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Thank you for visiting. Content MAY BE TRIGGERING ESPECIALLY FOR THOSE WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED ABUSE, STRUGGLE WITH SELF-INJURY, SUICIDE, DEPRESSION OR AN EATING DISORDER. Contains graphic descriptions of suicidal thoughts, self-injury and emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Do not read further if you are not in a safe place. If you are triggered, please reach out to your support system, a mental health professional or call 911.

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Disclaimer: Although I have worked with persons with mental illness for twenty years, I do not have a Master's Degree or a license. This is not meant to be a substitute for mental health care or treatment. Please obtain professional assistance from the resources listed on the right of the page, if needed. And call 911 if you or someone is in immediate danger.

A key word that you will see:

Fragmentation: a mental process where a person becomes intensely emotionally focused on one aspect of themselves, such as “I am angry” or “no one loves me,” to the point where all thoughts, feelings and behavior demonstrate this emotional state, in which, the person does not or is unable to take into account the reality of their environment, others or themselves and their resources. This is a term that my therapist and I use and is on the continuum of dissociation.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

I'm Going to the Hospital, Again!!!

There has been a lot of events in my life since the end of last year and I know many of you know it, but for those who don't quick summary :

October 2008 ~ mass removed, possible cancer, benign.

Thanksgiving/Christmas ~ family stress/with just the holidays as usual, but with triggers this time and begin to decompensate.

Jan/Feb 2008 ~ 24 day psychiatric hospitalization

March 2008 ~ not unpacked from hospitalization yet and am hospitalized 7 days for very serious pneumonia

March 2008 ~ day after I'm discharged from the hospital my father-in-law is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, hospice in place, given one week to six months.

April 2008 ~ father-in-law not doing well has hospice nurse in home. He passes away on 4/26/09
Funeral Service ~ May 1st
Burial Service ~ May 9th

I am still recovering from pneumonia. This means I take medication that has caused me to gain 30 pounds as it increases your appetite, and retains water and salt. I am unable to fit in most of my clothing. Embarrassing moments ~ need to wear husband’s underwear as none of mine fit!!! Have tremors, mood swings, and skin growths just to name a few. But, it was either that or die.

I feel like I’ve been just barely holding it together and just need a safe place to “fall apart” and process some of what has happened. Due to the rapid nature of the events, I feel like too much happened for me to be able to recover from one event to the next. I’m feeling really overwhelmed.

I feel like I've been rapidly having more difficulties with depression, focusing, making decisions, fragmenting, ridged thinking to no thinking, staying present, feeling disconnected and on the verge of disorganizing. So, my therapist brought up hospitalization as an option.


Think, think, think….I obtained advise from my psychiatrist and the psychologist that I had during my last hospitalization. They were of no help!!! My therapist laughed because everyone was saying that it is up to me that I know myself the best and can make this decision. Sigh!!!

This week, I decided that I needed hospitalization. It was a tough decision because of my concern for my husband, who is very supportive. Also, I don’t really want another hospitalization. However, suicidal thoughts and self-harm urges are getting stronger and more consistent, so I know I’m headed for trouble. But, I am not there yet.

So, on Monday, I will have an intake/assessment for admission if I meet the criteria which I am sure that I will. Bottom line is that if you hear from me, I wasn’t hospitalized. If you don’t hear from me assume that I was admitted.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Playing Tetris May Prevent Posttraumatic Stress Disorder


I am absolutely fascinated by this research and wondering where it might take treatment and prevention of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder!!! The following is an excerpt from the BBC News:

Treatment Hope

Dr Emily Holmes said it might produce a "viable approach" to PTSD treatment, although she acknowledged that a lot needed to be done to translate the experiment into something that could be used to help real patients.

She said: "We wanted to find a way to dampen down flashbacks - the raw sensory images of trauma that are over-represented in the memories of those with PTSD.

"Tetris may work by competing for the brain's resources for sensory information.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Myths & Facts

The following are myths taken from PsychCentral,

Myth: PTSD is only seen in people with “weak characters” who are unable to cope with difficult situations in the same way that most of us do.

Fact:
PTSD is a human response to markedly abnormal situations, and it involves specific chemical changes in the brain that occur in response to a person experiencing a traumatic event. Many of the symptoms of PTSD seem to be a direct result of such brain changes.

Myth: All of us have been through frightening experiences and have at least one symptom of PTSD as a result of that experience.
Fact: Although memories of frightening experiences may be similar to symptoms of PTSD (e.g., vivid memories), most persons do not have the severity of symptoms or impairment associated with PTSD. The specific brain-based responses seen in PTSD differ from those seen in normal anxiety. Similarly, the experiences of normal anxiety and of PTSD are markedly different.

Myth: Stress reactions to trauma exist, but these should not be considered as a serious medical problem.


Fact: PTSD is a medical disorder that can sometimes cause serious disability. Persons with PTSD often also have co-occurring mood, anxiety, and substance-related disorders. In addition, these people may have significant difficulty at their job, in their personal relationships, or other social interactions.

The National Institute for Mental Health reports, co-occurring depression, alcohol or other substance abuse, or another anxiety disorder are not uncommon. The likelihood of treatment success is increased when these other conditions are appropriately identified and treated as well. Headaches, gastrointestinal complaints immune system problems, dizziness, chest pain, or discomfort in other parts of the body are common. Often, doctors treat the symptoms without being aware that they stem from PTSD. Tomorrow, Tetris for treatment?
To obtain much more complete information you can go to one of the following links:
http://www.medicinenet.com/posttraumatic_stress_disorder/article.htm
http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/ptsd
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml
http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/index.jsp

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?

The following is from the National Institute for Mental Health:

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.

Signs & Symptoms
People with PTSD have persistent frightening thoughts and memories of their ordeal and feel emotionally numb, especially with people they were once close to. They may experience sleep problems, feel detached or numb, or be easily startled.

Treatment
Effective treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder are available, and research is yielding new, improved therapies that can help most people with PTSD and other anxiety disorders lead productive, fulfilling lives.

309.81 DSM-IV Criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following have been present:

(1) the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others (2) the person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Note: In children, this may be expressed instead by disorganized or agitated behavior.

B. The traumatic event is persistently reexperienced in one (or more) of the following ways:

(1) recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions. Note: In young children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the trauma are expressed.
(2) recurrent distressing dreams of the event. Note: In children, there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content.
(3) acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur upon awakening or when intoxicated). Note: In young children, trauma-specific reenactment may occur.
(4) intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
(5) physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.

C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by three (or more) of the following:

(1) efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma
(2) efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma
(3) inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
(4) markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
(5) feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
(6) restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)
(7) sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)

D. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), as indicated by two (or more) of the following:

(1) difficulty falling or staying asleep
(2) irritability or outbursts of anger
(3) difficulty concentrating
(4) hypervigilance
(5) exaggerated startle response

E. Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in Criteria B, C, and D) is more than one month.

F. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Tomorrow, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Myths and Facts.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week ~ PTSD

TRIGGER WARNING ~ VIDEO IS GRAPHIC!!!
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder can lead to suicide as people with the disorder become desperate to end the flashbacks and nightmares of the trauma that they endured this includes war veterans and others. Approximately, 5.2 million adult Americans attempt suicide.
According to Psychiatric Times, Lieutenant General Peake testified that the number of suicide attempts by all veterans under treatment by the VA actually could be more than the 1000 per month. According to Wrong Diagnosis, approximately 20.2 of every 100,000 soldiers killed themselves, compared with the 2006 civilian rate of 19.2.
About.com, reports that those with PTSD rates of suicide attempts increased considerably among people who had experienced multiple incidents of sexual (42.9%) or physical assault (73.5%). They also found that a history of sexual molestation, physical abuse as a child, and neglect as a child were associated with high rates of suicide attempts (17.4% to 23.9%). 5.2 million adult Americans (NIMH); 3.6% adults (NIMH); about 30% of war veterans.
This National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week, so I thought that I would address one of the most misunderstood diagnosis, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, I have this disorder due the abuse I experienced in childhood. It became debilitating for me, but I hid it for a very long time. Treatment is available and those with the disorder can lead fulfilling lives. Depression was previously covered in another post.
Freedom From Fear states, “Each year more than 17 million Americans will suffer with an anxiety disorder. More than 19 million will also suffer from some type of depressive illness. The cost to the economy of these terrible diseases is billions of dollars each year; the cost in human suffering is immeasurable.
Despite all of advancements and opportunities for safe treatment, the majority of folks who suffer with anxiety and depressive illnesses do not seek treatment, drop out of treatment too quickly, are non-compliant to treatment or receive treatments that are not the most effective. Some of the reasons this occurs are the terrible stigma surrounding mental illnesses, lack of resources available to those in need (adequate insurance, community resources, knowledge of where to go for treatment, not enough treatment providers, etc) public's lack of understanding the signs and symptoms of theses illnesses.
Clinicians recognize about 12 relatively distinct subtypes of anxiety disorder: Panic Disorder, with and without Agoraphobia; Agoraphobia Without a History of Panic Disorder; Specific Phobia; Social Phobia; Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; Post-traumatic Stress Disorder; Acute Stress Disorder; Generalized Anxiety Disorder; Anxiety Disorder Due to a General Medical Condition; Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder; and Anxiety Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.
The prevalence of these disorders is startling. At sometime during their lives, nearly a quarter (24.9%) of the adult population in the United States will have an anxiety disorder. Only substance-related disorders are more common (26.6%).” We all have stressful events in our lives,but its what we make of them that defines our character. This not a simple stressful event. It is a trauma outside the range of “normal” personal experiences where you believe that your life or someone else’s is in danger.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat. Tomorrow I will cover the DSM-IV-TR Criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder .

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder has been around as long as there has been wars, torture, abuse, divorce, accidents, deaths or any type of trauma, but never had a name. People probably ignored it, had “nervous breakdowns,” combat stress, shell shock, became delusional or psychotic, became addicted (alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling-yes, those are verified addictions) or committed suicide.

It is not a medical bandwagon and not an excuse. It is not readily diagnosed because there has to be a triggering event. It is a real disease that significantly disrupts a persons life. When I started to have memories of my abuse, I eventually was no longer able to work. I wanted to continue; however, my symptoms became such that I was either going to be hospitalized or stop working. I miss working, but know I cannot which is a tough thing for me to swallow.
My symptoms include intrusive flashbacks of my abuse (auditory, olafactory, seeing, physically feeling and re-experiencing my abuse), disrupted sleep, dissociation (not completely in reality, but in a fog state), extreme hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, panic attacks, feeling overwhelmed ALL the time and avoidance of anything associated with my abuse (crowds, loud noises, odors, yelling, loud voices, knives, tools, belts, the color pink, I could write a whole page, but I won’t). I don’t have control of when the flashbacks occur and they significantly interfere with my daily life. It is treatable usually with psychotherapy and medications which I am doing. There is also another form of treatment called EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing which as been quite successful for some.
Are we better off not knowing about PTSD? Is it possible for the brain to recover totally? Or do you just have to learn to live with it? No, we are not better off not knowing because it occurs in our brain anyway. No, would you want to live with those symptoms because they are there whether or not you have a name for it. Having a name helps people learn to cope with it and not think that they are “crazy.” There are actually neurological changes in the pathways that react to stress that become automatic. Those cannot be changed without intervention. The pathway does not ever go away. However, the brain can learn new pathways, but it is very difficult…take it from someone who knows.
The flashbacks at this intensity and reactivity with treatment can get to the point where there a less severe or no symptoms or flashbacks that are easily handled or do not have an intensity about them. The brain will still go there or it may not, but it just maybe a nuisance or the new pathway can easily take over. Or you may just need to tell yourself, “okay, I’m not in that situation…I can handle this…I am not going to die/get hurt.” Then, deal with the situation in a more “normal.” manner. It has taken much therapy and medications to try to learn how to cope and learn new ways of managing my life. Tomorrow, I will cover the DSM-IV-TR Criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
To obtain much more complete information you can go to one of the following links:

http://www.medicinenet.com/posttraumatic_stress_disorder/article.htm
http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/ptsd
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml
http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/index.jsp

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