Welcome to our Pretty Things Survivors Do inaugural blog hop! We are glad you’re here.
PTSD is a “psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.” (American Psychiatric Association definition)
Although mostly associated with war veterans, it affects 3.5% of the population and 4% of US children ages 13-18 will experience PTSD in their lifetime. About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. (Bran and Behavior Research Foundation)
The holidays are a difficult time for those living with PTSD. We are participating in the blog hop in the hopes that you may be reminded to reach out to loved ones, neighbors, and friends who could be living with PTSD daily. If one person is remembered this holiday season, then we have achieved our goal of spreading awareness.
My personal story of trauma is related to my breast cancer diagnosis in May 2015. In July of that year I had a mastectomy and due to a complication after the surgery, I spent the day in the post operative care unit. I had another surgery in the evening and then spent three days in the telemetry ward because of possible side effects of a special cream being used on my skin. In those four days, I had migraines, extreme pain, choked on my own vomit, was woken by the sound of alarms signaling that my heart rate had dropped below 50 beats per second, and had a scary experience with a pain killer that took effect so quickly, I felt like I’d been paralyzed. I didn’t even have the opportunity to think about or see what my body looked like until the morning I was able to go home.
I have always been open to talking about my cancer experience. I had no problems talking about the day I found the lump, the day I went in to have it checked out and how within a few hours I’d had my very first mammogram, an ultrasound, and a biopsy. I could talk about receiving the call and about meeting my team of doctors a few days later when I learned that I’d have to have chemo no matter what surgical choice I made. I could describe my decision making process, the genetics test, and the expected cosmetic outcome of various types of surgeries. I could talk about the aftermath of the surgery. I could recite the logistics of egg retrieval and of freezing embryos, and of using cold caps to save my hair during chemotherapy. I could talk about how, laying in bed, so completely knocked out by chemo that I’d lose my breath just talking, I would wonder if that was what it felt like to be dying of old age, when your cells simply just couldn’t hang on even though your brain had plans to live on. Talking about those things was not difficult.
But when it came to talking, or even thinking about the morning of the surgery and sitting in the reception area waiting to be called, I couldn’t do it. My eyes would immediately tear up and my throat would clench and my heart would start racing. Just driving by the hospital, from the direction where I could see my hospital room window, was enough to trigger the same reaction. I made it a point not to approach the hospital from a certain direction and I felt on alert for things that might be triggering. Once, I was in a meeting with 30 other people in the room and the presenter happened to be walking right behind me when, as part of an analogy, he said the word “cancer” and I thought, uh oh, don’t think of that morning, don’t think of that morning, but of course, in trying not to think about it, I did, and I had to excuse myself from the room to catch my breath.
In talking about it with my therapist, she asked me what was going through my mind when I had these physical reactions and it was when I told her that it felt like I was back in that moment, that it felt like I was about to have surgery and not like I’d had it 18 months earlier, that she suggested that I was having symptoms of PTSD. Within a month I had an appointment for EMDR and though I was skeptical going in, that single EMDR appointment was enough to greatly reduce my symptoms. So much so that almost 18 months after that session, I’m able to write this post with only a couple of tears and a steady heart rate 🙂 I don’t know if it worked because EMDR actually works or because I wanted so much for it to work, but either way, I’m grateful. If it’s something you haven’t heard of before, I’ll let you do your own research and draw your own conclusions.
It may be coincidental, but the timing of that EMDR session roughly coincides with when I started making cards and I can’t express how much finding this craft and a loving crafty community has helped me. So, for the hop today, I made a card using a shape and colors that make me feel warm and alive and hopeful, and a sentiment that closely mirrors what I repeated to myself during those long weeks of healing from surgery and even longer months of surviving chemotherapy.
Thank you for joining me, and us.
If you suffer from PTSD, I wish you peace and health and the knowledge that you are not alone. If you know someone who lives with PTSD and would like ways to support them, please visit the following sites and remember to reach out to a neighbor, friend or family member during this holiday season, you could make a difference in their day.
- The National Institute of Mental Health
- US Department of Veteran Affairs
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Please hop along with us:
1. Sandy Allnock
2. Josefine Fouarge
3. Rubeena Ianigro
4. Leigh Houston
5. Mamie Carson Wadsworth
6. Tania Ahmed
7. Ana Reese
8. Tracy Freeman
9. Amy Tsuruta
10. Tracie Pond
11. Sharna Waksmulski
12. Alix Davis
13. Janette Kausen
14. Mayra Duran-Hernandez
15. Kimberly Wiener
16. SkyPaperScissors (you are here)
17. Joanne Maree Soukup
18. Crissy Salima Smith