PTSD - 2
Posted by GMGittins
11th Jan 2014

Having PTSD feels like having brain damage. Your brain chooses a traumatic memory and plays it back, forcing you to re-experience it over and over again. It doesn't matter where you are or what you're doing; it holds you in its grip. The

memory is more real than reality. Some days I feel as if I'm in a trance as they play out.
It causes a double life. One life is ruled by the memories, and the other is ordinary everyday life.

It's always been like this; I've always known it wasn't right but didn't know what the problem was. I've been treated for depression for over twenty years but the memories carried on fueling the depression. Two years ago, though, things suddenly and without any warning got a lot worse. I couldn't keep the two lives separate any more, and had to stop work. I was a nurse, and loved my work. That, and looking after my lovely family, kept me going.

So, I saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed the problem as severe depression and PTSD, put me on an antipsychotic tablet and the maximum dose of two antidepressants and advised me to keep seeing the psychologist, because ultimately he would be the person who would make the most difference. And she was right. He has quite literally saved my life, in so many ways. The antipsychotic tablet caused the pressure in my eyes to become elevated so I've had to come off it. There is damage to the optic disc which makes me see a small fuzzy area on the right hand side. But honestly, that's the least of my problems.....!

I'm writing this blog because it's helping me to understand that I'm not making a fuss about nothing. Believing that single fact has been my turning point, and it's been a long time coming. That there actually is a problem which needs fixing. And someone else might read this one day and recognise themselves, or someone they know - and it'll help them to get the help that they need a bit quicker than I did.

This is the first flashback I had. It started suddenly around twenty-five years ago, after my son was born, and has been creeping up on me ever since.
It's taught me the art of hiding my emotions. A shocked and extremely kind patient comforted me years ago when it reduced me suddenly to sobs; I was just finishing dressing her leg ulcer at the time and chatting to her about something whilst trying to ignore what was going on in my head. I got much better at hiding my emotions after that.

I've had EMDR for many flashbacks, including this one. Eye Movement Desensitising and Reprocessing is very tiring and peculiar, but I am so grateful for it. It takes the sting out of the tail. After all these years, this memory plays itself to me but now I simply think to myself, it says more about my parents than it does about me.

I am five years old, because I have not long started school.
I am standing on the pavement, looking through the school railings at the playground. I look down the pavement again. No mum.
I look through the railings again, I watch the groups of children running out of the school door, tearing across the playground and out to their parents. I can hear them shouting to each other and talking fast.
Gradually the number of children dwindles; the last few disappear until there are no more. All the noise has stopped.
I am standing there on my own. I don't know what to do.
Somehow, I know that mum has run away from him, and so she won't be coming for me. She'll be happy. But I am somehow left-over, now.

"What's the matter, doesn't your mum love you anymore?"
"Hahahahahahahaha!" The two women push their prams past me, laughing. They knew my name.
I start gulping the tears away. I'm burning. I'm rigid. I don't know what to do. What would be the Sensible thing to do?

Then I'm in the sweet shop. Standing very still, not wanting to draw any attention to myself. But the oldest lady I've ever seen is determined to get me to choose some sweets from the colourful jars on the rows of shelves behind the counter. She has white hair in a bun, and wears a brown overall. She is small and round. The floor, shiny brown lino, squeaks as she walks on it. The floor squeaks every time I move, too.
The counter is made of wood, and very very shiny. She puts jars onto the counter to show them to me properly. She keeps on talking gently to me, and looking at me. It feels strangely uncomfortable, I don't know what I should do.
(is she the reason why I wanted to nurse older people?)
I'm too frightened to speak. I don't know if any words will come out. No, thank you.

Then in he comes, all flustered. I know that yet again, I'm a nuisance. He grips my hand in his huge bricklayer hand, and we walk home.

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