Monday, February 11, 2013

PTSD and Me


My name is Samantha Means, and I have Complex PTSD. 
It reads strange, to see my name and posttraumatic-stress-disorder all in one sentence, claiming it as part of me.
            I’ve been in and out of therapy for the previous six years.  Consistently for 18 months from 2009 to 2011 while I was in the Marine Corps, and in about two weeks it’ll be a solid year with my current therapist.  For the first time in my life I’m looking at my existence and seeing it for what it is, rather than what I wanted it to be.
            If I’m being entirely honest, I’m afraid.  Today my therapist told me that I’m not broken, or unhealthy, but that there are unhealthy pockets of brokenness within me that need to be made healthy and whole again.  Pockets.  Just pockets.  Sometimes I feel as though the pockets encompass the sum of my being. 

            I’ve been slowly working my way through a PTSD workbook, the one I’ve nicknamed my “Stupid Book” because this book is helping me work through the stupidity that never had to happen in the first place.  Abuse.  Trauma.  Neglect.  It never had to happen, and it’s stupid that it did.  Therefore, my Stupid Book is giving me access into the caves and caverns, the pockets, of the affects of all of that stupidity and for the first time I’m seeing how much damage was done.  It’s like living in a beautiful house and someone showing you the rotting or sinking foundation.  All the work that needs to be done to fix it is just stupid because it should’ve been built right, or fixed right, in the first place.
            As I work through this Stupid Book, I’ve discovered that, for me, it feels like taking a scalpel to a cancerous tumor without any anesthesia.  Torture.  When that torture leads to a desire to numb out by taking up smoking (again), or drink just enough to drown the emotions, or down a cap of NyQuil just so I can sleep through the night without nightmares or cases of insomnia, there’s a problem.  I confessed these to my therapist today and she told me it was time to get that anesthesia: anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication.  Maybe then I can take the scalpel to the tumor without destroying myself in the process. 
I don’t like it.  I’ve gotten advice and due to the fact I’m actually verbally processing with a therapist it’s not like I’m substituting the alcohol and NyQuil for medication, but getting medication so I can do the processing WITHOUT the other substances. 
The fears in place are due to having overdosed on over the counter medication in 2007.  I fear this will be a temptation to repeat the process if it somehow doesn’t work. 
I’ve never been on medication and I’ve seen the nightmare kids at a youth inpatient rehabilitation facility go through with finding the right cocktail to help them function so they can do the treatment work they’re in treatment to do, as well as function in society.  I fear I’ll have a terrible reaction to the medication, or the exact opposite reaction I’m supposed to have (I’ve seen it happen before). 
I fear I’ll spend months figuring out what’s helpful and what’s not, which feels like a huge setback when I want to be moving forward in my healing process.  When I’m pursuing healing, being stalled because I’m not able to move forward without the proper help – and I do recognize this as help – it feels like just one more thing to hold me up.
Bigger fear: I make $700 a month at my part-time job, I rely on the GI Bill to pay the other part of my bills, I’m a full-time college student and I’m getting nickel-and-dimed trying to market a book that’s set to be officially release in mid-March… how am I going to pay for it?  The VA is supposed to help, but a couple of years ago when I got colitis and went to them for help because I didn’t have insurance… they sent me away and said they couldn’t help me. 
I’m not sure what they’ll say this time.  I’m making the call tomorrow morning.
I bring all of this forward because I believe someone might just be able to relate and find comfort in knowing they’re not alone.  Maybe someone reading this is a praying individual and will send God a prayer on my behalf that this will work out.  Maybe this will simply give some insight to the frustrations and pains that go with battling complex PTSD long after the traumatic events have come and gone.  The pain doesn’t end when the trauma ends.  You just learn to manage on autopilot.
At this point, my autopilot has been perfected to such a degree everyone thinks it’s the real me.  I don’t blame them – I thought it was the real me too.