It has been nearly 6 months since my husband left the hospital where he stayed, critically ill, for 30 days. I wrote about it in this article: https://snappytatter.com/2020/03/10/a-painful-event-in-my-life/. Trauma is not an easy thing to go through or get over for me. I already have a CPTSD diagnosis since I was a child. Trauma lingers in my mind and effects me physically, mentally and spiritually. I know this happens to many of us so I wanted to write about it.
My husband is precious to me. We had only been married about 6 months when illness struck him down and my greatest support suddenly needed supported beyond my capabilities. Luckily, I suppose, it was right before Covid struck so I was able to be at his bedside in the hospital as much as possible. We had a terrible flu which laid me out for a week and became an extraordinarily complicated 30 day inpatient journey for Jay.
PTSD twists the lens you are looking through, causing emotional pain, fatigue, flashbacks and many other symptoms that manifest mentally and physically because of a traumatic event. For me, it meant I began to struggle with very high anxiety and I became hyper-vigilant when it came to my husbands recovery AFTER the hospitalization. I worried about him falling back into illness day and night. I watched him struggle with a lack of strength, imbalance, extreme fatigue, excessive sleep and his own heightened anxiety. My own PTSD symptoms began to mimic his recovery as I was fatigued and unsteady. And I not only have physical signs of anxiety, like suddenly trying to catch my breath, crying and panicking, I have mental symptoms of getting lost in random thoughts and flashbacks, and feeling lost, useless, and unfocused. This has effected my work life. I am disabled due to the extent of my PTSD, which is actually diagnosed as CPTSD, or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to multiple traumas during a long period of my life.
I have not been able to work outside the home except for a couple of easier periods in the last twenty years. Social Security Disability does allow you to work to a degree, while continuing the financial and medical help. I wish more people realized this and tried to work, even just a little. There is so much value and self-esteem tied to work. My work here at home has suffered lately, not only because of the lack of business because of Covid, but also because CPTSD is still aggravated from Jay’s hospitalization. I still struggle with a lack of motivation and it pains me.
Through the decades of my life I have had to learn how to pick myself back up and dust myself off many times. I have always said that I don’t break, I bounce. Sometimes it just takes longer to bounce back. That is the case right now. Here are my thoughts on how to get back on track for anyone that is or has gone through a trauma that has affected them.
- 1. Talk to someone. Talk to a therapist trained in helping people through trauma and help those, like me, that have lived with continuous PTSD, depression and anxiety for decades. And do not forget the power of talking to friends. Not only is social connection helpful and grounding, it gives you a chance to be helpful to others which takes your mind off of yourself for the moment. And don’t sweat the small stuff, for now. I can’t figure out how this paragraph is indented and I am okay with that. It still says the same thing that it would if it wasn’t.
2. Take care of your home. Cleaning your home from top to bottom is a seemingly daunting task that I could rarely get done. Lack of motivation to take care of yourself and your life are very real symptoms that hurt your self-esteem and can create growing chaos around you. Pick one to three things to do each day and you will find that your home stays tidy, which leads to a feeling of wellness.
3. Don’t beat yourself up. Sometimes I just can’t. I just can’t adult that day. And sometimes that feeling lasts for days and it is hard on me. I have to remember…I have a mental illness and a rare illness that causes spells of extreme pain. Trauma exacerbates those symptoms and I can be left feeling lifeless. Remember that you are human and ups and downs in life are natural for EVERYONE. “This, too, shall pass” is an excellent saying for when you “just can’t”.
4. Make it a group effort. Find a group of people that have been where you are. Whether it is grief, abuse, an accident, or drug or alcohol dependence, there is literally a group for everyone. You just have to look for it. Google local groups using the keyword of your issue and you may find a place to go have coffee with a group in person, which I recommend. And Facebook isn’t always a giant time-suck…it has literally thousands of groups that cover every issue you can think of. They are often closed or even secret so your privacy is a little protected. Being in a chat with others is helpful in getting perspective and feeling like you are part of the solution in your own life and other’s. You will realize that some always have it worse and other’s have it better but the effects can still be the same bringing us all into the same boat. And POOF…connection trumps isolation.
5. Find a non-human pal to care for. I have guinea pigs. I love them to death. They are fun, amusing, and docile. When I am particularly disassociated or struggling with mental pain, my husband will pick up a piggy and plop it in my lap and suddenly my mood will change. Get a fish to feed and watch. Or if you can make a bigger commitment go to a shelter and adopt a kitty or pup. Science shows that petting an animal lowers our blood pressure, depression and anxiety. This has been true for me. I have always had a pet. We have 2 cats, a very sensitive doggy that lets me sob on him, and two adorable guinea pigs.
6. Aside from finding a purpose in your day…find a hobby or interest you can sink into. Find something that requires attention and feels pleasurable that you can get lost in. There are literally so many different hobbies out there, I won’t bother to list them. My suggestion is either to scour the internet for a new interest, or take up something you used to enjoy, or embark on a new interest. Stick with the simple, though…so it does not get onto that list of things that suck the energy out of you. I played Mah Jong and solitaire online for years. It kept me from ruminating on my complex and difficult life at the time. It kept me preoccupied through mental anguish, which is the purpose because “this, too, shall pass”.
7. Now, Tomorrow, Whenever. It is important to declutter your brain when you are dealing with trauma. A simple way to do this is keep ongoing lists. One for Now that needs immediate attention, one for Tomorrow that can wait till the immediate is taken care of, and one for Whenever for things that have no real time limit to them. Just make sure that you keep an interest, a hobby, or something to relax you on Now’s list. Make a habit of doing something just for you each day and your mind will ease from the frays of stress. When you find something is running through your brain like a hamster in a wheel…put it on a list and LET IT GO. You have it written down so you do not have to ruminate on it.
Some days are easier than others. I think keeping things small and simple and taking it moment by moment is as helpful as it gets. When depression and anxiety don’t lift for you or they are getting in the way of your career, family or spiritual life, do not hesitate to seek a professional. I am not a professional except at lacemaking. There are many good medications out there that can help you stay on track and ease symptoms of mental disorder.
I do hope you have found this helpful and please share this post to anyone that is struggling. I would hope my thoughts can be helpful.
Live, Love, Tat!