A Warning: This article may retrigger some of you in substantial ways. Read at your own risk and discretion. It deals with tracking down my personal set of symptoms of C-PTSD and comorbidities coming from that. You may find it helpful, but at the expense of getting triggered.
update: I’ve attached my own tentative approach to findings about initially experienced trauma and its fairly complex set of outcomes as a kind of “trauma map” along with primary and secondary outcomes (comorbidities). A picture is said to say more than 1,000 words… well, hopefully it does.
Last night I went for another musical night out downtown. There is a monthly open stage night, which I try to set money aside for from the very meager monthly budget I have been depending on since around 2009-ish. For those of you not familiar with the music scene: An open stage or open mic night is usually commenced by some kind of “house band” regularly performing in the venue, while visiting musicians get to sit in upon the second set of music. If there is enough variety in terms of instruments, sometimes complete new ad hoc bands form for a set or two. I like that particular venue, where this happens for the musicians there, the nice staff, the convenient location, which is not exactly at the heart of the city, so I can find parking easily (or take the train, when feeling up to it). More than anything, I like the kind of music being performed along with the appreciative audience. Although I’m still feeling pretty weak from the after effects of all that medication that they flushed me with undergoing surgery about two weeks ago, I kind of dragged myself there as it is my one-stop-chance to socialize once a month – and I’m sorely missing the socializing aspect and having become this isolated recluse has brought about new problems I previously didn’t know I could have. But I’m digressing again. Comorbidities then…
I mentioned last night as it made me aware of another set of interrelated symptoms coming about from an underlying, only recently identified condition of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). But before I go into that, I need to fill in another blank: I had been pondering hard as to my relationship with music in general and why it seemed so hard for me all of a sudden to rekindle the passion I had been feeling for it for almost all my life. I now don’t have too much doubt about that any longer: The degree of primary and secondary symptoms had aggravated to the point, where it completely overrode any potential for becoming passionate about anything. In other words: Where acute anxiety and fear culminating in panic attacks rule your days, there simply isn’t any room for the heart to beat calmly enough that you get to the place, where the Muse resides: In the quiet, still moments of the heart and mind, in the recesses of the soul seldomly visited – unless in those moments of inspiration. But you can’t feel inspired when standing on a battlefield in full riot gear all of the time, figuratively speaking. To stay in that analogy: How can you have a quiet moment when grenades, mortar fire and machine gun shots whizz by left and right? Right?! It’s been like that for me for the larger part of 2009, all of 2010 and again the larger part of 2011. Adversity had risen to unprecedented levels, which simply didn’t leave any room for even the remotest moment of relaxation or coming into myself. And simply practicing the physical movements by forcing myself to play the instruments (guitar and piano) felt weird, pointless and didn’t help to rekindle said passion. In that context: I don’t consider myself a musician as much as I’d like to think of myself as a songwriter/composer, who happens to play some instruments and sings. When I think of it and during times I afforded myself the most dedicated training, it was the song that was almost paramount to me – and certain instrumental parts that added to the overall song structure and arrangement. Whatever training on the instrument I afforded myself or received in a formal setting, I always regarded as mere “skill” to come before songwriting and arrangement. But naturally – I’m digressing again.
So last night I went to this open stage night downtown, which I had been looking forward to for some time – and more than anything for reasons of getting to socialize! (I really feel like a dying plant left in the shade about that forced on isolation, I need to feel part of some kind of group or social context of some kind. Playing in bands has always and often conveniently provided that. About the convenience – that may have become a different story. I guess, I’ll find out about that soon enough). I had not slept all that well or much the night before and gone about my regular routine, which consists of lunges and push ups after getting up, fixing myself a small breakfast, then getting on the computer for a couple of hours, usually to be followed by some going outdoors and moderately working out, like e.g. riding the bicycle or taking a walk of an hour at the very least. Since I’m still feeling the after effects of the medication from having undergone surgery in the hospital about two weeks ago, I couldn’t bring myself to doing the latter and had to rest after a late lunch. I took a shower and got myself ready for going out, went there, took a slow walk at where I arrived, then attended the event. I felt weak and a little dizzy the entire time. It wasn’t until short after midnight that I realized that my feeling weak and dizzy had been due to major fatigue along with the physical effects of the antibiotics and cortisone, which my body is still busy getting decomposed and flushed out. Despite all that, I enjoyed myself and the company there and was my old self, whom I’d describe as open minded, approaching people, being mildly talkative and generally sociable. The latter, however, I only mildly resumed after this major boost in confidence and courage that overcoming my fear of hospital has provided me with! I had literally holed myself up for the past six years on account of feeling inadequate and damaged to the point of it showing in pronounced ways, the latter of which I didn’t want to risk getting punished and bullied for one single more time! Since I had been feeling fatigued, depressed, exhausted, hopeless, utterly defeated and often times angry to the point of being raving mad with the world – and from disappointment so… – I saw no point in going out there and getting beaten up some more on account of all the aforementioned. After all, how many times can you run into a wall at full throttle and pick up the debris from the impact? I felt I had done that enough times to afford myself a break from that brutal experience. Yet, the latter had me isolated for good – or so it seemed.
In analyzing my personal outcomes in a more structured, commonly viable way, I tentatively identify more or less chronic fatigue coming from a somewhat excessive need for good sleep, the latter in turn being the result of constant hyperarousal from getting triggered on a more or less permanent basis. I now seem to better grasp the full impact of trauma, in particular since Jean’s sharing of this article, which pinpoints the facilitating neurological processes predominantly located in the limbic system, with some involvement of the amygdala and other “fear-based”, ancient/archaic systems in the brain circuitry. So, depending on the type of trauma incurred – by the way, in looking through this list, I have identified repeated and ongoing exposure to
eight seven of all twelve types of traumatizing experiences… talk about a full plate in that regard…. – the number of triggers will vary and thus create a more or less densified, intense situation of being triggered with varying degrees of retraumatization, which in turn and again make for depletion of physical resources more rapidly than in non-affected individuals. I would mention those days as proof, when I had the opportunity to find sleep for no less than eight hours – individual needs may very and generally decrease as one gets older, the latter in affected as well as non-affected individuals alike: On those days, I felt satisfyingly energized, settled and resilient, which in turn generated enough confidence in myself to take on the challenges of the day. On days that followed a night of sufficient and fairly healthy sleep with alternating healthy patterns of NREM and REM sleep, I would feel productive and self-sufficient and go about my routines in an organized and sufficiently efficient manner. Days following poor sleep typically feel like a hangover, even when no previous alcohol consumption is involved. (I have quit drinking alcohol altogether to eliminate yet another source of maladpative self-medication).
Feelings of exhaustion, lonliness and despair seem to have gradually brought about my eating disorder of occasional binge eating – in order to drive away that feeling of thorough exhaustion and from not giving myself permission to simply be exhausted or endure otherwise negative feelings! (The latter, I’d tentatively identify as yet another outcome of perpetuated abuse in the form of self-abusive, self-deteriorating behavior in so far as I don’t seem to have been given the opportunity of expressing negative feelings without ensuing reprimand or emotional and occasional physical abuse in earlier life). What is more and from my experience, an eating binge not only caters to dissipating exhaustion, it temporarily – though with taxing side effects – takes care of other basic needs largely unmet during my early development and leaving behind major emotional deficiencies: Depending on the type of food, there typically is a burst of endorphines that gets rapidly released into the system and binding to the opioid receptors in the brain, resulting in feelings of rapid relaxation and feelings of being safe and nurtured beyond physical needs. From the mechanism of action brought about, it is no surprise any longer how hard it becomes to break that vicious cycle of dependency. In other words: With the bulk of basic emotional need having remained unmet throughout my earlier personal development – or rather lack thereof -, binge eating seems to deliver in regards to all residual deficiencies.
And there is another aspect to it, which had crossed my mind a few years ago and which I had meant to monitor more closely and keep in better check: Eating binges and often so at unusual times, like e.g. late in the evening or even at night, seem to mess up the messages of physical needs in general – or their correct interpretation thereof, to be more accurate. In other words: I seem to have been mixing up feelings of fatigue and hunger and vice versa, typically resulting in an eating binge, when I should have tried to find sleep instead. One could go as far saying that I haven’t eaten or slept in a normal, healthy manner throughout my entire adult life! Last night strongly reminded me of that tentative finding. I had felt weak from the medication along with some recurring fatigue, but dragged myself to that venue in – successfully met – hopes of having a good time out with other people. Given my still fragile condition following surgery and heavy medication, I noticed this strange dizziness throughout the night, while displaying behavior of natural, authentic exhiliration. Around midnight, I notice a critical point of my body giving way to the physical exhaustion. I had some water and had to sit down, then quickly excused myself and rode back home for about 45 mins and went to bed immediately. This time, I had managed to correctly interpret the signals sent by my body. At other times… I seem to resort to some self-abuse in the form of a late eating binge, which then naturally results in insomnia and/or poor sleep.
It’s going to become crucial to be more observing of my physical needs, particularly so after having recovered from the outcomes of that heavy medication (antibiotics and a messed up bowel tract from it being the most resilient, longest lasting outcome, resulting in said feelings of physical weakness beyond previous compare…). In this context, having been at the hospital seems to have “reset” my system in unexpected ways, thus shedding some light on the interdependencies of physical triggers of one or the other kind. Finding good sleep seems to be the pinnacle in thwarting and deactivating this vicious cycle of (physical) dependencies and co-dependencies. And sadly, sleep deprivation has been a given throughout my entire adult life and remains to be the core problem, as the routines of my landlady’s along with the proximity here run counter to my own. I have pinpointed the set of problems to the initial one. But with so many other issues that arise from it – I don’t see a solution there, not short term and not in the long run, either. I’m going to push for a higher degree of disability coming from my recent formal diagnosis of C-PTSD along with an attempt of pushing for extended, special needs in regards to social welfare. The latter… equals the beginning of yet another battle with the system, quite expectably spanning several years and with no clearly anticipated outcome yet. That’s my life for you…
P.S. I’ve tried to organize the interdependencies of trauma and behavioral outcomes the way I seem them or have experienced them so far. This is my personal “trauma & outcomes map”.
My own tentative approach to experienced emotional trauma and its outcomes, W. Nieke 2013