My Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Healing Journey
- I never knew I had PTSD.
- I never realized my Daddy’s violent outbursts were from his PTSD as a WWII hero.
- I never realized how much PTSD had negative impacts on my health.
- I never realized my PTSD comfort came from food.
PTSD: A mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event.
My mom was a prescription pill drug addict my entire life. She had moments of sobriety, but they were brief and often ended with large increases in her addiction. By the time I was in high school she was addicted to drugs, alcohol and gambling. She also was anorexic and vomited almost everyday.
My dad was a WWII hero who was drafted on his 18th birthday. He was shipped overseas and served in active combat during the war. Awarded a Bronze Star for his bravery he suffered from server PTSD and often yelled, screamed and got physical with my sisters and mother.
I was never hit which is another blog topic.
I do remember the one time when dad strangled my oldest sister so hard around her neck it looked like she had a string of hickeys. The vision is as clear as day. My older sister was putting something in the oven and said something to my dad, which set off him lunging & grabbing her by the neck in a fit of rage. He was literally strangling her and had to be pried off to get him to stop. I thought my sister was going to die from strangulation by my dad.
I always felt bad for both of my parents. They were great people simply victims of their upbringing.
- No one recognized PTSD in the healthcare world during my childhood.
- No one knew my dad was suffering from something he could not control.
- No one knew what is was like for my dad to watch men be killed on the daily and what fearing for your life when others are shooting at you everyday is like.
My mom became an addict at the hands of doctors. She lost both her father and a foster sister within years of each other. Both tragic endings for two people my mom loved who also had hard lives making their untimely death an even harder pill to swallow. Doctors gave my mom opiates.
Her life of addiction began at the hands of those she trusted. Her doctors.
I remember when Michael Jackson (MJ) died and they released the drugs in his system it took me right back to my childhood. I knew all those drugs. My mom loved them all. She also had doctors she could manipulate like MJ to get whatever drugs she wanted. It was a sad, horrible existence that eventually took her life at the age of 55 due to liver and pancreatic cancer.
- I used food for comfort most of my life.
- Feeling terrified started when I was born and ended at the age of 50.
Recently I helped a family in need and there was a sibling late night argument that included screaming and yelling. It was before the BAM van and I was staying in their home. This triggered so many PTSD symptoms I could not believe it. Here I thought I had solved my PTSD issues along with my miracle status and yet this trigger sent me way back. It was eye opening. I immediately had to open my "Bag of Tricks" to get started using all of my wellness tools to stop PTSD from triggering a negative unhealthy chain of events.
How do you heal from PTSD? Do you heal from PTSD?
The first step is realizing you have it. I did not know until I was in my 2nd marriage. when a therapist told me. My husband suffered from bio-polar disorder and had severe paranoia. It triggered and enhanced my PTSD. I was traumatized almost daily by his words yelling and screaming about things that were in his mind only. I could see the changes on his face long before he expressed knowing I was in trouble for something I never even did. I lived in fear and he had many guns in our home and was an expert shooter which scared me even more.
Mental illness is hard no matter what side of the equation you are on, the victim or the one suffering.
I was seeing a wonderful therapist twice weekly and learning so much when I learned about PTSD. MS was winning at every turn and I was about 50 pounds over weight at this time. I could barely move my body and my marriage was a huge challenge with not much hope insight. My husbands bipolar was becoming increasingly hard to live with and my PTSD was at an all time high.
When my therapist mentioned PTSD to me and it was a HUGE blessing.
Realizing that a life filled with trauma came with a whole host of unhealthy outcomes literally gave me a path to healing. One time when my mom was in a rehabilitation center she paid for our family to have a weekend retreat to heal. One of the doctors told me that I will know when I have healed from the trauma of my childhood when weight is no longer an issue. Even he knew I had PTSD, but never really came out and told me.
Not going to lie I was pissed at the doctor when he said this. Only because I did not understand what he was really saying.
Food is my comfort and eating is how I self soothe. Many sucked their thumb I turned to food. The idea that PTSD was a driving force in many of my choices opened up an entire healing journey for me. It not only gave me insight into my actions, but more importantly it helped me to forgive both of my parents. This happened while they were both alive for which I am most grateful.
Most treatments today for PTSD are prescription medications. I am not anti-drug, but I have not used this route for healing. Instead I took a more holistic approach.
My TOP 5 Healing Approaches to PTSD:
1. Therapy – I love a good therapy session. Throw narrative therapy into the mix and I am one happy camper. I believe my therapists over the last 20 years helped pave the way for healing coupled with my hard work.
2. Community – You know me and how much community is the ground on which I stand. Being able to talk with others who had similar experiences or simply a listening ear cannot be measured in value. Priceless.
3. Gut Health – Healing my gut diminished my anxiety attacks almost immediately. I went from the girl who lived on Xanax to no anxiety at all.
4. Yoga – No words to describe the healing powers of yoga. There are so many direct links to the power of yoga in my life and managing PTSD is one of them.
5. Meditation – Free and accessible meditation is key to helping quiet the mind to help decrease stress and deliver calm.
PTSD is treatable with conscious effort and actions. I am grateful today that I recognize triggers and have tools to help me. I am sad my parents did not get the help they needed simply because they suffered in silence.