How It Happened… and What Comes After PTSD

It starts with a simple migraine – you remember me telling you about those migraines back in February of last year, those brutal migraines that left me screaming…

But I didn’t know this was anything more than an ordinary migraine.

I took my migraine meds, and I carried on with my day. I wrapped myself in darkness and I attempted to sleep it off.

It was only four hours later, when I was staggering from the living room to get more medication from the bedroom, vomiting from the agony that I realized that something was seriously wrong.

Whimpering when I couldn’t even pick myself up off the floor and had to have my husband help me dress, we drove to the emergency room in the middle of the night, I in my sunglasses with a thick jacket over my face, struggling not to scream whenever we came upon cars or traffic lights – we took the back roads as much as possible.

When we arrived at the hospital, I could barely leave the car, because the parking lot lights hit my skin like hammer blows. Photophobia is no joking matter. I clung to the bowl in my lap, and wrapped the coat around my face as my husband carefully guided me blindly though the doors of the emergency room. Every light we passed under made me cringe and scream, and crumple in pain. He had to hold me up. Somewhere along the way I lost the bowl of vomit all over the nice clean floors. I was beyond caring.

We sat in a dark room for a moment while we waited for them to take my vitals. I had a brief respite from the pain and I thought it was over… but suddenly, the pain came roaring back, ten times worse. It was as if the pressure had built up directly at the base of my skull and was attempting to lift my head off my neck by sheer force of pulse. My muscles burned, every nerve ending on fire. My feet kicked helplessly as I tried to push my own head off my neck. I don’t remember screaming, but apparently, I frightened the people in the outside waiting room quite badly.

They rushed me into a private, dark room with a bed… and when they had me calmer, and they’d given me something to stop me from throwing up that melted under my tongue and tasted like bananas, they tried to dope me up with opiates. The nurse chased me around the room, not knowing I was allergic… I remember the lights being turned on so she could give me the shot and me shouting at her as she asks me “Well, what happens when you take opiates?” “I start itching all over so badly I have panic attacks, and I think I’m high strung enough right now, don’t you?!” I shouted at her. I think I startled her into nearly laughing, but she left the room.

They put me on a very strong anti-inflamatory and a migraine medicine, but it takes a long time for the pain to go away… while we wait, I scream, the waves of pain encompassing my entire reality. There is nothing but me, my body, and the pain… and my longing for it to end. I entertain a variety of plans, from the waiting room all the way until the moment the pain begins to subside and my sanity begins to return in dribs and drabs, as to how I will find this end.

All my highminded ideals about suicide being a cop-out for anyone who’s not already terminal and who hasn’t sat down their loved ones and had a very calm and clear conversation with them all about it went out the window. I didn’t care about anything other than ending my pain… because all I WAS was pain. I didn’t even care that ending the pain would mean I was ended… I wasn’t capable of thinking that far ahead. I thought about ways I could trick the security guard into shooting me in the head. I looked at my husband and pleaded him with my eyes alone, hoping that he would kindly break my neck and end my suffering. Consequences? Who gave a damn – I was in pain, and he was my answer, my savior.

I wasn’t rational. I was an animal in a trap and I wanted OUT.

I broke. I broke myself. I broke my rules. I broke every promise I ever made about my life, my ethics, my loved ones… I broke my beliefs about myself… I broke under the lash of my pain and I gave up.

When I came up for air, I still didn’t quite understand what had happened… honestly, it didn’t really hit me for several months.

When they finally got me calmed down and stabilized, they sent me down to radiology to scan my head, even though I kept telling them, “This isn’t a normal migraine, and it’s starting in my NECK!”

The scans came back and the neurologist came into my very dark room to tell me I had the most beautiful grey matter he’d ever seen, such a lovely amount of wrinkles. I told him thank you very much, but could he do anything about the blue tunnel on the wall or the fact that my neck was hurting so bad that the pulse was making my head want to fall off? No one would listen to me about it not being a migraine.

Finally, the pain began to subside to a point that I could bare it like I could the migraines I’m used to dealing with every day, they sent me home – I guess since they couldn’t figure out what was wrong, all they could do was manage the symptoms and move me out.

I saw a giraffe on the side of the road in the trees on the way home.

Two days later, we got an ice storm. Thanks, neck… I appreciate your art of weather prediction by pain induction.

 

This experience was repeated three times in a two week period. When I remember the pain, my skin crawls. I remember it so clearly it’s as if I am reliving it. The very thought is enough to bring me to tears, and in fact, remembering these experiences is enough to trigger a migraine.

Three months after these three experiences, I started dreaming about walking out into traffic. I couldn’t cope with the disconnect. I couldn’t cope with the fact that I had given up under the lash of the pain, and I couldn’t cope with the fear that the pain would come back… it was even worse because no one can tell me WHY I had those three such severe migraines, screaming migraines… and I was still having migraines, though admittedly not nearly as severe…

I now had an anxiety disorder. I had PTSD, and generalized anxiety. I couldn’t cope with what I’d gone through… so… My subconscious started offering me relief.

When I was six years old, I was hit by a car and I died. It was quick… it was painless. It was just… suddenly dark. I never even saw the car that hit me. There was just sudden peace. Dying was easy.

My subconscious is not eager to admit that at 36, we have 30 years of weight and growth, and that we are considerably more likely to damage a car than the other way around. However, it did alert me to the fact that I had a problem. I was trying, I thought, to escape the pain of my migraines, and I needed to see a better doctor and get some bloody answers, dammit!

So… I went to the emergency room again, hoping that they would help.

They were… not really so helpful as all that.

They decided I was suicidal.

Well, I suppose I was… the problem is that I’m not. I couldn’t ever be truly suicidal because I’m too damned intelligent to be suicidal, and I know the odds… I’d never risk suicide because WHAT IF I FAILED?

There’s a whole host of nasty side effects I wouldn’t want to suffer… which is why I was dreaming of it, rather than actually doing it. I’m too apathetic to ever ACTUALLY commit suicide. Plus… as I stated earlier… I’m too ethical to do that. I believe suicide is something that you should only do if you are already terminal and you have planned it with your loved ones in the loop. It’s just common courtesy. Everyone has the right to die… no one has the right to harm others in the doing of it.

However, I do NOW understand, having had the shoe on the OTHER foot, that there are extenuating circumstances where mental, physical, or emotional pain may be so great that one should be granted mercy, irregardless of the harm it might cause others, because of the great harm it is causing oneself. HOWEVER – that should only be the case where there are no other options and there is no solution. If you are not rational, you are not capable of making that decision for yourself, and therefore YOU should not be the one to decide that suicide is an acceptable solution for yourself. I should know… I was there. I was not rational. It was not in my best interests. I’m doing better now… and I would have missed getting better had I been granted mercy.

It turns out that all I needed was glasses, by the way. Go figure.

Anyway, I digress.

In the emergency room, I explained about the dreams, and said, “Look, I’m in enough pain that my subconscious is now attempting to give me options to escape the pain. This means that I need some help to deal with the pain, and I need a diagnosis as to why I’m in this much pain in the first place. I need a neurologist.”

What they heard was, “I’m having dreams about suicide.”

What they did was lock me up  in a psych ward for 8 days.

I rode an ambulance in the middle of the night under armed guard to a city three hours away. I was forced to ride two elevators, of which I am phobic, which raised my heart rate to over 177. I STANK of fear and bolted out of the second elevator only to huddle in the hallway like a rabbit in the grass. It was humiliating.

When I arrived on the ward, the nurses, assuming I was your typical suicide case, attempted to strip me of my clothes and wanted to examine every inch of my skin. I had to sit them down and explain to them why I was really there, and that I wasn’t going to be combative, but that there had been a misunderstanding over a headache and I was NOT going to strip for them like I was in jail because I had already been traumatized enough. By this time I was in tears and was nearly hysterical because the incident with the nurses had hit a trigger with me.

I didn’t see a neurologist for six days.

Instead I spent a week without pain management. I had another screaming migraine.

I had dreams where my teeth were falling out because I was in so much pain that I was grinding my teeth in my sleep. Because I was in so much pain I couldn’t sleep, I asked them for something to put between my teeth, a mouth-guard or something. They didn’t have anything like that there. “Fine, go up to the NICU and get me a pacifier. This is a hospital. You DO have THOSE. I have to put something between my teeth because my teeth are killing me from all the grinding.” They told my husband I was psychotic, reverting to childish behavior.

He didn’t sleep for a week, barely ate, and cried every day. When I saw him, he was a bigger mess than I was.

About the only thing that staying in the psych ward DID achieve is that I’m now receiving therapy and I’m on a medication for the anxiety disorder that THEY gave me.

I don’t just have PTSD… I’m PISSED that I have PTSD.

I lie… I alternate between feeling sorry for myself and crying in incredible sympathy for all the pain I experienced, trying to understand WHY all this happened and how to never have it happen again, and being so angry I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t know what to throw at whom. I feel helpless and hopeless and angry and compassionate all at once.

Every weekday I get up thinking, today, I’ll go to work. Today will be different.

Every day I sit down at my computer and I realize, today’s no different than yesterday… I can’t deal with other people’s problems because I can’t dig my way out of my own.

Some days, I actually CAN, though. Some days, it actually helps to bury yourself in someone else’s aura and forget your own trauma…

But today…

Today I had to write all of this out.

I had to tell the whole story.

I had to begin from the beginning…

To remember it all.

Admittedly, I haven’t even begun to talk about the side-effects that the screaming migraines and the mismanaged care have caused… the nerve damage and the fact that I can’t wash my hair on my own because I can’t lift my arms for very long anymore, or the fact that whenever I have migraines I lose control of my bladder now, or a whole host of other unpleasant facts of my new life… but those came after PTSD… those came after I got out of the hospital. They came with not being able to log on to the bank’s website without finding myself curled up between the couch and the coffee table rocking myself and crying because I entered the password wrong and it wouldn’t let me in. Those came with standing in the kitchen and the sudden blackouts, or the fear of the shower because I’m afraid the nurses will ask me to strip again. Everything after PTSD is different. Everything after PTSD is overwhelming. A grocery trip has to be managed after midnight, with medication, a protein bar and a bottle of water, and your favorite stuffed toy in a death grip. Any new experience has to be carefully scripted with people you know holding your hands and a quick escape route available at all times. After PTSD, patterns are everything. Spontaneity is a bad word.

After PTSD… everything is different.

But I’m learning how to put myself back together. And someday…

Someday I will be whole again.

Someday I will be me again.

Someday… I will be able to live like I never thought I’d want to die again.

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2 comments on “How It Happened… and What Comes After PTSD

    • Thanks. I am getting better finally.. I can actually go out in public now, and I’m starting to talk to people again. I’m recovering.. slowly.

      Like

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