Jan 12, 2017

PTSD or is it CTSD? Current Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
If you google PTSD, the first words to pop up are, "anxiety and flashbacks triggered by a traumatic event". Below is an image of some of the common symptoms.
However, there's basically nothing about what I'd like to call CTSD: Current Traumatic Stress Disorder. That's what medically fragile patients and families deal with. The triggers are CURRENTLY happening. Not in the past, but NOW. They're not imaginary things triggering flashbacks. The events inducing stress are happening NOW, PLUS triggering the PTSD.
In PTSD, say a person who had experienced a violent break-in gun point robbery in their home. Maybe they heard breaking glass first. So say they're in a restaurant one day and a glass breaks. They're right back in that moment. It's not real. But it triggers all the old feelings instantly transporting them back through flashbacks.
But if that same person had a second violent break in, it would be the PTSD from the first one but also the terror from the current one.
Now imagine that over and over for YEARS with no end in sight.
That. Manny lives there.
Now as you let that sink in, I'll add one more layer. My layer.
Back to my break in analogy. While the violence is happening, I help the robber hold down my kid. I welcome him in. I tell my kid to stay calm through the pain and unpleasant and terrifying events.
So I hear breaking glass, I know he'll be terrified and hurt. And I know I'll have to try to keep him calm throughout. I know I'll try to convince him it's for his own good. And he won't believe me. In fact he'll lie and tell me he's not in pain or his tube is not broken or his blistered skin is better. He'll beg me not to let the robber in this time.
Repeat. Multiple times a day. Multiple times a year. For years. With no end in sight.
In fact, there's a metaphorical robber in my house right now. We are waiting for a call of when the next part of the trauma will begin. Likely Monday or Tuesday. Until then, I'm trying to keep the robber hidden. But Manny knows he's there. We both try to pretend he's not.
And my brain goes to how to better protect my kid and house for the next one after that. Could I make better decisions so he'll not end up here again so soon? It's why I've become OCD in so many areas of life. Every time I find a new vulnerable place, I board it up.
I'll add that first responders (military, police, firefighters) etc are also greatly affected. It's under recognized and under supported. They are PTSD/CTSD as well. And probably a few other very challenging jobs I've not even considered. Different details, same effect.
And when one family member suffers from this, the whole family suffers.
I could go on and on explaining this concept. For those living it, they're like "preach it sistah!" And for those who don't live it, be thankful you can't begin to truly grasp this concept.
Bottom line: if you know a family who lives in these type of trenches, pray harder for them. They're probably barely surviving. They're in survival mode and don't know how to reach out and ask for help. They are too busy fending off the past, present and future bad guys to figure out what they need. So be there for them. Give them space but let them know you're there. A meal. A card. A gift card. Help clean their house. Babysit. Pray. And expect nothing in return. Do it for them.
Most of these families have lost most of their friends over time. They are busy trying to get through one day at a time. Doesn't make for fun conversations over coffee at Starbucks. We aren't much fun at a party. We have very few shallow things to discuss and little patience to do so. We are traumatized. (That's the T in PTSD).
And the longer it goes, the more we realize this will never end. THIS is our new normal. And how do we make the best life from here? We continue to get up every day and make a stab at our new normal. Aware that every day, we've lost a little bit more of it.
And while it's not a hopeless place... It's a terrifying place. Those who know me know I laugh way more than I cry. I have a continual smile on my face. I'm hopeful. I'm optimistic. I CHOOSE to focus on the good rather than the bad. Daily. I force myself to see the hope and light and love and outright miracles that surround me daily. I feel the support. I know we are loved. I feel the prayers. I live there.
In fact I live there so much, most people probably had no clue Manny and I also live in the land of CTSD as well.
And so do thousands of others.
Today my goal is to raise awareness. Those of us living with PTSD or CTSD are among us. They are messy and hard to love sometimes but love them anyway. Identify those people in your life who maybe living it. Reach out to them. You may be their only lifeline.