Saturday, 26 October 2013

Living Life Through PTSD And Finding A Home

There are many times that I wish I could just experience life like everyone else. I vaguely remember a time when the way I saw and experienced the world around me like everyone else does. Back then the world around me wasn't filled with dark shadows and monsters; invisible threats ready to leap out at me from every corner and angle. At this point pretty much anything about life has some kind of traumatic event attached to it. Even daily life kind of things such as finding a place to live are a complete nightmare to me. Even though it shouldn't be. I should be happy right now.

The first time I had to find a place to live on my own was back in 2007 when I was going to be moving to Canada, as I needed to escape from the Netherlands. It was a desperate attempt and ended me up in this run-down apartment with paper-thin walls. I also inconvenienced my best friend a lot during that time with having to arrange and pay everything for me. It wasn't a pleasant experience, generally speaking.

The second time I had to find a place for myself I was being chased and bullied out of the place I had been staying at for about three years. It was early 2011 and I found myself with virtually no money. The place I ended up renting was completely run-down as well and cost way too much for what it was. I felt horrible about moving like that. Though I kept telling me that I would make it on my own just fine, deep inside I knew I wouldn't make it. Before I could move into that room, however, I found the only real way out of that situation in the form of an overdose of sleeping pills. Unfortunately I survived the attempt and woke up in the hospital. To me it felt that I'd spend the rest of my life on borrowed time.

The third time it was 2012, I had a job and thus no major money issues. Unfortunately I moved in with a psychopath and had to endure months of verbal and physical abuse until I had to flee. Returning after a few months, I discovered that all my belongings had been stolen, sold off and/or destroyed by said psychopath.

Now it's time for attempt number four.

Not that I want to be seen as a whiner, or complaining about nothing serious. Fact of the matter is simply that even with just the above experiences it'd be very hard for me to have completely faith in it working out. What worsens things for me is that I have been afflicted with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) [1].

While only those who have PTSD or have experienced its temporary cousin (acute stress disorder) can fully understand what it's like to live with it, those who have loved ones or friends with PTSD may also be able to grasp the full impact of it. Most important thing to remark about PTSD is that it's a physical condition, directly affecting the brain in a physical, measurable manner and permanently changing the response of the brain to a variety of situations, the so-called triggers. As summarized by [1]: "[..] during high stress times the hippocampus, which is associated with the ability to place memories in the correct context of space and time, and with the ability to recall the memory, is suppressed. This suppression is hypothesized to be the cause of the flashbacks that often plague PTSD patients. When someone with PTSD undergoes a stimuli similar to the traumatic event the body perceives the event as occurring again because the memory was never properly recorded in the patients memory"

The essence of PTSD is thus that an unprocessed traumatic event or events which thus to the person affected will keep occurring over and over again every time a trigger is provided. To the person's brain it's as real as it can be. With no feedback from the hippocampus or the prefrontal cortex to suppress the amygdala's fight-or-flight response the traumatic memories will not be processed or suppressed. As the definition in the DSM-IV notes, typically the individual with PTSD persistently avoids all thoughts, emotions and discussion of the stressor event and may experience amnesia for it. However, the event is commonly relived by the individual through intrusive, recurrent recollections, flashbacks and nightmares.

To me 'daily life' seems to be an accurate summary of what entails my triggers. It is the primary reason why the only escape I have from the stress caused by my PTSD consists out of intellectual pursuits and science and technology in general. They are generally devoid of any triggers. Outside that, however... let's just say that even just seeing, hearing or talking about 'humans' and their escapades is stressful to me, as it is in so many ways connected to everything horrible that way done to me over the years for which I can not help but blame this body I was born with and humanity in general for its cruel and wholly unfair response to my apparently inexcusable existence.

As I type this I'm fairly in control of my PTSD. I can feel it gnawing at my mind, attempting to force its way out and flood my mind with the same sensations of utter frustration, anger, despair, fear, terror and ultimately the comforting lure of suicide. I had to type this text to analyse it for myself yet again but also to hopefully explain a bit more to others why my situation is so unlike that of others who get to just pick a place to live. To them it's maybe pleasant, a tad stressful. It shouldn't be a struggle to prove one's worthiness of existing and the validation of one's existence in general. It shouldn't drive one to a suicidal depression.

Yet to me it does. I am not sure how much more I can take there. I know already that I can not do this on my own. Without any offered help I'd just quit looking right away and slide back into the comforting embrace of death. I'm not saying this to be dramatic. Even if I tried to put up a brave face - and heavens know it's what I'd like to do best - I have to admit here that I am here in a situation where without help from others it'll quite literally be my end. After everything I have been through and with the constant struggle inside my head I can not bring up the energy or effort to care about continuing to live any more beyond the bare minimum.

I wish I wouldn't have to write all this. I wish I was just like everyone else. People who'll read the above and just shake their head or shrug in disbelief, or worse, tell me to look at the positive side of things. Looking at the positive side of life is for people who aren't being tormented on a daily (and nightly) base by their own brain. Many respond in disbelief at the news of veterans who take their own lives after struggling to live with PTSD and failing. They can not comprehend what went on in the head of the person. Those close to the person did notice the change after he got back from his campaign, but struggled to come to terms with the sudden bursts of anger, sadness and general tendency towards isolation.

PTSD requires immediate and constant care until the symptoms have subsided to an acceptable level. I'm more than convinced of that through my own experiences. Sadly for many veterans and others affected by PTSD it's simply not available. I have tried to get PTSD therapy in the Netherlands, but could find no therapist who even remotely understood what I had gone through, which just led to more frustration.

For me living with PTSD is a daily struggle. I'd therefore truly appreciate any help from other people for the more mundane things. Fortunately I'm getting some help with finding this home in Germany right now, but I'm not even going to attempt to stop the voice telling me that it's never going to work out. I used to keep it suppressed, but now I lack the energy for that. Being positive and hopeful is hard. As hard as actually living.

I guess I have said everything I wanted to say by now, though I still don't feel like I have really put it down in a way which will actually make people understand the chaos inside my head. How it's like a constant buzz, harassing me and making me feel horrible, uncomfortable, or worse. As I said before, you really need to have experienced it yourself.

I don't want to end up back in that situation where I was in early 2011 when the only way out of the pain of existence was to terminate it. I do want to live. I just don't want to suffer any more.


Maya


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posttraumatic_stress_disorder

1 comment:

Jason Speechley said...

*Hugs Maya*
I want you to live too :)

I know this has been really difficult for you and I wish I could do more to help.

I'm also hoping this time things will be different. This time you have a job that provides enough money to support you comfortably and you have a small army of friends hunting around for you. Plus you got me here ready to offer emotional support anytime day or night.

I don't have PTSD, but finding and moving into the place I'm in now was a scary event. Even though I've lived all over the east coast of Australia this is the first time I've lived alone and that scared the crap out of me. At the time I had a support group of one, my mum.

This is why I am so glad that you have people who want to help you and to those people I want to say thank you :)