Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Ups and Downs

Time for another update and I am told by everyone around me that I am doing well. So I suppose I must be. It's really hard to see from within that I am moving forward sometimes but my therapist, my friends and family can see the changes a little more easily than I can. Apparently, I should be proud of myself and I am but on the bad days there seems so far still to go.

The main difference I can notice in my mood is that when I get good days or even a good part of a day, I feel far more positive and carefree than I can remember for a long long time. I love those days. And they are what keep me going on the not so good days. I could take on the works when I feel like that. My smiles are real, not forced and light me up from my heart outwards. It feels amazing. Just fantastic. I had a whole two and a half days like this last week. It was the best two and a half days. I just kept on going. Full of energy. Full of positivity. And then the walls collapse and its like the light goes out. That's the best way I can describe it. Like I run out of power. Someone or something switches the power off. It's that quick. Or like a car running out of petrol and grinding to a halt. It makes me feel so helpless and so at the mercy of my emotions although I try hard to hold on to the good memories and just accept that my head needs some space to heal at the moment. One day I hope I will always have the good days and not the bad.

On the bad days I still feel very low in mood. I feel very emotional and I feel drained, overwhelmed and panicky. The flashbacks come flooding back and I cry a lot. Having said all that, it seems these days where I get the breakthroughs. Little sparks or memories that suddenly link things together so that they make sense. Almost like little Eureka moments. It is these moments that will, essentially, heal me and so while this dark place certainly is no fun I know, deep down that it means my therapy is working and that my head is doing a lot of hard work to heal me.

Therapy itself is still going well I think. I really do have to leave my rational self at the door sometimes. Since my trauma took place when I as a child that is where I have to heal from so we work a lot with the inner child. Crayons, toys name it....and it would be easy to be self conscious and feel stupid, it's not for everyone, but I can feel it working and I look forward to my sessions more than I dread them so i will keep on at it.

It's the two extremes really. Really up. And really down. And flying between the two is tiring in itself. On my good days I am starting to feel ready to get back to work, slowly and steadily. Ad then I have days when I can barely get out of bed which makes it seem that I am a long way from being able to return. But baby steps and I will get there.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Tea or Coffee?

Time for another update and it's been a really hard week. I know I keep saying that, I'm not trying to be unnecessarily depressing I promise. I still see every day as a positive step in moving forward.

Following my therapy session last week I felt a lot of memories and emotions opening up. Things I had forgotten about and feelings so raw they would stop me in my tracks. I have done a lot of crying this week. Really a lot. My therapist tells me that I shouldn't fight this and just to let it out. So I have been doing and I usually feel better afterwards. I feel lighter.
The dark times have been darker again. I have had days when I have struggled with the outside world on any level. It seems too loud, too bright and too scary. Twice this week whilst out and about I have been overcome by these symptoms and have broken down in public. Not fun. I hadn't felt quite this way before but having contacted my therapist to ask her apparently it is normal an to be expected after opening myself up the way I am doing. Again, though its hard, it means that my treatment is working. I am very lucky to have a fiancé who understands and can look after me in these moments. I'm also very lucky to have my therapist who encourages me to contact her anytime if I need to.

The beginning of this week felt very low and very dark but yesterday things seemed a little brighter and I'm feeling ok today so far, despite being full of a cold. The hardest thing to deal with is making decisions. Even the simplest of choices can take me ages. My mind goes completely blank and numb. Which isn't much fun at all. Stupid little decisons; tea or coffee? The easiest tasks can seem utterly overwhelming and impossible. And then this feeling itself multiplies until I just want to curl up in a corner and hide. Again, all these symptoms are normal and expected for sufferers of PTSD. Add to these the ongoing nightmares and flashbacks and you can imagine how draining things can be.

But the fact that I am dealing with all this, albeit one minute at a time sometimes, means that I am working towards recovery. I have never been more determined to beat this. And I will!!
One other thing this week is that I have found a PTSD page/group on Facebook. To read that other real people are experiencing the exact same symptoms right now is a huge comfort. I know there are people who read this blog who have similar symptoms but are worried about seeking help. Have a look for a support group if you can manage to. It can really make a big difference.

I will keep updating as and when - if I can simply help one person to understand these issues better then I have no regrets in sharing.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

A Tough Week

This week has, without doubt, been one of the hardest so far. I was ready for it but I think it's safe to say it has still knocked me off my feet.
Last psychotherapy session I was given homework. I had to write a letter to the man who raped me and write about I felt now. About what he had taken from me and about how the rape had affected my life. I have always found writing to be a huge help, a really effective way to let things out and so as hard as the task was I was determined to make the most of the chance to have an outlet for some of the emotions I have I internalised for the last 23 or so years. I spent a lot of time thinking what I might write and then on Tuesday night put pen to paper and let it all spill out onto the pages. Once I had started it wasn't Hard to know what to write and I was relieved when I had finished and proud of myself too.

On Thursday morning I had my psychotherapy session. I knew what we were covering as we had discussed it the week before. We would be reading through what I had written and looking at that. And then we were going through my memories of the day I was raped. I was scared that morning. It's a very real fear. Even though, rationally, I know that I am safe now the flashbacks and panics are such that I want to avoid them at all cost. To actually face them head on is hard. I know that opening more memories will increase them. More and more little snatches from that day at coming back to me. As they do the flashbacks get more frequent. And yet I know that this is helping long term. I am dealing with it. Each emotion that is being uncovered is being dealt with, each memory filed away where I won't need to look at it, just accept it is there. But to get to that point I have to open the box and let all these memories and emotions fly free around my head for a while. I hope that makes sense. It's hard to explain or describe.

That session in itself was ok. Hard but ok. I'm not sure there were many tissues left but I got through it. My therapist read what I had written aloud and then I read it aloud. We talked about it and then moved on to the memories of that day. By the end of the session I was immensely proud of myself and relieved that I had managed. The rest of the day wasn't too bad, the relief last a while although that night I had a number of flashbacks again.

It's now a couple of days later and the immensity of this week has most definitely caught up with me. My head hurts. Not in a headache way but an
Internal emotional ache. Last night I had a really difficult evening. I lay on the bed and all I could do was be mindful of each breath. Riding the pain out and knowing it couldn't last forever. It's hard to describe what it feels like. Almost like I'm in some kind of limbo. Not asleep but not awake. Unable to react to or interact with the work or people. Not really able to speak. The thoughts and feelings get in the way of any meaningful verbal expression. Even hugs don't help. They feel smothering and restrictive. A part of a world that I can't handle at that time. And yet I can't sleep. I close my eyes and the flashbacks start. I feel a real fear as to what the nightmares might bring. PTSD is such an isolating experience more than anything else. As much as I have tried to explain it I'm not sure I've really hit the nail on the head.

And so I will see what today brings. I feel tired, drained, overwhelmed, exhausted and yet proud of myself. Even through the darkest points I know that this is the road to recovery. I can feel, deep down, things starting to make sense to me. Things starting to click into place and starting to heal. I can't wait to move further along this road and I am so lucky to have so many wonderful friends walking by my side.

Monday, 27 August 2012

18 months on

Has it really been over 18 months since I last posted?  The time has gone quickly in some ways and dragged in others.  In this time I have been contacted a few times with people asking for updates, which I find really touching and other people have been in touch to let me know that my story has helped them deal with some similar symptoms.  All these things have helped me a lot.

Due to some fairly major changes in my circumstances I have to say that my health situation has not improved.  If anything, certainly at the moment, it is as bad if not worse than it was when I last updated.  After six sessions with my psychologist, in December 2010,  I received news that I had been offered a job I had applied for - at the other side of the country.  This of course meant stopping my appointments just after I'd started to notice a difference......there was no choice though, the new job was too good an opportunity to turn down.  And so I moved.

To cut a long story short, I am only now getting back to where I was.  I have just started work with a psychotherapist and I am really hopeful that she will now work with me throughout the journey to sort my head out.  One big difference that came as a shock moving from Wales to England is the lack of organised mental health services available.  After speaking to my GP in the first instance I was referred for counselling.  My GP has my original PTSD diagnosis so that still stands.  On the NHS you are entitled to six hours of counselling.  One hour per week.  And that's it.  There is no long term waiting list, even with a diagnosis such as mine.  Unless someone is exhibiting symptoms linked to hurting themselves or others then you are on your own.  Even now, as I write, I find it hard to believe.  But that's what I've been told by health professionals for over a year now so it must be the case.

In my own case, I had a stroke of luck.  The lady counsellor I saw for my six NHS sessions was in the process of setting up her own charitable organisation to try and fill in some of this gap for people needing professional help.  She is a psychotherapist and specialises in helping those who have gone through any kind of abuse.  A couple of months ago she was finally able to open this charity for business and I have been able to restart my therapy.  I have had to start with a new therapist, one of her colleagues,  and we, of course, have had to go right back to the beginning.  Again.

And so here I am.  My symptoms are all attacking me full blast at the moment.  The nightmares, the flashbacks, the panic attacks and the associated feelings of being overwhelmed by the slightest little thing.  I have had three sessions with my new therapist so far so we are right at the beginning of taking the lid of this box, taking all the crap out and dealing with it to put it back in an orderly way so that I can replace the lid, neatly and in control of what is in there.  I can't wait to get to that point....but for now I feel like things are floating at will around my head and that someone is stirring it with a big stick.  I'm trying hard to see this period as a positive one.  I have to go through this in order for things to improve - and heaven knows I've never been more determined to get there.  I am more aware of my triggers than I was so that can help me to deal with the panics and I am coping better with the nightmares and can generally manage to get myself back off to sleep after them now.  The whole situation is draining more than anything, just exhausting.  My mind won't do what I ask it to do half the time, it's almost impossible to make the simplest decision and I double cross myself and analyse the most ridiculous things until I just can't think anymore.  Again, this is all part of the process.  I have been warned that the symptoms will get worse before they get better as my therapy starts to open up memories, emotions and experiences.

I will try to keep my blog updated when I can as I move from this point forwards.  I know from my original post that I am far from the only one living with these symptoms and that many different traumas can cause the same reaction, sometimes years into the future as mine did.  I have never once regretted sharing my story on here, from the moment I knew I had helped someone it was the right decision and as I have always said the taboo surrounding sexual abuse, PTSD and mental health in general make the whole situation so much more difficult to deal with.

Feel free to comment, as ever and I hope my story continues to be of some help in helping to understand PTSD.