No Cure

One thing about having no distractions is that you have time to think.  Thinking is a double edge sword.  Sometimes you have a light bulb moment.  When these lights come on, they are often wonderful, full of colour, full of hope. Sometimes though, the light bulb that comes on is dim.  So dim that you have a hard time seeing anything else.  I had one of those light bulb moments today.

C-PTSD is complex, hence the name. What a lot of people don’t realize is that my brain has actually been affected by the traumas of my childhood.  C-PTSD is not just a psychological phenomenon, it also has some very real and measurable effects on the brain.  The nice thing is, is that our brain can change. Neuroplasticity is a wonderful thing. However, the truth is, is that it will take years and years and years, if ever to completely rewire my brain.

At almost 35 years old, a large portion of my life has been controlled by anorexia, anxiety, depression, self harm, and C-PTSD.  In fact, since my early teenage years, I can not think of a time that any of these, alone, or in combination, have not been at the forefront.  The scary part about this is that I also can not realistically see a time that at least one of these won’t be at the forefront.

The light bulb today made me realize that more than likely I will never be “cured”. That more than likely, mental illness will be a continuous struggle in my life.  This scares me.  It scares me that I may never get to experience normal.  It scares me that I might find myself wanting to end it all again.  I never want to go back there, but I am so scared that somehow I will. And finally it just exhausts me.  Fighting to live day in and day out is tiring. And worse, it rarely brings you to a place of great joy, rather it takes you to a place that your head is abover water.  

So I continue.  My heading bobbing out of the water.  

Welcome Back?

I wish I had a way of knowing.  Knowing what people thought, knowing what my future holds, knowing if someday I will feel normal.  I am tired of the unknown and uncertainty.  Things that I once took for granted like my job don’t seem quite as clear anymore.

I am aware that I wrote about work a few posts ago, but I find myself thinking of it more and more often.  I went to a full day seminar a couple of weeks ago about how to plan for a successful return to work.  I have also discussed returning to work with my team here, and they are suggesting a gradual return.

Anyway, it is not really the plan that is bothersome.  It is facing everyone.  It is going back to a place that I don’t know if I am welcome or if I am going to cause discomfort for everyone around me.  I get the feeling that not everyone is looking forward to me coming back, and it hurts.  It hurts because while I was holding it together my colleagues liked me.  While I was holding it together all of my reviews were perfect.  While I was holding it together people trusted me and my ability to do my job. I can’t help but dwell on the fact that this is no longer the case.

I feel as though they will expect me to fail again, and there is no way I can guarantee I won’t.  My worse fear is that I am never going to get to the point of “thriving”. That I am always going to be sick and that my illness will lead me down paths that I never wish to cross again. I have not heard from work in a very long time. I was even looked over for the annual Christmas party and gift exchange.  It stings each time I think about it.  I don’t think it is out of malice, but more that it is clear I no longer belong.

So when planning return to work, there is a a lot to considsr, incliduing my job itself.  It is sad because I do love my job, but I will not work where people do not want me.

Mail Call

The Post Traumatic Stress Recovery program here at Homewood concentrates on teaching their clients tools that will enable us to deal with the stressors and triggers in our loves.  We do not talk specifically about our traumas, rather we learn how to control the emotions, thoughts and actions that go hand in hand with trauma.

We often speak about boundaries and expressing our needs.  I have A hard time with both of these, especially telling people what I want or need, or even what would be nice to have.  I am lonely here in Guelph.  I feel cut off from the real world, and my friends and family back home.  I have been asking myself “what would help with this feeling?”. I think I have an answer.

I noticed that a co-patient of mine received mail almost every single day.  I commented to him about this.  He said that he Has a Facebook page about PTDS, and that he posted the address here so that people could send him mail.  I like this idea.  Getting something in the mail is always exciting.  So, here is where the hard part comes in.  Getting mail Would make me happy.  It wpuld make me feel connected to things outside the rehab centre.  So, I am going to post my address here.  I’d love to hear from all of you.  

Natalie Daigle

C/O Homewood Health Centre

150 Delhi St.

Hamilton 2 Nurses Station

Guelph, ON

N1E 6K9

I am looking forward to hearing from everyone!

My Life with C-PTSD Part 1

As I sit here in one of the lounges at Homewood, I wonder if I have ever written a post about PTSD.  More specifically how PTSD has affected my life and the life of those around me.

First, let me explain my official diagnosis,  Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD).  According to Out of the Fog C-PTSD is;

a condition that results from chronic or long-term exposure to emotional trauma over which a victim has little or no control and from which there is little or no hope of escape, such as in cases of:

  • domestic emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • childhood emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • entrapment or kidnapping.
  • slavery or enforced labor.
  • long term imprisonment and torture
  • repeated violations of personal boundaries.
  • long-term objectification.
  • exposure to gaslighting & false accusations
  • long-term exposure to inconsistent, push-pull,splitting or alternating raging & hooveringbehaviors.
  • long-term taking care of mentally ill or chronically sick family members.
  • long term exposure to crisis cconditions. 

Last year while at Homewood I finally was given the official diagnosis of C-PTSD.  Finally the way my brain works and things that I have done and/or continue to do makes sense.

 One of the many things that has been affected by my C-PTSD are my relationships.  All of my adult life, my relationship with my parents, my significant others, friends, and most recently my children, have all been affected.
Up until the fall of 2015, the relationship I had with my parents was built on lies and distrust.  I did not realize it, but some 15 or 20 years later, I was still holding a lot of hurt and resentment towards the fact that when I disclosed as a teenager, the abuse was swept under the rug and we all continued on with our lives by living in a bubble that my parents had created.  For me, the bubble became full of shame and guilt.  For years the shame and guilt that I felt was kept in my own bubble.  It was so big, so overwhelming, that I am surprised that I was able to live in it for so long.

The shame and guilt has had a slow leak for a couple of years now, it is constantly being refilled though, however never enough to pop it completely.  Shame and guilt are a huge part of who I am today. Knowing that my disclosure has caused so much pain and has potentially caused my perpetrator some problems continuously feeds the feeling that I have done something wrong.  That somehow I am at fault.

The shame is overwhelming and has shifted over the years.  The shame of not telling, the shame that my body betrayed me and reacted to him, the shame of not getting him to stop sooner.  The list can go on.

Shame and guilt has slipped into my relationship with my husband. I feel guilty for not being able to be sexually intimate, for making excuses, for not being able to express myself.  I feel guilty when I am unable to stay present and dissociate.  Or is difficult to put into words the shame that I feel.

Until now, my children have had an emotionally unavailable mom.  A mom who looks like the queen of all moms from her Facebook posts, but who has felt very little in terms of emotional attachment.  I think to myself “I must have been happy” or “I must have been so proud”. In reality I know that during most of those special moments my body was there, but my mind and heart were somewhere else.  Somewhere deep inside of me keeping me from becoming overwhelmed in the moment.

I have always been quite social, finding it easy to pull myself together on the outside.  Until last March, I saw friends regularly, whether it be one on one or a girls’ night out. It changed though. After getting back from Homewood, my soul had a crack in it, and emotions were able to slowly escape.  I started isolating myself, feeling like if people wanted to see me, they could initiate a visit.  This was counter productive, but it stems from childhood, when no one was willing to take a step to help me.  I think I realize now that I was looking for proof that no one carea.  That is the thing with C-PTSD, you start to self sabotage, to prove that the way you think is accurate. In this case, trying to prove to myself that no one cares.

I want to continue to write, but I know I need to take a break, which I am going to do.  However, this post will be continued, as I feel as though I have not written much about the thought process of a brain suffering from C-PTSD.  
 

A Full Shell

I have been back at Homewood for two weeks. The time plays tricks on me here. I feel like I only arrived yesterday, yet each individual day seems excessively long.  I have to say I am struggling more than I expected.  It’s not in the usual way.  I am open and excited to be here again.  I am able to take so much more away from our workshops and groups than I was able to last year.  I am struggling more with my inner thoughts though.  Last time I was so numb.  There were no feelings to deal with.  There was no thoughts of tomorrow or the next day or of the next year.  Homewood was more of an escape from life.

In the past two weeks I have considered my life, my future, my work.  I want more, so much more, but I am not sure which road to follow.  

I loved my job.  I was happy there, but I realize now that it might not be the best job for me in terms of my mental health. For so many years, the triggers at work have been pushed down, ignored, but I don’t know if I can do it anymore, and even if I can, I don’t know if I want to.  I also wonder if I have been gone too long to be welcomed back.  I feel as though there is some sort of wall that has been built between myself and my colleagues. I don’t know if it can be taken down or not, and I don’t even know if all parties even want it to fall.

Since being here I have come to realize that I am tired of being sick.  I am tired of the flashbacks, the dreams, the guilt and the shame.  I want more for myself. I deserve more.  I, like everyone, deserve to be happy.  I deserve to be able to function on a daily basis.  I deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.  I am not my diagnosis, and I want more.

I want to play with my kids and be present.  I want to make memories that I actually remember.  I want to think back on a certain event and actually remember the feelings.  Facebook memories are not cutting it anymore.  

I want to be present with my husband. I don’t want to float away.  I don’t want to be looking in like I am watching a movie. I am tired of dissociating.  Of having a full conversation only to realize I have no idea what he or I said.  It is frustrating for me.  It is frustrating that my mind leaves my body so quickly that I don’t even have time to catch it.  I can only imagine how difficult it is for my husband.  He is my rock,the constant in my life.  He deserves a wife who is present, and I deserve to be present too.

I just want to be normal.  I want to feel sad and happy, anger and love, fear and calmness.  I want to feel all emotions.  As they say here at Homewood, there are no bad emotions, just uncomfortable ones.  I want to feel whatever emotions are in store for me, but at the same time it all seems scary.  Numbness is so much easier, but it is emotion that makes us human.  Without them we are an empty shell.  I want my shell to be full, as hard and as scary as it may be.

Smudge

Today I participated in a smudging for the first time.  For those not familiar with smudging it is “a custom of Native American and other inside pus cultures. For centuries many cultures have used smudging as a way to create a cleansing smoke bath that is used to purify the body, aura, energy, ceremonial/ritual space or any other space or personal articles.”

Today during my smudge I asked my ancestors why I felt a deep sense of loneliness and loss.  I spoke to those I knew and those that I never had a chance to meet, and asked for their guidance and love so that I could feel part of something bigger.

Today, three random people, from three very different areas of life contacted me, sending love and/or prayers.  Tonight I am going to bed grateful for these three particular people. 

I also smudged my wedding band, hoping to cleanse the love between my husband and I.  Hoping to feel closer and more intimate in our marriage and in our friendship.  

The smudge itself was very emotional for me. It was the first spiritual/religious ceremony that I have participated in for years. I walked away with sage in my hand, held up to my heart.  Without warning tears flooded out.  Without warning felt a deep yearning inside of me for the love and safety found when surrounded by my husband and our children.  

And after, I felt connected, to people to a greater being, to the earth, the water, and the air we breath.  

Another Go

As the train pulled into the city that I was so familiar with, a heaviness was pulling me down.  The weather reflected my mood.  Icy rain hit against my face as I slowly made my way to shelter.  The small stings felt good against my warm skin.  The crisp air entered my lungs, reviving my soul and telling me to breath.

I made my way on the icy sidewalks, and resentfully got in the car that would take me to the final place that I would rest before my journey at Homewood continued.  Something about the cool, crisp air and the icy pellets brought comfort. More than anything it kept me in the present.

It is now Friday, three days into my continuing journey at Homewood.  My admission this time resembles nothing of what it was last year.  Last year I was elated to be here.  I wanted nothing more than a “retreat”.  Somewhere that I could be left alone, hide from my reality and only worry about myself.  

This time around, it is so much more emotional.  I MADE the decision to Leave my family for two months.  I wiped my daughter’s tears as they freely flowed down her cheeks the night before I left.  I hear my son’s sweet sweet voice saying “mama don’t leave”.   I think of my husband, now essentially a single dad for two months.  I think and I think and I feel a sense of selfishness.  I feel as though I let them all down by not doing more my first time here.

I am here now though, and I must separate myself from a mother and wife, and be able to see me as a person who deserves to get better.  A person worthy of happiness, and love, and a life free from guilt and shame.

So, as I start my journey here at Homewood once again, I hope that I will gather the skills needed to contribute to society once again.  I want to work, be a mom and a wifi.  I want to be a friend again and a daughter.  I want to be more then my PTSD.