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.

 

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

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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In conclusion, it’s ok to get sick.

 

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XO

~Rachel

Positive Mantras & Parenting: you is kind, you is smart, you is important

{originally published January 14, 2015}

 

Shifting from negative mantras to positive mantras was probably my greatest success of 2014.

 

I pushed myself through every day of my life, all the way to 2014, using hateful, terrorizing, emotionally crushing negative mantras. I was not always aware I was doing it. It was habitual to say the least.

 

The only reason I decided to stop doing that was because of the look on my therapist’s face when I told her that’s how I got myself through high school, college and law school (and the bar exam, my wedding planning and pregnancy). The look on her face suggested that was not a good idea.

 

So, I agreed to try out positive mantras. It was tough at first because I did not realize how huge the shift was going to be. I had to care about myself for real. I had to be sorry when I slipped up, which was tough because, at first, it felt very natural and almost soothing to just allow myself to tear into myself. But when I was finished, it wasn’t soothing at all (obviously) and I regretted what I considered to be “backsliding” into old bad habits.

 

Over the course of the year, I found myself doing many things to solidify my shift into positive mantras. Research, reading, journaling, mixed media art (#hellosoulhellomantras), meditating, EMDR, self hypnosis, yoga, etc.

 

Want to know what the single most helpful activity has been?

 

Parenting.

 

By far, the easiest and most effective method for my shift was to use positive mantras on my child.

 

When I was pregnant, I read the book The Help and was very moved by the mantra that the nanny uses on the baby (“You is kind, you is smart, you is important”).

 

you is kind, you is smart, you is important

“You is kind, you is smart, you is important”

 

My big pregnant self was sobbing thinking about how helpful that would have been, if my parents had used mantras like that on me when I was a child.

 

Ever since my son was born, I have told him this every day:

 

You are kind. You are smart. You are important. You are my son. I am your mom. I take care of you. You are special. You are an angel. You are made out of stars. I am so proud of you. You make me so happy. I love to be your mom. We are a family. I love you.

 

I tell him this, without fail, at nap time and at bed time. I also tell him that when he is cuddly, or sad, or when I just don’t know what else to say. This is my filler.

 

At the end of this month, my son will be 3 years old. For the past 6 months, he has been whispering the mantra along with me. I could not be more proud. I know he believes every word of it (why wouldn’t he? It’s all true).

 

What’s even more amazing—I am beginning to believe every word of it about myself. I am kind. I am smart. I am important. I am a mom. I will take care of myself. I love myself. I am special. I am an angel. I am made out of stars. I am so happy. I love to be Jackson’s mom. I have a family.

 

It’s hard to totally change certain core habits. I know. I did it. Through, research, reading, journaling, various forms of therapy, art work, blogging, meditating, yoga and parenting.

 

I don’t care how old your children are, start the positive mantras with them today. Do it for them and for you. Do it every day.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

Haiku by Rachel VanKoughnet:

 

He’s not mine to own.

I was made to protect him

before I was born.

 

you is kind, you is smart, you is important