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 Awareness Month: My Interview with Michele Rosenthal

June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month.

 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that may develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which severe physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or unnatural disasters, accidents, or military combat.

Anyone who has gone through a life-threatening event can develop PTSD including military troops who served in wars; rescue workers for catastrophes like the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.; survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing; survivors of accidents, rape, physical or sexual abuse, and other crimes; immigrants fleeing violence in their countries; survivors of earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes; and those who witness traumatic events. Family members of victims can develop the disorder as well.

PTSD affects about 7.7 million American adults, but it can occur at any age, including childhood. Women are more likely to develop the disorder than men, and there is some evidence that it may run in families. PTSD is frequently accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders. When other conditions are appropriately diagnosed and treated, the likelihood of successful treatment increases.

Roughly 30 percent of Vietnam veterans developed PTSD. The disorder also has been detected in as many as 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans, about 6% to 11% of veterans of the Afghanistan war, and about 12% to 20% of veterans of the Iraq war.

Other factors in a combat situation can add more stress to an already stressful situation and may contribute to PTSD and other mental health problems. These factors include what you do in the war, the politics around the war, where it’s fought, and the type of enemy you face.Another cause of PTSD in the military can be military sexual trauma (MST). This is any sexual harassment or sexual assault that occurs while you are in the military. MST can happen to men and women and can occur during peacetime, training, or war. Among veterans using VA health care, about 23 out of 100 women (23%) reported sexual assault when in the military, 55 out of 100 women (55%) and 38 out of 100 men (38%) have experienced sexual harassment when in the military.

PTSD is diagnosed when the stress symptoms following exposure have persisted for at least a month. When symptoms develop immediately after exposure, the condition may be called acute stress disorder.*

 

Last June I made a YouTube video about my own PTSD Recovery:

 

 

PTSD expert, Michele Rosenthal, lit up my life last year when she shared my video on her Heal My PTSD website (click here).

 

Michele Rosenthal is an award-winning PTSD blogger, bestselling and award-nominated author, founder of HealMyPTSD.com, host of Changing Direction radio, and a former faculty member of the Clinical Development Institute for Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center. She is also a trauma survivor who struggled with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for over twenty-five years before launching a successful “healing rampage.” Her most recent book is Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices to Reclaim Your Identity (W. W. Norton).

 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

 

This year, I got the privilege of interviewing Michele Rosenthal!!

 

This is incredibly exciting because I owe my recovery process to her. If you think you might suffer from PTSD, subscribe to HealMyPTSD.com and enjoy all the FREE resources; I know I do.

 

Without further ado, my interview of Michele Rosenthal:

 


How long did you suffer from PTSD before you sought treatment specifically for PTSD?

Sadly, my story is like so many survivors with PTSD: I struggled for too many years without understanding what was wrong with me. While I intermittently sought help from the mental health and medical communities 24 years went by before I finally received the PTSD diagnosis — and that was because of my own self-advocacy. I was getting worse and worse in therapy and decided to do my own research about my symptoms. The research led me to PTSD literature and a PTSD self-test like the one we have on the Heal My PTSD web site. I took the test and scored extremely high, then took those results to a trauma trained therapist for direction, guidance and ultimately a diagnosis.

What were your PTSD symptoms?

The usual mix: Anxiety, insomnia, recurring nightmare, numbness, avoidance, intrusive thoughts, unpredictable emotional swings, rage, dissociation, hypervigilance.

How exactly was your PTSD diagnosed (did a doctor surprise you with the news or did you tell your doctor that’s what you suspect the problem to be)?

I showed my therapist at the time the results of the PTSD self-test and asked if he thought I had PTSD. He responded, “What is PTSD?” That’s when I knew I needed to specifically find a trauma trained therapist to help me. She immediately recognized the symptoms and history.

What specific combination of healing exercises helped you recover from PTSD?

A mix of traditional and alternative processes that I put together based on what made me feel most comfortable. I started with talk therapy that included cognitive behavioral therapy, then added Emotional Freedom Technique, Thought Field Therapy, EMDR, Tapas Acupressure technique, acupuncture, hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming. Whew, it took a lot to get me to freedom but it was worth it!

How long have you been free from PTSD symptoms?

Eight fabulous, fun, joyful and wonderful years. Which is not to say there haven’t been traumas! Indeed, the most exciting part of recovery has been experiencing another life-threatening trauma (very close to the category of my original trauma) and coming through it with zero repercussions. Healing really can happen — and stick.

Any advice for those trying to heal their PTSD?

Yes……

Engage and participate in your healing.

For too long I thought others (i.e. therapists) could/would do it for me. Well, with that attitude I didn’t get very far. In the end only we can truly facilitate our recovery. Everyone else is there to support, guide and help.

To keep yourself moving forward keep making choices and taking actions. These are the mechanics of healing and they offer you a process to gain and keep healing momentum every day.
Access and feed your hope. There will be dark, horrible, awful days in PTSD recovery. During those moments it’s going to be necessary to find a reason to keep going.

Identify what inspires you, and what provides your reason for slogging through the muck. Sometimes, that will mean connecting to a source of hope inside yourself; other times that will mean borrowing hope from outside yourself.

However you do it, fan the flame of hope because that’s where the fire of determination is born.

Remember that you are the expert in you. Personalize your recovery so that you feel able and as comfortable as possible in the discomfort of healing.
Remember that you have enormous healing potential; the goal is learning to access it. You can do this. Dig deep!

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Michele Rosenthal
Award-Nominated Author, Speaker, Post-Trauma Coach
Founder, www.HealMyPTSD.com
Radio Host, CHANGING DIRECTION
Author, Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices To Reclaim Your Identity


 

What struck me the most about this interview was how similar our experiences were with the (mis)diagnosis.

 

YOU HAVE TO ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF.

 

If you think you have PTSD, take this self test (click here). This is the beginning of your recovery, Warrior, well done. You will most likely need to do your own research in finding a QUALIFIED Trauma expert (a medical professional who not only knows what PTSD is, but also how to effectively treat the symptoms you experience) to bring the test results to and create an action plan.

 

Because of Michele Rosenthal, who is a class act, there are free resources that can help you on your journey to being CURED from your PTSD symptoms.

 

Am I cured?

 

Almost. I have been diligently working to heal my own PTSD for the past 2 years and the results are remarkable. I have complex PTSD.

 

Complex PTSD, also known as disorder of extreme stress, is found among individuals who have been exposed to prolonged traumatic circumstances, especially during childhood, such as childhood sexual abuse. Research shows that many brain and hormonal changes may occur as a result of early, prolonged trauma, and contribute to troubles with learning, memory, and regulating emotions. Combined with a disruptive, abusive home environment, these brain and hormonal changes may contribute to severe behavioral difficulties such as eating disorders, impulsivity, aggression, inappropriate sexual behavior, alcohol or drug abuse, and other self-destructive actions, as well as emotional regulation (such as intense rage, depression, or panic) and mental difficulties (such as scattered thoughts, dissociation, and amnesia). As adults, these individuals often are diagnosed with depressive disorders, personality disorders, or dissociative disorders. Treatment may progress at a much slower rate, and requires a sensitive and structured program delivered by a trauma specialist.*

 

Like Michele Rosenthal, it took decades for me to figure out on my own that the symptoms I was habitually experiencing were PTSD. Doctors could not help me until I figured that out on my own. Even then, doctors can do very little to help you; your recovery has to be ALL you.

 

Ew. No.

 

Yes. Seriously.  No one is coming to save you. Save yourself. Fight for yourself. Create a support team who understands (for a long time, you may be the only person on your own team and that is okay). Above all else, figure out how to LOVE YOURSELF.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

A Day In The Life: PTSD Healing

After I made my PTSD Healing video 9 months ago (click here to watch), I was asked to give a break down of what a day in the life would look like.

 

Yesterday was an awesome day for me, healing wise, so today I am sharing the highlights…

 

Highlights make more sense when you start low. Yesterday began for me at 4 a.m. when my husband and I both jumped out of bed horrified to hear our cat was peeing on the carpet.

 

How did we hear it?

 

It was super loud for some reason because she backed herself up against the wall and her urine was ricocheting off of the wall and onto the carpet. A waterfall of cat pee.

 

CAT PEE!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Don’t judge. My cat has never done this before and she is recovering from major surgery. My 10 year old kitty had 4 stones removed from her bladder! Honestly though, I think she peed on the floor because of the stupid cone…

 

Bebe Meme

 

Anyway…I sat on the floor in a daze watching my awesome husband scrub the carpet, then I got a bucket of water and started to scrub the soap out and by the time it was over, I decided not to go back to bed.

 

Sigh.

 

I did not get enough rest, which has been happening for like the last 3 weeks, so I felt discouraged. I made myself a really fancy bubble bath with special salts and essential oils. I turned on my salt rock lamp and stared at my plants. It was difficult to keep my eyes open.  So tired…

 

PTSD Healing

 

Just the night before, I had decided not to go back to sleep if I found myself awake in the very early morning hours due to the horrific nightmares I found myself experiencing after going back to sleep.

 

Being awake at this time, taught me something fascinating: my brain is on fire between the hours of 3 and 5 a.m.  Everything is intense, asleep or not. I must say, being in the bathtub at this hour really helped me to process many complex emotional concepts; it was like lucid dreaming.

 

You’ll have to take my word for it, as I don’t remember any details from my awesome bathtub experience, only that I was totally brilliant and had a lot of answers. I may have had all the answers. This girl was on fire. Next time, I’m writing that all down…

 

When the water in the tub cooled down, I transitioned right to the shower to heat things back up. It’s not everyday that I am awake before my son, AKA the Rooster, but of course, this is the one day that he sleeps in and will therefore not be needing any nap today, thank you.

 

I used my shower time wisely, plotting out the next few hours with my son, using my awake brain for once. I wanted needed him to take a nap later on so I could get some rest too. I got our breakfast all ready and suggested a bike ride. Luckily, he went for it.

 

This was only our second time ever riding together, usually I walk alongside him as he slowly and rather randomly pedals toward the next stick he would like to pick up and bring with us. Oh, training wheels…

 

Did I mention that I LOVE MY BIKE?!

 

PTSD Healing

 

The weather was perfect yesterday. Upper 70’s, sun shining, blue skies with really cool clouds that looked like Ocean waves. It was by far the longest bike ride my 3 year old has ever been on.

 

Oh and now it’s like 8:30 in the morning…I have a long way to go…

 

Grocery shopping is a must, but I am not looking forward to that so I enhance the trip by bringing the artwork I had recently finished and was gifting to my best friend, so I could ship it to her.

 

PTSD Healing

 

Gift giving feels amazing, especially if I make the gift.  This piece of art is really special. I made it with my precious hands, it has six real orchid blooms “glued” in (with Gel Gloss Medium) and a real lego flag. This is the home I built for my Haiku and it is remarkable (#selflove). I cannot wait until my BFF receives her gift and tells me all these things.

 

When we got back, I noticed that I had missed a few texts and calls on my phone and one of them was from my son’s Nana, just checking up on me. I texted her back immediately asking her if she wanted to come over for a few hours this afternoon to babysit while I took a nap and SHE SAID YES!!!

 

This news enabled me to have a 45 minute sword fight with my son. I felt like everything was going to be okay. I was going to make it. Actually, we were having the time of our lives.

 

And then…I got my nap. It was awesome. It was more of a focused meditation of positive thoughts than actual sleeping, but it was amazing to be by myself to fill back up.

 

rachel introvert meme haiku

 

I took the time to journal my gratitude and then I took my second fancy bubble bath of the day. I cannot tell you how amazing the first 45 seconds of a bubble bath feel, it’s like some awesome chemicals are being released throughout my body. This helps me deal with the fact that carpet cleaners will be at my house in a half hour and I have to move all the furniture off the carpets (see cat pee incident from above).

 

Moving all your furniture around feels super weird to me. More like, having huge household items obviously not where they belong causes anxiety within me. Where should I sit? Should I just stand? My husband came home from work early and took our son over to run an errand and I decided to NOT be awkward about the situation. I decided to get out my laptop and complete a chapter in my online screenwriting course. By the time my guys returned, the carpets were done being cleaned and I had a 100% on my online quiz.

 

This makes dinner preparation easier, but I am still feeling kind of confused about why all my furniture is piled up on the tile; my brain does not like the chaos. So I repotted some plants:

 

IMG_1854

 

 

IMG_1856

 

IMG_1848

 

I emptied out the huge green pot and put the remaining strand from my elephant plant into this much more appropriately sized pink pot. I’m pretty excited about the prospect of getting a new plant for the big green pot.

 

While I was working on my plants, I had an idea for another piece of art that I had been working on, so I went for it:

 

PTSD Healing

 

Ahhhhhhhh. This feels so good–not only do I have a home for my awesome Haiku, but now I have a home for the 5 orchid blooms that fell in the past week (resulting in me repotting the plants). YES!!! Everything has it’s place.

 

Just kidding. We can’t put the furniture back until the morning when the carpet is dry. That’s okay, my husband and I ended our night with some serious jig saw puzzling and my third bubble bath of the day.

 

PTSD Healing

 

Yesterday was an awesome PTSD healing day.

Here is a recap of why:

  1. Bubble Bath
  2. Shower
  3. Bike Ride
  4. Gift Giving
  5. Play Time
  6. Meditation/Nap
  7. Bubble Bath
  8. Journaling
  9. Screenwriting Class Quiz Success!
  10. Repot 3 Plants
  11. Make Art
  12. Jigsaw Puzzle
  13. Bubble Bath

 

This list is not all inclusive; as in, I did not tell you about everything that happened yesterday, I got a lot of work done that does not apply to this story and I also got a lot of joy and healing out of the other experiences in my day that are simply not applicable herein.  The above list includes healing exercises that are specific to me, these are things that I like to do because they make me feel good.

 

I would love to know what your healing exercises are; please share with me by leaving a comment below.

 

XO

~Rachel