names have been omitted in this post
After I filed for divorce in October 2012 nightmares were kickstarted. They continued through my divorce and even post finalization. Nightmares are nothing new to me. They first started after returning from leaving home and living with gang members at seventeen however fleeting. Back then my startle response was heightened, I couldn't relax and at any given moment I was ready to go into fight or flight like a ninja. Then in 2008 after my sister was killed unexpectedly by a drunk driver new nightmares ensued. Those were the worst, like something from a horror film leaving me waking up gasping in a twisted sweat. But the nightmares that came next on the heels of my divorce were by far the most bizarre; like something out of the movie Inception with buildings that shifted and moved, I was transported back into my old house trying to escape my ex as the three stories were in perpetual motion and I couldn't seem to find my way out…
I never thought for a minute someone could have post traumatic stress disorder,
PTSD for short from a less than emotionally healthy marriage…
Years ago I wasn't aware that someone could have PTSD from a rape, from a toxic marriage or from enduring the loss of a loved one in a horrific wreck. I had always thought that PTSD was only possible from being in a war… as is often spoken about war veterans. But there is a far and wide spectrum of the severity of PTSD and the source of it's cause.
PTSD is when our minds have not fully processed what we've experienced… our systems are confused and cannot seem to differentiate real threats from false ones; our circuitry has become muddied and we feel frightened, even threatened when there is no longer danger present. Each of us reacts differently to trauma so we are wholly unique in our responses to it. The help and support system we receive (or lack thereof) may also contribute to if or how someone develops PTSD. Individuals who have been physically assaulted, kidnapped, witnessed a traumatic event, have been raped or have been targets of domestic abuse are candidates for PTSD… both men and women being affected.
PTSD is NOT a sign of weakness
You are not weird,
not an embarrassment,
and not a freak.
There is no stigma
There are therapies to help and reaching out to your family physician or a trusted therapist in the divorce process is wise… I tried EMDR after my sister's passing and didn't find it helpful (maybe because I thought it was more bizarre than my dreams themselves) but that's not to say it hasn't helped others and it's not at least worth a try. Yoga, meditation and general exercise may help as well as a general pursuit of staying mindful and even journaling.
About 3.6% of adult Americans -- about 5.2 million people -- suffer from PTSD during the course of a year, and an estimated 7.8 million Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. - via webmd
Typically if you experience symptoms for more than one month it's a sign you may have PTSD… a doctor can review all your symptoms to determine the best course of help for you. Anti-depressants may be used combined with talk therapy to help you find healing. It was on the heels of my being diagnosed with ADHD I mentioned my nightmares following my sister's death to a psychiatrist and after listening for some time he nodded and said I definitely showed signs of extreme anxiety from it, him offering to prescribe me Lithium. After researching Lithium I decided it wasn't for me. (He said one alternative was a daily dose of crazy water ) I decided it was time to up my exercise routine and find better natural ways to cope as I was already committed to taking ADHD medication and wasn't willing to add another med. With time, therapy, breathing exercises and relaxation cd's my symptoms have greatly improved where nightmares are concerned… I still find myself wound up tight but I am hopeful for continued improvements as I address that. It's a process. Each person is individual in what works best for them, their recovery process and whether they choose to take medication for it.
PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder
During the course of my divorce anytime I had to interact with my soon-to-be-ex I was left visibly shaking, trembling… even talking to him on the phone left me rattled. I couldn't figure out why I was having this reaction, as I hadn't had it previously with him. But my thoughts did keep returning to the early October morning that I discovered he was cheating (you can read that post here if you haven't) and that memory alone was enough to set off my trembling. I finally explained to my mother what was going on and she nodded…
"I was fearful of what would happen if he walked in and found you that morning. I kept watching the clock knowing you were searching for clues he was cheating and was worried if you were okay. I stayed by the phone waiting to hear from you."
"I remember feeling so panicked that morning. I had so much adrenaline going through me. Here I was basically trapped up on the third floor in the bedroom if he came home before I finished and I knew I had to hurry because honestly… I didn't trust him to not do something when he came home, my instincts told me I wasn't safe." I paused then added with reflection… "If you think for a minute someone in that position is going to risk losing everything… what a perfect situation to just make it look like I'd just had an accident and fell… he had already been telling you and dad he was "concerned for me", painting me like I was unstable… he was setting the scene for something... call it silly but I've watched enough psycho's on Dateline to see the horrible things that can happen when desperate people feel threatened and want to replace you with someone new." I told her.
Hence the trembling.
I literally felt like I got out by the seat of my pants from that marriage.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2015
Below are the signs of PTSD: someone may experience all or just a few
1. Feeling emotionally numb; difficulty finding any real joy.
2. Lack of or fuzzy memory
3. Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
4. Always being on guard; fight or flight
5. Being on edge; aggression, feeling irritated
6. Difficulty sleeping
7. Easily startled
8. Recurring and distressing memories from the relationship or event
9. Reliving the experience; triggers/ flashbacks
10. Nightmares about the experience
11. Trembling, panic attacks
13. A need for solitude