Tagged: coping with PTSD

POW

Each night is a fresh hell brought forth by memories I can never erase.

Since the war, my life has become a monotony of misery. My sheets soaked in sweat each night from panic, tangled and shredded at my feet from the struggle.
I’ve gone through five sets this year alone. And it’s only April.

Palms sweating. Heart racing. Numbness in every extremity. Unexplained, excruciating and near constant pain. Hot then instantly cold, unable to regulate my own internal thermostat. Racing thoughts of worthlessness and suicide. Rocking in my bed, unable to lift my head or even leave the safety of my sheets some days. The constant invisible agony that no one sees.

Each quick turn of the head gives me glimpses of gore. Hacked bodies lying on city streets, machetes headed in my direction. Flashbacks that can over take my whole reality and leave me in psychosis hell in an instant with terror in every direction. You see to me a trigger is only the small part of the gun staring in my face. It has no relation to the things it “should” and people’s coddled affection for my ailment only leaves me pitied and alone in my misery. There is no amount of shielding that will lessen my fate. You see, the smell of cooked bacon, reminds me of their burning flesh, but I can read about rape until the cows come home. I can explore gore without emotion, but spending joyful times with my nieces and nephews leaves me paralysed with dread for days.

You see, my brain has learned to interpret success and joy as pain and trauma. Permenantly etched as the new reality, each new bliss follows hours or days or even weeks of panic and intense urges to flee, run away, hide, or die. Just stop the pain that follows. I can’t go through it all again. Afraid to be happy, feeling underserving, it has transformed my life into a sad misery where every joy is literally pain. Pure torture.

When people laugh and joke that they have “PTSD” after something minorly annoying happens to them, I feel like they have just punched me in the gut and left me breathless, keeling over from worthlessness. Diminished. Like my struggle is worthy of their laughter, and that I am somehow weak for having this viseral physical reaction to the protracted trauma I experienced. I consider if for just one moment they could reach inside my head and feel this type of terror face to face if they’d ever make that joke again. But then, I wouldn’t wish that horror on anyone. Not even for a moment.

My reality looks bleak. There’s a 70% chance I’ll suffer from this trauma for the rest of my existence. You see, I’m a prisoner of war, trapped forever in the hell my own brain has created to compensate for the horrors it could not explain. It’s no wonder most of us just decide to end it. There are enemies all among us, politely ensuring we survive only to endure more horror and there is no one ever coming to rescue us. We are in this all alone, forever.

It doesn’t matter how “good” things get… it’s still the same.

With everything coming up, me feeling passion and spark again, the darkness still pervades. I couldn’t get out of bed this morning. Couldn’t get out this afternoon. Overwhelming sadness and pain and sense of dread.

And now I’m behind in my work. And the stress and pressure I knew would follow are here. I don’t think I can actually do this job. This dream job that I’ve been waiting my whole life for. I’m no longer actually capable. And it’s not because I’m not smart enough. But that my brain only has a tiny capacity to be able to deal with, because it is burnt out from just existing at this point.

All day, all I’ve thought about is dying. How it would legitimately be the best option for me and everyone around me. I wish I wasn’t such a coward. Every day is hell. Every day is pure agony. I can’t take it anymore. My heart feels like it just might explode. My brain is the same. My body is physically exhausted. But I’m just supposed to live in pure agony every day for the rest of my goddamn life so other people aren’t a little fucking sad when they think about me? And they say suicide is selfish?

Fuck. I just can’t anymore. It’s just too fucking hard. I’m drowning, and there is no life preserver. There’s no lifeguard. No one is coming to rescue me, and my arms and legs no longer work.

My therapist, psychiatrist, and doctor all say they are running out of options for me. I’ve tried every therapy they’ve got. Nothing changes. I’ve tried every medication they’ve got. Nothing changes. I’m coping, but I’m barely hanging on here. They are now suggesting trying things I’ve already done again. Hoping the second time around will bring success. I know it won’t. My brain is forever damaged. Everything I try is just a band-aid on a mortal wound. It will soak up the blood, but ultimately, it’s not going to change the outcome.

 

 

 

 

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So things are progressing.

I got offered a new job. Working as a research consultant on an incredibly important project that could make great changes in my community for an extremely vulnerable sector. I had been volunteering with them to get out of the house a few times a week to progress with my healing, and in the process made myself indispensable to them.

Despite my employer fully understanding my illness, offering me as many mental health days as I need, offering healing support, and the chance to take a healing retreat. Despite them saying I can work from home as much as I need, skype in, and trust them with the truth. Despite my feelings of being empowered once again, my passion being reignited, my confidence increasing. Despite the good salary, benefits, and supports offered there. I’m terrified.

I haven’t worked a full day in almost 5 years. I’ve been afraid to have anyone rely on me for anything, because I couldn’t properly ensure I could do the work.

I know it’s the right decision to take the job, but what if I fail?

What if I can’t do what’s necessary?

What if I don’t sleep for a week, and require hospitalization again?

I know it’s going to be hard. My employer has set it up so that I start part-time for two months to get back into the swing of things, and then move to more full time hours. They have told me I can ease into gradually, and gradually accept more responsibilities. They begged me to take the position. Said I was desperately needed.

It feels good. I won’t lie… it feels nice to be needed again. To have the spark reignited of overwhelming passion for a project. But my self-confidence is severely shaken. It feels like I am not capable or intelligent anymore, like I used to be.

I know that this will come in time, so for now. Fake it, until I make it.

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I haven’t shared this yet before to anyone.

I don’t have nightmares and flashbacks about the rapes. I feel degraded and I was physically hurt after them. I don’t have nightmares and flashbacks about the other violence that was done to me. These things don’t keep me up at night.

When I close my eyes, I see their faces. They are burned into my memory forever. The first one is the one that haunts me most. We were in the car, out-maneuvering a road block to try and get back home safely. We had been out trying to get food because we knew we wouldn’t get any in a while, and by the time we came back to the district it was overtaken. The road block was lined with bodies, we knew stopping was not an option, so we sped past it. And as we slowed down just after the block to try and get around it, there she was. This woman, naked, and covered in blood. She ran beside the car and begged at my window to be let in. Banged her fists against the glass. I started to open the door, when J leaned over me and locked it tightly, swerved out of there as the drunken militia men shot random shots at our car. I see her face. We could have let her in. We could have saved her. As we sped away, we saw them shoot after her, and her go down. We saw them catch up to her and chop her still living body to pieces. I did nothing. I said nothing. When it mattered, I froze.

The next one came knocking at our door a week after the fighting intensified and the streets were lined with raping, killing militias. Begging to be let in, for food, for shelter from the militias.  J said no. No one can know we are in here, or we’ll die like the neighbours did. I didn’t argue. I didn’t even put up a fight. I just froze. And then we watched as bits were chopped from his body with machetes, while they laughed. We smelled his body burn through the night.

This happened several more times during the several months of occupation. I did nothing. I remember each of their faces so clearly. Their pleas at our door, or at my car window. I did nothing.

J said if we helped them, we wouldn’t be here. But we didn’t even try. I see their faces every night. I feel the cold of the tub under my foot as we propped ourselves up into the tiny window from the third floor where we would go to watch the militias when they weren’t in our courtyard. Watch and do nothing. Watch as these people begged at our door. Watched as the militias came and rounded them up. Watched as they butchered or lit them on fire. Watched. And did nothing. That was our day. Gather supplies from the house when the militia was out, one of us watching in the window for them to come back, then running to our hiding places when they returned. Staying in silence for days, weeks at a time. I swear, J and I could read each other’s thoughts by the end of it. We had short hand signals for everything.

I don’t even know their names. But I could describe every detail of their faces. They are as clear to me as if they were here right now, standing in front of me. I see them everywhere. When I go for walks. When I’m hanging out with friends. I’ll turn my head and see them pleading, as if they were right here, and I was back there in an instant. I shake it off. Go out for a smoke. Try to remember what I was talking about if I’m mid-sentence. I can at least recognize and not be terrified by it anymore, but it’s a constant. Every day. Everywhere I go. I see their faces. They haunt me because I didn’t do what I should have done.

Why didn’t I say something? Why did I just watch and do nothing?

People always tell me how strong I am, and I just laugh, because that feels like a fraud. When it counted, I wasn’t strong. I didn’t stand up for the people I could have.  I didn’t stand to my core values. Of what I believe and always thought I would do if ever given the chance. I’m not a hero. I’m a freezer. I did nothing. And their deaths are on me.

No matter how much I try and rationalize like J did, that we did what we have to do to survive. I can’t. I did nothing. I said nothing. I put up no fight. I would have rather died there knowing I tried, then live with this guilt. It’s eating me up inside.

It’s so hard to explain to people that I’m ok, like I’m not going to kill myself or anything, but I’m really not OK. I’m struggling every day, and I try to hide it as much as I can, but some days, it’s overwhelming. I haven’t slept properly in years. It’s taken it’s toll. My adrenaline is constantly on overdrive. I still jump at loud noises, and cry or panic at fireworks. I still have days where I can’t leave my bed, or my house. Days where the outside world seems so scary that all I want to do is run and hide in the woods and never come out again.

I’m doing the things. I’ve done countless therapies, drugs, experimental treatments, healing ceremonies, counselling, acupuncture, routines, diets, you name it, I’ve probably tried it at this point. Most with this disorder never fully “recover”. They spend their whole life with flashbacks, nightmares, pain, numbness and tingling, hot and cold, insomnia, etc.

Nearly one quarter of those with PTSD attempt suicide. The number with C-PTSD, which is what I have, is even higher. I can see why. It’s literally hell every day. I don’t want to die, but living like this for extended periods of time can be unbearable. There’s no relief. I’ve reprogrammed my life through all the different CBT, dialectical, etc. therapies, so that I can live mostly a “normal” existence, but I don’t sleep. And they’ve got nothing for that that I haven’t already tried. It puts stress on all my organs. I have constant pain. I feel like half the person I once was. I can’t concentrate, my intelligence is dwindling by the day. My memory is non-existent.

I’ve decided to try an experimental approach again, and am going to take DMT in a therapeutic environment. I figure I have nothing to lose. I’ve got a month until I can try, and I am eagerly hoping that this will give me even a little bit of relief.

Until then. Back on the scheduled tasks tomorrow. Back to the routine. Keep at it. Fake it till you make, even if you never make it. Fuck, it’s depressing.

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I have only slept about 6 hours in the past 6 days. 6 hours out of 144 hours.

Today, at least, I got my second wind. Energy like crazy. So I’m going to expend it, and try and get some shit done, wear myself out so that I will crash.

I took several sleeping pills over the last 6 days, with no effect. I’ve tried every sleep strategy known to man in this time, taken every supplement I can, and still my mind tells me, nope. You are not sleeping today. I’m too afraid.

I can’t blame it, since every single time I close my eyes, all I see is torment and horror. It’s re-traumatizing each and every night. It’s like living that torture again every single day.

I’m done. I’m just physically done. At most, I get 3-4 hours sleep a night. It’s been that way for most of the past 5 years since the war. It’s not enough to function on. My body hurts constantly, and it’s no surprise why. I can’t concentrate, read, focus, control my emotions. Everything is screwed up because of the lack of sleep.

And yet, every couple months, I go through this same routine again. No sleep. No matter what I do, for days on end. The worst was almost 10 days. I started hallucinating. Talked to God. I’m really hoping it doesn’t get to that again this time around.

I have safety plans for what to do in these types of situations, but I never like the options.

Go to my mom’s house. In the biggest city in the country– nope. Besides the problems associated with staying with my mother (eating terribly, having nothing to do, and having to deal with my mom’s severe mental health issues), I am terrified to be in the city, especially heavily populated areas. I can go to my dad’s. But I can’t smoke my marijuana, which I need to function, and he wants me out of bed and doing chores outside all day long, which is sometimes near impossible for me if I’m in pain. Also, his bitch of a wife is there, and I fucking hate her. I can go to my sister’s, but I have to sleep in the cold basement on a blowup mattress. They work all day, so I’m home alone anyways. I could go to the hospital, but I’ll get treated like shit, get degraded, locked into some room, treated like I’m not intelligent, and sent home with sleeping pills and no sleep. All of these options have the problem of what to do with my cat. Who doesn’t like to be alone, or away from me, specifically.

So I try and manage it myself from home, but it’s scary. I worry about what might happen if I start to hallucinate. Last time I took a bottle of sleeping pills because God told me I needed to sleep and that was the only way to do it. I didn’t want to kill myself. Not in the slightest. I just wanted to sleep. But in my sleep-addled brain, that made the only sense.

At least I got some of my spring cleaning done today. Pruned my plants. Did some of my chores. Got some things done. Anything mindless is perfect right now.

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My week.

My week has begun to take shape once again.

A scheduled routine of monotony. But it’s ok. It’s the only way I’ll ever heal again.

My Mondays and Tuesday are work days. I do my freelance writing on these days for any clients I may have.

Wednesdays, I do grant writing for a nonprofit I’m working with, and then go to Healing Circles in the evening.

Thursdays I work on new poetry and any leftover freelancing.

Fridays, I have my songwriting course.

Saturdays are usually fun days where I have dinners or hang outs or parties.

Sundays, I do the soup kitchen.

These regular scheduled things where I have to go out of the house and do things.

My other daily task list ever lengthening. Trying to get back to routine, but also to catch up on the things I’ve been missing in my illness for so long.

I’ve got to have a shower. I have to play the guitar for twenty minutes or so. I have to do yoga in the morning and the evening, at least a sun salutation. I have to do write in my journal. I have to write here on my progress. I have to do my dishes, at least every second day.

Scheduled monotony.

This has always been my dread. And now it’s my life.

I went from being the most interesting person, to being dreadfully boring, at least in my day to day.

I applied to work at a restaurant as a server one night a week. Just to get out of the house. In place of the farm, which was working so well for me over the warmer months. The only problem with steady work is my illness. Freelance works so beautifully because it’s project work. Do this one item, at my own pace and hand it in a short time later. I can take on work at my leisure, and turn it down when I’m stressed or sick.

But working at an office. Or a factory. Or in the service industry. Where my attendance matters to the employers and I can’t just do the work later in the evening, or the next day when I’m feeling better.

It’s almost impossible for me to get a full time job for this reason. I can manage as I am now, with what I do, but I live cheap. Very cheap. And I try to stay within those means.

It’s not a glamorous life, but I’m not lacking for anything I need.

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I did my daily excursion for the day. I went to the healing circle. And it was a good day to go. One of the Aunties who never comes was there and had some great wisdom for us. I feel like this is a new positive in my life. That I leave the circle feeling much more grounded and at peace.

I had so much difficulty getting out of bed today. But I did the work I needed to do, I did the writing I needed to do, and I’m even doing the writing here to mark my progress.

This journey to healing is a lot more complicated and long than I thought it would be. I never thought 5 years later, I’d still be here suffering in this way. Still not sleeping. Still struggling through the cognitive behaviour therapy. Still struggling to get through each day.

Today, I got a lot of hugs. And it’s amazing the power of touch to help recentre you sometimes. I got very warm, loving hugs from mostly strangers, yet they held me in the embrace as if we were old friends. It’s amazing to me when you can find that connection with an absolute stranger and share some warmth.

I’m at a bit of a loss for words today.

I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of emotional labour for other people this week, and have given very little time to my own self-care. I really wanted to visit with my grandfather today, but it didn’t happen, yet again. I feel so guilty about it, but it just devastates me for days every time I visit with him. Seeing him in this state, in a home he hates, having people care for him, when he was so independent for so long, it rips me up inside. And the entire time I’m there he talks about how depressed he is and how he wishes he could just die, and I can’t handle it.

But then the guilt comes when I don’t visit. I feel like if he’s sad, he needs us more. How I wish I was normal and had a house I could afford to move him into. That I could pay for private care. Have him socialize with my family of friends. Have some homemade food. I miss my grandma so much too. She loved us soo much. We couldn’t have asked for more love. She was dedicated to us like none other. Mother bear to us all. I know without her, grandpa too is lost. She had their days filled, the meals made. She gave him company and love.

Tonight Auntie’s words got to me. She was resigned to go to the spirit world. To leave this existence. And she didn’t want us to cry for her, yet tears streamed down every face.

The memories we hold will stay with us. Their spirit is never truly gone as long as we remember them.

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