Tuesday, January 17, 2012

PTSD and Me


Today I had an appointment with my therapist.  She asked me if I was having nightmares, specifically repetitive ones.  I told her that yes, I've had a few.  Then I told her how I have been experiencing anxiety and small panic attacks, especially when going into social situations that involve more than one other person.  How being in or near some places around town triggers uncontrollable flashbacks in addition to the panic.  How sometimes I can't stop thinking about a certain few moments of time from when we were in the hospital with Eve.

She told me that I have PTSD.  Post-traumatic stress disorder.

I know that this is not an uncommon thing for babylost mothers.  I know that I lived through -- and continue to live through -- something bitterly traumatic.

But a diagnosis?  It scares me.  A lot.

Because this is not the first time I've been handed a psychological diagnosis.

If you have followed my blog for a while, you know that in 2008 I was diagnosed with an eating disorder.  A year after that, I was diagnosed again, this time with depression.  Both of these diagnoses were paired with intense struggle and suffering that went on for years.  That nearly robbed me of my life and my marriage.  That did rob me of countless opportunities to live and love and experience joy.  Those diagnoses were harbingers of devastation.

I don't want another diagnosis.

I'm already going through hell.  I don't need to look forward to more psychological wrestling.  I don't want that.

I'm trying to remember that my therapist also said that PTSD is experienced on a range -- that it can be more or less intense, and that in my case it is closer to the "less" end of things.

But I am scared.

Because I want to know what it means.  Will this anxiety ever go away, or will it get worse?  Does this diagnosis mean that my present struggling will go on and on long past the grief has healed?  That it will prolong this hell that I am living in?

I know that God is bigger than this, bigger than everything.  But He let me live in my eating disorder for years and years -- seventeen years, to be exact.  So while I know that He will redeem whatever this diagnosis means, that He has healing in His hands, I don't know when that redemption and healing will come.

This journey of grief and pain and trauma -- it's going to be a long haul, I think.  Longer than I can fathom.

So I will not look at the future and let wondering about when? rob me of now.  I will look at my hands and my feet, and shed the tears from the heart-well that has no bottom.  I will look around me at the sky's brilliant blue and the frosted grass.  I will breathe and breathe and breathe.


  1. ((hugs)) I was diagnosed with PTSD after Charlie died. About 6 weeks after, actually. My signs were the same as yours. Nightmares, anxiety, etc. It does get better. It flares up every now and then, around birthdays and angel days. But I took a very low dose of zoloft and it helped take the edge off tremendously. Sending love and prayers.

  2. I guess that's encouraging, Jana. :) I just wish it wasn't something I had to think about. Is it weird that just knowing I have PTSD, even if it's low grade, is anxiety-inducing? :P

  3. I too have been diagnosed with PTSD, depression, anxiety...you are not alone!

  4. Beth, hugs to you!

    A label shouldn't define you....what you do with that label does.....so just "choose" to ignore it....or think about it....it's just defining what you already knew and were experiencing....you recognized you were having panic attacks and I'm sure you've done what you can to deal with or avoid them.....you had to "know" they were panic attacks to be able to do that :)

    Did your therapist give you any suggestions on how to handle the label, since that has a bigger impact on you it seems than the actual condition, which you were dealing with? or did you not come to the realization until after you left? Can you call her and ask? I hate for you to have to wait until your next session and to stress about it that entire time!

    Just remember that the dreams and feelings are just your body's and mind's way of dealing and processing what you've been through....it's normal grief. You've just got to get through it and get to the other side of it....you've got a big day coming up so it's going to be a tough week.....be gentle with yourself and don't beat yourself up about a stupid label! <3

  5. thanks for remembering my due date with me! that is so sweet. xoxo

  6. Oh, what an amazing song. Thank you for sharing it. Your unshakable faith in God is something that I find amazing.

  7. Thank you so much, Goog. But believe me -- God takes all the credit. At first I was so mad at Him for letting Eve died that I really tried to not believe in Him, in His love and goodness and power. But...I couldn't. I'm so grateful for that. Love to you. xoxo

  8. Hey Beth...I live with PTSD also. The way I come to understand it is that we've experience a deep wound/trauma. There are many 'triggers' that remind us of the trauma. It could be a smell, sight, dream, or voice. What has been most helpful to me is to be familiar with my triggers, not to necessarily avoid them as a fear response, but to recognize what is happening and to orient to the present moment. I've learned to be very familiar with what my physical responses to trauma triggers are then to do something concrete to 'order' the memory so I'm not reacting as though the past trauma is currently recurring. The diagnosis is NOT your identity. It is a way to help you to understand what has happened, what is happening, and begin to develop new tools to help you heal.

    You have a terrific foundation in your spiritual life and a developing gift in your art work. In fact, drawing in the midst of a PTSD episode...as it's coming on...has been shown to be one of the most effective therapies for complete healing. Check it out. Many sources are available.

    As always, I'm praying for you and so appreciate you sharing your story.

  9. Beth - I hear you girl! That word 'diagnosis' is so big and scary and so clinical. But The fact that you are such an open book and willing to share and seek out support will hopefully make the path to overcoming this a little less lonely. Keep on breahing, we're here to listen. xo.

  10. When you look at your feet...feel them too. Feel them on the ground. Press them down. Know that the ground isn't going anywhere. It is a safe, stable, firm, foundation. When everything else is tilting and turning, the ground is always there. Ground = God.

  11. Beth, I am so sorry for all of the pain that you are going though. You are in my prayers. Hold on to God's love & I know He will see you through!

    Psalm 13...
    "how long, LORD? will you forget me forever?
    how long will you hide your face from me?
    how long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    how long will my enemy triumph over me?

    look on me and answer, LORD my God.
    give light to my eyes, or i will sleep in death,
    and my enemy will say, “i have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

    BUT i trust in Your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in Your salvation.
    i will sing the LORD’s praise,
    for He has been good to me."

  12. yes. that is a beautiful psalm, Sarah. thank you for reminding me.

  13. God binds up the brokenhearted
    He treasures you and will BIND up your broken heart.
    ptsd is a fancy name for that- there are many clinical/psychological terms for broken hearts. you are looking at and walking through your pain with Him always by your side, and that is what it takes to overcome. Don't be afraid of the diagnosis- God holds your heart just as sure as He holds your baby girl.

  14. I remember when my doctor told me I had it too. I was shocked. I mean, after he said it-those words- it made perfect sense. But I had never thought I could get PTSD. I thought only war veterans or victims of crime had flashbacks and panic attacks. But he helped me see that knowing I have triggers and knowing that it's normal to have some PTSD after what we've been through is good. It ended up helping me a lot in the long run.

    I actually had an episode today, Beth. Sitting in a doctor's office. I wasn't even in an OB-GYN office. It hit me all at once and I couldn't stop the tears. I think I cried on and off all day today.

    I know that pregnant women - usually just really big bellies- cause me anxiety. And doctor's offices can, and boys my son's age... all of these things are triggers for me. But I find it good to know what my triggers are and I feel more empowered b/c I know what's going on. Before my diagnosis, it was scary not knowing if I was crazy or not.

    I'm rambling now, but I just want you to know that you're not alone, Beth.
    many hugs to you. love,

  15. thanks, Ebe, for encouraging me! <3

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