Anxiety, Birthday, Christmas, December, Depression, Increased heart rate, Post-traumatic stress, PTSD, Repression, Trauma
Another post inspired by Tackaberry Chronicles – this time, about how increased heart rate and respiration are predictors for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
As I read Michelle’s post, I realised my heart rate hasn’t been normal all day, actually.
An insidious aspect of PTSD… is the anxiety caused by the increased heart rate, or is the increased heart rate caused by the anxiety?
How is it, when there’s nothing in particular that I’m stressed about right now that my heart labours at an increased rate?
You know, as I wrote that, I just realised this isn’t a very good time of year for me. I probably shouldn’t spend so much time alone…
From the time I was assaulted to that first Christmas after the fact… was just under two months.
I think I survived that time by just diving right back into work and suppressing the terror. I wanted it all to just go away, but as I’ve found out in incredibly brilliant fluorescent detail, trauma doesn’t actually fade away without help.
Trauma won’t leave you alone. You can ignore it for a while, but eventually you have to face it. If you want your life back.
I remember I bought a new outfit to wear on Christmas day. A brown knee-length cotton skirt and a reddish-brown sleeveless top. I remember my dad telling me how pretty I looked. I remember… no one mentioning anything at all about what had happened. I remember feeling dead inside.
Hello? Can anybody see me??
Maybe this is why I haven’t really enjoyed birthdays or Christmas’ since then… I don’t even remember what happened for my birthday that year. Possibly just the obligatory birthday dinner with the family…
It’s a struggle to remember the holiday periods at all since that time. Actually, I’ve had to check my email records to bring any of it into focus.
For December 2005, there aren’t any emails.
Then, in the days after Christmas… like right now… alone. I shut the door. No one was expecting me. I hadn’t made any plans.
And I fell to pieces.
It was around then I was in touch with G. I’d told him what was happening and he was very understanding. But I edited things down – about how bad it all was. Of course.
I saw no one. For New Year’s, I told my friends I was doing a mini yoga retreat – which I was – and wouldn’t be answering the phone or checking emails. But I was also dealing with insomnia, enormous amounts of anger, sadness, crying, bad dreams and so on…
I’d spent most of the year waiting for things to get better. I really thought it was just gonna be a matter of time. I didn’t realise how much I really needed help. All year I felt very alone, and I was missing my Sydney friends terribly. It was the year of my bone graft surgery.
That year would bring my 35th birthday. So I decided to change the date, sort of. I took a solo road trip to Sydney in late November and organised birthday lunch with my friends, by the water in Pyrmont.
For my actual birthday back in Melbourne, I managed to get together a motley assortment of ‘friends’. K, the woman came to my rescue that night. And a few others. I basically got trashed. Thank you, Long Island Iced Tea. Many of them. Generally I don’t drink a lot or at all (I can go months without drinking anything) but for this milestone birthday, one I’d previously had such different plans for… I couldn’t let it pass without notice, but at the same time I couldn’t cope with it sober, either.
I don’t remember Christmas that year very much, except my sister was pregnant with my niece. There was a lot of focus on her, which suited me just fine, I guess.
Oh. The most recent, yet possibly the worst, and the best. I’m kind of not ready to talk about the events of November/December last year. I’m embarrassed by my actions, my naiveté.
I thought I’d met someone I could trust, but I was very, very wrong.
For now, I’ll just say that those events brought on new lows of my depression. Which eventually resulted in the amazing conversation I had with my chiropractor. Which led me to H, my therapist (thank goodness).
That birthday was spent in tears. I did go out with a couple of friends, trying to enjoy myself but it didn’t go very well. Christmas Eve, I had a conversation that helped a lot. But the whole end of last year really sucked, actually.
It seems for this birthday, the universe conspired to bring joy into my life despite my attempts to keep it on the down low. A lot of love from all over the world, in fact. Despite myself. In my workplace, my inbox, on my blog, Facebook, my phone and more. And I am very grateful, even though I may not have acted that way.
Christmas day was… well, I was sick. A throat infection/flu. So I was merry for a bit, did the present opening thing, ate some food and then pretty much passed out.
This whole thing has nothing to do with getting older… I don’t mind that in the least.
But I hadn’t realised til right about now, the impact of the past few years of Decembers – birthday and Christmas alike.
I should say… I used to love celebrating birthdays. Mine or anyone else’s. I’d run ‘festivale de birthday‘ – trying to stretch out celebrations for as long as possible.
For my mid-thirties, I’d had such different ideas on how my life would be. What I wanted for myself. Instead, I’ve let the darkness and the sadness overwhelm me, take over, and steal happiness and love from my days.
Sure, I’m stronger now. I know a lot more. And perhaps, it’s this level of understanding that I need in order to be ready for my future life – as someone providing service to others.
It’ll be nice though, and a sign of great progress, when I can enjoy December once more.
Madison Richards said:
Sounds like your journey has been full of ups and downs and all of that, while technically “normal” doesn’t really feel anywhere near that, does it?
Thanks for sharing about your “Christmas pasts”. It helps put into perspective that sometimes we just do what we can, getting through life one day at a time.
Have a wonderful New Year, and I agree with you – isolation can be dangerous, so force yourself out once in a while, ok?
It takes time … so much time … doesn’t it …
Every anniversary is different, some more “loaded” than others … and they’re so much more loaded if they occur around a big day like Christmas …
… and Christmas is just about the most loaded day of the year, isn’t it … !
Svasti, keep writing. You have a gift.
Here is to raising a virtual glass of bubbly next December. Plus I already think that you are providing service to others, with the very words that you are writing here.
On a side note, I would love for you to send me any links about PTSD that you think are good, if you don’t mind?
@Madison – many more ups and downs than I expected, to be honest. Which is a lesson in itself – what was I doing with expectations around recovery anyway?
It really was for a while, all about the day by day. Although I guess it’s progress since that’s no longer the case? Am off to go see my grandma today, so that’s a good thing. 🙂
@Jaliya – yes, I think if we’re really honest with ourselves, as opposed to saying ‘oh no, I’m fine’… yes, it really does take a great deal of time to heal properly.
Its not just Christmas… its the whole of December, which, y’know… I used to really enjoy. And now I don’t. For now.
@Claire – Hehe, well, here’s hoping for sure, that life is a whole lot more fun this time next year than it is right now.
Wow, thanks so much for thinking of my writing in that way! It would be great to think that in recording all this stuff, it helps someone, somewhere…
For PTSD links, I don’t have a lot. There’s Tackaberry Chronicles (link in this post) – Michelle writes alot about PTSD research. And there’s a few links in my sidebar under the “3. Getting Help” section.
Dano MacNamarrah said:
Warning: Possibly triggering content.
PLEASE DON’T READ IF YOU ARE FEELING VULNERABLE!
Some years back, I survived a very violent rape, which included me being handcuffed to prevent my escape. I suffered terrible PTSD, despite weekly therapy. My mental health was already bad, but the constant flashbacks, guilt, shame, anxiety and so forth was becoming unbearable.
I saw a program about a medication used to treat survivirs of rape. I know that not everyone is pro-meds, but I asked my p-doc to prescribe it. I was on it for about six weeks. It was a god-send. My symptoms are almost completely gone.
If I recall the events, I feel upset, but this only happens once in a while. I do still exhibit highly reactive responses to sudden loud noise, like the dog barking, but that may be an adult child of an alcoholic reaction.
Should you care know more about this drug, it is Propanolol, which you can easily find information on. I will understand if you do not want to post my comment, as this is pro-meds. It just was such a huge part of my recovery, I would feel remiss in not acknowledging it.
I have found that writing is a great gift that we can give ourselves. We can chart our progress, seeing things in hindsight that we may have missed. We reach others, who have things to give to us and to gain from our words and experience.
I am so thrilled to have met you and look forward to many future meetings of our minds, hearts and souls.
@Dano – I’m quite okay with posting your comment here. I just edited it to make the trigger warning a little more clear.
I don’t know if you think I’m anti-meds or not? But, I’m not. I’m not anti anything really, as long as people are taking care of themselves and by their own consent.
I’m so sorry to hear your story of rape. Whilst I haven’t been raped in a violent way (does drugged date rape count?), it always stings to the bone, hearing of other women’s encounters with male violence.
Y’know, I think its great you’re able to talk about this at all. And I’m glad that the meds helped you get through it.
Personally, I’m not interested in meds. I probably could have gotten back to a ‘normal’ life much earlier if I was, but as a yogini… well, its my choice to feel it, to work it, and to resolve it med-free.
The writing definitely does help. So do all my blog friends with their amazing stories of survival, despite their horrific experiences.
Dano, likewise, I’m glad you have met you. Its a tough road, and only the strong can traverse it. That includes you.
It’s taken me a couple days to comment, but have known that I want to. I guess the post hits me close to home, so to speak.
I understand the need to be seen. Like when you described the first Christmas where dad said that you looked pretty in your new outfit, and how that made you feel invisible. That represents some of my my childhood memories very well. Couldn’t anybody see? There is a need to have the truth acknowledged. Sometimes it’s too painful for families to do it. So it can be a therapist, a friend, a support group… And we have to see and honor ourselves! A precious and sacred thing is born out of pain, if we can take it. If we can process and integrate something horrible and still come out of it in a loving place, it’s a miracle, a beautiful healing. It’s the journey of a lifetime, literally.
I hate writing from the point of view as a trainee therapist, because it feels intrusive on my part. I don’t know why that is, maybe I am scared you will ask me a question and I wont know the answer.
When I started blogging it was purely as a study aid and part of my professional development portfolio. I never imagined that I would be glimpsing into other peoples lives and the ups and owns that entails.
I am getting to some sort of point, I think anyway. I can’t ever be in your shoes, as what happened to you, has never happened to me. In reading your story it helps me understand a little better and if ever I were to have a client that was raped and suffering from PTSD I think it will help us both. I wish more people would read blogs and get how useful they are 🙂
So thanks to you for writing 🙂
@yogabrooks – its a strange thing isn’t it, that the people we are related to by blood… can’t deal with the depths of our despair and pain. Then, I also know that everyone does what they can.
In fact, its a recurring issue in therapy – I know my family are limited, they are hurt and shut down so they can’t be there for me. But still in my secret heart of hearts, I wish they could be.
@Claire – Everyone’s journey for what they’re embarking on begins somewhere. It’s not intrusive for you to read my blog as a trainee therapist. In fact, if you get something out of what I write, then brilliant.
I actually never imagined anyone would be interested in what I write, so its always a little amazing to me when people comment! 😉
Personally I feel like I haven’t managed yet to touch on the experience of PTSD properly. Not yet…
Dano MacNamarrah said:
ALL rape is violent. It is not a sexual act, but an act of supreme aggression. This is why victims are of all ages and appearances. I in no way wanted to imply that my rape was worse than anyone else’s. I have written about it on my blog, so I won’t go on about it here.
I knew that you didn’t take meds, but am grateful that you are open to other forms of treatment. I may try yoga this year, now that I am able to stand on one foot for a few moments. But don’t hold me to it!
There is really not a lot I can say here other than thank you for writing. I suffered a violent rape 52 years ago and when I finally wrote about it a few months back it took days and gallons of tears to complete the task.
I admire what you are doing. I wish you every success.
@Dano – true, but some rapes are more violent than others. Like yours… wow.
You don’t need to stand on one leg to do yoga. You can always hold onto the wall while you build up your balance. That’s what I did!! 🙂
@tricia – thanks so much for your comment. Wow. That’s a long time to hold on to all that stuff. I’m very, very glad you finally got to write it down. Each one of those tears is theraputic, healthful and oh-so-necessary. I’ll be seeking out that post to read very soon!
Liara Covert said:
It is possible that each individual is redefining his or her understanding of “normal” every moment. In a human world of judgment and analysis, confusion often reigns, except for the feelings of love, peace and bliss. They need no introduction or description. The feelings speak for themselves.
@Liara Covert – Normal, ha! I guess ‘normal’ is what we’re used to, right? Unless someone points at our ‘normal’ and says that’s not normal. Then we no longer feel ‘normal’.
But you’re right – love, peace and bliss… need no introduction.