Friday, September 20, 2013

Life with P.T.S.D (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) Guest Blog by Keyt Harrington

Well, I haven't been here in a while! It's been a very busy summer with a bathroom remodel, a old-time buggy wagon restoration, farm remodel and me being sick with...what else..shunt issues.

I wanted to touch on something that relates not just to those with Hydrocephalus but everyone that walks with Earth. It's called P.T.S.D. Most people know it as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but I call it Please Take Seriously Disorder.
I was diagnosed in 1997 after having gone though a tumultuous marriage and divorce and subsequent issues between my parents that I was put in the middle of. I began therapy in 1999 and only stopped a couple of years ago. Here's a good description:

Most people think of P.T.S.D. as something people who have been in war deal with. That is far from true! Only in the last 10 years or so are doctors starting to recognize this condition in various other traumatic issues. If someone has been through anything from physical or emotional abuse or even medical traumas can have this disorder and I fit the bill in both of those areas.

Really, my issues could go back to when I was in school. Most kids didn't understand why I was sick all the time. No one knew how could I be out of school for months at a time and come back looking a lot different than the last time I was there, or why I would come to school with bandages or bandanas on my head. Some people thought I had Cancer or some kind of contagious disease. Most kids were decent to me, but I did have a good share of them who took what they didn't know and turned it into something it wasn't. I learned to take it and even tease myself before anyone could and it eventually got better. That was until I got married.
Whenever my ex and I would argue, he would say things like "If you weren't so stupid" or "Why are you acting like a psycho", etc. That would set me off in ways I now find embarrassing but it eventually tore my marriage apart. Subsequent relationships didn't work out well either because I would think my boyfriends hated me for one reason or another when in reality, I hated myself because I was letting the past control my every day thoughts.

In 1997 after a terrible argument between my parents that led to me having a major emotional breakdown, I went to my room and was crying so hard I couldn't breathe. That was the last thing I remembered because the next thing I knew I woke up in a hospital. A short, stocky guy in a suit was sitting on the edge of my bed and he asked me how I was feeling. Other than a raging headache I thought I was OK. I sat up to talk to him and my stomach started to reel. The guy in the suit asked me if I wanted some water and he had some questions for me. What the hell, I wish this idiot would go away because I just want to sleep. I figured I was there because my shunt failed again, it's not like it was the first time I woke up in a hospital not knowing why!

During our conversation I learned I overdosed...again. No, it wasn't the first time and it certainly wasn't the worst but it would eventually turn out to be the most pivotal. I remember asking him why he even cared, I've never met a neurologist that did. He said he was a Neuropsychoanalyst - basically a doc that studies mind and brain. I asked if attention was brought to him because I had gone as crazy as a person could go. He said the best 4 words I had ever heard a doctor say; "You're far from crazy!". I spent the next week in the hospital being asked every question imaginable when Dr. Small said my issues were caused by P.T.S.D. I had never heard of it but I was very glad to have a name for it!

It's been 16 years now since that visit from the, as he called it, "Small name, long title" lol. I was on meds for years but when my neurologist changed my anti-seizure meds, I had to go off of them and increase the dosage of one of my anti-seizure meds which helps with the "freak outs". I still have issues now and then. For example last year someone called me a retard when I was acting silly. I hadn't told that person my issue with that word but it shut me down immediately and I wasn't able to speak to them for a couple of days. More recently someone had pushed me out of plans that meant a lot to me after we had talked about them for over a month. It reminded me of my childhood when kids would leave me out of something because they thought I was too stupid or embarrassing. I ended up saying some things to that person that I now totally regret and it still puts me in tears to think about it!

This is why I have spent the last 10 years not having too many close relationships. Telling people about my Hydro and shunt and multiple surgeries, etc is bad enough. Most people know what P.T.S.D. is and that has such a negative stigma it's worse than telling people I have a seizure disorder which really freaks people out! I have even had friends tell me it's just an excuse for crying, saying things I don't mean or shutting down so easily. It doesn't give me an excuse not to have friends and be a hermit because I'm afraid a social situation will set me off either, it's just a matter of finding a balance.

So, P.T.S.D. isn't about people who have been in wars panicking when they hear thunder or having bad dreams in their sleep. There are many forms of trauma which means there are many types of P.T.S.D. and doctors are finding more every day. Someone's anger, crying easily or shutting down may because of something they are going through now or have experienced in their past. Maybe they just need someone to talk to instead of being yelled at or ignored. Having Hydro and a lot of health problems with P.T.S.D on top of it is a personal hell to say the least. Going to therapy helped but it's my family and friends who were patient with me that helped the most. I can probably count on one had how many there are but they mean the world to me!

By the way, if you look at the symptoms of P.T.S.D., one of them is difficulty falling or staying asleep. I'm finishing this at 4:30 am...while talking to Tim =)

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