Monday, 6 February 2017

It is dangerous to use our own ability to access non-traumatic memories as a standard against which we judge a trauma victim’s response




“For anyone who wonders what it's like to have a tragedy shatter your existence, this is what I would tell them: it's like going through the motions of everyday life in a zombified state. It's having outbursts of anger for what seems like no apparent reason, for even the smallest of offenses. It's forgetting how to be your once cheerful, perky self, and having to relearn basic social skills when mingling with new people (especially if those people are ignorant, or just plain terrible at showing sympathy). It takes a while to re-learn all those basic skills. Maybe...it's possible. Maybe you have to want your life back first, before it can start repairing itself But then you also have to accept that the mending process may take the rest of your life. I don't think there's a set time limit for it.” 
― Sarahbeth CaplinSomeone You Already Know



Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is mental illness that a person can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event, that often has threatened the person's safety. Symptoms may include disturbing thoughts, feelings, or dreams related to the events, mental or psychical distress to trauma-related cues, attempts to avoid trauma-related cues, alterations in how a person thinks and feels, and increased arousal. Those who suffer PTSD are at high risk of suicide. 

I haven't really spoken about the PTSD diagnosis I have as well as my BPD. So today, I thought I would dive into the hardest and most darkest battle. I was at a festival with my friends on the weekend, they all running up to me and checking if I was okay. I will speak openly about it, not for a justification, for an understanding. My reactions are extreme when I enter relationships, or even let someone in close enough to see the internal pain I do carry in me. No one knows or sees the pain mentally ill people have inside of them. Sometime you can see the pain when they self harm or attempt, but there is no other way to really express it. I long for an understanding, and I know the right people who respond well when I explain to them do. Some others wont, and thats okay. I don't need the validation of every single human being, I do how ever seek validation from the people closest to me, as when I have that validation its more easier to heal, then being shut out and removed like I mean absolutely nothing. 

I have distress escape methods, an example is last Monday trying to dissociate is what lead me into psychosis, as well as parts of my brain responding in the way it did to abandonment. Logically, I know people come and go. I even said to the doctor it's not that I need someone around me all the time, its just in those particular moments of psychosis I am triggered, and that is when I need safety until I can settle back to my rational and calm self. I think that isn't a big ask or want, and I don't think thats crossing a boundary by wanting someone who you feel safe with to be with you. 

It makes a lot of sense to try get away from intrusive memories or things that make you feel threatened or unsafe. The strategy seems to work from things considered 'normal', i.e.: When you are cold, you grab a blanket to keep you warm and make you feel pleasant. However, when we try apply this to our emotions, it seems to backfire. This is the nature of distress intolerance. That is, the more we fear, struggle with, or try to avoid any form of distress, generally the distress will grow more severe. Our fear and avoidance of stress actually magnifies the distress. 

Now imagine chucking memories of sexual, psychical and emotional abuse from a parent figure on top of that. As my friend said Sunday, she couldn't imagine how that would feel considering you are supposed to be nurtured and loved by your parents. That is something I will have to process, accept and come to terms with for as long as I am living and breathing human being. So when I do enter the realms of psychosis, it is completely understandable why I want to end my life. I don't want to live where I feel this way each time someone abandons me where I get triggered, I don't want to live with memories beyond my control, and I certainly don't want to be in a world where people are ignorant to it, and turn a blind eye when I do need that support the most. I understand you primarily have to look after yourself, but in times of distress and someone safety is on the line, ignoring that can be damaging. 

If people haven't been exposed to this haunting side of mental illness, I understand they wouldn't know how to help, wouldn't want to be there to see that and would not know what to do. This is what is frustrating though, they care so much about themselves in that moment they completely make misjudgements about the situation. They are more worried about heir day tomorrow, what jobs they have to do, that they will lose out on money or they want to be out partying. I can tell you now there is a lot of times people don't see me in the states they have, and I am quite capable of being alone. But in those situations where someones rational thinking is completely not present, would it hurt to take that extra step to help them? Stay with them? Check in on them? We aren't asking for a life dedications, we are asking for a simple understanding and a different perspective then to the one you assume. Listen to the lived experience people, not your friends, not other peoples opinions, LISTEN to the person in pain and distress. 

I have certain distress escape methods I use that can be very detrimental to my health. It's only the last six months I have learnt a whole lot more about myself few certain triggers that can trigger me down the path of self destruction. I in no way blame people for how I react, I blame no one except the experience I have endured and the pain that has been inflicted on me that was beyond my control. 

The first distress escape method I strongly seek for is known as reassurance seeking or checking. This is when you try to ally your distressing emotions by excessively seeking reassurance form other people or engaging in some repetitive behaviours. This will temporarily bring you comfort and take away some pain the moments, but the relief is shortly lived and you start to rely on doing these behaviours for comfort. I tend to over question or consult other peoples opinions to calm myself down. 

The other method I use is distraction and suppression method. I tell myself to 'stop' the emotions coming to surface and then I become angry when I start to feel it. The problem with this is I cannot keep it up for very long, and its like trying to keep an emotion buried. It will then explode to the surface and can be unbearable for me to feel, and scary for other people to watch. It eventually exhausts you and keeps resurfacing when you least expect it to. 

Numbing and withdrawing is another form of escape. I know majority of people will experience this as it's a defence mechanism and coping strategy. The most common way is to use substances such as drugs and alcohol to stop the pain and escape the emotions. Other forms can include excessive sleeping, isolation and avoiding places and things that may make you feel something. I was so numb from my psychosis I was experiencing that it was only on my 25th tablet I realised what was happening in that moment. I had turned off any emotion I have. 

Harmful release is something I relied on heavily since I can remember. I use this to release or vent the pain of the distress I am feeling. Rather than allowing my emotions to run naturally, I injure or self harm to stop the emotional discomfort. Abandonment is my biggest issue as I was left in these states ever since I was little to deal with the distress caused by others, so as soon as someone leaves me in a state or episode, I will self harm in a way to cope and block out the emotions of feeling that way. Not only am I upset no one understands that, I get angry at myself for caring if they leave me that way. So it's a vicious cycle and is damaging to myself more than the other person involved. It may be minor or major harm, but I can tell you it's not a fair, nice or good way to deal with distressing emotions that surface from abuse and trauma. 

The issue with escape methods is it's only a problem short term, compared to trauma and pain that will be internal. It seems understandable to use these methods because sometimes it works and stops the distress in the moment. But most of my methods have repercussions. The three things I try to remember to avoid the escape strategy is- It's damaging and causes other problems in my life, the negative emotions worsen because you feel you haven't coped well with the situation at hand, by continually using your escape strategy, you never learn helpful ways to tolerate the distressing emotions an you never get the opportunity to stay with the emotional distress and therefor challenge the beliefs you hold about not being able to tolerate negative emotions. 

I know I am able to accept what happens when I have the right support around me. It's a hard, long, road to recovering from things that you had no control over. I do my very best, and I only speak openly as I know everyone else is suffering in their own way. Trauma is personal, it stays with you for life and you can only commend yourself for wanting to continue to get help, even though its not your actions that put you in this terrifying way to live in the first place. PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions. It isn't the initial trauma that creates the most crippling pain, it's the lack understanding and support after the episodes or flashbacks have taken place.

As Judith Lewis Herman accurately describes it: repeated trauma in childhood forms and deforms the personality. The child trapped in an abusive environment is faced with formidable tasks of adaptation. She must find a way to preserve a sense of trust in people who are untrustworthy, safety in a situation that is unsafe, control in a situation that is terrifyingly unpredictable, power in a situation of helplessness. Unable to care for or protect herself, she must compensate for the failures of adult care and protection with the only means at her disposal, an immature system of psychological defences.






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