How Emergency Rooms Handle PTSD

“It’s like…a prison…in my mind…”

“Awww, try to breathe, that will help you, we are almost there, I’m so sorry you feel this way, no one deserves to feel that way.”

I recognize that my shallow breathing is audible, I can’t believe that I have this angel driving me to the emergency room, I am holding a bucket of my own vomit and I can’t stop my eyes from rolling back in my head.

This is why I called for help in the first place.

I’m an adult. It’s okay to throw up. The circumstances surrounding the sickness were shady though.

I had done everything I set out to do that day. I made it to my son’s preschool to cheer him on for the St. Jude trike-a-thon. I mailed out 7 pieces of my Ho’oponopono healing art. I picked my son up early that day and surprised him by taking him to the new Smurfs movie.

By the time I got my son to sleep, I was going to reward myself with some “me” time. For sure. I was totally going to do that. But I found myself doing some chores instead.

Kind of unlike me.

Only because I said that I was going to relax. I have been pushing really hard for a long time.

Kind of unlike me.

Only because I said I wasn’t going to accomplish goals by pushing too hard anymore. I set the intention to achieve my goals in the amount of time they take to achieve. I am not trying to control anything other than what is in my control.

These are important mantras for someone who set out to write, direct, produce, design, style, wardrobe, hair, make up, edit and star in a 30-day video series. I wore all these hats for 30 videos and I’m ready to celebrate right now. I achieved that which I set out to do.

It’s time to relax now. Right, Rae? Right now, right? Are you going to do that or…

Oh my god…

The tops of my shoulders are my first clue. The tops of my shoulders begin to tingle, like they are spinning and that spinning starts to ignite a spinning sensation in my stomach. Interesting…it’s like a message…

FEAR!

Fuck. What? What’s going on? I’m crying by the way.

I think you should stop picking up toys right now and just accept the fact that you are going to throw up.

NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

Why????????????

I don’t know.

I was going to watch my show…

No, you are going to throw up, get the garbage can.

Shit…you’re serious.

I’m going to meditate.

It’s too late.

I’m going to take that medicine they gave me last time at the hospital.

Good luck with that.

Thank you.

**throws that all up immediately**

Do you think I threw that medicine up?

I’m not a scientist, but yes. I totally do.

The spot at the top of my stomach, my sternum, it really hurts.

Touch it.

**throws up immediately**

You need help.

No, I think this is going to go away.

**throws up immediately**

My shoulders are spinning so fast. It’s like some sort of anti-gravity magic is pulsing through me. My eyes want to shut but they won’t. I am so tired. My body became freezing cold with sweat and then burning hot with sweat three separate times. It has to be rest time now. I know I wanted to close my eyes. But my eyelids wouldn’t shut. I couldn’t see anything though because my eyes were rolled back in my head.

I am floating away.

I see other things. Things I don’t want to see. Anymore.

Rachel, call for help. Just do it.

Yes. Let’s do this. No bra. Get your ID and insurance card. Grab that little garbage can and go get yourself some help.

I for one am going to kick this car ride off with throwing up. Painfully. It adds the right aroma for the rest of the drive. The angel driving me tells me she doesn’t mind. She is a nurse and vomit doesn’t scare her.

I get out of the car, determined to bring my vomit with me, so I don’t permanently leave my scent on her vehicle. I drop my driver’s license. I bend over to pick it up and drop my phone and my insurance card. I’ve got the vomit though. Don’t worry.

As the sweet angel takes my hand to guide me toward the entrance of the emergency room, I take her hand and feel compelled to warn her:

“I’ve done this a bunch of times…and…it’s not going to go well…probably…so…maybe it will…but…they don’t really know what PTSD is…so…”

My angel assures me that she understands, she is prepared and she is not going to let anything happen to me. As we walk through the entrance of the emergency room, I see a woman being wheeled out; she has balloons attached to her wheelchair that say: It’s a boy!

I discreetly throw away my bag of vomit in the garbage can in front of her and keep going, trying not to think about how that was me 5 years ago, leaving the same hospital with my boy. But the ocean of my thoughts is so deep and I’m stuck in the center, unable to stop answering the question of: what has your life become?

Get me a bag to throw up in, please.

I hold the paper bag to my mouth, certain I am going to explode at any minute. So close to getting help, yet so far away, I try to register at the front desk:

I am having a PTSD attack, I am stuck in a flashback, I cannot stop throwing up, the pain in my sternum is unbearable, I am dehydrating and I need help.

The nurse explains to me that she has PTSD, too. It’s going to be okay. I just need to go take a seat in the waiting room.

I notice a man in the waiting room and try to not sit by him. I notice there is a play area for children and I try not to sit too close to that. I sit down and feel too close to both the man and the play area. I throw up into my little paper bag. The pain is excruciating.

The nurse comes back to the waiting room. I hope she is taking me to my room now. She is not. She has come over to tell me that she takes Lexipro and that has helped her tremendously. I grunt in response.

Has anyone ever recommended an antidepressant to you while you are vomiting?

It feels weird.

I looked at the man sitting six feet away from me in the waiting room and thought, do I know him? Is HIPPA still a law? What about confidentiality?

As I ponder the benefits of medical privacy, the second nurse at the registration desk calls my name. I shuffle over to the front desk, doubled over at the waist because of the pain in my sternum, holding onto my angel companion, who is holding onto my bag of vomit.

“Insurance card and ID.”

As I hand over my documents, the nurse asks me: “why are you here?”

“I am in tremendous pain, specifically located in my sternum, I have PTSD, I am having a flashback episode and I can’t stop throwing up, I need help—”

“–YOU CAN CALM DOWN FOR 5 MINUTES AND ANSWER MY QUESTIONS!”

I wish I had my face on film when that happened, so you could see my reaction. That was a wind out of the sails moment. I deflated. I was so confused. I was answering her questions. Why was she implying otherwise…

“DO YOU WANT TO KILL YOURSELF?”

“No”

“YOU DON’T WANT TO KILL YOURSELF?!”

“Nope. I sure don’t. I want to live.”

My angel starts yelling: “SHE ALREADY ANSWERED YOU, SHE SAID NO!”

Exasperated, nurse one turns to nurse two and says: “she claims she’s not SI.”

Nurse two sighs like she is tired of being lied to and shrugs her shoulders like, who cares?

My face is burning as I survey the room, ascertaining who heard that exchange and what they thought of it. My mind starts to prickle with questions like, why do they think I want to die? Why aren’t they glad I said I want to live?

Before I can draw any conclusions, the first nurse, the one who has PTSD and is doing great with lexipro, takes her last shot at me:

Where did your PTSD come from?

My eyes roll back far in my head and I feel myself leaving the room. Trying to answer the question is causing me to float away. I need to stay present. I tell her:

“No.”

“Yes! Why do you say you have PTSD, what caused you to have PTSD?”

“Um…nooooooooo…no…no…nooooo…”

“YES! YES! YES! YES!”

So the nurse is screaming yes at me and she sounds exactly like Jillian Michaels. I’m holding a paper vomit bag up to my face, my eyes are rolled back in my head and I am whispering no as she is screaming yes. Again, we are in the waiting room in front of everyone.

If I had come in experiencing pain and vomiting related to diabetes, would the nurse need to know where the diabetes came from? If my pain and vomiting was related to cancer, would she need to know how I got the cancer?

PTSD is a disorder hallmarked by adrenaline dump. A massive amount of adrenaline was pumping through my body. Adrenaline will dehydrate you. Vomiting will dehydrate you. I needed an IV so that I could rehydrate. I needed an anti-nausea medication so that I could stop cyclical vomiting. That I couldn’t make it past the waiting room without explaining the juicy details of my story, the very thing that is triggering the episode itself, is criminal.

I began to understand intimately why 22 American veterans commit suicide every day.

The nurse made clear that she was taking “this man” to his room and that I was to follow behind them. In the middle of our walk she said, stay here and left me standing in the hallway. Several nurses asked me why I was standing there in the middle of the hallway. I explained that the admitting nurse brought me back there and told me to stand there. All of them seemed shocked at my answer and went about finding me a room.

I throw up a bunch of times to christen my new hospital room as I wait for the doctor. In between the awful vomiting sound, is the unbelievable sound of my hiccups, which are so painful, that I moan in despair after each one. Nurses poke their heads in periodically just to ask: “was that you?”

Yeah that awful sound was me.

The doctor finally walks into my room, holding my medical file. He says:

“I remember you from 2013. I’m not convinced about what’s going on here. I’m going to touch your stomach. Hmmmm, you aren’t too tender.”

I remind him that the pain is in my sternum, nowhere else. He pushes on my sternum. I hiccup super loud. He walks away. I throw up violently. I look over at my angel and ask her: “do you think that doctor knows that he pushed on my sternum and caused me to hiccup and throw up or do you think he just walked away and didn’t notice?”

She looked sad as she admitted: “he just walked away, he doesn’t know you threw up.”

I get hooked up to an IV and begin to rehydrate. Yay! I get some Atavan and Zofram for the pain and nausea. At some point, I fell asleep because I am woken up to the sound of: you are being discharged.

I’m better? Okay.

As I shuffle home from yet another PTSD emergency room experience, I can’t help but feel defeated. Why was it like that? Why did I know it was going to be like that? What did I do wrong?

How could I have done that better?

I don’t know. It’s been like almost 2 weeks since then and I still don’t know why that happened. I’m afraid it will happen again. I’m afraid for people who go into emergency rooms without companions. I’m grateful I had an angel. I want to live. If I have to scream that truth over and over and get in a fight about it, so be it. I want to live.

I want to cure my complex PTSD. I want to say that I don’t have that anymore, that’s something I used to have. I am doing the work. I will get there. It takes time. In the interim, I will love myself and focus on gratitude. I will go slow and take excellent care of me.

Thank you for listening.

XO,
Rachel

You are loved

Emergency Rooms drain self love, don’t forget to fill back up when you get home.

Healing from Complex PTSD Adrenaline Dump

I am doing my best to heal my complex PTSD.

 

Today was a bit of a set back for me.

 

Truth be told, I totally lost my shit.

 

It’s already been kind of weird lately for me. I haven’t been sleeping well. After  a few days of not sleeping well, everything becomes surreal for me. The other day I looked up at the clouds and thought: those are old clouds from weeks ago, nice try…

 

Today I got pulled over. It happened so fast, I was unable to even have that sinking feeling in my stomach like, oh crap, that’s a cop. I just looked in my rear view mirror and saw the flashing lights right behind me. I looked down at my speedometer and was not surprised to see that I was NOT speeding. As I pulled over, I hoped that maybe this was not about me somehow…

 

As the officer approached, I got out my license and thought…I hope that me getting my license out of my purse does not cause the officer to think I am getting out a gun.

 

By the time the officer got to the passenger window, I became terrified to retrieve my registration from the glove box because I became fixated on the police officer mistaking me for someone with a gun. The fear came upon me so quickly, I was surprised to see my hands were shaking as I handed over my license.

 

The first words out of the officer’s mouth were a demand for my registration. Of course. License and registration. I knew that. But…

 

My mind is like…what is that again? Registration…that thing in the glove box…

 

Very slowly, I reached for the glove box while making eye contact with the Officer the entire time as if to say: please don’t shoot me for opening the glove box.

 

I pull out the canvas/velcro holder of all things paper related to my vehicle out of the glove box and sheepishly open it up knowing that I don’t know what exactly I am looking for…

 

Doom doom doom da da doom doo

 

Under pressure…

 

All the while, the officer is advising me that the sticker on the back of my vehicle is the wrong color and I should know the answer to this simple question and where is my proof of insurance?

 

As I am sheepishly explaining to the officer that “the shameful truth here, is that I don’t know the answer to these questions because my husband takes care of this sort of thing,” the radio on the officer’s shoulder declares that my registration is expired.

 

Copy that.

 

No registration and no insurance? The officer tells me to wait here and goes back to the police vehicle.

 

This is the part where I totally lose my shit.

 

I’m in trouble. As I begin to scan the vehicle for evidence that I have active car insurance, I begin to convince myself that I am going to go to jail. Right now.

 

I call my husband and am unable to even speak to him for the first 85 seconds of the conversation. This is not his first rodeo, so he waits for me to speak with the patience of a saint. I tell him while sobbing:

 

I am scared…I got pulled over…they say I have no insurance or registration…I don’t know what’s going to happen to me…

 

Really? Rachel we have car insurance. I’m surprised about the registration. Let me get off the phone with you so I can send you the proof right now. It’s ok.

 

But it’s not.

 

I have Complex PTSD. A bucket of adrenaline dumped into my system. I was hysterical. I was shaking, my heart was racing, my stomach was cramped and burning with acid, I could not stop crying and I was having a hard time breathing.

 

The officer could not believe it.

 

“Turn that off.”

 

Seriously, that’s what the officer said to me. Twice.

 

“Turn that off.”

 

Meaning, my feelings. Lol. If only I could.

 

I handed my phone to the officer to show that I had active insurance and was told to bring that proof to court with me so that my ticket could be reduced. I took the ticket and said:

 

Thank you. I just want to say that I am sorry.

 

“You weren’t even speeding.”

 

I know. But I messed up. And I’m scared. I thought you were going to arrest me.

 

“Why? Do you have active warrants? Should I do a background check on you now?”

 

This actually pauses the crying for five seconds so I can laugh out loud.

 

NO! I mean, go ahead you can do a background check on me if you want. I’m just so sorry and I apologize.

 

Disinterested, the police officer asks me to sign the electronic acknowledgement of my ticket, needing to quickly go pull someone else over who had just sped past us.

 

It may be necessary for me to point out here that I could care less about getting a ticket and having to go to court. The problem for me here is, I don’t think I can drive because my body is processing a bucket of adrenaline that dumped unnecessarily into my system due to mother-fucking PTSD.

 

The officer cut me off to pull out, wanting to go get that other guy, which left me in the awkward position of reentering the freeway on my own in heavy fast moving traffic. The terror inside of me is just, unreal. I do have the ability to intellectually observe in real time: wow, this amount of fear is excessive. I do not have the ability to make it stop before it has run its course.

 

So I drive home scream crying. So startled. I am so startled by everything. And at the same time, I am able to say the truth to myself: it’s ok. You didn’t get shot. You didn’t get arrested. You didn’t even get yelled at. You’re ok.

 

But I’m not. I wish I could tell you here that I was ok, but the fear inside of me needed to come out, it was not all gone. I could not stop screaming. I could not get ahold of my breathing and I could not stop crying and the pain in my stomach was intense.

 

My husband called to follow up with me and I told him: I got scared and it made me sick.

 

He asked what he could do to help and I asked him to get me adrenal gland supplements from the health store. This was a suggestion written down for me by a psychic I saw several months ago, but for some reason had never followed up on. I shouldn’t need a psychic to tell me to get adrenal gland supplements, but the fact that she made the suggestion without me ever mentioning my health issues resonated with me.

 

adrenaline dump

 

My husband came home with a variety of supplements and tons of love and support for me. We talked about all of the healing tools in my arsenal and how this is a time to use my app. So I did.

 

I opened up the iHeal because iFeel app and it gave me the best homework. It asked me to list out my 5 favorite lunch meals. Now that may seem useless to you, but it was lunch time and I had not had anything to eat, nor did I plan to. Listing out 5 different lunch meals was hard but ultimately inspiring. I also meditated with the app and that caused me to fall asleep. When I woke up, I ate and felt much better.

 

The app helped me to transition. That period of time between “I’m not ok” and “I’m ok” can be the scariest time of your life. You don’t know when it will end, if ever. I have spent a lot of time in this space. The space between.

 

adrenaline dump

 

Interestingly, taking selfies of my crying face also helps me to transition. It’s hard to continue sobbing when you know exactly what it looks like. In fact, this almost makes me smile. Because I am so ridiculous. Shout out to my sense of humor for keeping me alive all these years!

 

Knowing I have the ability to heal my Self is empowering.

 

XO,

Rachel

PTSD, Adrenaline Dump & Dehydration blog post

 

If my PTSD were cured, it would look like me not having to go to the Emergency Room anymore for dehydration brought on by adrenaline dump.

 

I used to go to the ER a lot. Even on vacation. I can tell you about Emergency Rooms in Colorado, Washington and California. Mostly I can tell you about Emergency Rooms in New York and Nevada. I went to the ER so many times in 2010, I agreed to have my gall bladder removed exactly 6 weeks before my wedding. I was back in the ER with the same symptoms one week after that unnecessary surgery.

 

Healing my own PTSD has been a long hard journey. I have been able to reduce the frequency of ER visits through a variety of activities: Meditation, EMDR, Self-Hypnosis, Journaling, Reiki, Yoga, Bubble Baths, Potting Plants, Making Art, Reading, etc.

 

When you go to the ER more than once in a month for dehydration, that can feel depressing. When you can go long periods of time without having to visit the ER, that feels like success. Holidays get me. I was ready for Halloween this year. Having missed the past 2 Halloweens with my son in a row, I had a plan: I was not going to get sick.

 

IMG_6412

 

I won. I did not get sick. I felt amazing. I went to a party. I trick or treated. I was totally there!

 

xmas2

 

And I totally nailed Halloween. I did it. No hospital for ONE YEAR!! I cured my PTSD! Or so I thought…

 

The week before Christmas my son got a little stomach bug that caused him to vomit from about 6:30 p.m. until 8 a.m. the next morning. I held him, did laundry and changed the bedding at least a half a dozen times all through the night. My son was such a trooper. Advice that helped:

  1. You are throwing up (he didn’t know);
  2. Mommy and Daddy will take care of you (he relaxed);
  3. Breathe when you can, hold on, you will be able to breathe again soon (thank god, right?).

 

I knew that night when he put his pukey little hand on my mouth that I was in trouble. I was inspired by my son’s ability to shake it off and have a great, even comedic, attitude throughout his sickness. I planned to have that same great attitude and pulled it off the next night for the first several hours. I threw up, cleaned myself up, closed my eyes and meditated. I may have even given some thumbs up out there. But then something happened.

 

I had a memory.

 

At the time, I was thinking: that’s interesting. It was not a foreign memory, but it FELT different this time because of the experience I had as a parent the night before, taking care of my own child. It was the difference between experiencing something as a child and experiencing it as an adult.

 

Interesting…

 

Instead of 100% meditative concentration, I began to go toward the new feeling. What’s that? What does this feel like? Why is it new?

 

anxiety-diagram

 

Well I’ll be damned if I didn’t walk up so close to that new feeling that a bucket of adrenaline didn’t dump into my system.  That’s right, a bucket of adrenaline.

 

fightorflight1

 

At this point, I began to throw up with no breaks in between. As in, I was both throwing up from the flu and from PTSD/Anxiety/Adrenaline dump. I’m talking about thumbs down.  I tried to tell my husband I needed help for at least 20 minutes. I couldn’t get out of the memory, which was now clearly some sort of flashback. I would open my eyes again and he would be looking at me and I would wonder, did I tell him I need help yet or did I faint again? Finally, after only 6 hours of throwing up (I should’ve been almost done!), I told my husband: I need to go to the hospital.

 

And I was right. I did need to go to the hospital. I hit a new record: 3 saline bags to rehydrate me. The flu alone does not explain that level of dehydration. Adrenaline dump does. Had I not told my husband, between throwing up, that I needed to go to the hospital, I would have died from dehydration.

 

Highlights from my last hospital experience: putting an IV into a dehydrated person’s vein is not easy, my arm is still swollen and bruised 2 weeks later; regardless of dehydration,the staff made clear they were angry at how long it took me to comply with the urine sample; the doctor at one point yelled in my face: OPEN YOUR EYES and when I did, he yelled: ARE YOU GONNA HURT YOURSELF?!

 

Did explaining at registration that I am having a PTSD attack help? No, not this time. Not every medical professional knows what that even is, unfortunately. Compassion is not a given. So I went home and tried to take care of my husband who had finally caught our son’s flu and then I just rested right through Christmas. I wanted to spring up and make Christmas joyful and high energy, like a music video. When I was unable to do that, I fought off feelings of self hate and depression and just watched movies under a blanket with my family on the couch. We all took care of each other.

 

sickpic

 

In conclusion, it’s ok to get sick.

 

disordermeme

 

XO

~Rachel