Hello World, It’s Me PTSD

On September 2, 2019 I sent a dear friend, who was a nurse, a text outlining 19 different symptoms I had been tracking for 6 months to a year and asked her in her professional opinion what she would say about it.  

After speaking words of life and affirmation over me and my bravery to reach out, my friend put it plainly, “Raychel, you have to call your doctor.” It could be something simple; but it could also be something very serious based on these symptoms.”  

That’s the affirmation I needed that I wasn’t crazy and over dramatizing things (bad habit from my old life) and I called my primary. I had an appointment set up in a week.  

Things Got Real… Quick 

I was in so much physical pain the day of my appointment. We figured that was a good thing because my doc would see first hand how I had to hobble along like I was 85 and my joints were stiff and painful. I had done some research on google on my symptoms (always a safe and wise thing to do!) so I went in knowing I would probably hear words like MS, Fibromiyalga, and more.  

My doc didn’t disappoint. One hour of intense questions and evaluations she started listing the things she wanted to test for:  

  • Depression  
  • Anxiety  
  • Celiac disease  
  • B12 disorders  
  • Heart conditions  
  • Inflammation indicators for things like Fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.  
  • GI issues  
  • MS 

I just looked at Josh, my husband of 9 months and thought, “well I guess now we see what in sickness and in health really means.” 

He was a rock. I was an emotional train wreck.  

From September-December I was poked, prodded, evaluated, and analyzed. And almost EVERY test was coming back within normal levels or healthy. The CT scan, the EKG, the blood tests, the inflammation markers, the colonoscopy.  Except one. My B12 labs. They were lower.

After a colonoscopy that also turned up NOTHING and symptoms I couldn’t shake. I finally the words out-loud, “I think I need to be tested for PTSD.” She referred me to psych and within a week I was walking down the hallway of the 5th floor of the hospital mentally preparing for what I could never prepare for.  

A funny, sarcastic older gentleman did my evaluation and said, “Well you definitely have PTSD. I’m surprised no one caught it sooner. Let’s get you some EMDR sessions set up and stop those GI issues.” He also said, “I’m glad you have PTSD, I know how to fix that.”  He was so matter of fact and hopeful I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief. An answer. Finally.  

PTSD In Real Life…  

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a clinical diagnosis determined by specific criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5.) It is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it.  

Here’s what that means in real life. If you have PTSD you will have the following symptoms that plague you continuously. If you have Complex PTSD (meaning traumas from more than one person or event like domestic violence or childhood abuse) you will deal with these on an even greater scale:  

  • Recurrent memories, dreams, and nightmares of the event/s. The nightmares can often play out the emotions experienced instead of the actual event replaying.  
  • Flashbacks that leave your paralyzed  
  • Crippling emotional distress and physical reactions to things that remind you of the event/s- so you avoid ALL things that remind you of the trauma, including media. Or you do the opposite and gravitate towards things that remind you of your trauma. It’s masochistic in the worst way.
  • Negative thoughts about yourself and the world.   
  • Hopelessness.  
  • Overwhelming guilt and shame.  
  • Memory problems and lapse in memory around the traumatic events. It’s common to have whole areas of your life you don’t remember anymore. Also, your short-term memory is crap when you are in the middle of a PTSD episode.  
  • Becoming emotionally numb.  
  • Isolating and detaching from people and activities you love.  
  • Being easily startled or frightened- especially to things that shouldn’t easily scare you (This is called a heightened startle response)  
  • Hyper-vigilance and being on guard always for danger.  
  • Irritability and angry outbursts… which is a nice word for rage. And if your words don’t convey it your face will.  
  • Trouble concentrating and following conversations.  
  • Insomnia  
  • Avoidance of intimacy because love once meant pain.  

Not to mention that your body is in a constant state of flight or fight.

And all those stress hormones running rampant through your body put you at incredible risk of physical health problems and chronic pain.

Honestly, while all of this was going on I pretty well disappeared from the public eye and didn’t say much about what I was experiencing. You would never have known how much it took for me to get out of bed in the morning and function like a normal human. No one knew but a few close friends and family I was even going through such physical pain and emotional distress.  

Breaking the stigma on PTSD and mental health is part of the healing process. I share my healing journey to not only create awareness but cultivate community around an invisible and often misunderstood disease. 

With Grace & Grit,

~Raychel  

Before you go, here are 3 Ways to Stay in touch:

6 Questions to Ask Yourself When You Feel Anxious

When you start to feel anxious it’s time to cover the basics and make sure you are taking care of yourself. Here are 6 questions to ask yourself!

#1 Have I eaten in the last 3 hours?

If not, it’s time to eat something! Don’t eat just carbs… eat something nutritious with protein. Drink a tall glass of water too.

#2 Have I showered today?

If you’ve been in an anxiety slump you might forget to shower. No shame. But if it’s been a couple days try jumping into a cold shower to wake up. Or, a hot shower if you need to relax. Even if you have already showered today it’s a good idea to shower again if water relaxes you.

#3 Have I changed my clothes?

How long have you been wearing that shirt/sweatpants? It’s time to change and put on something that makes your feel strong and self-assured.

#4 Do I need to quick clean?

If your environment is full of clutter or dirty you can feel anxious. Time to clean up quickly. Tackle those dishes piling up in the sink or conquer that paper pile that is occupying most of your desk.

#5 Have I been outside today?

Combat the lethargy by going outside for 15 minutes. Take a walk around the block and breathe in some fresh air. Open the blinds and let the sunshine into your space, too.

#6 Have I moved my body today?

Movement helps you beat the blues and If you combine 5 & 6 that’s perfect!

The next time sadness or anxiety try to hijack your day, I encourage to ask yourself these six questions. Then you can quickly put some simple solutions in place to keep putting one step forward. If the anxiety remains after you answer these questions, you can move on to other coping methods with greater success.

with Grace & Grit,

~Raychel

P.S Click here for a handy infographic pin to save for future reference!

Before you go, here are 3 ways to stay in touch: