After therapy and rest, I can say the latest storm has started to pass over. I feel myself returning.
So what happened? PTSD happened. And I was blindsided by this one. I thought I had things under control. I thought I was coping. I thought I was OK.
And then I wasn’t OK. Quick as that. I couldn’t make sense of anything. I have not wanted to die so strongly for many years. I thought I was done with the suicidal ideation. I mean I have dealt with the passing thoughts of death, the ones with no power, the why am I here, what is the point, and I’d rather not keep going thoughts. But those come and go quickly and don’t take hold. Like they blow over, I see and feel them for a moment, and that’s it, gone as quickly as it began.
But the past week? Wow. It was like Stephen King and M Night Shyamalan teamed up to direct my inner world of hundreds of ways for me to die. I was bombarded with graphic images of my own death, and they felt real. I could feel myself bleeding, hurting, suffocating, etc. It was terrible. Like nightmares while awake. It was more terrible that I seemed to feel relief by this, instead of horror. It was soothing to think of my death. Mental cutting?
I didn’t understand what was happening. I read my own words on here, and saw I claimed to be happy recently. I couldn’t remember that feeling, and I felt lost and hopeless. I felt like I could never feel happy again. It was hard to breathe. I kept doing my slow, pursed lip breathing like I have been taught, to prevent hyper ventilating and panic from taking over. All I knew was pain.
I was snapping at the kids and afraid I would hit them, their little voices causing me pain with each “mommmm . . .” I kept myself holed up in my room to protect myself from them and them from me. Hubby knew I was pushing him away, and he didn’t know what to do. He decided to give me space, and I felt abandoned. Space is a bad thing when your brain is trying to convince you life is not worth living. I thought he didn’t want to know the truth and was avoiding me.
I made it in to see my therapist, and she knew instantly. She said, you are in PTSD crisis and immediately changed into her more authoritative voice that works so well when I feel like a frightened child. She thinks the recent flashbacks I had during kiddo’s hospital procedures sent me into a full crash and depression. I thought I made it through the flashbacks and had already recovered. She said, sorry, that’s not how PTSD works. ????
So I am still learning. I guess those flashbacks were really powerful and unlocked a whole new bunch of traumatic memories that need processing. I am not thrilled about this, really I am not. But it made sense to me, and seemed to bring me back to reality, and restore my hope that this will pass. I’ve done it before, I can do it again.
So what was that flashback? When I took my kiddo into the MRI room, I was forced to relive my own MRI from when I was 12. I had just been in the Operating room for about 18 hours. They were correcting 2 curves in my spine, so severe that my own body was going to crush my inner organs if left untreated. Something happened, lack of blood flow to the spine, and I woke up paralyzed from the waist down. I was woken quickly from the anesthesia and surrounded by nurses and doctors. No parents. I was so cold, and so numb, I thought I was dead and asked them that. One nurse tapped my hand and said ohhhh, no honey, but was too busy to do anything else. NO ONE made eye contact with me. They were trying to save my legs. Everyone was tapping on me, and I could see them lifting my feet, but felt nothing, like it was someone else’s foot. 4 guys came in and wiggled a sheet under me, and then used it to lift me to another bed. Someone said, ah she’s just a wisp of a girl, won’t need all of us, 2 guys left. I remember being happy because that meant I was not fat. (yes my eating disorder and poor body image was in full swing at age 12) We went quickly through the halls, to an elevator, and down to radiology, my second home those days. But I’d never been in this room before or seen this machine before. They lifted me again and put me on a hard table, not padded like the bed. I remember the pain. My back had been opened from neck to pelvis. 2 metal bars and many clamps were installed. I had this thick layer of padded gauze covering stitches and it hurt to lay on it on the hard platform. I remember the screaming pain in my upper half, and the eerie silence in my lower half. As they put me on it, my one leg strayed off the table and pulled on my back, I screamed and someone put it back up for me. I heard the thud as my leg dropped on the table, but felt nothing. They weren’t being rough, I don’t think, just that legs are really heavy when limp. I had no idea what was happening and no one was talking to me. I still had no parents there, not sure if they weren’t allowed in, or didn’t come in. I heard staff talking about my legs, not wanting them to slip off again. They came in with huge Velcro straps and secured me to the table. I watched them tighten the straps and tried to wrap my head around the fact that I could not feel those straps at all. Then they gave me headphones and said to lay still. Ha, yes, funny, I couldn’t move a**holes. He gave me an apologetic look, he must be so used to saying that and didn’t think. I was in that machine forever. I still heard loud clangs and bangs even through that headset. Finally the noise stopped and the table slid back out of the tunnel. The first thing I heard from the tech was, oh crap, she wet herself in there, we’ll need to clean everything. What? I moved my hand a bit under the strap and felt the wetness. I was mortified. I peed in that machine? I didn’t know I had to pee, and I didn’t know I had peed. I let a few tears escape as reality sunk in, but sucked it back in. It was embarrassing enough to have wet myself in front of them, that they had to mop it up and clean the machine too because of me, I didn’t want to be a crybaby too. Freak was bad enough, I didn’t want to be weak. (guess who taught me that? to never cry?) I closed my eyes and must have disassociated as a bunch of people cleaned me and dressed me and got me to a dry bed and back in my room. I pretended I wasn’t there and let them do what they had to do. I heard the doctors were upset and confused. They said something about too much artifact, and halos, the image was unusable. All the metal they placed in my back made the MRI a good old waste of time. I remember thinking of Indiana Jones, maybe they found a rare artifact inside me when they opened me up? My imagination and odd sense of humor served me well.
So. I relived that when I took kiddo in there. All of it. The sounds, the smells, the fears, and the pain. Oh my god the pain. I was happy his MRI was about an hour, it gave me time to hide in the ladies room and remember how to breathe. I thought I survived, got grounded in reality. I thought it was over. I didn’t know the danger.
My therapist said a flashback like this, reliving this level of trauma, is just like it actually happened. My brain and body think I just had surgery 2 weeks ago. No wonder my spine has felt like it was on fire recently. All the fears, feeling alone, hopeless about the future, finding out I am paralyzed and may need a wheelchair and a diaper all came crashing down on me that day 26 years ago, and again 2 weeks ago. My therapist said I need more time to recover from the shock of that and she is not surprised it sent me into a depression and suicidal thoughts. She said that was normal and all a part of the PTSD. And she said she would help me through it. I wasn’t alone any more.
See this flashback has uncovered so many memories from that time of my life, with my new perspective. When my kiddo was in the hospital, me or hubby, and usually both of us were there with him, at his side, holding him, talking to him. I have just realized that my parents were not there for most of it. My dad went to work each day and brought me fast food dinner each evening and then went home. He did not allow my mom in the room, told the staff she was hysterical and not to be allowed in. He told me she was crying and making such a scene and trying to get all the attention for herself. I believed him then. Now I understand. She was being human, which he did not allow. If my baby had to have a scary surgery, and then came out paralyzed, you better believe I will cry. Anyways, I was all alone for most of my stay. They brought my brothers to visit once, and the big guy fainted when he saw me. Not the best morale booster. My dad praised me for being quiet and would ask how many times I pushed my morphine button that day. I would wait as long as possible to push it so I could make him proud when he came to see me. The doctor even had a nurse check to see if the line was ok, since so much was left in the bag. I suffered and denied my own pain relief to make him happy. Why did that make him happy? Because he is a psychopath, I may have mentioned that here before. (I shake my head now in disbelief, what he did to me)
I know which demons I need to battle now, and after some rest, I will get back to battling. I need to process the fact that no one held my hand, hugged me, or told me it would be ok. I was all alone, except for nurses and doctors waking and prodding me. I had no idea if I would ever walk again, and started crossing things off my list of dreams. There goes the track team, and forget basketball too. Can you swim with dead legs? Where do I get teen sized diapers? Does the school have an elevator? I had all those questions and no one to ask.
The suicidal images have stopped ( for now? I am so scared they will return) and I feel a bit more connected to my world and family again today. I have told Hubby the truth, and told him he needs to be proactive, for the rest of my life I think, and ask me if I have plans to hurt myself. I think I would have told him, but only if he asked. I was really close to checking myself into a hospital a few days ago, so afraid the thoughts would turn into an action plan. I don’t want to hurt my family, and today, I don’t want to leave them either. I had no idea the suicide storm could return, and we were not prepared.
I have PTSD. I can’t control everything. It isn’t my fault. I am loved. I can get through another day, and another day.
Here’s a link I found helpful to share with Hubby, please let me know if you have found any other resources. It seems I so much more to learn about my own affliction.