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PTSD Nightmares: The Nightly Battle

Over the last year, after losing my Mom and my two cats all within the year of one another, I have had nightly nightmares that have me re-live the worst times in my life thus far.

My dreams consist of seeing my mom pass away, become sick, or injure herself.

Last night, she choked and had a seizure in front of me.

My dreams consist of nightmare scenarios: being stuck in the ocean, shark attacks, losing friends and loved ones, falling from high altitudes, plane crashes…..

Last night, I fell through the sky, off of a skyscraper, and I felt it. I felt the roller-coaster feeling for a long time.

Will I ever recover? Will these ever go away?

I’m stuck in my trauma, awake and asleep.

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Dear Me At 23

I am sorry you felt the need to binge tv shows nightly and eat fast food to soothe yourself.

You stopped seeing friends except on the weekend when you would get wasted.

I am sorry you slept with numerous men who did not care about you.

(Remember the one who slept with you, took your cigarettes and then left and never talked to you again? Shout out to Kyle from Longmeadow, Mass. You reignited my trauma, yet I feel sorry for you. I saw those sadness in your eyes. I hope you are ok.)

I am sorry you let your mother, who loved you and who you loved very much, to control your emotions like a light switch….so badly that self harm and disordered eating became a part of your life.

I am NOT sorry for these experiences. They taught me lessons.

I am sorry for the hurt they caused my sensitive soul though.

Now, we will heal, but it’s up to me when.

When?

I don’t know.

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My Doctor Failed Me Today

I have been trying to get off of the fake love of my life, cannabis concentrate, for the last few years.

I have worked with substance abuse teams, therapists and group sessions.

I am now in an intensive DBT program at this place I’ve received all of my care. In order to be in the program, it is required you see one out of three of their doctors.

I’ve been seeing Dr. I* for over a year. Overall our relationship was cordial. She has a heavy accent and sometimes I can’t follow along with what she is saying, and I end up letting it brush by because, well, I have social anxiety.

Today, I came into the session planning to inquire why she dropped by antidepressant dose in half overnight, and maybe that is why I am struggling weaning off of 1gram of cannabis concentrate.

My partner was sitting next to me when after I approached the subject and let her know my feelings politely, Dr.I basically said “we have tried everything and at this point we are back at square one.”

Square one? I’ve been busting my ass getting clean. I gave up nicotine and alcohol! Why does she just seem to always tell me, “you just need to stop.”

That doesn’t work. Period.

To Be Continued.

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A Thank You Note


When a mental health professional that you’ve been working with leaves, it can feel devastating.

These people can provide what we never had.

Validation, reassurance, appreciation and love.

When they leave, it can feel like we are no longer validated, reassured, appreciated, or loved.

What we can try to remember is the gifts they have left.

They left us with new skills, new ideas, new outlooks.

They gifted us with a new way to travel on the road called life.

And while we can feel grief, sadness and whatever emotions come up over them leaving, we can carve out some time for gratitude.

For without these professionals, our lives can feel lonely, unreal and incomplete.

So, today, I am sending love and kindness to my particular mental health professional that is leaving in a few weeks.

Thank you.

Thank you for being there while I stopped drinking, and when I grieved for my mother. Thank you for coming into my life. Thank you for always validating me and providing me with comfort and laughs.

Thank you for teaching me about death and dying and your times in hospice. We knew my mom brought us together somehow.


“I appreciate you…especially your heart.” —Anonymous

https://pin.it/3UEFyUw
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Trauma

Unlike other forms of psychological disorders, the core issue in trauma is reality

Bessel A. Van der Kolk, Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society
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Love Endures

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

Haldir, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings
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I’m Ashamed of My Mental Illness

Sitting here, in my car passenger seat, waiting for my signature espresso drink, I’m full of self-hatred.

I’ve let just about all of Facebook and social media know that I struggle with mental health issues, along with friends, family, etc. Although they know I struggle, I assume they also see me as a functioning adult who inspires others to be more open about their mental health and stability.

Most days, I understand that helping and inspiring others who struggle with what I do is a gift. It’s enlightening to see people blossom!

Today though, I need to be one of those I help. I need assistance; I need someone like me to listen or to take the place of a caregiver I never had and am still grieving over. I need someone to soothe me. (Even though I know only I can do and am responsible for that.)

I’ve had a lot of validation in my short life that confirms I am too much.

Today, it really feels like I am.

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The Swing

sitting, playing, silently listening

chest tightens, shoulders freeze

here she comes again

the swing

i sit with her, listening, helping, playing

she soothes me with anger and rage

I finally feel something, not sadness

I finally feel

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5 Ways To Cope With Trauma Symptoms

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing has always helped me calm and center myself. When I first started singing lessons in middle school, my music teacher always told me to breathe into the diaphragm, into my belly, and my voice would radiate better. She was right.

Now, I use breathing as a calming tool. I particularly like tactical breathing (4 square breathing)!

Breathing involves your diaphragm, a large muscle in your abdomen. When you breathe in, your belly should expand. When you breathe out, your belly should fall.

Self Soothing

I am consistently self soothing. Whether it’s fidgeting with something, taking a shower, or sipping a hot drink, these activities help ground me into the present moment.

These coping strategies focus on improving your mood and reducing anxiety and are sometimes described as self soothing or self-care coping strategies.

Social Support

As the years go on my social anxiety has gotten worse, especially during Covid! When I do spend time with people who are caring and understanding of my mental health, I feel refreshed and connected! It’s a great feeling.

Research has found that finding support from others can be a major factor in helping people overcome the negative effects of a traumatic event and PTSD.

Mindfulness

Ahhhh mindfulness. The one thing I am terrified of is the one thing that will ultimately help in my healing process! Mindfulness heals.

Mindfulness is about being in touch with and aware of the present moment.

Expressive Writing

Clearly, writing is an expressive tool in my life. Writing emotions down is easier for me than speaking them.

In PTSD in particular, expressive writing has been found to have a number of benefits, including improved coping, post-traumatic growth (the ability to find meaning in and have positive life changes following a traumatic event), and reduced PTSD symptoms, tension, and anger.

Reference

Tull (2020) https://www.verywellmind.com/ways-of-coping-with-anxiety-2797619

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How Mindfulness Can Help Trauma Survivors

Being a trauma survivor myself, mindfulness has always been integrated into my treatment.

Recently I was enrolled into a mindfulness based CBT group where I’ve met like minded people who are struggling with trauma and struggling staying present.

So, what is trauma and why is mindfulness so important in regards to it?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event.

Ultimately, any event might be considered traumatic if you have experienced and/or witnessed a threat to your life, your body, your moral integrity, or had a close encounter with violence or death.

So why would a trauma survivor want to be mindful when flashbacks may be running their daily lives?

There is an immense amount of data that supports mindfulness as a treatment for people diagnosed with PTSD.

In brains of people with PTSD, deregulation occurs in the area of the brain that is associated with emotional regulation and memory. In the brain, the amygdala represents a core fear system in the human body, which is involved in the expression of conditioned fear. When an person is suffering with PTSD, the amygdala becomes over activated.

Mindfulness meditation is correlated increase in gray matter in the hippocampus, a decrease of gray matter in the amygdala, and neuroimaging studies have found that mindfulness meditation also helps to activate the pre-frontal cortex.

Mindfulness can help people train themselves to get unstuck from a vicious cycle of negative thinking, often a cornerstone of trauma.

Reference

Wolkin, J., PhD, B. G. B., Pratt, M., Whitney-Coulter, A., Naidoo, U., Smookler, E., Staff, M., & Kira M. Newman and Janet Ho. (2018, June 8). The science of trauma, mindfulness, and PTSD. Mindful. Retrieved October 3, 2021, from https://www.mindful.org/the-science-of-trauma-mindfulness-ptsd/.