Anxiety, Depression, & Secondary PTSD


notallwoundsarevisible

The stigma of mental health keeps people from talking about it. I refused to admit anything to anyone. My husband has PTSD. No one needed to know our business. I became a recluse and went into my own closet. I refused to even go see a doctor, until I just couldn’t take the constant crying anymore. And then, I never told anyone. I did have to reveal it on my clearance paperwork, though. And that scared the hell out of me. I was afraid I’d lose my job because of it. Because, without a clearance, I can’t work on this contract. And not working meant not paying bills and not being able to live. What would we do? How would I get another job with my age, the saturation in the IT field, and the poor economy? Getting another job would probably be near impossible for me. So I kept it all to myself. Until now. I am owning my feelings. I am owning my diagnoses. Depression, Anxiety, and Secondary PTSD. I suffer from them. They don’t define who I am. Depression –  We’ve all felt sad, blue, or a little down every now and then. But depression has a way of lingering. It sticks with you like glue, causing intense sadness, feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness. Over my lifetime, I’ve suffered several bouts of depression. Now that I am looking at my life, I’ve probably suffered more than I let on, even as a teenager. It could very well have been hormones for all I know. Since I was raised as a military child, to be strong when change occurred, as well as being ridiculed by my classmates for wearing my heart on my sleeve – where every time my feelings were hurt, I’d cry – well, I kept all those feelings inside. Because crying was not strength. Crying was weakness. And I’ve always needed to be strong. (I haven’t figured out the reason why yet.) The two most notable bouts, before today, has been the time when I suffered from a very bad case of adult acne. I never had it as a teenager, really. Maybe a few here and there. But when I hit 24 or so, I came down with some seriously deep and painful red welts that popped up all over my face. I tried everything I could but nothing worked. It was horrible. I felt miserable. I just KNEW everyone was looking at me and laughing. I had self-image issues to begin with and never thought myself pretty. This made that self-image sink lower. I was hideous, ugly, and I hated looking at myself. Being the insecure wife that I was, I wondered how TheHubs could look at me, let alone love me. And then, there was postpartum depression. I had THE BEST pregnancy. No morning sickness. No random and severe mood swings. Nothing. Once I delivered though. My brain seemed to go haywire and I just could not stop crying. I thought maybe it was hormones, or lack thereof, and I just needed to give my body time to adjust. I went a whole month before I told my doctor. I couldn’t help it really. I cried in his office. I was given antidepressants which reset my brain chemistry. I was so thankful. I think I took myself off them after 9 months. Maybe that wasn’t the best thing to do. But I was better and I didn’t think I needed them anymore. So I quit. Sometime about 8 years ago, before his diagnosis of PTSD, I nearly lost him. Due to a newly found syndrome caused by the interaction with his migraine medication and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs, his doctor said he was extremely lucky he woke up.  From that moment on, I had the most difficult time breathing. I had no idea what was going on. It was like I needed to take a deep breath, or yawn, but it just wouldn’t come. It would even wake me up in the middle of the night. I spent weeks going through this before I went to the doctor. But because it was my breathing, I figured I needed to get it checked out. The doctor put a blood ox on my finger and said my oxygen is great. 100% to be exact, which is above normal. He then diagnosed it as a anxiety/panic attack. But how could it be panic when it would wake me out of my sleep for no reason? It was like I just couldn’t get enough air, on the verge of a yawn that wouldn’t come. I didn’t understand. I was in denial for years. I kept a mental log of when these “attacks” would happen and what was happening in my life. Sometimes it was very stressful. But other times, nothing was going on. So I began to wonder if it really was anxiety or panic. Maybe the doctor misdiagnosed the symptoms because I didn’t have any of the other symptoms associated with panic or anxiety. It was just the breathing. At least, that’s what I thought. I had been previously diagnosed with IBS, which maybe that was from my gallbladder issue which I had removed 2 years later after I couldn’t even keep water down. Or I really do have IBS because even afterwards I still have gut issues sometimes. I always have the weird symptoms for everything I go to see the doctor about. So, here’s a rundown of all the symptoms I could find. Those crossed out, I’ve never had. The others, well, crossover from anxiety to depression to IBS to even fibromyalgia (of which we shall talk about later).  This website goes into so much more here:

  • Numbness and tingling
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • Neck tension
  • Stomach upset, nervous stomach
  • Pulsing in the ear
  • Burning skin
  • Fear of impending doom
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Electric shock feeling
  • Shooting pains in the face
  • Heart palpitations
  • Weakness in legs
  • Feeling like you are going crazy
  • Inability to rest
  • Sleep problems

If you notice, most of these are symptoms of other issues, like depression and stress, which I already had. So you see my dilemma? Anyway, as the years go by, my “anxiety” comes and goes. Last year, it got so bad that I was taking my as-needed anti-anxiety pills every day. This was not normal for me at all. And when I started constantly crying every day, feeling alone, hopeless, helpless, and nothing is ever going to get better, I knew it was time to go back to the doctor. This is how it was after I had TheBoy – the postpartum depression. The only difference was the breathing problems. I didn’t want to go see a therapist. I’ve seen a couple starting with the postpartum depression. It was never a pleasant experience. I never felt comfortable with the psychologist or therapist and I always hated crying. Plus with all the doctor’s appointments TheHubs had been going to we’ve been buried in some medical expenses (he has the VA as well as civilian doctors he goes to) on top of the holiday season and TheBoy’s birthday. Plus, I always hate spending money on things that will never get resolved. So, I brought it up on my annual woman’s exam and he was ok with putting me on Zoloft. After two weeks, I was much better. I could see clearer and the positives were shining through the darkness again. I was off on my own again. After TheHubs’ diagnosis of PTSD, we had to re-learn how to communicate. We had to learn a new normal. It wasn’t my fault. I was not the cause of his anger, his depression. I had to learn how to NOT think the worst of everything. I needed to learn how to stop the negative voices inside my head. I’m here to tell you, it’s not easy. In fact, I think it’s the hardest thing I have to do. And I have to do it every day. Some days are easier than others. And then there are the days where, no matter how hard you try, you give in and listen to them scream at you. It’s ok. As long as you get right back up and scream back at them tomorrow, everything will be ok. Sometime last year, TheHubs’ voices took him into a really dark place. He contemplated. He rationalized. He nearly took his life. Nearly. But he had his epiphany before he ever told me. He has his days, weeks, sometimes even months when he barely gets out of bed either from the pain or the depression, or both. He nests, as we call it. Doesn’t clean up his side of the bed. Piles everything over there and no one can walk around. It’s like he’s afraid to come out into the open. He had started doing this again. His meds had changed, again, plus he was sick with what seemed like the flu. Or so he said. That’s also the time when I nearly lost him a second time to Serotonin Syndrome. Compounding all these problems, I can see why he went down that dark hole. I’m so very glad he pulled himself out. I am sad, however, that he didn’t reach out, for me or anyone. But that’s the rationalization monster, he says. That we’d be better off without him was why he didn’t tell me…until after the realization that we WOULDN’T be better off. I recently learned of a term called Secondary PTSD. Living with someone who has PTSD (or PTS as they want to call it now), I’ve noticed that I’m constantly on edge, choosing my words carefully, walking on egg shells. When he’s going through his bouts, I tend to get short-tempered, angry, irritated, worried, scared, depressed, exhausted, overwhelmed, guilty, hopeless, and unable to sleep. A lot of the same symptoms that my PTS spouse suffers. I didn’t realize what was going on. I thought I was just burnt out, or having a nervous break down. I thought I was alone. Once I got on the right path, I started educating myself and found I WASN’T alone! Since those two serotonin incidents, plus his telling me about some of the things that happened during his deployment, and the fact he wanted/wants to die, I’ve been in an on-again-off-again state of near constant panic. It doesn’t help that I’ve had medication changes myself. I know a lot of the cognitive therapy tricks to try to calm my mind and I practice them often, but the panic/anxiety does not abate. I need something more. Because of the constant crying spells I had at the end of last year, and the other, weird, issues I am now seeking out medical help and diagnosis. But that has been an all year endeavor. Many, many tests, blood work, doctors, etc. I still have another set of tests for my breathing to rule out anything with my lungs, but it’s looking more and more likely it is panic/anxiety attacks (on top of depression and Secondary PTSD) as this new doctor informed me of something called Nocturnal Panic Attacks. And because I like to keep myself in control during the day, her explanation of why this happens makes complete sense. I have a tendency to bottle things up and keep a tight rein on my emotions during conscious waking hours. When I go to sleep, my sub-conscious takes over and allowing the release of those caged feelings to come to the surface, causing my panic attack during my sleep. Fifteen years and I am ready to admit these out loud. I am NOT a failure because of them. They are a part of me now. Just as I need to learn to live with TheHubs’ new normal, I need to learn to live with them as my new normal. I am in a state of recovery. And I am  grateful that TheHubs is recovering too. But I am constantly worried that he would go back to that dark, evil place again. Once depression sets in, just like any mental illness, you are NEVER cured. As a 30 year “recovering” alcoholic or drug addict will tell you, you are never cured. You only manage it and learn how to live with it – fighting every day to keep it at bay. And that’s where we are. There will be good days and there will be bad days. I hope to keep finding the positives, no matter how small, in every situation. Because the alternative is not pretty. Find the positive, in any situation, no matter how small.

LadyJai

PS: If anyone has anything to share to help with calming the mind when a panic/anxiety attack happens I would love to hear. It’s like the longer I have the “need more breath” feeling, the longer the attack goes on. I’ve tried:

  • meditation
  • deep breathing techniques
  • guided imagery and calming noises
  • calming smells, essential oils, and herbal teas
  • reading
  • writing
  • I’m horrible with keeping up with exercise, but I’ve tried a bit of it and yoga. I just can’t stick with it.
  • I’ve gone for a walk outside. Not good for the middle of the night attacks.
  • Changed my diet to limit my intake of caffeine. I don’t drink alcohol.

None of these has been completely successful during an attack. Anything else you can offer would be wonderful! Thanks in advance.

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8 thoughts on “Anxiety, Depression, & Secondary PTSD

  1. Dixie Copeland

    Hi LadyJai. I’m one of those ‘celebrate the small things’ peeps… just want to say, I celebrate your courage, and hope more moments of joy come your way. Sometimes I find life to be moment to moment. It’s a building process… wishing you laughter, smiles, good thoughts… the best of things to build on!

    I’ll keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.(smile).

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  2. Katie thecyborgmom

    I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through all this. I can relate in a small way, at least with the anxiety/depression. I had one of those middle of the night panic attacks once…scared the living spit out of me! And it was the worst panic attack I’ve ever had…reading what you wrote about it now makes sense. I had kept a lot of stuff bottled up for a couple of days prior to it. I wish I had some answers for you on how to stop them. Sometimes when I feel panicky, I will just try to distract myself…a lot of times with something funny on tv. It helps sometimes, and sometimes not. I hope you find what works for you and that you can get on a medicine routine that works too. I was on meds for a couple of years while I simultaneously went through therapy…it helped a lot. For me, allowing myself permission to not keep it all together was empowering…as weird as that sounds 🙂 *hugs*
    ~Katie

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    1. LadyJai Post author

      I am slowly coming around to the whole therapy idea. I just hate feeling all weak and vulnerable and crying all the time in front of someone. Plus, how do you find a stranger you can do that with? I’ve been considering Give an Hour or Courage Beyond as finances are rough now with my issues on top of his issues. Yeah, stress is in abundance and always around here. I try to distract myself, too. But it hardly ever works. The whole being very aware of the breathing issues is right in my face all the time because…well, we all need to breathe, right?! I’ll get through it, I always do. Thanks for reading and commenting! ❤

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  3. Run Free From PTSD

    Hi there,

    We run a campaign that raises awareness of the benefits of exercise on treating PTSD, while you said that you can’t stick with it perhaps try doing some light exercise with a friend or even your partner, when you exercise with someone else it can be more enjoyable and easier to do.

    If you still struggle with exercise, perhaps try sudarshan kriya yoga, there was a study done on it recently that found a dramatic decrease of PTSD symptoms among military PTSD sufferers, I’ve attached the link here if you want to read more about it.

    http://runfreefromptsd.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/yoga-helps-war-veterans-get-a-handle-on-their-ptsd/

    Please contact us if you want anymore information,

    Run Free From PTSD

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