Tuesday, November 8, 2011
I said it.
It drudges up so much, and makes you look at every. single. emotion.
It's like everything you've felt is suddenly under a microscope and you can't avoid looking at every detail of it now.
Today, our group moved through three different rooms. I was surprised when I realized it was stirring up anxiety in me. I was shocked when I found out I wasn't the only one.
So much anxiety.
Soooo much anxiety.
Sunday night, my roommate came home very drunk and very angry.
He started yelling at me about my dog, and just kept yelling. I started to black out, and left the room. I spent three hours in an anxiety attack. Three hours. Three HOURS!!!
So, the boyfriend and I are moving out of the house and back into the barracks, and taking our dog to his dad's house.
I hate the thought of not being able to live with him, but I know it's the right choice right now.
That night brought up so much for me, and made me understand so much more about myself. Once I started to come down from the anxiety a little bit, I started talking to my boyfriend about how much I hate it when my home is taken away from me, and how it's always happened. I never had a home I felt really safe in, and even the better ones were taken from me, one way or another. I've never really had a true home. As he and I talked about that, I realized this was also the reason I was so eager to get married. I wanted a home. I wanted a place I felt safe and that wouldn't get taken away from me. I told him that, and he promised me we would have it.
I love this man. He stayed by my side the entire time I was going through that anxiety attack. He did everything he knew how to comfort me, but never once questioned my emotions or my reaction to it all. My dad thinks he's a saint. He said that.
I keep thinking about my fiance- the one that died over a year ago. The one I broke up with only months before he died of an asthma attack. The one I hadn't seen in years (I was stationed in Korea when we got engaged, and were in a long-distance relationship the entire time, but had been friends for years before) and who I hadn't come to see when I first came back to the states. The one who I still have so many questions about... I loved him, and I still do. My gut told me something was wrong though, and I never have gotten any real information on anything he told me. I don't know if everything he told me was a lie, or if all of it was true. All I know is that he promised me the world, and I believe he loved me, even if I don't know what he believed. I had loved him for so long, and had wanted to be with him for so many years. When it finally happened, I was practically blinded with happiness. When I started questioning things, I don't know if it was fear of commitment or just that something didn't feel right... I don't know what to believe, and I can't ask him. I have never felt more guilty than I do about him. There are so many pieces that just don't fit, and so many things he told me that other people know nothing about... It hurts so bad to think of how I might have hurt him... and it hurts even worse thinking that it all might have been a lie...
I don't know how to get past this...
Sunday, November 6, 2011
I'm ridiculously sensitive to EVERYTHING.
It's like having a sweet tooth and sensitive teeth at the same time- you don't want to separate yourself from this world you just want to surround yourself with, but you can't help but be in horrible pain with nearly every little interaction.
I have spent the vast majority of my life cultivating the tough girl image. I'm heavily tattooed, tall and "thick". I'm not fragile looking, and, when surrounded by "the guys", I've always stood my ground, and managed, often enough to be known for it, to be able to respond to their dirty or shock-value jokes with something that none of them would have thought of. I'm a smart-ass. I've worked very hard to be the queen of comebacks and snide remarks. I pill poke, push or play-hit more guys I know than ones I would hug when I run into them. It's this person I've worked so hard to become- and now she's crumbling right in front of me.
And there's nothing I can do about it.
I know I take everything too personally lately. I feel like everything is somehow a reflection of me, and I know that I way oversimplify and, at the same time, over-think everything. If it wasn't obviously my fault, I will think about it and think about it until I can see how it "obviously" is my fault. And I will feel bad or guilty about it, no matter how long it took me to "see" that it "was my fault". It's a ridiculous game I play, really, and I can't possibly win it, either.
If my boyfriend isn't in a good mood, I take it to heart, and think about how difficult I've been lately. If I can't keep the dogs from overwhelming me, I find myself having trouble with my anxiety, but, of course, it's still my fault- I haven't trained them well enough. In my world, everything centers on me, but only when it's bad. In my world, that's the only thing I do, is mess things up for myself and everyone else.
I'm so tired of being miserable all the frigging time. I have gotten better about catching myself and fighting myself as I try to go down that all-too-familiar path, but I have a long way to go before I feel like I'm in any way in control of my emotions.
I make a huge point of holding on to that tough girl image at work- and now I've found myself crying- CRYING!- there, falling apart every time I deal with certain people that generally are more than a little willing to throw people (especially me) under the proverbial bus. People have seen me cry, AT WORK! For the love of God, this is not who I want to be.
Truth is, under the tough girl exterior, I've always been very sensitive to other's emotions, and a very compassionate person. It never bothered me too much until people started seeing it when I didn't want them to. In the military world, a sensitive woman- hell, even your average woman- is a risk, a problem. Women aren't seen as allies or possible strengths, and they aren't seen for their strengths. We're seen as the weakest links in the fence, physically and emotionally.
I have found myself having very generalized emotions lately, not triggered by anything in particular, but things I wake up with, and have the most trouble shaking. The blanket anxiety I felt last week was followed by blanket anger yesterday. I was just pissed off from the moment I woke up, and it took me well into the evening to really be rid of the majority of it.
I suppose someone will read this and know that this is "all part of the healing process" or some such cliche, but right now, I can't see how any of this can possibly be something anyone else has survived or understands.
Friday, November 4, 2011
The day of my last post- the day before yesterday, now- I had left a note for the gentleman who is assigned to my unit to help aid with "Combat And Operational Stress". He is a wonderful guy, but didn't get back to me about this note, in which I asked for someone to talk to about the anxiety. I didn't hear anything, but had my first true anxiety attack in formation during PT.
For those of you who aren't military minded, and I commend you for trying to follow this mess, we line up in several rows, with one person in charge (more or less) and that's a formation. Now, we do our exercise in these formations- to include running.
We got about a block before the pain in my chest was so horrible I couldn't breathe and run at the same time- and certainly not while surrounded by other people running and bumping into or stepping on one another. I took myself out of the formation, trying to continue to run, albeit at a much slower pace, but eventually gave up and walked. A senior NCO came over, and asked what was wrong. Breathless, I told him 'anxiety attack'. He told me I could just go back to HQ, and my response was to shake my head and say 'that's quitting.' He didn't argue. A female NCO I'm pretty close to fell out of formation to come run/walk with me. We followed the same route the runners did, and I didn't quit. By the time we made it back to HQ, people were already finishing their stretches. My 1sg and company commander pulled me aside. My commander asked if I'd run that route, and when I (still not able to breathe well at all) told him I'd walked it, my 1sg (First Sergeant) asked me what was going on, I, again, said "anxiety attack". He instructed my boss to make sure I was alright.
For those of you that are familiar with medicine, my blood oxygen level (pulse ox) was 93. I wasn't getting enough oxygen, go figure.
Anyhow, I went to group yesterday, and was pulled aside at the end of the session. A social worker noted that I'd been coming to these groups "religiously" each Tuesday and Thursday, while most showed up once a week, at best. The note I had left the combat and operational stress guy had also been brought to her attention. I told her about the anxiety attack, and the incredible amount of problems all of this was causing for me at work.
She said I sounded like a perfect candidate for outpatient therapy.
....Wait, what?! That's an option?!
I spent several hours after that at a behavioral health clinic about 30 minutes from work, filling out papers, until I was certain to be late to my reiki appointment. Fortunately, the person scheduled after me for reiki wound up rescheduling completely, and the woman I work with on this was very understanding about it.
Today, I headed to work, not knowing whether or not my command was okay with me taking part in the outpatient program. After several hours, and more than an hour and a half after I should have already been at the clinic, it was finally cleared up.
My command is allowing me to go, and I am responsible for keeping them in the loop about everything and maintaining my own physical fitness, so I won't find myself moving from multiple hours of therapy into a crowd of running soldiers (again). This is expected to be several weeks long, 10-14 business days. Today was only a small taste of what I'll be dealing with, as I will be moved into a military group (I wear civilian clothes to this, wearing my uniform makes me more tense and anxious than I already am).
I am incredibly grateful to my commander for blessing off on this, and incredibly grateful in a more general sense for the opportunity to be away from my work, away from those people, and actually take some time and heal all these raw, open wounds.
I'm terrified, too, though.
I have had more anxiety since that one hour meeting with the social worker summarizing my life than I have ever had. If that's what happened after one hour, what happens after a day or a week of me talking this out, spilling my guts and really looking at those still-gaping wounds?
She really is a fantastic dog, though, and very attached. I'm really glad to have her.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
It helps so much to talk to other people who are facing the same ignorance and dealing with the same struggles that I am. It's so hard going through this and not forgetting that I am not crazy.
More than anything, I want to feel like it's okay for me to be going through what I am, like this is just part of the healing process and nothing to be ashamed of.
But I don't.
I'm embarrassed to have PTSD. I'm embarrassed to have gotten myself into not one but TWO situations where I could be raped. I'm embarrassed that I can't control my anger or my tears more often than not. I'm embarrassed that I feel like everybody is a threat. I'm embarrassed that my boyfriend is carrying so much of our relationship right now, as I fall apart and find him taking care of me over and over and over again. I'm tired of being this way, and I don't for one second feel like it's okay to feel this way.
I woke up this morning with an elephant-size ball of anxiety sitting squarely on my chest. When my wonderful, amazing boyfriend tried to get too close to me physically, it got worse. I've never had flashbacks with him, and I rarely feel the need to close myself off from him. This morning, though, it was like he was the enemy. I had to get him away, even though I wanted nothing more than to feel loved. I had to hide my fear and anxiety and hurt, even though I wanted nothing more than to hear that it's okay to feel this way, and that the man I love so much understands.
I hate being stuck inside this ugly, angry, horrible shell.
I just want this all to go away. I don't want to be anxious about being around people anymore, and I don't want to wonder when I'll fall apart again. I don't want to worry about being in formations because I don't know if something will set me off while I'm surrounded by so many people. I don't want to worry about how much trouble I'll get in after I've had to walk away from a situation so I wouldn't lose control. This isn't who I want to be.
Last night, when I drove over to pick up my boyfriend from work, I had someone run up to the truck on the driver's side, to my open driver's side window, and scream at me to slow down. I was doing 10 mph in a 25 or 30 mph zone. It scared me and startled me so badly the one hand I had on the wheel at that particular moment jolted, and I caught myself just short of running the truck in his direction. I had been having a good day, and he set me on edge so badly I couldn't calm down completely for most of the evening.
I'm at work now, having chest pain and fighting tears and there's no specific reason that I can think of that I feel this way. I'm so frustrated.
Friday, October 28, 2011
I feel like my soul was crushed.
I know it's going to be hard, but summarizing 25 years of trauma and the 4 years of military BS that came with trying to seek help just finished me.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
It's frustrating to hear about athletes and people who believe they should be our country's top priority.
I am a Soldier.
I am sure basketball wives miss their husbands during their away games. I will miss mine for a year deployment. If my boyfriend is only in the field and out of contact a week, I consider myself fortunate. I volunteered to put my life on the line for our country, to give up basic rights like privacy, freedom and the fifth amendment but struggle to help my sick father with any bills at all, and am not authorized to receive housing allowance to live outside of the barracks because I am not married and have no children. I can't relate to people who make a fortune and have an off season, but live with their families year round every year.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
The nightmares, the flashbacks, the anger... It's all been so much worse lately than it ever has been.
I always used to have nightmares on repeat- mostly the recurring memories of my traumas, sometimes with alternate "what if" endings, but, more often than not, it ended worse, instead of better. Lately, though, the nightmares have been new, vivid and very, very violent. Chainsaws, blood and many people involved in various situations, depending on the dream. I don't understand them. I've always been able to interpret my non-memory dreams, but these ones... they're just pain.
I've lost my temper and control of my emotions more times than I can count recently- on fellow Soldiers, family, even my wonderful boyfriend. More often than not, these people didn't deserve my wrath. Fortunately, the physical side has managed to stay under wraps, and I have not inflicted physical abuse on anyone.
I had a flashback driving down the highway one night. I was the designated driver that night, and the only one even remotely sober (I quit drinking over 2 years ago now, the first time my PTSD got out of my control) and barely managed to keep my cool. I'm proud of myself for handling it, but I'm terrified it might happen again because I, for the first time, can't figure out what triggered it.
The last few days, I have managed to focus all my energies on me, though. It's miraculous managing that in the Army, in case you're wondering.
I've decided I'm no longer dealing with soldiers or rank, just people. I've been treated poorly as of late, and I disagree with a lot of what the people I'm immediately working with have done. The Army as a whole is not broken- but there are people within it's systems who do not follow the rules or treat others as perhaps they should. This is all only my opinion based off my experience, mind you, I am NOT any sort of official spokesperson.
I've started doing yoga on my own (cheesy, right?) to teach myself to slow down a little bit, and, hopefully to help me relax and focus some. I'm scared of how out of control I feel so much of the time, so I decided I would start focusing on things that would allow me to take control of some part of my life. I'm also planning on going back to being a vegetarian, because it gives me a feeling of discipline and positively affecting the world around me. I'm not saying it's for everyone, but it's what works for me. It's going to be a gradual process, but I have to start somewhere.
As for the yoga, I showed my boyfriend some of the poses I found on a yoga app yesterday (yes, there's more than one app for that) and the look on his face was entertaining to say the least. I don't even pretend I want to know what was going through his mind! He had a ball watching me try to do Warrior III stance- which looks a lot like a badly done Superman pose. I am not graceful.
I have been talking to a couple of friends who have gone through the Army PTSD chapter process. For those of you not in the military, a "chapter" is a process of getting out of the Army, generally for medical or psychological issues, though behavioral and other issues may be termed the same way. I really want to tell you I know someone who has had good experiences with the process, but, unfortunately, I don't. There are a lot of people who don't understand Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a ton of misconceptions about it, and, within the Army, there is little but stigma attached to it. PTSD is not a rite of passage for those who have been in combat, it is not considered normal or expected, and it is not accepted. Seeking help is, more often than not, seen as a way of getting out of something. A chain of command who is fully supportive of Soldiers seeking help for this issue is unheard of- there will, without question and possibly without exception, be someone in a Soldier's chain of command who questions a Soldier's intentions for seeking help. I've heard more people talk about someone checking themselves in to the mental/behavioral health ward "to get out of deployment" or "to avoid that training exercise" than I have heard people express pride in their fellow Soldier for seeking help. I'm not going to say there aren't people who abuse the system, there always will be, but they are expected to be the rule and not the exception. Considering the amount of stigma attached to such things, I can't even begin to fathom why people expect that anyone seeking help is simply trying to get out of something. After having been told I should specify what caused my PTSD by and to certain people in my chain of command (hint: there are laws against them forcing me to, and I didn't.) and being treated like less of a Soldier for having non-combat related PTSD rather than good ol' shell-shock, well, I just don't know why anyone would want to fake this.
As I said, I'm doing better this week. After more than three months of trying to get an appointment (there's a shortage of behavioral health care providers in the military as a whole), I will finally have my first scheduled appointment with a shrink of some sort on Friday. I am also going to "safety" groups now, because someone in this process was worried enough about my state that they felt it necessary to ensure I'm seen by someone who can check in with me twice a week. In all honesty, I'm okay with that. I'm relieved to know that, even if things get out of control, I will be able to speak to someone about it and have help dealing with all of this. This is a frigging terrifying thing to feel like you're alone with.
Monday, October 24, 2011
I am a woman, also currently property of the US Army, in my mid-twenties. No, you don't need any more specifics on my age, now stop asking.
I have served as a medic in the Army for the last four years, and have been diagnosed with non-combat related PTSD. I grew up with direct and indirect familial exposure to alcoholism, depression, Munchhausen's syndrome, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse, and moved a lot- to say the least.
I also like candle-lit dinners, long walks on the beach and dogs.
I have been married and divorced, and am in my first long-term relationship in over a year.
I am currently focusing my energies on healing my PTSD issues, and finding a way to reclaim who I am.
It's not as cheesy as it sounds, I swear.
I married young, and divorced two years later. Shortly after that, I joined the Army, as a way to get on my feet. Having been an Army wife, and believing I knew just what I was signing up for, I expected to do a full twenty years or more in the Army and retire from this life. Right now, I take every day, sometimes every minute, one at a time.
In retrospect, my marriage was a way to move up and out of the unhealthy lifestyle I had succumbed to, and separate myself from the negative influences I had surrounded myself with. I didn't know that then, and my ex-husband and I are still good friends, despite not having children or anything else forcing us to speak. My ex-husband helped me grow up. I will never lose my gratitude towards him for that. He held me accountable for my actions, and pushed me in ways I never could have myself at that time in my life.
The army seems to have been another stepping stone. I have (slightly) furthered my education, and certainly gained discipline and a greater understanding of my country and the world at large.
What nobody could have prepared me for, however, was how all my childhood demons would come out of the woodwork nearly the moment I raised my right hand and swore my allegiance-and my life- to my country.
I have spent the last four years tangling myself up with these demons. Recently, the repercussions of my interactions-or lack there of- with these demons has forced my focus to them. I will heal my soul or I will lose it. I think anybody who has struggled with PTSD- combat or non-combat related- would understand that particular analogy.
Writing has always been my outlet, my vent, my escape. I have been given some compliments on it, but, really, it's always been for me. Today, though, marks the beginning of my true focus on these demons and of fighting them with everything I have. Hopefully, what I have to share might help someone else.
I am open to discussion and ideas, if anyone out there in the whole wide world of world wide web has anything for me.