Posts tagged post traumatic stress
Sitting in my bed Sunday night, I could no longer hold back my sobs. Tears flowed from my eyes, more like a raging river than a stream. My whole body shook. The emotional pain was a ocean so deep, I thought I might drown.
Sometimes it can seem easier to numb ourselves than allow ourselves to feel the depth of our own sorrows. We live in a world that offers us an endless array of ways to detach from our own human experience much of which is negative. Easy fixes.
For example, why would you ever want to feel the anguish of a bitter divorce when they can distract from those difficult emotions with the instant gratification of endless hours of Farmville instead. Why feel lonely when you can zone out in front of the television all evening. When you can mpathize with the sorrows of fictional characters instead of paying attention to your own. What else do the advertisements for alcohol and other substances teach us than to forget our problems? Hard day? Forget it with a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, or a cigarette. If we can’t feel happy all the time well then at least we can feel a little more numb, right?
For much of the last two years and in a way for most of my life, I’ve been operating under this assumption that emotional pain is to be avoided at all cost. For years I’ve been avoiding it subconsciously, not realizing what I was doing . So I’d stay up half the night talking online to perfectly nice people from across the globe I barely knew rather than facing a dark bedroom where the pain of a traumatic event might slip in through the shadows. Better to sit in the false light of energy saving bulbs than think about things that were just too painful to consider. And yet at the same time I’ve been on a journey to find a better way. Sunday night I found it.
As I completed a call with my best friend who has recently moved to Texas, I found myself getting more and more lonely and distraught. That normally would have cued me to immediately get on my computer to do something to distract me. That night was different. I decided to do an experiment. I would let myself just feel what I was feeling and see what would happen. Instead of shutting my emotions down or off, I welcomed those troubling feelings, letting them flow thorugh me on every level. I started to journal my emotions to help me both delve in and get it out of my head. But even still I felt so alone in my suffereing, it was nearly unbearable.
Then, after 10 or so minutes, the most amazing thing happened: I started to feel better not worse, and I started to feel God’s love wrapping its arms around me. I began to feel grateful for those painful feelings, because I finally started to see what was on the other side of experiencing them completely. On the otherside was peace and relief, even hope. In my journal I wrote:
Sometimes I guess I just need to let myself feel how deep my sadness goes. I wish I had someone to hold me right now. I’ve gone through so much. Over and over again. And the trauma doesn’t seem to go away. I change. My mood changes, but something in me stays with the trauma and mostly I deny myself the ability to feel what I’m gong through. But through it all there’s the sweetness of the Spirit of God. It it warm and comforting and I feel wrapped in it, it gives me permission it feel these things. To put my toe in the deep abyss of my heartache.
I know He [Christ] can heal me in ways I cannot heal myself. It takes time. It takes patience and faith and more faith. I sometimes don’t know the answer of who to be. But Christ has the answer, even if I’m not ready to receive it. […] Life is so hard sometimes. Emotions are so overwhelming sometimes. I am reaching for the light that only Christ can offer. He, and only He, is the Prince of Peace, the one who can bring me calm waters to my soul. It amazes me how deep His love for me is. How He is willing to hold all my suffering even now and again and again. Even though he bore it all already. He is always there to bear by burdens.
At the end of the day, on some level it is still easier to just numb myself, but I’m learning how that isn’t the way to feel true relief. There is so much better on the other side of our sorrows if we just let ourselves feel and endure them for a little while. Sometimes you have to go through a dark and treacherous swamp to reach the castle, and sometimes you have to sob to feel peace.
It’s been a long nine weeks. Another nine long weeks I’ve spent in the hosptial with whole month spent in the ICU. I’m supposed to go home in the morning finally. I’m hesitantly relieved. I don’t want to be disappointed.
Being in the hosptial for any period of time is really hard. Probably one of the hardest if not the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do. Espeically when the stay is super long and the reason is life threatening involving ICUs, ventillators, comas, and the like, it’s especially important to feel the love of those around me, to know that I am not alone in this.
And my friend and family have really risen to the occasion over the last 9 weeks. I couldn’t be more grateful for everything they’ve done for me. They have been my emotional and spirital life support while on physical life support most of the time in the hosptial. I can’t thank them enough.
When your friend or family memeber is extremely ill in the hosptial and ICU it’s hard to know what to do or say. Here’s some of what I appreciated the most to serve as an idea guide to helping support someone through a rough hosptial stay:
- Call or text ahead.
Let the person or the family memeber staying with them that you are coming so they can be prepared or let you know if its not a good time. For example, the person might be in a proceedure or be sleeping when you plan on coming.
- Ask what you can bring. Often times ICUs have restrictions on live flowers and other things that can be brought in. Very sick patients often have dietary restrictions, allergies, or simply aren’t eating at all. Don’t be afriad to come right out and ask what the situation is before you bring something. Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated.
- Bring reminders of life outside the hosptial. The most amazing awesome thing my friends did for me was decorate every inch of my room with photos and artwork and Christmas decorations for the holiday. My friend Katy took photos off my own facebook accooutn and got them printed out and posted them in a giant collage covering an entire wall under the window to remind me of all my friends and happier times. I have photos of my dog, myself as a kid doing fun things, my family, and other fun stuff. She also took a calendar with photos of Christ which is extremely important to me as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and got them laminated then hung them all over another wall. That allowed me to feel the Spirit of God in my hosptial room and be constantly reminded of my Savior’s and God’s love for me. Other friends decorated for Christmas since I spenddt the holidays in the hosptial as well. They put up gingerbread men, wreaths, garlands and more. My mmom got me a tiny Christmas tree and a star. My room had to have been the most amazingly festive of the whole hosptial because everytime anyone came in to give to a treatment or do a proceedure the ooo’d and ahh’d over my decor! It brought joy to everyone who entered my room, and especially me! I am so grateful to everyone who took the time to do it
- Promote Health If you think that you are sick, don’t come and visit! A person in the hosptial has a weakened immune system and can get much worse from a simple cold.
- Remember Their Other Family and Pets If you can offer to help out with their other family members who may also need things during this time as well as their pets who don’t stop needing walks, love and attention while your friend is in the hosptial for prolongued periods.
- Listen and Love The most important thing you can do is just listen, love and otherwise be a emotional and spiritual support while your loved one goes through this hard experience. They need your listening ear to vent sometimes, to cry sometimes, to worry, and be angry sometimes. They need your kind words to comfort always, to remind them you love them always, to be in their corner always, to boost them up when they are down, and to always be their friend and support and cheerleader. Remind them how much they are loved and missed by everyone else.
- Visit!!! Phone calls and texts are great, but nothing beats an in person visit when you are lonely and scared in the hosptial for long periods of time. And the longer the hosptial stay goes on the worse it feels, but the less people tend to remember to come because the novelty of it starts to wear off. Don’t forget your friend is still going though it in the hospital just because it’s been going on for 2 months!
- Don’t Unload Don’t tell the person in the hosptial how hard it is for you to see them in the hosptial. It only makes the patient feel like a burden. Of course you are worried and stressed yourself but make sure you talk about it with someone who isn’t as close to the person as you are and definitely not the patient themselves.
- Be Yourself If all else fails just be yourself. The person that the patient missed from when they were well and wants to see is YOU! Don’t overly worry about what to say and how to act. They just miss you and want to be with their friend or family member. They want your company and comfort that only you know how to give because you are the only person who is you. The worse thing you can do isn’t to say or do the wrong thing but to do nothing and make the patient feel completely forgotten about and abandoned by you.
- Bring Them Home! When your loved one in the hospital makes it home, don’t forget about them then either! They often will be stuck at home for some time and need just as much love and attention brought to them there as they did in the hosptial. So bring them home!
I am so grateful for my friends and family who did everything I just described above and so much more! They made it possible for me to emotionally and spiritually survive this hosptial stay. It really wouldn’t have been barable without all of you so thank you soooo much!!! I am especially grateful to God and Christ. They are always there for me and I know that this too shall pass and even this difficult trial I have endured will be for my benefit. I know it is slowly and rather painfully shaping me into who I am to be someday. But the pain was made less by some photobombs and a lot of love from friends and family.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!!!!!
If I’ve learned anything the last 10 or so years of my life if the last decade or so, it’s to enjoy sweet moments for they are often fast and fleeting. I am learning to let go of the painful moments rather than choosing to experience their pain again and again each time the though surfaces Most importantly I discovered how to cheerish the eternal moments and divine nature of this life. It is everythihg. All that I have, With it, I never need to shrink from what lies ahead.
They say that I’f you don’t your health, then you don’t have anything. By this standard must be very poor indeed at writing from a hospital bed in the ICU. Laying here for the last five days in pain and unable to move my limbs let alone breathe without the assistance of machines, I’ve had all my blood removed, cleaned and returned to my body without any plasma five times. i’ve realized there’s a lot of ways I could be consuming my time. Or worse: letting my time consume me.
I could bask in the fleeting joy of being a a birthday party which triggered this frightening experience. Or I could be berating myself for rationalizing staying at the part once I saw that there were latex balloons everywhere since I already knew that I can react just by breathing the air around them. But I seemed find throughout the party until I got home and went to bed.
I woke up at 5am having trouble breathing. Neck and face swollen. Wheezing. It was too severe to go to my normal hospital where all my doctors are which is about an hour away from me. But I figured, it’s just an allergy? IT’s not like I’ll be admitted. Riiiiiight.
So I raced to the nearest hospital and was taking right back and given large doees of IV steroids, benadryl and epinephrine As soon as the epi entered my bloodstream i could breathe again. But my releef was fleeting.
After about 30 minutes my legs starteed to grow heavy. Then my arms. Then my voice got weak. It could only mean one thing. Myasthenic Crisis. But I refused to let terror set in. Not then.
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ ofLatter Day Saints, I am so grateful to have priesthood holders who can perform blessings for comfort and healing for me whenever I need to. Their Priesthood comes directly from Jesus Christ himself. So I called my Home Teacher to give me a blessing. He and another member of my church came and blessed me with all the things I needed to hear to get through the last several days and be comforted. It was very emotional and I’m eternally grateful for the peace I received in a time of so much fear.
Since my last 3 month stay in the hospital last summer in which I was intubated for over a month in the ICU from Myasthenia as well, I’d be dreading this would happen again. I’ve been dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from it. But in one simple moment, all my fear melted away into love for my Heavenly Father and the plan he has for me. In the arms of his love I was swallowed up in divine trust.
That moment has since past and I still need to keep calling it back up for myself. Reminding myself that I have a Heavenly Father who knows me and everything I need. I will be taken care of if I just remain ever faithful and endure to the end.
So though it may seem strange to have such a spiritally connected moment in the noisy Emergency Room. To me it makes perfect sense. It’s how I’ve learned to cherish divine nature (in others, in God, Christ, and especially in myself) Surrounded by the divine nature of all the wonders of life Heavenly Father and my savoir Jesus Christ has provided to me, I have no cause to shirnk. In fact, I must not shrink. As I stand strong, my testimony will grow as I feast on the gospel at all times and cleave closer to my Savior’s atoning and enabling sacrifice during there types of trials.
I dont’ know when this particular trial will end, but I know that with faith I will endure all things.
Life is a noisy place. It often feels imposible to escape the noise of life. The traffic, the talking, the hum of electronic devices, cell phone rings, music blaring, Aside from the noise pollution, there’s even light pollution So many places there is so much ambient light that I can’t see the stars that surround me. Of course there’s ways to get away from all those types of noise in my life, but there’s a type of noise that’s much harder to get away from. The noise in my head. How do I escape the constant noise contained within my brain? Intrusions of thoughts and words and sounds and images that keep my mind so busy, that I it’s difficult to focus on what’s right in front of me. Distraction. Seemingly harmless most of the time, but in reality, potentially deviously dangerous. It’s scary to think what might be hiding amongst all the noise that’s right there, but, like the stars, just out of sight.
Sometimes I wonder if I keep all the noise there intentionally to prevent myself from discovering something about myself. But this isn’t something I’ve done on purpose. This is a coping mechanism. Keep my mind busy at all times and I won’t have to think about things that are painful. I won’t have to deal with the fact of having a chronic illness. I won’t have to recall vivid memories of time spend in the hospital that resulted in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I won’t have to address ways I often feel inadequate or unworthy of being liked or loved by others. I won’t have to be confronted by instances from my childhood. Instead I can focus on the noise. And in a way it works like a charm. It works so well I can go for months or even years sometimes without addressing something that’s deeply troubling me directly. But it comes out in other ways. All sideways like. But the noise is just a distraction. And all distractions eventually come to an end.
And now that the magic of the distraction has been lifted, I don’t have to just stand here breathless with the rug pulled out from under me. There are things I’m learning to do to help me dissipate the noise and deal with the underlying cause of that made me want to distract myself in the first place. With the help of a therapist I’ve been learning to process the emotions that led to the noise in the first place. I’ve been learning to differentiate that I’m not the same entity as the noise. Who I am is a divine child of Heavenly Father. I am so much bigger than these disempowering distractions that got made up to keep me from dealing with my real emotions. I’ve also been working on being present and getting in touch with how I am feeling in the moment. It’s important to notice everything around me until my thoughts quiet down. The thing that helps me the most is to turn in prayer to my Heavenly Father and ask for His help in dealing with everything I’m going through. Once I’ve done that I can finally start to take action and make changes.
It’s a slow process for me, but it’s well worth it. I’m tired of being distracted from what’s right in front of me and all around me. I want to see my life for what it is. All it’s blessings. Especially the stars.
Sometimes, despite my best intentions, strongest convictions, all my strength and will, all my hope and faith, commitment and passion… sometimes despite everything I am, was, and will ever be… sometimes things fall apart.
Sometimes it seems like there’s no putting things back together again.
The past few weeks I’ve had my fill of Humpty Dumpty moments. My emotions splatted out on the ground for the whole world to see. At first it was for seemingly no reason. Then, little by little the source of my tears began to bubble to the surface. Flashes of suppressed memories of my last three month hospitalization haunt me. I was in the ICU almost a month and I remember everything.
Yesterday was odd sort of relief at receiving a diagnosis.
When I got home from my doctor’s office, I decided it’s time to stop suppressing the pain. Putting a name to it is a good first step, but it was really time to let a little of it out. So I wrote this poem about the experience:
by Lauren Soffer
How can I speak when
The pain leaves me breathless
Tear drops unspoken
Defined by wounds unforgotten
A prisoner of my own head
Where darkness ends
My Savior carries me
Breathing each breath
As I relinquish my anguish
For His infinite love
Safe in His Eternal arms
I am found
Through writing the poem, in a tiny way I began the process of transformation. Turning something ugly into something beautiful. Turning my pain into strength. And with that I found a iota of peace in that moment. I am struck by the following scripture:
And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. (D&C 122:7)
I’m grateful to have the faith that hard things in life will all be for my growth and benefit. Maybe things fall apart because life is like a jigsaw puzzle: there’s no point if it comes already put together.
Conventional wisdom tells us that scars fade over time. But they don’t always fade on their own. Whether physical or emotional, diminishing scars is a process that takes work.
A few months ago I had surgery to have a two benign Lipoma tumors removed from my left arm. In the weeks and months since the surgery, the pain subsided but the scars did not. The scars grew hard, red, and puffy. Ugly reminders of the surgery. Every time I’d look at them, I was right back in the memory of all the pain and anxiety I’d experienced. Embarrassed at my skin’s imperfection, I wanted to hide them. To cover them up. But I realized that wouldn’t make them go away. Fading them would take time and effort. I started rubbing scar-reducing cream into them several times a day. The nerves under the scars are very sensitive, so rubbing them can be rather painful. But the combination of the massage and cream has started to soften and lighten the scars. To my surprise they are fading.
In thinking about my scars, it occurs to me that emotional scars are much the same way. When we face a trauma in my life, I am often left with emotional scars. If left to their own devices they can get irritated and raw. They can make me feel imperfect and embarrassed. I might try to cover them up and hide them only to find that they are just as present as ever. It’s only when I start to massage my emotional scars that they start to go away.
It’s painful to address my emotional scars in the moment. Touching that nerve sends reverberating pain up and down my psyche making me wince and want to withdraw. But I have to retrain my nerves. Exposure lessens the pain. Lightens the scars.
A raw wound in my life I’m realizing is the post traumatic stress I’ve been dealing with from spending time in the Intensive Care Unit twice in the last couple years. I’ve wanted to hide it. To put on a brave face and pretend that the scars from that memory didn’t exist. But that has only given the resulting nightmares more power. I’ve noticed that as I’ve started to talk about my experiences it’s gotten better. Though at first it was a raw nerve to talk about the memory of being unable to breathe on my own, massaging that wound has stimulated healing. I even recently collaged the nightmares that have haunted me from my time in the ICU.
My scars will always be there. Both emotional and physical. But overtime and with the proper care, they will fade. Until then, they are my battle scars. Not reminders of weakness but evidence of my strength. Of how much I’ve endured. Of being a survivor. And that will never fade.