This post is nasty.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.NHS
I’ve had a lot of shit happen to me in my life, but none were more harrowing than my first miscarriage. I say my first, because I had two.
I’m guna try and be brief, because I really don’t like to think about it too much, as is the way of PTSD.
It was a ‘missed miscarriage’, which means that the baby died but just stayed in the womb. The sac around the fetus kept growing, and most of my pregnancy symptoms continued, including showing, but the baby was actually dead for weeks. It was only when I had a scan that they realised the baby had died. There was a chance though that I’d got my dates wrong (even though I knew I hadn’t), so they had to wait a week before they could do anything about it.
This scan was actually on the day that we completed our house purchase, so we went to pick up the keys, sat in our empty new house and just ate Subway on the floor.
A week later (after waiting for any day to just start bleeding, which I was told was expected) I had another scan, and the death of our baby was confirmed.
I had the choice between having it vacuumed out, or being induced in to labour.
I chose to be inducted, but fuck me it was the wrong choice.
I had a labour, I had a baby, but it was dead.
I felt it.
I saw it.
Sometimes I still feel that physical sensation in my dreams, and I absolutely cannot stand having my period, which unfortunately happens every month – the biggest problem.
As it happens, the induction didn’t even quite work, and my bleeding went on for weeks, eventually resulting in an infection, so I had to go back in to hospital for a vacuum anyway.
Re-experiencing is the most typical symptom of PTSD.NHS
This is when a person involuntarily and vividly relives the traumatic event in the form of:
repetitive and distressing images or sensations
physical sensations, such as pain, sweating, feeling sick or trembling
Some people have constant negative thoughts about their experience, repeatedly asking themselves questions that prevent them coming to terms with the event.
For example, they may wonder why the event happened to them and if they could have done anything to stop it, which can lead to feelings of guilt or shame.
Trying to avoid being reminded of the traumatic event is another key symptom of PTSD. This usually means avoiding certain people or places that remind you of the trauma, or avoiding talking to anyone about your experience.
Many people with PTSD try to push memories of the event out of their mind, often distracting themselves with work or hobbies.
Some people attempt to deal with their feelings by trying not to feel anything at all. This is known as emotional numbing. This can lead to the person becoming isolated and withdrawn, and they may also give up pursuing activities they used to enjoy.
Even writing that tiny paragraph was so painful, and so triggering.
I massively avoid thinking or talking about that experience.
I will also bang on about how much I hate babies, don’t want children, and am glad I don’t have them.
That’s a lie.
I remember just over a month ago, on what would have been my child’s 7th birthday, having a massive panic attack when me and my boyfriend were due to go out for drinks. I just couldn’t leave the flat. Then I lay there, crying my eyes out, and told him about how I pretend I don’t want them, but that it’s all a defence mechanism and it breaks my heart. It’s probably the most I’ve ever spoken about it to anyone in the 7.5 years since it happened.
My poor love. I put so so much on him.
It was after the miscarriage that I well and truly threw myself in to work. I am basically a workaholic. I can’t relax. I find it so so difficult. I feel like I’m wasting a day if I just spend it watching TV.
I would say I started drinking more heavily after that too, but I’ve always drank way too much so…
Someone with PTSD may be very anxious and find it difficult to relax. They may be constantly aware of threats and easily startled. This state of mind is known as hyperarousal.NHS
Hyperarousal often leads to:
sleeping problems (insomnia)
After the first miscarriage, I started to notice my neighbours (I lived in a terrace), which I never really had before. Or at least, I was never really bothered by them. Just before my inpatient stay 7 years ago, I was convinced that they were trying to make noise on purpose to hurt me.
It was one of the things that actually led to me leaving my husband – I could not stand that house by the end.
In my flat search this time around, the one thing I have been really funny about is how many walls adjoin to the neighbours.
I get so easily startled, and distracted. If I hear a neighbour making any noise at all I get this drop in the pit of my stomach, and I literally freeze. I can’t move, I breathe really shallow, I get this tingly feeling down my arms and legs – like they’re really heavy, and I feel like I’m going to throw up.
I knew my mental health was headed downhill this time too because I was starting to get really bothered by the music coming from the restaurant below us at work, to the point that I kept freezing, feeling really nauseous, and if I was in the back room would often have to wear my headphones or earplugs.
Eventually it got so bad at work that I couldn’t even stand the noise in the bar.
That was my last day at work – the day I had to go home sick.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop after a very stressful, frightening or distressing event, or after a prolonged traumatic experience.NHS
Types of events that can lead to PTSD include:
physical or sexual assault
abuse, including childhood or domestic abuse
exposure to traumatic events at work, including remote exposure
serious health problems, such as being admitted to intensive care
childbirth experiences, such as losing a baby
war and conflict
PTSD develops in about 1 in 3 people who experience severe trauma. It’s not fully understood why some people develop the condition while others do not, but certain factors appear to make some people more likely to develop PTSD.
In that list though, there’s not just my horrible miscarriage that fits the bill. There is my first sexual experience (which was an assault), a physically and emotionally abusive relationship, and of course the incident in my flat last year where someone unconsensually and unprotectedly had sex with me while I was asleep.
I’ve very much put that incident in a box. I didn’t even think about it until a few weeks ago, when my boyfriend pointed out (very annoyedly – and rightly so) that he can’t leave me on my own in the flat for a single night. The lightbulb came on, and I was like omggg this is why, and he was like wtfff I never knew.
That’s how tightly I’d locked that box away – I hadn’t even told him, or my girlfriends, and I tell them everything.
So what’s the science behind it? This is the bit that I actually found dead interesting…
If you have had depression or anxiety in the past, or you do not receive much support from family or friends, you’re more susceptible to developing PTSD after a traumatic event.NHS
There may also be a genetic factor involved in PTSD. For example, having a parent with a mental health problem is thought to increase your chances of developing the condition.
Although it’s not clear exactly why people develop PTSD, a number of possible reasons have been suggested;
One suggestion is that the symptoms of PTSD are the result of an instinctive mechanism intended to help you survive further traumatic experiences.
For example, the flashbacks many people with PTSD experience may force you to think about the event in detail so you’re better prepared if it happens again. The feeling of being “on edge” (hyperarousal) may develop to help you react quickly in another crisis.
But while these responses may be intended to help you survive, they’re actually very unhelpful in reality because you cannot process and move on from the traumatic experience.
Studies have shown that people with PTSD have abnormal levels of stress hormones.
Normally, when in danger, the body produces stress hormones like adrenaline to trigger a reaction in the body. This reaction, often known as the “fight or flight” reaction, helps to deaden the senses and dull pain.
People with PTSD have been found to continue to produce high amounts of fight or flight hormones even when there’s no danger. It’s thought this may be responsible for the numbed emotions and hyperarousal experienced by some people with PTSD.
In people with PTSD, parts of the brain involved in emotional processing appear different in brain scans.
One part of the brain responsible for memory and emotions is known as the hippocampus. In people with PTSD, the hippocampus appears smaller in size. It’s thought that changes in this part of the brain may be related to fear and anxiety, memory problems and flashbacks.
The malfunctioning hippocampus may prevent flashbacks and nightmares being properly processed, so the anxiety they generate does not reduce over time.
Treatment of PTSD results in proper processing of the memories so, over time, the flashbacks and nightmares gradually disappear.
And what’s the treatment?
Talking therapies, and medication, which is what I’m going to get here.
It’s time to address all these crappy things, and put them to rest.
I don’t care how long it takes, or how painful it is, I need to do this.
I can’t live like this anymore.