Is PTSD More Anxiety or Depression?

Hello. Today I am going to talk about PTSD, post traumatic distress disorder. It was searched for by a Vietnam vet who is still suffering from it. Ah, my heart goes out to you and to all of you Nam vets who still suffer from this, and I want to thank you for your service and say, welcome home!

PTSD is becoming more well diagnosed for men and women who have been in combat. PTSD can strike people who were not in combat, also. It can develop for anyone who has been a victim or observer of trauma, including physical, sexual, and verbal. Symptoms include hyper-vigilance, or being acutely aware of what is going on around you at every instant in time. People with PTSD usually replay the incident(s) over and over in their mind. They are highly anxious and they are depressed.

To answer the question, is PTSD more anxiety or depression, for me, they were equal. And, the depression led to despair and hopelessness. I prayed to die at that point. I suffered PTSD from a physically abusive upbringing, being both the receiver and observer of traumatic acts. I dealt with the effects of it until I was 54 years of age, which was several years into sobriety.

PTSD was diagnosed for me after I was placed on medication for depression and I continued to be highly anxious. In fact, I was diagnosed with panic disorder, which I believe was from the PTSD. Today, for example, since finding my purpose in life and forgiving my parents for the abuse, I do not feel that hyper-vigilance, that anxiety, that panic.

What can one do who has PTSD? Well, you can seek help from a mental health clinic in your county, or see a psychiatrist. You can also see a person who administers EMDR, which stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It is a specific movement of the eyes guided by a therapist trained in EMDR, and that is what helped me, in addition to talking to a therapist, and anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications. You can go to this site and this, for more information about treatment of PTSD.

So, PTSD can be equally demonstrated by high anxiety, as well as depression. It is a heck of a place in which to be, as one struggles with low energy, but has the need to watch what’s going on around them. It is exhausting because of this. There are answers, and I hope you, the Vietnam vet who searched for the phrase “is PTSD more anxiety or depression,” finds those answers and some comfort and solution in this post. You deserve peace in your life and I wish it for you.

 

Share

PTSD Despair – the Conclusion

Today, we conclude the post about PTSD despair. Yesterday, we ended with me saying I wanted to share my experience of what was happening at the end, when I was praying to die. Here’s what was going on for me.

I had been in a state of decreased energy, of lethargy, for weeks, feeling that my abusive past had occurred only to make my life miserable. Other than that, there was no purpose to it, there was no purpose to me, to my life. This was my state-of-mind at about five years of sobriety. One day, I was at a group meeting for that sobriety, and a man shared about the difficulties he was experiencing from his childhood that were affecting him today. It sounded like what I had been through, but I was a few steps ahead of him in the process of healing. So, I went up after the meeting and began to talk with him.

I first asked him for permission to share some things with him. After he said yes, I related to his experience by relaying some of what I had been through. Then I began to talk of the books I had read that had been helpful with the symptoms of abused people, such as Claudia Black, Alice Miller, John Bradshaw, books that had helped with my healing. I relayed how wondrous my therapist was in dealing with recovery issues, both for my alcoholism and my abusive past and the characteristics I was displaying, and was able to give him her number.

What I had to say was useful to him – I could see it in his face, in his eyes. He was so grateful for the information, he almost cried. As I walked back to my car, I realized in a flash that I DID have purpose, my abusive past WAS for a reason. That reason was to help others who were dealing with what I had overcome, even if I was just two steps in front of them in a couple areas. If I had not endured the abuse, I never would have been able to offer him anything. Therefore, my abuse had a purpose.

I had a purpose. From that point, I realized my purpose in life was to connect with people who were suffering emotionally, and relay the things that had helped me, so that the information could be of use to them.

In your case, with PTSD, let’s say you are a veteran, reliving the trauma you experienced, the terror, living in anger over the grief of premature deaths you witnessed, dealing with the guilt that somehow you could have prevented it. You are living a nightmare, and, yet, I invite you to take action to get out of the place where you currently are. Here is what I invite you to try. It worked for me.

Seek assistance from a qualified therapist, versed in PTSD issues. They exist at VA medical centers, if you are a vet, and interviewing a potential therapist about their experiences with PTSD treatment will help guide you in the right direction in selecting a well-versed therapist. I looked for a therapist that was versed in alcohol recovery and who knew the effects and treatment for being an abused child, for example, because at the time, I had not been diagnosed with PTSD.

After you select a therapist, ask about the use of EMDR, or get that yourself. It was roughly $100 a session and I needed three. I would imagine the VA centers have someone available to do it or could refer you. Do some reflection about your feelings of despair, your lack of purpose in the world, your guilts, your grief… writing, journalling was extremely helpful to me to get feelings out, and especially because I wrote with my left, non-dominant hand.  They say that writing with the non-dominant hand brings forth new information from the other side of the brain, and it stimulates you with deeper thoughts. I invite you to try it.

I invite you to stop drinking, if you are doing so. The liquor fuels the symptoms that you are experiencing, especially the anger. I know it doesn’t feel that way when you’re in the middle of it. But your world remains very small while you are drinking, filled with resentments and bitterness, guilt and remorse. You look for relief for these things in the alcohol, yet you will never find them there. It is in the absence of alcohol that you will find relief. There are many resources to help you stop drinking that are listed in the yellow pages, or on the internet. For me personally, I found getting sober to be the beginning of the process that has allowed me to find the peace I looked for in alcohol and drugs. I invite you in from the cold. 🙂

Finally, I’d like to invite you to look at the cause of your PTSD despair, and discover how that experience, the experience over which you despair, can be useful to another if you were to share with them your experience and what one, maybe two, steps you’ve taken to heal. All you have to be is two steps ahead of them in the healing process. I cannot describe the way my heart soared to know I had been of use to another and I invite you to experience it also.

I hope these two posts have been useful for you. I wish you well in your journey. May you have peace.

Share

PTSD Despair – the Beginning

Yesterday, there were two searches for PTSD despair, most likely the same person, yet I want to address it today and relate it to sobriety. I am thinking that whoever searched, was referring to the despair they feel because of their PTSD. So, let’s address this.

PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder. According to all the information I have read, and based on my personal experience with PTSD, it is comprised of three categories of symptoms:

  • re-experiencing the traumas through flashbacks, bad dreams, and frightening thoughts about the trauma;
  • avoidance symptoms such as feeling numb, strong guilt, depression, or worry, avoidance of people and places that remind of the event, losing interest in once-enjoyable activities; and
  • hyperarousal, being on edge, getting angry easily, being easily startled.

You may be dealing with these symptoms as a result of recent trauma, or even years after an event that was traumatic for you. Or, you may be a veteran, dealing with either the long-term effects, or from the effects of recently being in service. If you are dealing with these symptoms and have not been diagnosed with PTSD, I gently invite you to seek assistance from a qualified therapist or someone at a VA Medical Center. There is great strength and courage demonstrated in the act of asking for help. For those of you long-term sufferers getting help, good for you! I applaud your efforts.

From my own perspective about PTSD and despair, I was diagnosed with PTSD at the age of about 53, and had been dealing with it since childhood, as a result of the trauma I endured and witnessed. I experienced all of the above symptoms, and I easily went to depression and despair. When I say despair, I am referring to the feelings that nothing is okay, in fact, everything is useless and there is no purpose in living. There is no hope.

In my case, I got to the point that I was praying to die because I was too scared to commit suicide. My anger had long-since been turned inward and it appeared in my life as major depression. I was a walking mess, feeling emotionally aweful. Fueled by my bitterness and under-lying anger at just about everything, I drank heavily, which only added to the flames. I felt there was no purpose in the events of childhood that had led me to misery in life. I had no purpose in life, no reason to be living.

Can you relate? if you are dealing with PTSD despair. I am thinking you are at the very hopeless stage. If this is the case, my heart goes out to you because I know how badly it sucks. Please know, however, that there is another side, another possibility. There is hope.

Hope came for me in the form of EMDR, a rapid-eye movement that retrains the pathways in the brain to lessen the effects of the trauma. With three of these treatments, my symptoms began to decrease, and even though some despair remained, I could see that there were possibilities to get out of the hole I was in. The despair was resolved in an instant, however, when I experienced the power of helping another, being of service to another.

And I’m going to address that tomorrow, because this post got to be well over 1000 words, so I decided to make it into two blogs. Tomorrow when I join you, I will be sharing my experience with you in the hopes that you may gain something from it that is of use to you.

I wish to acknowledge your pain by saying, yes, it is a very difficult place to be. I feel for you. You have great courage to face it and I invite you to keep putting one step in front of the other, doing the next thing that comes along your path to do. Writing in a journal with stream-of-consciousness writing works well. That’s where you write whatever comes into your head, in whatever order. It is very cathartic.

Join me tomorrow for the conclusion of PTSD despair. Until then, remember, hang in there. You never know when things are going to change around suddenly. Don’t leave before the miracle.

Share

Inspiration For Hopeless Despair Over PTSD

It has been a heavy past couple-of-days posting… difficult topic, and you may need some inspiration for hopeless despair about your PTSD that you may be feeling after the discussion. I can do that. I can provide inspiration about PTSD from my own experience with it.

As I have said, I was diagnosed with PTSD at the age of 54 or 55, so lived from the age of childhood with it. It went undiagnosed all those years, with me confused about my anger at everything, my rage. It was like a switch that went on when I was triggered by others’ words or behaviors toward me.

At the time that I was diagnosed, I happened to meet an EMDR therapist. (Eye Movement Desensitization and Retraining) We had a discussion, a deep one about my abusive childhood, about the difficulties I was experiencing with rage, hyper-vigilance, flashbacks, etc. She relayed to me I had PTSD, which a physician then confirmed, and that EMDR was a treatment being widely used with documented success.

It was roughly $100 per session of about an hour, and having no medical coverage, that was a lot of money for me. Still, when I heard it was being used with Vietnam vets with success, I scraped up the money. I think I had 3 sessions.

They were tremendously helpful and through the success of the treatments, I was able to see my parents with compassion and to grow to forgive them. What it did with my PTSD is this: it tamed the symptoms. I had less flashbacks and when they did occur, they did not cause extreme memories. The memory was softened, not intense. Instead, I saw two people with compassion and sadness.

My hyper-vigilance has also decreased and, in fact, I must say it has almost disappeared. I still, however, do not like to sit with my back to anyone at a meeting or what-have-you. But I do it when I go to seminars and sit in the front row so I can hear and pay better attention. I don’t feel nervous or panicked like I used to with my PTSD in full force.

The point I am trying to make is there is hope for you if you are experiencing hopeless despair about your own PTSD.

Another up-and-coming treatment for PTSD is called Emotional Freedom Tapping, or EFT. EFT uses accupressure and tapping along the body’s meridians, lessening the charge of the memories that trigger your PTSD. I am not clear on why it works, but apparently they are having good results with it.

I had to accept anti-depressants to treat my major depression which accompanied the PTSD. It took me a long time to be willing to do this because I thought that to take them would be a sign of weakness, and I was a JONES, damn it! And that meant I, we, could rise to any occasion without help of any sort. I felt it was “cheating” to take meds, that I was masking my emotions.

How wrong I was. What has happened is, the antidepressants correct my screwed up brain chemistry so I have a fighting chance to live a peaceful and calm life, unruled by my depression. It puts me on the same level as others in my ability to cope with life. I do not feel any mind alteration. I am able to function without the hopeless despair I felt all the time before that, even in, especially in, sobriety.

Speaking of sobriety, none of this recovery and decrease of my PTSD would have been possible if I had not been sober. Consider, if you are a drinker and drugger, that those substances affect PTSD a great deal, and worsen the effects of it. If you are drinking to numb the pain, the hurt, the symptoms of PTSD, then think again about your actions. What exists on the other side of some rocky times is so well-worth getting sober. On the other side is peace like you’ve never experienced. I kid you not.

Today, look at your options for treatment and management of your PTSD and then take action to follow up on receiving it. Take responsibility and reach out. I believe the VA Hospitals have programs for people with PTSD. The relief you will feel is immense, at least it was, has been, for me. There are groups out there to help you with any substance abuse. I recommend using one of them. I wish you well in your healing.

 

 

Share

PTSD and the Vietnam Vet – Part 2 of 2

To continue from yesterday… we are talking about PTSD as it relates to the Vietnam vet. It probably relates to you if you are a veteran from another war, also. This information is based on an article I found on the web about PTSD, written by a Vietnam veteran. This is a terribly long post, and I am hopeful it will be useful to any of you veterans reading it.

First, though, I need to say what I was reminded by a Vietnam vet that I forgot to say to you yesterday, and that is the words, Welcome home. I am glad you made it and am hopeful you have and are resolving your difficulties associated with the war. Yes, I know these words are long overdue, and it is my first opportunity to say them to you publicly. I hope you will accept them.

The author of the article I found goes on to describe in detail the symptoms. Anger is the most prevalent. It is free-floating, with no real target. Everyone and everything become the cause of the anger. People with PTSD go right to rage, especially soldiers who are taught to react and not think about things. On the other hand, “normal” people experience a slow progression to rage… from anger, to angrier and angrier, to rage. Not so with the veteran.

People around you who are  displaying rage walk on eggshells, never knowing when you will “go off” on them. The author relays that a way to deal with this is to have conversations with all who are involved, talking about your anger and the effect it is having on others and yourself. He further claims that the way to deal with anger issues is to learn how to manage it, without trying to figure out the cause. Anger management classes are useful for this.

The author made a distinction between flashbacks and hallucinations, stating that flashbacks are reliving the events in your mind, while hallucinations are seeing things that are not there. These are common with those of you dealing with PTSD.

Fear is a common symptom, and it is often paranoia. Every action by those of you experiencing PTSD has fear attached to it. Dread is also common, especially dread about death. The author stated that there are so many Vietnam vets in prisons because the dread of death within 6 months was so strong, that they engaged in reckless behavior for the adrenaline rush, that it led to crime.

Hyper-vigilance is a big one. You Vietnam vets feel unsafe in public, the author states, because the American people became the enemy upon your return home. He makes the point that when you spent so much time securing an area and watching for “Charlie,” that you never stop watching for Charlie. You, as well as I, have a tendency to sit with your back to a wall, near exits.

When your anxiety level is increased, all PTSD symptoms increase. If you keep an eye on your anxiety levels, you will know when to call a friend, a therapist, or get to a hospital for help.

What is learned in combat is never lost, the author states, and, therefore, you vets have difficulty trusting people. You fear intimacy and yet need intimacy, as all of us do, and your inability to trust leads to superficial relationships, one night stands, multiple partners, and extramarital affairs.

Drug and alcohol abuse is very prevalent among you with PTSD, and unfortunately, PTSD symptoms are enhanced when using. You from Vietnam were the first who actually returned home already addicted, and that was a new thing for the VA to deal with. Alcohol, drugs, and the need for adrenaline rushes are a deadly combo and jails, prisons, and graveyards are filled with Vietnam vets so afflicted.

Sleep disorders are a common problem, as are night terrors, nightmares, and night sweats. The author relayed that most of you return to combat in your sleep… He didn’t really discuss a relief for those things other than learning how to manage PTSD in general.

Guilt is a biggie, as part of war is doing things you are not proud of. You are rewarded for your kills during war, and to come home and function as if nothing happened is a huge disconnect. He suggested talking about this to others. Survivor’s guilt is also a problem, as you feel that when something bad happens to you, like a failed marriage, loss of a job, or an accident, you deserve it.

“Why am I the one who lived?” is a common belief. To alleviate this, I suggest you consider that you were intended to live to be of service to others in some way or another. Perhaps, as you heal from your wounds, you are intended to share how you did that, so that others can benefit and heal themselves.

Memory loss that occurs to you, and to me big time, is related to damage and a loss of function in the hippocampus… the part of the brain that controls memory and learning. When I discovered this, I felt a huge relief about my memory loss.

Intrusive thoughts invade your life, the author says, and the way to deal with this is to stay busy with other tasks and projects. Helping others is especially useful to “get you out of yourself.”

It is not at all surprising that, given all the above things you are dealing with, that you experience depression. This can be controlled with nutrition, drug therapy, talk therapy, and being in a safe, loving environment.

To summarize, the triggers for your PTSD symptoms can be learned, as can the things to do that help you with those symptoms. The biggest thing the author stressed is to get it out… talk about it and feel the feelings. This is the first step to healing. Nutrition plays a big role, also. The bottom line is, controlling your symptoms with drinking and drugging is slow suicide and is avoidable.

Above all, the tone of this article was one of taking action and getting help. I hope you do that, and I wish you well on your continued journey.

Share

PTSD and the Vietnam Vet – Part 1 of 2

Wow and OMG. I have just spent the last couple of hours on a veterans’ website and discovered a wealth of information in an article by a Vietnam vet on PTSD.  Even as a PTSD-diagnosed person myself, it opened my eyes to the plight of the veteran, and specifically to that of the Vietnam vet. It renewed my desire to reach out to you Nam vets. It seems to be my calling…

You guys who fought gave not just of your life to serve; you have been forced to give of your whole remaining lives dealing and coping with the aftermath of the war. I am in awe and deep appreciation. To say thank you for your service seems so trite. Perhaps instead, I could be saying, thank you for dedicating your entire life to this country.

I have nine pages of notes from the article written by an author whose name does not appear on the article. I couldn’t find it anyway. How do I narrow it down to a blog post and leave the meat of the article intact? I can’t, which is why I have provided the link to the article. Nonetheless, I will summarize what I read.

PTSD is a physical illness, with chemical changes to the brain. It is not the sign of a weak person. It stands for post traumatic stress disorder and can be acquired from battle, or chronic abuse. Mine was diagnosed at the age of 54 or 55, having dealt with its symptoms since the age of 20, so that’s 34-35 years. It was a result of my repeated physical, verbal, and emotional abuse. But I’m here to talk about PTSD and the Vietnam vet.

The point is, you can go for years before it jumps up and slaps you in the face. Some of the signs of PTSD include difficulty getting along with others, abusive behavior toward authority figures, poor sleep patterns and inability to rest, and excessive hyper-reactivity… or an increased startle reaction, anger, flashbacks, severe fear and dread, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, and problems with intimate relationships.

People living with PTSD initially feel like they’re living in a fog, have decreased concentration, and things don’t make sense. If caught when it’s acute, treatment and cure are possible. If it’s chronic, not recognized until years after a traumatic event(s), then it is not curable, only treatable. In the latter case, PTSD sufferers will need to learn how to manage their symptoms and through that, recognize when to reach out for help from a friend, therapist, or hospital.

People with PTSD often self-medicate with alcohol, drugs, and engage in activities that produce adrenaline rushes… doing dangerous and illegal things. Many Vietnam vets with PTSD, the author claims, are in jails and prisons because of this combination. Vietnam produced vets that came home addicted already, so if you were one of them, you either sought help or you’re still drinking and drugging. I know I medicated with drugs to combat the high degree of flashbacks I had, as well as my anxiety, fear, and depression. The problem with that was that all of those things were intensified during my drinking and drugging days. I simply refused to admit it at the time.

This post is getting too long and I have more to say, so I will stop here for the day. I invite you to join me tomorrow for the conclusion of the blog.

 

 

 

 

Share

Sobriety Brings an Open Heart – Part 2

Yesterday, I described a bit about what it was like for me prior to sobriety. Today, I’ll continue with my story.

To get sober, I traveled from Sausalito, California, to San Diego, where I lived with my old Sausalito bar tender who was also getting into sobriety. For a year and a half, we lived together and had a healing home. What I mean by that is that we talked a great deal… about our childhoods and the left-over “stuff” from the experience. We both did a great deal of emotional work on ourselves. At times, it was quite difficult…

My “stuff” included a very poor sense of self-worth. I had no esteem what-so-ever. Well, I did, and it was negative. I was in a great deal of shame about who I was as a person, about my body. These were all a result of being shunned until the age of 17 because I was not an intellectual person like my father and two sisters. I was a creative and excelled at writing, crafts, and music. Music was the only thing my father deemed worthy of support. The rest of my abilities were harshly criticized.

When I was 17, I was a lead in our high school musical, and blew the socks off of everyone, including my father. Finally, there was something I did which he praised and encouraged. Finally!! All those years of criticism about who I was took their toll, however, and I was a pretty damaged person. From the young age of 22, I began drinking… like an alcoholic, and I found it numbed my dealings of worthless, hopelessness, and despair.

Back to San Diego… During early days in sobriety, I continued to be in acute grief over the unrequited love, and I tried desperately to figure out how I had mis-interpreted the guy’s signals. Never did figure that one out. To soothe myself so I could sleep, I listened over and over again to a CD of Jens Kruger, a classical banjo player. The beautiful music lulled me to sleep.

During the day, I wrote for hours, and read spiritual stuff voraciously. Melody Beattie, Iyanla VanZant, Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Eckhart Tolle… I couldn’t read fast enough. My heart started opening up and it was acutely painful. To deal with my feelings, I also walked briskly 2-3 times a day and went to 4-5 meetings a day.

It took about five years of sobriety before I felt relief from my grief over the unrequited love, and to begin to feel ok about myself. But before that happened, I was diagnosed with PTSD form all the verbal and physical abuse I’d endured as a child. I had been dealing with PTSD for most of my life until the age of about 53.

Getting diagnosed with PTSD was a major eye-opener. It explained my hyper-vigilance, my startle response, my extreme anger. I sought EMDR treatment and that resolved the PTSD. I still had difficulties, however, with my feelings of despair. I felt the child abuse I had endured was for no purpose, that I had no purpose in life.

These feelings dragged me down and staying sober was difficult during these years. I wanted to numb out so badly! Finally, one day I stumbled across my life’s purpose, which is to tell my story about how I healed, so others might be helped. Since then, my heart has really opened up and I have begun to flourish.

Life has continued to get better from that point forward and my heart has continued to open, to expand. Today, it holds great gratitude for just about everything about my life. I was able to discover how to forgive my parents for how I was treated as a child. I was able to overcome that deep and debilitating grief over the unrequited love.

I have even been able to find self-love, self-worth, and self-esteem. I am so open to others… to helping them out, being of service. I am a happy person today, calm and at peace. Sobriety has brought me healing and with it, an open heart.

Are you dissatisfied with your life, with who you are, bitter about the past?  And are you drinking heavily over it? Have you considered stopping drinking? If not, then have you heard of the glorious riches that occur when you embark upon sobriety? I highly recommend a life lived with an open heart, and if you’re a heavy drinker, I invite you to explore the reasons behind this, and to take action to resolve those feelings. I invite you to open your heart through sobriety. Above all, I wish for you happiness and peace.

 

 

 

Share