It never occurred to me that I would ever be diagnosed with a disorder stemming from severe trauma, let alone a crippling disorder that most people believe only occurs in men and women in the military. Many of our service members have witnessed haunting and traumatic events from war zones that will leave images and scars in their mindsets which will never go away. These traumatic memories create stress and fear that is so crippling, it takes away the quality of life that these individuals once thrived from. Most of these men and women, our brave military heroes, are diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) after returning home from war. These courageous men and women are the 'typical' faces of PTSD. However, as I learned the traumatic way, PTSD comes with much more diversity than that of our heroic military.
PTSD was not something that ever crossed my mind as a “diagnosis” for the deep pain and suffering that I endured on March 20th 2002. To be completely honest, from that day forward, I didn't care what was wrong with me. All I knew was that I wanted to die. This was the day that I found my daughter lifeless in bed, taking her last breath, succumbing to her terminal diagnosis of Lissencephaly/Cerebral Palsy. A day that I never in my wildest dreams could imagine coming true, yet a day that I had always been informed by medical specialists that death was, in fact, inevitable at a young age. A mother is never prepared to lose a child. We are their protectors, their caretakers, their mommies, their world. And they are the delicate little loves of our lives.
I am an Angel Mommy. I am one of the millions of faces who unrelentingly suffers from PTSD. All it takes for PTSD to ignite in your life is one drop of fuel, otherwise known as a catastrophe. One life-changing event. One cataclysm. One tragedy. One iota of trauma. One large adversity. One bad thing. That's the unlucky number. ONE. Law Enforcement, Military Personnel, Medical Personnel, Coroners, and victims of abuse are the most likely to be targeted by PTSD. Losing someone that you love is an extremely traumatic situation to go through, especially if you personally witnessed your loved ones death. However, there are a vast array of situations that could entice Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to intrusively take over your life.
The faces of PTSD are many. PTSD sufferers could be victims of child abuse, domestic abuse, a robbery gone bad, or even a devastating accident such as a collision or a near-drowning. Violent terrorist attacks are the newest cataclysmic events that are invading every country in our world today. What about the woman who carries her unborn child in her womb, becoming more and more bonded with her baby every day, only to find out a month before her due date that her baby no longer has a heart beat and has passed away inside of her? Or the child who is ripped away from their family because they can no longer be properly cared for by their drug-addicted parents? If that child is old enough to remember that traumatic experience, it would be safe to assume that he/she will eventually end up suffering from PTSD.
PTSD can surface immediately following trauma, or it can stay dormant for a matter of time, festering its way to the surface slowly, yet growing more intensely after each stressful event in our lives. PTSD needs to be properly evaluated and diagnosed in order for treatment to be medically prescribed. The prognosis is usually good, providing the patient has a great medical treatment team as well as a team of support from family and friends, and the recommended plan of treatment is successfully followed per the patient. Before treatment can take place, the symptoms of PTSD must be recognizable and reported to your doctor immediately. Here are the most common signs and symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Signs to be seen by your doctor:
• Stress reactions from trauma last longer than 3 months
• Stress reactions, emotions, and behavior changes cause you great distress
• Stress reactions begin to disrupt your work life, home-life and/or relationships
When PTSD is present, it is extremely hard to get through a “normal” day. It will disrupt your life and make daily activities impossible. Your quality of life will be diminished, and you will stop caring about things that were once so important in your life. You may start to withdraw from family and friends, and find yourself wanting to be alone. Dietary and health priorities will change, and you will no longer take care of yourself the way you used to. Personal hygiene is often the first to go, causing long term diseases like periodontal disease, weight gain, and a host of additional medical conditions. Look for these top 4 types of PTSD symptoms and call your doctor right away if you or someone you love is currently suffering from any of them:
• Re-living the traumatic event over and over in your mind
• Nightmares or constant dreams about the event
• Flashbacks of the event
• Sight, smell, or hear something that triggers thoughts of the event
Some of the daily/weekly/monthly phases of PTSD might look something like this for the individual who suffers:
• Hyper-arousal, or feeling “keyed up,” such as being jittery, paranoid, irritable, or angry
• Trouble sleeping
• Trouble concentrating
• Startled by loud noises or surprises
• Sit with your back to a wall in a restaurant or other public area
• Negative changes in feelings and/or beliefs
• Lose positive or loving feelings for people you once cared deeply about
• Not able to talk about traumatic event
• Forgetting parts of traumatic event
• Can't trust any one, the world is against you
• May feel suicidal or have suicidal ideations at times (just doesn't want to be here any more)
If you recognize any of these signs and symptoms of PTSD in yourself or in someone you love, please get medical attention as soon as possible. If you or someone you love is experiencing suicidal thoughts or ideations, please pick up your phone and call 911 to obtain the acute life-saving help that you need. Never assume that a suicidal thought is a game, a trick, or a fallacy. Save a life! Always take suicide seriously.
Going through life with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is rough. There's no denying that fact. With the right medical team and treatment plan, you can begin to put your life back together and learn how to live again. Life will never be the way it was before suffering through a tragic event. We are changed, we are different, we are writing a new story. Letting go of the grief that binds us to PTSD and beginning a new life can be the hardest part of our story sometimes. It certainly was for me. My brain had to accept what my eyes had seen... the death of my beautiful daughter. Once I began my treatment plan and started seeing a Psychologist, my mind was able to finally accept what it had been trying to protect me from for years.... the pain of ACCEPTANCE. The understanding of my insane GRIEF. The undeniable fact that my precious daughter is never coming back to this earth.
Although I handle things in a much more positive manner now, I still suffer from depression, anxiety, the occasional suicidal “thought,” and the overwhelming willingness to just give up on some days. But I don't. By God's amazing grace, I have learned to release all of my pain, my sorrow, my stress, my anxiety, and my often untrue thoughts of not being good enough, of not being able to save my daughter, my stinging accusations of “self-blame,” to my higher power. I find all of my strength in God through Jesus Christ these days. However, it would not be fair to simply say that God is my only solution to making it through PTSD. There's much, much more.
I take medication. I take psychiatric medications that help my depression & anxiety which helps me cope with stress in a much more calm and clear approach. I attend counseling every week. I learned how to relax and meditate on positive energy. I had to learn how to enjoy spending time both alone and with others again in a fun and happy manner. I pray consistently each and every day, which connects me to my higher power~ God through Jesus. My medications, which I declined to take in the beginning, have helped my heart to unharden from it's concrete rock stage, and has helped it to transform back into a loving, feeling, caring, and happy heart once again.
There's no denying that PTSD took it's toll on my health. I was just 32 years young when my daughter gained her angel wings. I am now 47 years old. Since being diagnosed with Severe Depression, Anxiety, PTSD and migraines, I was also diagnosed with Obesity from letting my health and nutrition go. I gained over 100 pounds in just a few short years after my daughter's passing. I was later diagnosed with Menorrhagia, Anemia, high blood pressure, and orthostatic hypo-tension, and had to have a full abdominal hysterectomy. Today, I was just diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, which is common in individuals who suffer from PTSD. I have taken my life back by following doctors orders, taking my medications, resuming fitness and weight training (which is great for depression, by the way!), and eating healthy again. Getting back to being fit, healthy, happy, productive, and being the best mom and grandma I can be to my children and grandchildren are my life goals in motion.
Although PTSD is not a “preventable” disorder, it is treatable and manageable. The most important thing to remember is to stay on task with your medical care plan by following through with every doctor appointment and counseling session, as well as staying on top of your medications if prescribed. Missing just one appointment or one pill can set you back into a place you do not want to be. Take it from me, just missing one step of my care plan will throw me off track for a week or two, which starts the depression cycle all over again. We want to be proactive, not counter-productive!
Remember, not all PTSD sufferers are military. If you know someone who suffers from the symptoms of PTSD, please reach out to them and discuss getting proper and timely treatment. If you know someone who is suicidal, take it seriously and call 911 immediately.
PTSD should not be made fun of, taken lightly, used against someone, or self-diagnosed. Always seek professional treatment. Never make someone feel bad for having a mental disorder or disease. Never tell someone that PTSD is only for military men and women. And never ever assume that someone is attention seeking when they are depressed, traumatized, or suicidal. Get help for that individual as quickly as you can. You might just be saving a life!
©2016 by Kymberly A. Morgan for Fit Life Health & Wellness. All Rights Reserved. For more information on PTSD visit your state government website, or visit www.mayoclinic.org