Body Memories to ruin my day.

 

Handling body memories while dealing with real life and in my case children, is not easy is it? I had come on here to ask how others handle it. But I guess I already know, because I am handling it, whether it feels that way or not. My children have eaten, they are busy playing/ watching TV, they are safe and oblivious to what I’m going through (and for that, I am glad).

I’m not sure of the exact cause but anxiety, dissociation and then body memories started about an hour ago. I assume I was triggered, I remember an intrusive memory but not the specific trigger. I’ve done pretty well up until this point, the day went better than I had hoped, I got things done and also managed to have some time to play with my youngest child. But now, both boys are home and the responsibility I have for them suddenly feels huge. It’s dark outside, everywhere is quiet and I can feel myself dissociating through the body memories. I know I am triggered because it almost always causes a rage that I have to make an effort to control. I have that bubble of rage in my chest right now. I’m fighting to stay rational when my oldest child goes upstairs, I fight the urge to tell him to stay where I can see him. But I am winning and that should probably feel good. Perhaps it would if it wasn’t such an effort all the damn time.

And how do I feel good when my head is throbbing, my thoughts are foggy and there’s a big ball of fiery rage pressing on my lungs, restricting every breath? How do I take delight in my win, when my body aches, my inner thighs, my pelvis, my abdomen from something that was done to me long ago?  I hate this, I hate the body memories so much, they aren’t real pains, they don’t exist anymore, what was done is over now. But oh how hard it is to smile at my children, how difficult it is to sit on the floor putting together duplo towers when I am feeling 14 again, when I feel the pains as if I am being attacked right now. And it’s so hard to hug my beautiful children, because I am fighting that rigid, frozen feeling body memories bring.

I’m doing the right things, reminding myself to breathe properly, drinking water to help me ground, surrounding myself in light, pillows and blankets, trying desperately to keep the children happy so they don’t scream and fight. It doesn’t make this better though and it doesn’t make it right.

Why should I have to fight so hard all the time? Isn’t it bad enough that I had to live it the first time? Why do I have to feel as if he’s with me now, when he has long gone?

Sometimes it is just too hard and it gets me down so quickly. And I hate him for that. I hate “him” so very much right now. 😦

The Positives.

The PTSD symptoms haven’t been too bad lately, it feels so good to realise that. I am sure it’s because we haven’t done any trauma work in therapy for a while which means it isn’t all as close to the surface as it has been. There are plenty of triggers around, dissociation comes and goes and I’ve had some hyper vigilance.. particularly last Monday (which was horrendous). In general though, I’ve noticed the symptoms have been quieter (yay!).

I’ve been able to leave the house more easily, I’ve been able to do the school run twice a day, with little problem. We saw friends yesterday, which was a little difficult at first, but I did it. Up until recently, I’d been barely leaving the house. It has shown me that things have been so hard because I’ve been doing trauma work. Going over that stuff, brings so much to the surface, which makes the PTSD worse.

This gives me hope that once therapy is done, I can lead a “normal” life. I know we will be back to trauma work soon and I know I’ll probably struggle again, but you know what? That’s ok, if it’s short term, if there’s an end. The symptoms having been noticeably quieter since moving away from trauma work, it gives me hope that it will be better long term once therapy is over.

 I had a terrible day last Monday. I was in a flashback for hours, my body was responding to a fear that I didn’t actually have. It’s not something I’m going into much right now, but after bringing it up with my T on Friday, we talked about what was behind the fear (the set of memories it took me back to) and I realised that while it is horrible and painful, it is no longer traumatic. The response Monday was because of a trigger and I couldn’t do anything to prevent that. It wasn’t a flashback of an unprocessed memory (as I often get out of nowhere) it was simply a body response to a trigger that I couldn’t avoid. I was angry at that, angry that it affected my husband, angry that I may have those sort of triggers forever, angry that even though I’ve processed that memory, I may still have flashbacks. That’s kind of another post, but I’ve been thinking today how it’s actually a positive too. I have processed these set of memories, I realised Friday that I didn’t need to go back into the details of it, I realised that I could recall it easily and put it away again. It wasn’t buried. Don’t get me wrong, last Monday was horrible and the memories have been way too near and the anger over it remains an issue, but it’s an improvement!

My T would say how I feel right now is all positive, all progress. I see his point, but even with the positives, it’s not even anywhere close to plain sailing. The PTSD symptoms are improved for sure, but there’s still lots going on. I’m aware I’ve been suppressing anger, I’m aware that I’m trying not to think about the pain and the devastation I feel at this stage. I’m journalling very little and I’m extremely busy all the time, frankly, I’m trying to avoid it when I can. I am aware I am still not through the other side of accepting what this really was. I’m continually shocked by the idea of grooming. I’m questioning lots of things, I’m struggling with my relationship (do I even have one?) with God. I’m looking at so many memories differently, the facts haven’t changed, but the way I view them has.

It’s so painful, it’s so hard. I am not having an easy time at all. But again, there’s hope. These feelings need to be felt, they won’t last forever. One day therapy will be done, the PTSD should improve vastly when trauma work is completed. One day the pain and grief will subside. I think I really am going to be OK!

Do you know how good it feels to say (type) that?

Ok, dissociation has kicked in after touching on the subject of grooming I guess, so I think it’s time for a break. 

Hyper Vigilance and a general whine.

 

Yesterday, I was hoping I was coming out the other side of a few weeks of hell. Despite some hyper vigilance my weekend was ok and ok is a huge improvement on how things have been lately. Yesterday, I had a pretty good day. Work was good, I had a date with my husband away from the children, we got all dressed up and went into the local City. It was good to feel alright.

Today, I feel like I’m on a come down, I woke with chest pain that hasn’t subsided and I am hyper vigilant. I have a week off work, both my children at home and I’m just a couple of hours in and my head is pounding. Their noise and movement, while completely normal for small children, is too much for me right now, it’s feeding the hyper vigilance. They are actually driving me crazy with fighting and moaning too.. I am considering taking them out to a park so I can get some space and they can run off some energy but not sure that will actually help the hyper vigilance, it may well hinder it.

Looking over my shoulder when I am out is all part of the hyper vigilance (assuming I’m not somewhere I actually do feel unsafe) I worry about people walking behind me on the street, in a shop, or having a child come up behind me on a scooter/ bike unexpectedly. It’s all normal every day stuff, but when I am feeeling this way it is very scary.

 

I suspect the way I feel is tied into going out last night. It was a little out of my comfort zone. Though I felt safe with my husband, there were a number of triggers throughout the evening that I noticed. I grounded quickly, but they were still there and they take their toll. I don’t think I was fully relaxed either, I was very aware of other people- other men, particularly when my husband went to the bar or to the “Gents”.

I remember once when I was at University in a bar with friends and a guy came over to join us, he had been watching us for a while and he said to me “your eyes are all over this pub” at the time I knew he was right, but I did not realise that it was a symptom of PTSD (hyper vigilance). It wasn’t quite as bad as that last night, but I was aware there were times I was on edge.

 

So, I’m kinda annoyed. I finally felt pretty good and did something I wanted to do yet I have to suffer for it the next day. Perhaps it’s my fault, for expecting too much or for choosing the wrong place to have a date.

I have a week off work, but right now I am wishing I was in work not home. Funny how when I am feeling bad and have to work I wish to be home. I’m not sure being anywhere in particular helps. I guess it’s a matter of riding it out.

 

Musings.

I would say the block I was experiencing is over, I have written a lot tonight, in my online journal mostly. It feels good, it’s an outlet for me, I’ve felt so tense without it. A few general musings:

The letter I wrote to him (My Shame (addressed to him)) the other night was a really huge step for me. Addressing anything to him is new, directing any kind of feelings towards him is really, really scary. I held back in that post, I’m sort of dipping my toe into focusing my feelings on him, it’s a relief in some ways, but it’s also difficult. The letter was a release, it helped me see how I feel about my own shame and what I feel about him in relation to that but I was shaking so badly after, it was hard. This is all so terrifying, each step forward is so unknown and unknown is scary. Every Friday I see my T and each week I step into the unknown, I face my fears and shame, I feel pain and anger, I explore and process my feelings surrounding the worst experiences of my life. As much as I need therapy, as much as I rely on my T, this is so very hard. I have to go through this almost every single week.

Therapy doesn’t stop after my session, I have a lot of work to do after, firstly recovering, then processing what we have discussed, evaluating any progress, or picking up on any issues I need to work on and exploring how I feel. In the midst of all that I have PTSD symptoms, a part time job and I am a mum to two very young children. It’s difficult, it seems never ending. I just had a week off work, to spend time with family visiting and I’m exhausted, I crave normality again, which hopefully is returning somewhat now, but I have no break, no down time at all right now. I’ve said it over and over, but this is so so hard.

I’m doing well though, my progress is pretty good I think, I’m moving forwards and I see the light waiting for me. I see changes already, I feel movement in me, sometimes it feels physical, I feel- really truly feel, change happening within me.

 

Discouraged

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Last week I was struggling with some feelings I couldn’t understand, I didn’t want them so I was probably avoiding them, which leads to a whole heap of anger, compulsions and then exhaustion. Also, due to an intense but successful therapy session the Friday before, I was left feeling triggered, even my husband was a trigger, it was the worst I’ve been in a while. My Therapy session last Friday really helped with both the feelings and the triggers.

The weekend was ok, I was really excited and proud of myself for surviving a weekend without  my husband around. I expected it to be a good week, with the decent therapy session solving rather than raising new issues and the high from doing well alone with my children.

It certainly hasn’t been that way.

I’ve had a lot of dissociation and yesterday, one of the worst flashbacks I’ve had in a long time.  I’m still struggling to ground 24hours later, it’s still there.

I’ve been really upset, because I should be feeling good, there is no reason for the dissociation and triggers, I don’t know why it’s been so bad.

I feel discouraged because if I can’t even be free of symptoms on the good weeks, then what the heck am I striving for? Why am I trying to get better if this is all I have to look forward to?

Why am I putting myself through the pain and exhaustion if even the good is ruined by the past?

I know, I know, it won’t always be this way, I am triggered and dissociating because of what I’m dealing with, because I’m no longer denying it, it’s so close to the surface blah blah blah. I know this, I do know it.

But I am still disheartened, still wondering why I bother…

I’m feeling pretty lousy, I hope seeing my T  tomorrow will help.

My PTSD Experience 2.

This follows on from another post entitled My PTSD Experience.

I was unable to blog about my experience of Body Memories last week, but I am feeling much calmer this week, so I have included this here. Also, I wanted to post some more about my day to day experiences and some pointers and tips for those who know me.

This next bit comes with a trigger warning and an extra warning to anyone who knows me. Please read with caution.

Body Memories are horrible, I thought I was crazy when I first had one. They are pretty much what they are called, a memory you feel somewhere on your body. Sometimes they accompany flashbacks, sometimes they happen after a nightmare. Sometimes they just happen, no particular memory or trigger I can identify. I feel pain or a sensation on my body that does not belong to now. (Ok, here comes the bit I warned about) To be frank, I can physically feel as if I am being or have been raped. That feeling disgusts me, it makes me want to leave my body. I feel irritable and angry, I usually dissociate to deal with it. These come and go, I seem to have more when I’m remembering a memory I have blocked, or when I am avoiding a memory. I am getting better at grounding from them. By treating myself well with eating properly and exercising regularly, I feel like I’m taking back control of my body.

I read once, that for someone suffering Post Traumatic Stress, the ordinary is often overwhelming, “the mere becomes sheer.” That is my daily life. Even on a good day like today, I still have heightened senses, I still struggle with a sensory overload, I am still bombarded with intrusive memories. Each day I have worries and thoughts and fears that infiltrate every aspect of my day. Small tasks take more effort than they should, this is obviously much worse when I’m having a bad day, it can get to the point where I am barely able to function. Better days, or even most days, I function fine, but it’s effort; getting up in the morning is effort, I always wake to some kind of hyper vigilance, it is always there. I have to ground myself every day, even on a good day, I have to do it. It is never gone, it never leaves me.

I struggle with noise a lot, it’s strange because I used to fill my life with noise as a distraction. I hated silence, I would always have the TV, or music on. I couldn’t go to sleep without a DVD on, or be alone without some kind of noise. Now I often find loud noises difficult. My inability to deal with noises, particularly sudden ones, are worse when I’m hyper vigilant (as mentioned in my last post on this topic), but even day to day, even when I’m not experiencing any symptoms, I find lots of noises together difficult. On a  bad day, everything feels louder than normal, as if the volume is stuck on LOUD. On a good day, I can handle one loud noise at a time, I can enjoy loud music for example, but say if there is music on, the children playing, then my husband is trying to talk to me, I feel like my head may explode. I know that is probably true of most, but it makes me  so overwhelmed, I  feel my mind sort of shutting down, it all just becomes one big blur of noise. I feel overloaded, I feel like all the noises are competing with each other, each one intrusive. It then becomes about staying in control.

To be triggered by symptoms is quite normal, for me at least. I am often triggered by dissociating. The dissociation I experience first started when I was abused, it was my escape from reality. When I dissociate now, it reminds me of back then (triggered) which causes further distress, which in turn can lead to deeper dissociation. It is often a viscous circle and it is hard to find a way out. It is much the same with fear. I fear, fear. Fear is incredibly triggering for me. My T said just last week that all my associations of fear are to do with the person who abused me. My experience of fear was the abuse and the abuser, so when I feel fear, it triggers me, which means more fear etc.- another cycle that is difficult to break free from.

In general “nipping it in the bud”  tends to be the best way of dealing with all the symptoms, calming them before they become big enough to trigger me further. It is much harder to ground myself when I’m so stressed that I’m dissociating. Spotting the signs of hyper vigilance or dissociation early enough is definitely the best way of dealing with it. I’m getting better at recognising the signs and starting to learn how to handle them before they get out of hand. It’s a work in progress.

I doubt very much that anyone that meets me has any idea that I have these symptoms, even if I experience them when I am with that person. I am very good at hiding it, I’ve been hiding it from myself as well as everyone else for a very long time. It’s actually very natural for me to cover it up. It’s an effort to be myself and feel what I do feel in front of others. It’s something I am working on.

Here are some signs to look out for, mostly specific to me:

Signs I am triggered- I wear stretchy bead bracelets, they help with grounding, if I am playing with them, then I am triggered or I am concerned about getting triggered. If the bracelet(s) are off and in my hands, then it’s likely that I’ve just had a flashback and I’m grounding. Flashbacks are over quickly (normally), I tend to go quiet and then concentrate on grounding. If it was a really bad once, I may stop responding, I may be a little agitated and irritable. Most likely, I will be trying to hide it, so will continue to try to talk and respond as normal. I can lose track of conversations, completely forget what I am in the middle of saying or what someone is saying to me as a result of a Flashback. It can also happen if I am dissociated. Ultimately, if I’m getting confused, or tripping over my words, then I am probably struggling.

Hyper Vigilance: if I am able to, I will communicate that I’m hyper vigilant, otherwise signs to look out for are shaking and/or an inability to keep still. I don’t just mean shifting position to get comfortable, I mean moving around a lot, sometimes just twitchy, sometimes my whole body. Hyper vigilance makes me feel incredibly triggered, I will be grounding constantly and trying to comfort myself, perhaps holding/ touching a pillow, or blanket.

Dissociation, it’s hard to tell if someone is dissociating. As I said in my last post, I tend to go on to auto pilot, I feel like I’m in a daydream. I can carry on conversations, continue to take care of my children etc.  Though, as above, I can get confused easily, forgetting things I’ve just said or done.

Main signs to look out for:

Losing track of a conversation 

Grounding

Unable to keep still

Shaking

What to do if you notice any of this? Nothing really!  There is no need to stop any conversation we may be having. If I cannot handle something  I will make the change. I will steer the conversation away from any topic I cannot deal with. If I’m talking while showing symptoms, let me continue to talk, I won’t say any more than I want to. Trust me to know my own body and mind and to know what I can and cannot deal with. If you are unsure, ask.  I am much more likely to tell you what I am experiencing if you ask.

One final and main point:

Please do not touch me: an accidental touch is fine, I’m not going to freak out 😉 but unless you’ve had the “ok” from me, a hug for example, is a no no. This goes for men in particular, even if it is a man I know and trust. And personal space-  again, that doesn’t mean you can’t sit next to me, just not too close and please don’t lean across me, it scares me and makes me feel trapped.

My PTSD Experience

Flashbacks, nightmares, body memories, hyper vigilance, dissociation. These are my main symptoms of PTSD. There were others that have faded since confronting my past.

The symptoms I have now vary in their intensity, sometimes I get several at once and it is almost unbearable. I don’t know what to do with myself when that happens. Normally  though, it is one or two, or one leading to another. Hyper vigilance and dissociation rarely go together, but most of the others I can experience at once.

Hyper vigilance is probably the symptom I hate the most. Mostly, this is something I get in the mornings, sometimes it goes very quickly, other times it can linger all day. It starts off with a shaking deep inside me, I feel like my insides are shaking, my jaw tightens, I clench my teeth. If it’s a really bad day, my whole body shakes, my muscles ache from the tension, particularly my shoulders. My eyes get tired easily, I find I am looking around constantly, whether it’s to ground myself or scanning for “danger” it makes my eyes ache. I feel hyper sensitive to noise, I feel like every noise is 10 x louder than it actually is, I feel the sounds scraping against my skull, it makes me irritable. Every noise and touch that I am not expecting makes me jump, which makes me angry. I feel like I’m under attack.

Comfort seems to help it the most, soft things, cushions, blankets, soothing noises, but mostly it’s time.

Flashbacks are hard to describe to someone who has never had one. Everyone has triggers, a piece of music, a smell that takes you back to school days, or your childhood home, an old boyfriend/ girlfriend, a holiday with friends etc. Triggers that remind us of horrible things also exist in all of us. Flashbacks can be a result if that “horrible thing” was traumatic. I was abused for most of my teen years, so I have a lot of triggers that take me back to that time. So many things trigger, I’m learning new ones all the time.

A flashback can come in several forms, I experience visual ones sometimes, but mostly it’s a feeling, a smell, sensation, noise.. something that doesn’t belong in the “here and now”. Sometimes it’s simply a fear that comes out of nowhere, yet the cause is no longer a threat, it is a fear of long ago.

I don’t get lengthy flashbacks very often, hardly at all any more in fact. I ground very quickly, normally it’s over in a second or so. That doesn’t sound a lot, but even a second where you feel like you are back experiencing your trauma, is a second too long. Sometimes the rooms sort of shakes, the edges of it cloud and it’s hazy and then I ground, I’m back and I’ve no clue what the flashback was. Though I’m left with the fear, I am at least spared the memory. Other times I’m just in it right away, re living it as if it is happening. It can be a bit like a day dream, I’m aware of now, but I’m also aware of then -except it’s not then, it feels like now. Does that even make any sense? This is so hard to explain.

After a flashback, the feelings vary, but often it leaves me feeling triggered, by that I mean, other memories are too close. They hit me in waves as I try to remain in control and grounded, while also trying to recover from the flashback itself. It can all be incredibly distressing. This is particularly difficult when I also have a job and children, if it happens when I’m at work, or picking up a child from school, it is terrifying. That level of responsibility while I’m just trying to remain in control of myself is a great deal of pressure. It makes me fear flashbacks not just because of what I may relive, but because of a worry about where or when they will happen and how I will handle that. I probably ground more than I need in an attempt to avoid them.

Grounding is the best way to handle them, by that I mean anything that roots me to now, to keep my focus in the present. Some people suggest counting objects in the room, counting colours in the room. I prefer to use things I can touch, or hold. Hard flat surfaces work well but similarly some soft comforting items can help too. I also find the noise of chimes very helpful, I wear a chime necklace most of the time. Otherwise, I avoid triggers if I can, anything that I know will trigger and is possible to avoid, I avoid it.

Nightmares are similar to flashbacks but worse in some ways. I’m asleep, so I cannot ground, therefore the full dream plays out. The nightmares are reliving the traumas, sometimes they differ, details may change, sometimes it’s me now rather than then. I wake terrified, the best thing for me is to try to get back to sleep, but isn’t always easy. Often the fear lingers, my husband even has to accompany me to the bathroom, a few steps away, because I can’t switch the fear off. I know I’m safe with him, but not all of me gets that message right away. Body memories occur after nightmares, though at times they happen following flashbacks. I’m not going into those, it is not something I feel able to blog about right now. Just take my word for it, they are horrible.

Dissociation, this is relatively new to me, not the feeling, but my realising that I do it. I dissociate at times of intense stress. I often feel lightheaded with it, it’s a bit like being drunk. My head and body feel disconnected and I feel as if I’m in a fog. I have thoughts that I know I want to think, but I can’t reach them. I feel like I’m not me. I can hear myself talk, or write, or see myself do something, but I can’t connect it with something I have done. I can do things on auto pilot but have no recollection of doing it. We all get that at in some forms at times right? Ever driven somewhere and thought “how did I get here?”

I feel disconnected from myself, like someone else has taken over. I shared with my T that this happens and I told him it used to happen at the time of trauma. As I grew to trust him more I was able to elaborate on that, he has since said it’s dissociation which kicked in while I was going through something traumatic, the extreme stress of the situation caused it to happen. He has explained that when I get very stressed now, it automatically kicks in. It’s something I did to protect myself, it was needed then. Now, it just frustrates me, even when extremely stressed, I don’t want this defence mechanism kicking in at all anymore. The only way I can avoid it is to de-stress, to notice when I’m getting very stressed and take steps to alleviate that.

So that’s an overview of what I experience regularly. It isn’t easy, sometimes I wonder how much more I can take, sometimes I get very down, disheartened, or very angry. When the symptoms are really bad, I find myself wondering why I had to go through those traumas to then have to continue to relive them now. Sometimes it seems very unfair, but whoever said life is fair? We all have challenges to face, this is mine. I thank God every day that I have been able to handle things so far, that I survived the traumas that caused this and that I continue to survive through the reminders. I have many blessings in my life now, those are my focus, my reasons.