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Elizabeth Scott

PTSD and me

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I don't like writing about having PTSD. I feel a constant need to apologize for having it because I haven't been in combat or the victim of a violent crime. My therapist says this is a huge part of why I refused to see what was happening for so long.

I suspect she's right.

In 2003, about a week after I'd gone from being the only allergy-free person in my immediate family to the one with more allergies than all of them combined, I had my first run-in with anaphylaxis.

The culprit?

Food.

For a few days after my trip to the ER, I would make myself something to eat, but within a few bites, I'd have to stop because I was sweating and shaking and convinced I could feel an itch forming in my throat.

Then I realized if I didn't eat, I'd be totally safe because if I didn't eat, I wouldn't die.

So I stopped eating.

I woke up two days later in the middle of the night, sweating and screaming. I passed out trying to get up. My husband and parents (who'd come up while I was in the ER) forced me to eat two tablespoons of sugar and the next morning, I found myself headed toward my parents' home, where I spent the next six weeks learning to eat again.

It was hell. I wept the first time I ate a bite of chicken. I curled up in a ball on the floor for an hour after eating half a cup of rice. I was so sure I was going to die, but as the weeks went by, I gradually realized I wouldn't die if I ate foods I wasn't allergic to.

I ate a very restricted diet for three years after that, and eventually managed to get into the high double digits of things I would eat without fear. I learned to act like I didn't care that I was allergic to so many things, and it didn't take very long for me to believe it.

It wasn't until I started seeing a therapist in 2011 that I realized I wasn't okay with what had happened. In fact, when I decided to have full allergy testing done again in early 2012 and found myself having nightmares, I kept wondering why I was so scared. I'd had the testing before. It took a while, sure, but it wasn't painful.

My therapist told me that I wasn't afraid of the testing, but that I was very afraid of what might happen afterward because of what had happened before. And after she asked me to talk about what had happened, she showed me a checklist for PTSD symptoms and I found out--nearly nine years later--that I have PTSD.

I'm not nearly as aware or as brave as Megan is, but I've come to see that when I wrote Miracle, it was my subconscious screaming at me to see what was going on inside me. I've always sworn I'd never write about myself or anyone I know, but it turns out that Miracle is the most personal thing I've ever written. It just took me a long time to realize it.

If you or anyone you know has undergone a traumatic experience of any kind, please visit http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/what-are-the-symptoms-of-ptsd.shtml to learn more and make sure you get the help you need.

5 Comments:

Blogger Fred LeBaron said...

Thanks Elizabeth, that is so insightful and beautifully expressed, it makes me ache for you. It is thoughtful and brave of you to put this out there, and I hope it will find and help someone experiencing this. I haven't (yet, and I hope never), but this did make me more empathetic and expanded the boundaries of my heart, much in the way your books have done. Hope you are doing well, and the future is kind to you.

June 12, 2012 11:42 AM  
Blogger . said...

It's good that you wrote about your personal experiences with a non traditional cause of PTSD.

I've always slept walk and had mild night terrors when under high amounts of stress like finals, it usually lasted for 2-4 days. During summer '09 I had a minor concussion and it caused my brain to go into a loop cycle when I hit my next stressful period of time. Instead of a handful of restless nights sleeping, I ended up sleeping 1-2 hours. I'd wake up outside in the street in my PJs. I'd wake up screaming or constantly sleepwalking around the house. After 3 months of no sleep, I was having 'waking dreams' where my brain would have an overlay of a dream over real life. Basically start dreaming while I was awake -- I thought I was crazy and they were hallucinations (but my brainwaves were functioning the same way as dreaming). I was so sleep deprived that if something mildly stressful happened (happy stress or bad stress), I'd fall into tunnel vision. My vision would narrow, sound would disappear, and soon everything was black. I'd break out into sweat and start panicking that I couldn't see. And it could have been happy stress that triggered it!

It got to the point that I was so scared to sleep and not sleeping. If I slept, I'd wake up outside in the street an hour later. If I didn't sleep, I thought I was going crazy.

I ended up getting neurofeedback and a brain map done. During the brain map (kind of like an eeg where they map your brain waves), they had me sit there w/ eyes open, eyes closed, reading text, doing math, etc. Your brain waves are supposed to be different with eyes open vs eyes closed. Mine were the same, functioning in a hyper state. I was told that my brain map was similar to a soldier's or someone else who had extreme PTSD. After 5 neurofeedback sessions, I was sleep for 5 hours straight -- my brain waves had finally calmed down a bit. Still, it took months of therapy and neurofeedback for that fear of sleeping to dissipate, I still get worried when I go into finals.

June 12, 2012 3:24 PM  
Blogger Genevieve said...

It's good that you wrote about your personal experiences with a non traditional cause of PTSD.

I've always slept walk and had mild night terrors when under high amounts of stress like finals, it usually lasted for 2-4 days. During summer '09 I had a minor concussion and it caused my brain to go into a loop cycle when I hit my next stressful period of time. Instead of a handful of restless nights sleeping, I ended up sleeping 1-2 hours. I'd wake up outside in the street in my PJs. I'd wake up screaming or constantly sleepwalking around the house. After 3 months of no sleep, I was having 'waking dreams' where my brain would have an overlay of a dream over real life. Basically start dreaming while I was awake -- I thought I was crazy and they were hallucinations (but my brainwaves were functioning the same way as dreaming). I was so sleep deprived that if something mildly stressful happened (happy stress or bad stress), I'd fall into tunnel vision. My vision would narrow, sound would disappear, and soon everything was black. I'd break out into sweat and start panicking that I couldn't see. And it could have been happy stress that triggered it!

It got to the point that I was so scared to sleep and not sleeping. If I slept, I'd wake up outside in the street an hour later. If I didn't sleep, I thought I was going crazy.

I ended up getting neurofeedback and a brain map done. During the brain map (kind of like an eeg where they map your brain waves), they had me sit there w/ eyes open, eyes closed, reading text, doing math, etc. Your brain waves are supposed to be different with eyes open vs eyes closed. Mine were the same, functioning in a hyper state. I was told that my brain map was similar to a soldier's or someone else who had extreme PTSD. After 5 neurofeedback sessions, I was sleep for 5 hours straight -- my brain waves had finally calmed down a bit. Still, it took months of therapy and neurofeedback for that fear of sleeping to dissipate, I still get worried when I go into finals.

June 12, 2012 3:26 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

PTSD is something I know a lot of about--everyone in my family has it, even me. It's amazing how few people know about, and then when you try to explain it, they say, "Why can't you shrug it off?" or "Just get over it."

Have you ever tried working with dogs to relieve your PTSD? Studies prove with soldiers (that had moderate to severe cases of PTSD) that training dogs helped relieve their symptoms because it gave them something to do and gave them focus; plus, they got love from something that didn't judge. These dogs ended up going to soldiers that were wounded and needed dogs to live a normal life. The study turned into a program and it's now a bill (I'm hoping it becomes a law!) Working with your own does the same thing though (if you have one!)

June 24, 2012 2:48 AM  
Blogger theartoffakingreality said...

thanks so much, this really is insightful into all of this. :)

December 23, 2012 1:59 PM  

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