Getting hit with delayed onset PTSD rocked my world. The first strike happened to as I was approaching my 40s. Life hasn’t been the same since then. I basically, slowly but surely, went off the rails. I couldn’t really explain or understand why I had began experiencing so much anguish. Sure, some of it made sense, but I began lashing out and had a severe case of wanting to go… to just be alone. To escape the heavy burden of not loving life anymore.
I do know that I had been under an intense amount of stress due to things that had been happening in my life, which eventually my optimistic personality couldn’t overcome. But, it was a specific event or moment that triggered my delayed onset of PTSD. When it hit, I can only explain it like this – make a big circle with your hands and place your hands in front of your stomach – imagine a high voltage or a bolt of electricity hits with such force it could knock you over. It felt like my stomach was punched hard or struck with a large amount of electricity. I nearly couldn’t stay on my feet. I held onto the counter as the electricity traveled up and through my body. Time seemed to not exist. This instense sensation continued traveling thru my body until the “fear or threat” was over. It could have been 30 seconds or it could have been 5 minutes. Once I returned, my eyes unlocked from the threat and I was able to move again. There were a group of people visiting all around the room, since we were at a holiday function. I was there with them, but I had no idea what just happened. Somehow I carried on. Because I had to. I would process later.
The next morning I had a severe migraine and tears began to flow.
After researching stress, I began to understand that extreme amounts of stress on the mind and body is a gateway to connecting to the anguish of old traumas. Keep your stress levels down!!! Add a visual trigger to the mix and BAM. I would never wish what I experienced on anybody, except maybe people that have hurt me – because part of my childhood trauma is having moments of wanting to hurt the person back. Let them see how it feels, so to speak.
I’ve done a lot of reasearch and eventually reached out for help from a PTSD specialists, plus began devouring books on childhood trauma. And, while some people don’t realize they’ve been struggling with symptoms their entire lives – low level anxiety, need for control (extreme control is unhealthy), hypersensitive to certain people’s behaviours that subconsicously remind them of an emotional feeling (even if they don’t understand why and are just trusting their “vibes”). And, there is so much more!!!!
Some behaviors I could definitely connect to past trauma, but many low-level anxiety responses I didn’t connect. Even things like skipping meals is a form of self-neglect that can manifest in a person who experienced childhood trauma. There are adulthood traumas, too, so if you’ve had childhood + adulthood traumas that were easier to disconnect from and just move on to a better life, because hey the decision to “let go” or “get over it” is how you move forward, right? That’s what I did. Very successfully. I didn’t dwell on things. Or so I thought!
If you’re anything like me, I had a good personality. I was up to good things. And, although I had experienced some stressful things – distressful, too – I kept the faith that all was okay and things were good.
But, when I was “hit”, my mind started reeling and my body didn’t feel good. It was so confusing. I tried to battle everything with “mind over matter” and now I’m working with a specialist. I know that my good natured, feel good personality is being clouded by these other deeper issues I’m working through.
For me, I was dealing with things that I didn’t recognize as my “normal human” symptoms because they began manifesting from a trauma place. From what I’ve discovered, normal responses vs trauma related responses differ in their intensity.
If you’ve been trying to find answers or understand what’s happening with you, then I want you to know that “I get it” and the roller coaster or spinning that may be happening in your mind or body is real. You are SO not alone. But you probably want to be. At least, that’s the only solution that I think will work for me…to just be alone. But, who knows, maybe I’m wrong! See? That’s an example of complex thinking and wondering if you can trust yourself – because is it the PTSD thinking happening, or the “you” speaking.
I believe a few reasons that I withdrew from people is because:
#1 I was conserving my energy as I adapted and adjusted to this new excruciatingly painful time of life.
#2 I had to remove myself from any opportunity that another person’s reaction to the choices I had made in life (divorce & then new relationship) couldn’t hurt me anymore. I couldn’t stay under attack from other people that did not understand I had to make this move. I walked thru the fires of hell.
#3 I had to go thru a breakdown in order to become a different person. In fact, I always believed it was for a deeply personal, not always understandable, growth process. Everything was happening because realignment needed to happen. In the long run, I have a deep belief that from all that I’ve gone thru and all that I’ve learned, I am only going to be a better person in the long run. I was stripped of everyone and everything. And, there was no escape… I had to face my traumas and dig in to understand and transform them. I had to face the ugly things about myself, too. And, accept them as beautiful in that moment. I’m the “find the silver lining” type of person. The bad has a silver lining, too. I was rollercoasting on my emotions and with myself. It wasn’t easy and I still have my days. I’m still on my journey to rise above who I was and how my life shaped up, so that I can redesign and remold it, hopefully into a better, more compassionate, more lovely person. I can’t heal or fix anyone, but I can tell you what I went thru, and how I navigated the choppy waters.
Right now, it is so important that you take really good care of yourself. It’s something I really had to focus on and consistently remind myself to love myself A LOT. And be gentle to myself. As much as I wanted this emotional pain to be gone, I had to be gentle with myself when it hit. Life is still going on while a person is dealing with trauma related anguish, so be gentle!
Try to wake naturally – so that you get the refreshing, healing sleep your mind and body need to rejuvenate and renew itself. Nourish your body with light, healthy foods. I negelected my body and brain by not eating several times a day. I would skip meals, needing a couple snacks and one main meal per day. My hormone system also tested as slightly overactive thyroid hormone – which means my metabolism was already slightly overactive. I needed double the food the average person needed. It was like getting a double dose of neglecting my body and brain of the nourishment I needed. Some people over eat, I under ate.
Create some really comfortable spaces in your home that you can just relax and rest and laugh and sleep. Make sure you get out of the house, if you’ve found yourself indside more than outside – yard work and driving around helped me, and walking, but be social too; find a specialist because they really know what they are doing – make sure you connect with what they say though or their beliefs on what works.
I believe there are some outdated thinking like “tough loving” that doesn’t work, and for some people “reliving” the experiences may not be effective. There are new less unobtrusive, yet powerful ways to get some relief and process everything that’s coming up and out for you.
Some days I would get so sad or angry, thinking…
I was doing so good. Definitely in a much better place than a year or two ago. AND SUDDENLY, am in so much pain. Emotional pain. My body would be overwhelmed with pain – in the neck, shoulders, clouding my body and head. I just wanted it to stop. Would it ever stop? Part of the pain was me processing as I worked with a specialist. I do exercises to clarify and express, ALONG with identifying ways I perpetuate or project my feelings/thoughts/fears on others. Or start to see things in others because they are relevant to what I am learning. Pretty cool!!!
Some things that keep me grounded and moving forward are to remember that I am still that person I’ve known myself to be – the good and kind and skillful and great things about me. And, to recognize that some things about me have changed, which means I thought I was taking good care of myself, when I really wasn’t. It can be hard to admit to myself some things I thought were true about me, weren’t. An example is how I repeated an abusive behavior – not realizing it. Usually it happens to family members. But being aware of it allows a person to stop the behavior because it’s not who they want to be. Realization is key to stopping a behavior. It’s an eye opener! It also allows me to have compassion for a person who innocently does something that another person could label as really bad. Abusers and victims will statistically repeat some behaviors – not necessarily at the extremes or exactly the same, and many behaviors are stopped dead in their tracks, but it’s good to be aware that there may be subtle behaviors repeated because it happens!
Try not to neglect yourself or your home – make both priorities because how your home feels and how your body feels both have a direct influence over how you interact with yourself and your life.
Find things that make you feel good. Pedicures, getting dressed with a little make-up on, and having sharp razors for shaving (not shaving makes me feel less clean, but I have to use a sharp razor), making flowerbeds, digging in the dirt, a clean, tidy home, and a clean vehicle are important to me. It helps with my overall joy, plus I’m sure it helps with my self-esteem. Try to be social, instead of isolating yourself while processing. Processing comes and goes, and I went thru a period that I was so profoundly confused about myself and what was going on that I didn’t want to be around other people much. But, as I re-entered “life” in more consistent ways it really helped remind me of who I really am – without the limitations of distress from PTSD.
I could probably write a book and forever read on this subject because it has become so fascinating to me.
Take care of your body, your brain, and your psyche. Once I get through this purging process, hopefully I’ll have to only maintain it with minimal effort – just like I do by living a streamlined lifestyle… which became a skilled gift I honed, in part due to needing control, in part needing a soothing environment, and in part in needing to enjoy and live a happy, productive life. I can connect those dots so much clearly now.
Sending so much compassion your way… you’ve got this!