Alphabet Soup in My Brain

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PTSD for me seems to cause symptoms seen in ADD and OCD. It seems my brain gets stuck, or gets scrambled, and is rarely just buzzing along nicely. I generally have too many thoughts, not all negative thoughts any more, constantly bumping into each other in the most rude way. See just as one thought gets started and I think, Ohh that would be interesting, then another thought carelessly interrupts and off I go in another direction.

Here’s an interesting article about PTSD and the brain:

Excerpt “Many parts of the brain are likely to be involved in PTSD.  However, in recent studies two structures in particular have been highlighted – the amygdala   and the hippocampus  . The amygdala receives inputs from the thalamus   and the cortex, and sends efferents to the brainstem  , hypothalamus   and striatum. It is possible that these circuits are important in responding to threatening information from the environment via the autonomic, neuroendocrine and motor systems. Preclinical studies indicate that amygdala circuits are involved in fear conditioning and extinction . . . The hippocampus receives inputs from and sends efferents to both amygdala and the cortex.  The hippocampus plays an important role in memory, and these circuits may be involved in mediating explicit memories of traumatic events and in mediating learned responses to a constellation of cues (“contextual fear conditioning”).  Furthermore, preclinical studies demonstrate death of hippocampal neurons and hippocampal shrinkage after exposure of animals to chronic stress.”

I score high enough on the ADD and OCD tests to be medicated, but have chosen to try behavior/thought modification first and continue on my med-free healing path, thinking the main issue is PTSD. I am coping fairly well, but often have this feeling of disorientation, like thoughts are not in the right order in my brain. I have too many related thoughts all flooding the gate at once and I have to work so hard to focus on one. And then I get stuck on it, but it feels so good to be stuck and focused, no more interruptions, except I actually can’t stop then and nothing becomes as important as my new focal point.


Around noon I open the dishwasher, start unloading it. Then remember that unloading silverware is the 4 yr old’s job, so I call for him. He does not come immediately, so I see what he is up to, and break up a lego fight between brothers. Then I supervise while they make up, and put some legos away. Then I put some dirty laundry in to the hamper. Then I see my book and look at the clock and think I don’t have time to read now.

Then the kids are hungry, so I fix some lunch. I get annoyed that the dishwasher is open and close it to avoid bumping my ankle. As I clean up lunch plates, I see the sink is full, completely full and can not hold anything else. I open the dishwasher and take out a bowl. I can’t remember which shelf we put these on now. I open every cupboard and find similar bowls. I need to nest them to have enough room, and I find some christmas gift cards we tucked up there for safe keeping. I get online and check the balance.

Kid 2 sees me on the computer and asks if I’ll play a game with him. We play together a bit and then a text comes in, Hubby is leaving work and asking do I need anything from the store. I leave the game and look in the fridge and pantry and text back a shopping list. I get thirsty for something in the fridge and have to get a cup from the dishwasher, nothing clean on the shelf. I stack all the cups from the dishwasher together to put them away, but leave them on the counter when I hear my work email bing. Team member asking a question, needs a quick reply, but it doesn’t have a quick answer so I work on that. I get tired from the research and re-writing that email so many times to get my message across clearly. I feel tired and think of my bedroom, currently being re-painted, and think I should shop online for a new comforter. I spend over an hour going from site to site even though I will not be ordering online, because I can’t buy a fabric without touching it first – it has to be soft. I feel angry for wasting time, and then very very overwhelmingly tired. I think I must need coffee.

Stacks of cups are blocking the coffee pot, so I put them in the cupboard first. I can barely get water out of the faucet because the dishes are piled so high, so I open the dishwasher again. I’m feeling tired and restless now, and see the spatula and think it would be nice to make some cookies. That’d be a nice surprise for Hubby to come home to fresh warm cookies. But my counters are a mess, full of dirty dishes that don’t fit in the sink. I keep unloading dishwasher. And then hyper-focus on the kitchen. Nothing distracts me this time so I get stuck and clean feverishly for the next 2 hours.

I didn’t think to start any dinner though. I didn’t make any cookies. I didn’t get back to work yet. I get angry at myself for wasting a day. Somehow, it is 6pm, and all I did was clean the kitchen a bit, and I still have 6-8 hours of computer work. But wait – didn’t I work a bit? I remember some emails. I have to look up the times I sent replies to fill in my timesheet. I forgot to record my earlier work. Now I scan my memory, surely I worked in the morning too? Look at recent docs, internet history and figure out I actually worked quite a bit already but did not record any of it. Good news, but frustrating to try to accurately get paid that way.


Enough of that. Just trying to illustrate how irritating it is to be me, to be so forgetful, so easily distracted. It makes it difficult to trust myself. And it is uncomfortable. I never did get a drink, or the coffee, and probably didn’t eat lunch. I lose time so easily and always need to redirect myself. It is exhausting, like monitoring a child, but it is me.

I have so many lists, charts, and calendars to keep me on schedule and not forgetting anything major. Just have to remember to look at them.


9 thoughts on “Alphabet Soup in My Brain

  1. I really hate this about me. I was frequently called Patty’s Flea, although I think it was Paddy’s Flea. Either way, I’ve also watched my EF do the same thing, so at least I come by it honestly, but it doesn’t make it easier to deal with, especially when being a survivor you “get” to add in hyper-vigilance. It’s one of the main things I miss about my dog: she was my early warning system. I did have to keep track of the people in the house with her there to warn me when someone was close to my room. I use routines to help me with a lot of things and email reminders, but heaven forbid if my carefully planned routines are interrupted. Chaos, and I don’t even have children to help with the distractions. It’s all me. :-/

    • Good point Judy, that a survivor’s hyper-vigilance adds to this component of distractibility. It is definitely more difficult when the kids are home, but I also struggle when alone to stay on task, get off one task, or remember things. Hmm, I have seen similar piles of clutter in my mom’s closet, maybe I did inherit some of that. And when I lived with my Dad, I was not “allowed” to be forgetful or disorganized. He striclty enforced a military style cleaning/cooking/chores routine fueled by fear. I had to be perfect, and it was so stressful! Learned some OCD that way I think, always checking and rechecking if I did the required tasks to avoid the punishment or ridicule.

  2. That you are going the non-med route makes it difficult sometimes but you are finding coping mechanisms. With the exception of my seizure meds, I am also non-medicated. I also learn coping mechanisms, they don’t always work but most of the time. You are doing great!

    • I probably should have said I made that decision with my doc and therapist. They said I was doing well enough and would probably have worse side effects with meds right now than the troubles I am trying to fix. I don’t want anyone to think I am anti-meds if they need them! Also, took OCD meds, anti-anxiety meds, and antidpressants for many many years until things were in the current state of ‘nearly’ under control. And you’re right, sometimes coping mechanisms, don’t work, but they do seem to get better with practice and patience. So much patience.

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