant hand when I’m typing, today! But I will do my best.

I’m noticing that my left leg is bouncing as I’m writing this.

One of the people in one of my therapy groups, last week, pointed out that my foot was bouncing — air-tapping — when I was making a point that felt important.

Later in that same group, when we were doing a writing exercise about the topic of “Worry,” I made the suggestion that somebody, who was stuck, try “free writing” and maybe try writing with their non-dominant hand. They kept writing with the same hand, but the suggestion seemed to help.

I think the bouncing leg/tapping foot thing is a sign of two sides of the same coin: Fear/Anticipation. Anxiety/Energy.

I’m not sure if my leg and foot are bouncing and tapping more lately, or if I (and others) are just noticing that more.

Right now, I want to write about something that happened last week, when I woke up in the middle of the night and had trouble getting back to sleep.

When that happened, I tried something new, based on what I’ve read so far of this book (which I’ve referenced in a previous post, here):

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The author of that book, Peter Levine, writes about how people who have experienced trauma (and he says that many of us have experienced some form of trauma) often have the normal, animal physiological responses to that trauma frozen in their bodies.

I often think of the “deer in the headlights” response, when I read his book:

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Peter Levine also cites the “Flight or Fight” fright reaction.

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(Note: The above illustration came from a blog called “The Atomic Meme,” in a post about the biology of stress.)

Peter Levine, in “Waking the Tiger,” says that our primitive, protective reactions to fear-inducing traumas get stuck in our bodies.

I am not sure how Peter Levine is going to “prescribe” — in his book — how people dispel those frozen impulses. I haven’t gotten that far, in my reading.

But I came up with my own prescription, in that middle of the night, last week, when I couldn’t sleep.

Here’s what happened: I woke up and the calf muscles in my legs were hurting me. They were painful. They were tight.

Why were my legs doing that, I wondered? It was possible that I had walked too much that day, in too-new shoes. It was possible that I needed to drink water. It was possible that I needed more potassium.

All of these were possibilities. The reality was: I couldn’t get back to sleep, no matter what I tried.

And I thought about something I had read in the book: Peter Levine’s life-changing experience as a treater of trauma.

Here are some excerpts of how he describes that important encounter, in “Waking the Tiger”:

I was asked to see a woman, Nancy, who was suffering from intense panic attacks.

She appeared paralyzed and unable to breathe.

I became quite frightened.

I had a fleeting vision of a tiger jumping toward us.

I exclaimed loudly, “You are being attacked by a large tiger. See the tiger as it comes at you. Run toward that tree; climb it and escape!” To my surprise, her legs started trembling in running movements. she let out a blood-curdling scream.

She began to tremble, shake, and sob in full-bodied convulsive waves.

She recalled a terrifying memory from her childhood. When she was three years old she had been strapped to a table for a tonsillectomy. The anesthesia was ether.

Nancy was threatened, overwhelmed, and as a result, had become physiologically stuck in the immobility response.”

So, when I couldn’t get back to sleep, after a couple of hours, my legs still cramping (they felt like they were saying, “We want to run!!”), I decided to try an experiment.

I got out of bed, in the dark, and stood there, thinking about that passage above.

My son was asleep downstairs. My boyfriend was awake, downstairs. The cat was downstairs, too. So I knew I wouldn’t be frightening anybody with my experiment. No one would be able to hear me, I was sure.

As is often true when I do a mindfulness exercise, I wasn’t sure what exact form this experiment would take. I gave myself the following instructions, “Run as hard and fast as you can, in place, like your life depends upon your running, on your getting away from what you’re scared of.”

And I ran in place, really, really fast. I didn’t scream. I didn’t need to. The running was intense, hard, and fast.

I didn’t “get anywhere” because I was running in place. But in ways, I covered a lot of distance. I released a lot of energy. And I felt like I might be able to get back to sleep.

When I went back to bed, my legs weren’t hurting as much. They felt a lot better.

A little while later, I was still awake, and my legs still felt stiff. So I tried that exercise one more time.

Then, I tweeted the following:

Cure for insomnia + leg cramps + anxiety + weight gain = Run like you’re being chased by monsters. Rest, repeat.

And I went back to sleep.

Now, I want to end this blog post, so I can meet my old friend, Barbara, on time. (I’ve mentioned Barbara, before, including this post about some “monsters.”)

Thanks to Peter Levine, tigers, “Breaking Bad,” my son, my boyfriend, Barbara, and to you, for reading today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Day 201: Naming vs. Labeling

This year, I’m working on reducing and letting go of anxiety.

That’s one of the kashmillion things, it seems, that I’m working on, during Our Year of Living Non-Judgmentally. Another thing I’m working on this year is focusing on what I AM doing, rather than on what I am NOT doing. That effective coping strategy is just another way of being more present in the moment.

Speaking about focusing, in the moment….)

I’m working on reducing and letting go of anxiety, this year, for these reasons:

  1. I am a psychotherapist, who does group and individual work at a large teaching hospital.
  2. As one of the Primary Care doctors in my practice described it, anxiety is “an epidemic among the people we see.”
  3. As I’ve mentioned here, anxiety is sometimes a sign that something is very important, and the work I’m doing is very important to me.
  4. Hospitals can be a PTSD trigger for me, because I spent a lot of time, as a child, in the hospital, undergoing heart surgeries and other scary things, often alone.

Regular readers of this blog may know that I like to acknowledge when somebody does something new.

The New is always risky, and deserves recognition, don’t you agree?

Here’s something new I just did, in this blog.

I used the term PTSD.

Time for my old friend, Google:

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder. It can occur after you have gone through an extreme emotional trauma that involved the threat of injury or death.

Another gift, from Google Images:

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(That image, above, which I chose just because I liked it best? Turns out it’s from a blog called “PTSD after Open Heart Surgery. Go figure.)

Here’s a third gift from Google, regarding PTSD:

A helpful description of PTSD from NIMH (the National Institute of Mental Health):

Yes, I do love Google. Let me count the ways:

  1. When I am writing this blog, I can use Google to search for definitions and images to help support, clarify, and enrich my topic.
  2. Google gives me a large and varied choice, in response.
  3. I have the control to choose what I want.

I like having lots of choices and options.

I also like having the control to name things, in a way that helps me. As I’ve written about in this blog, naming something is the first step to recognizing and accepting it. (And acceptance — which doesn’t mean liking or approving– is the first step towards change.)

Naming is very different from labeling.

Labeling is one of the 12 Cognitive Distortions in CBT:

Labeling or Name-calling. We generate negative global judgments based on little evidence. Instead of accepting errors as inevitable, we attach an unhealthy label to ourselves or others. For example, you make a mistake and call yourself a “loser,” a “failure”, or an “idiot.” Labels are not only self-defeating, they are irrational, simplistic, and untrue. Human beings are complex and fallible, and in truth cannot be reduced to a label. Consider this: we all breathe, but would it make sense to refer to ourselves as “Breathers”?

While naming is helpful, expansive, and generous, labeling is not.

Labeling is restrictive. Labeling is judgmental. Labeling can cause paralysis and pain.

Very different from naming.

Diagnoses, at times, can be a kind of labeling. I work with people who have diagnoses of PTSD, and I see the effects of stigma attached to that diagnosis (and other diagnoses, too).

But diagnoses can also be a kind of helpful naming, too.

People, when they receive a diagnosis, often express relief. I hear people say that a diagnosis helps to contain and clarify their experience.

And, it helps to identify options. And identify next steps.

Like with my old friend, Google.

Okay! Time to put this blog post to bed, so I can start getting ready for my high school reunion tonight (where I’m looking forward to seeing other old friends).

Thanks to Google, my friends, my high school reunion, my readers, and everybody and everything else that is helping me, so much, on this year’s journey.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Day 161: Tales of Tigers

Tiger Tale # 1

When I was a little kid, my parents went away on a trip. They brought home, as a gift for me, a Steiff puppet, that looked a lot like this:

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I was apparently unfamiliar with the fine points of animal classification at that age, because I named it “Tiger,” despite the telltale lack of stripes on its fuzzy little body. Tiger became my favorite toy. I slept with Tiger and often carried him around with me. As we say in the psychology business, Tiger was a transitional — or comfort — object. Or, as one might say in any business, I loved Tiger very much.

One of my main memories of Tiger is — of course — a scary one (since those are one type of memory that tends to stick). My family and the family of my mother’s best friend were visiting New York City. I was carrying Tiger with me, and Richie — the son of my mother’s friend, who was a little younger than I — grabbed Tiger away from me, yelled, “I’m throwing this off the top of the Empire State Building,” and ran away. I remember being so scared and upset, in that moment, standing frozen and alone, both Tiger and Richie gone.

I can’t remember details about what happened next, except for vague memories of Richie catching some hell about that. And I know that Tiger was returned to me, because here he is:

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Two things you might note about Tiger today. (1) He is hangin’, these days, with his own transitional object and (2) the top of his head is particularly fuzzy. The latter is due to his needing corrective surgery years ago, after being placed on the top of a lamp, so he could listen to a little girl practice piano.

Tiger Tale # 2.

When I was 10 years old, and had my first major heart surgery at Children’s Hospital, I know I didn’t have my comfort object, Tiger, with me. People probably thought I might lose him. Or maybe there were other rules about that. I know there were rules, during those days, that prevented my parents from being with me there, outside of normal visiting hours. (Things have changed, quite a bit, regarding parents and children and hospitals, since 1963.)

My mother told me a story, later, about sitting at my bedside, soon after that surgery, during regular visiting hours. I had fallen asleep. Suddenly, I stiffened. As my mother described it, “You went stiff as a board. Then, you yelled, ‘I have a tiger in me! A tiger!!'”

My mother was freaked out and frightened by that, I know. Again, I don’t remember the details that followed.

That tale has always stuck with me. My assumptions about that — then and now — include these: I was in pain. I felt like violence had been done to me (and my world). I was probably scared and angry.

One thing I’m noticing now: Just like with my Steiff puppet, I used the word “tiger” not-exactly-correctly, to name something important to me.

As I’m revisiting this story today, I’m glad I didn’t yell out the name of another ferocious thing with fangs and claws — like Bear, Beast, or Monster. Instead, I used the name of something I already loved.

In a lot of ways, I’m still making sense of that moment.

For example, this is a book I’ve been reading lately:

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I bought this book, years ago, because of the title. Since then, it’s been recommended by several people, as an effective way to work with people dealing with PTSD symptoms. I’ve resisted reading it, until now. (Also, I CANNOT hold on to the first word in the title of that book. Whenever I mention it to somebody — a healer, or somebody who wants to heal — I can never remember the verb. In my mind, I struggle: “Taming the Tiger?” “Turning the Tiger?” “Stirring the Tiger?” And I look it up, every time, to discover that first word, anew.)

The time is here for me to look more closely at that tiger. And even wake it, in some way.

Something that helps me feel braver and more ready: I’ve always loved cats, of all kinds. Big ones. Little ones. Wild ones. Tame ones.

Including this tiger-striped one, who watches me as I write:

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Thanks to all, for reading today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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