Monday, March 26, 2012

Do I really have PTSD? or, Ayelet the Unfilial

Yesterday my mother ambushed me. Showed up at my apartment as I was just sitting down to finish my taxes, and said she wanted to take me to brunch. This could be because she sent me a book last week and I sent her this email in response:

Subject: Leave me alone
Don't send me books. It's too late to fix the life you and your idiot boyfriend ruined. As long as you're living with and supporting that degenerate pervert, you are dead to me. I wish you had died instead of Daddy. He never would have let anyone give pornography to his children. I hope you die alone and in pain, like I will.

And when she came to see me, I repeated those sentiments until she left. I wanted to hit her. I actually pushed her away from me, although not very hard. I screamed at her. I hissed at her. When she left, my heart was pounding.

Where do I go when I'm upset and alone? Facebook, of course.

11:01 am: My mother just came over unannounced to see if she could take me to brunch. I told her that as long as she gives the filthy pervert a comfortable retirement, I want nothing to do with her. Fuck. I was supposed to finish my taxes today, and now I'm all upset.

(I'll be sharing with you several friends' comments, and I am just going to use their initials to identify them, because I've run out of clever monikers.)
HR: do it anyway - or he's stolen yet another good/productive day from u!
Good point.
JDB: Isn't that why G-d invented accountants?
Ayelet: It's easy enough when you're not ambushed by your inconsiderate selfish mother.
I was furious, and I couldn't calm myself down. I couldn't focus on my taxes. I couldn't eat.

3/25/12, 11:19 am: How do you forgive the person who ruined your life and suffered no consequences for it?

I went to do some shopping, which wasn't very successful because I couldn't really concentrate.

5:14 pm: my heart is still THUMPING, hours after the confrontation with my mother. wonder if I'll develop hypertension.

Because I'm an optimist. I assume things will just keep looking up. Or going up.
JDB: No you won't. We still want our mothers even after what they put us through. Confrontation is hard. Have you heard from her since?
Ayelet: No, because I told her to leave me alone. She's supporting my abuser. I don't want her in my life.
JS: PTSD. You have to work through this.
Do I have post-traumatic stress disorder? I joked that I was traumatized by my last job -- before this job got around to traumatizing me. I haven't written about it because I still work there, but let's just say I'm stressed and unhappy, and not because, like most social workers, I have too much work and too little compensation.

Could I really have PTSD from my upbringing?

3/26/12, 11:45am: Ayelet Survivor is very very very very tired
JR: Of other people's crap?
Ayelet: yes, but exhausted physically as well... my heart is still pounding abnormally after yesterday's confrontation with my mother
JS: You experienced "Fight or Flight" adrenaline.
Ayelet: well, it must still be in my system because my heart is still pounding after every little thing
JS: Yes, it is still in your system. You are having a classic PTSD reaction.
LM: I am not following - I understand feeling anger and rejection, but where does the anxiety/pounding heart come from?
JS: Ayelet had an emotional and physical reaction as though the abuse was happening in that moment yesterday -- so, of course, today she is still reeling from the experience. She was confronted with a very real trauma yesterday, POST the initial trauma, but the feelings and the reaction were in real time yesterday.
JS: PTSD is a very serious disorder that painfully afflicts millions of people -- many 9/11 victims and their families, rape and incest survivors, child abuse survivors, and returning combat vets among them. The pounding heart, sleeplessness, and generalized anxiety are only part of it: over-eating, drug taking, risk-taking, and sexual risk-taking are also symptoms.
JS: Ayelet, you must get help specifically targeted to your PTSD so that you can manage the symptoms. You feel as though you just narrowly escaped (or failed to escape) abuse yesterday. But you were safe in your apartment with over 1,000 friends rooting for your safety. You are ok. You ARE safe.
Over-eating. That sounds about right. A friend emailed me privately:

I've got PTSD and panic disorder. This happens with me *all* the time. You're experiencing the residuals of a panic attack. You're gonna be fine. Rest it off, eat some good food if you can stomach it, and if you feel up to it, I'd recommend taking a walk to help get the adrenaline out of your system some (and also to help clear your mind a bit). If the pain and all is way too unbearable, though, call your doctor and be VERY clear that it's a panic attack. I agree with JS, you definitely need to see a psychiatrist and therapist for this (preferably a therapist who has experience with trauma and cognitive behavioral therapy). I'm in the same exact boat as you, so I've got your back!

I appreciate the support, but I'm not sure it's warranted.

The thing is, the sexual abuse I underwent was very subtle, not traumatizing. I was exposed to pornography and it warped my ability to relate to men in a healthy way. I wasn't molested or beaten. I don't know if I have PTSD. I just think I was so angry yesterday that it took me more than a day to calm down. But my work experiences have been very traumatizing, so I suppose it's possible.

I'm going to my GP for blood work on 4/5, so I'll talk to him then, and I see my psychiatrist on 4/17. I was able to function at work today, I was just conscious from time to time that my heart was beating harder and faster than usual. It's actually happened several times at this job, while dealing with the sociopathic manager at my previous clinic.

I started thinking. I've had nightmares about my last job. Several of them. That's a symptom of PTSD. According to the Mayo Clinic,

Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms are generally grouped into three types: intrusive memories, avoidance and numbing, and increased anxiety or emotional arousal (hyperarousal).

Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:
  • Flashbacks, or reliving the traumatic event for minutes or even days at a time
  • Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
I also have what's called an "exaggerated startle response." A patient opened a can of soda in my office when I was looking at the computer screen and not him, and I jumped like a scalded cat.

Symptoms of anxiety and increased emotional arousal may include:
  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Irritability or anger
That sounds familiar...
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much
Or eating too much?
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Hearing or seeing things that aren't there
I'm happy to say I'm pretty sure I haven't been hallucinating. How do I score in the third category?

Symptoms of avoidance and emotional numbing may include:
  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Avoiding activities you once enjoyed
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
Here's where it gets tricky. Because I don't feel numb. I love talking about the traumatic events. I've always had problems maintaining romantic relationships, but my friendships are more or less solid. Am I avoiding activities I once enjoyed? Only because I'm too exhausted from my schedule and my commute. Am I having problems with memory and concentration? Not really, and those are also symptoms of depression -- as are irritability/anger and engaging in self-destructive behaviors.

Am I hopeless about the future? 1000%. In fact, that was one of the accusations I hurled at my mother. "All I ever wanted was to get married and have babies," I raged. "I know," she said, helplessly. And then tried to make me feel like my life still has purpose and meaning, when all I ever wanted is probably never going to happen, and maybe it could have if I hadn't been perverted by the filthy degenerate she moved into our house.

I know, I know, Maybe, if, probably. Whatever. That doesn't change the fact that my heart was pounding steadily for more than a day after our confrontation. So the differential diagnosis is difficult. Am I traumatized, or just depressed?
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

1 comment:

  1. You can continue to blame your mother, your job, your illness and a myriad other outside factors for your misery or you can decide to make your own happiness. In the end it's your choice.