Saturday, November 5, 2011

Brain Scan & Hope

Here are a few photos of what PTSD does to a brain. Not my scan, I dont have a copy of it- yet. I didnt think to take a cell pic while we were reviewing it, I was too far into the discussion.

You may wonder why I am posting all this. I hope maybe my struggle can help someone else, if nothing else maybe make some people who are so quick to judge realize nothing in life is ever black and white. 

Recently I had a brain scan where we were able to pinpoint exactly where my PTSD is effecting and what it means.  It was very very eye opening to me. I was able to see on a scan actual proof of what is going on, and even more important we were able to set up a plan to “fix” it. Think of it like physical therapy for my brain.

I have PTSD. Actually, I have been diagnosed with several different cases of PTSD. Anyway, this blog isn’t about how I obtained the disease. What this blog is about is MY PTSD and how real the disease is.

PTSD is much like diabetes, cancer, the flu. It is a very REAL disease, medically. It is not simply a cop out mental illness as some people seem to believe. In fact, I had a brain scan, and you can visibly see the PTSD effects on my brain. This is a physical illness as well as an emotional one.

The cause of PTSD is unknown. Psychological, genetic, physical, and social factors are involved. PTSD changes the body's response to stress. It affects the stress hormones and chemicals that carry information between the nerves (neurotransmitters).

During the scan they show you pictures, video clips etc of triggers and see what your brain looks like during these exposures.

Let me try to explain what is going on in my head. I have experienced multiple extreme traumas. My neurons are for all intense of purposes extremely strained. It is like overusing a muscle. When you sprain a muscle you have to relax it and use it in certain ways to heal it. If you restrain and restrain the same muscle each time the healing time takes longer.

My bridge between logical and emotional is broken. I have a processing issue. Pretty much sometimes my logical side doesn’t process my emotional side. So for instance, if my husband says “I don’t like dinner.” I can hear “I don’t like you.” Because my emotions are reading the comment, the tone and my logic doesn’t kick in and say “he doesn’t like the pork chops because they are dry.” The logic side doesn’t kick in because the neurons are not reaching that far.

THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN IN EVERY SITUATION BECAUSE SOMETIMES THEY WORK. ITS LIKE HAVING A BREAK THAT HEALED IMPROPERLY SOMETIMES ITS HURTS SOMETIMES IT IS UNNOTICEABLE.  So, sometimes I don’t process the logical application of things.  Ever wonder how I heard something and translated it to mean one thing when everyone else would think it meant something else? Now you know.

My main symptom is emotional avoidance. I have a really easy time taking an emotional event, shoving it down in the back of my mind, and forgetting about it. Mainly, as a coping mechanism. For instance, I do this after each miscarriage. I think about it short term, then I file it away. I can’t even fill out the date each occurred on a doctor’s form. Not because it didn’t affect me, not because I don’t care, but because as a defense mechanism I have locked it away.

Avoidance            Emotional "numbing," or feeling as though you don't care about anything            Feeling detached            Being unable to remember important aspects of the trauma            Having a lack of interest in normal activities            Showing less of your moods            Avoiding places, people, or thoughts that remind you of the event                        Feeling like you have no future

Because of the PTSD I have a variety of emotions that others do not have. Like, paranoia. I have feelings that people are talking about me when they aren’t. I don’t process what people say the right way, some of the time, especially after a trigger has occurred. Like with the sample above about dinner. I can hear the words but the logical side doesn’t process it. My psychologist explained it, as my bridge is underwater so the neurons can’t connect.  I associate things with other things that shouldn’t be associated.

I was first diagnosed with PTSD when I was six years old. This means that I have been fighting these things my entire life. In addition, because I had experienced such large traumas throughout my life in intervals it reinjured an already injured, not properly healed, section of my brain.

I am high functioning. I am not a threat to society or myself. I can hold jobs, education and personal relationships without issue. I am not a bad person nor is whats going on in my brain dangerous to anyone. I can still care and love others. But, I don’t process normal social situations the right way some of the time. Not all of the time, but some of the time. This encourages low self-esteem, no self worth, inability to accept love, finding a meaning behind good compliments (he said Im pretty because he wants to get in my pants. She said I was a good photographer because she wants me to take her pictures. She said Im good with kids because she wants me to babysit for her. She said I look good in these jeans to be polite, or to make fun of me. They said they want to hang out with me because they need me to cook for them but they don’t really like me. Those girls over there are laughing because Im ulgy) I don’t process it as maybe I am pretty, the jeans fit well, I take good pictures, the strangers don’t even notice me. I turn things that have nothing to do about me to me, internalize them.

The problem comes from the fact that I have been avoiding real relationships since I was six. I have been able to disassociate myself, to alienate and to protect myself in an unhealthy way.

The good news is: the cause of it has been identified! In addition there is treatment. They are not putting me on any medications because based on my scans and evaluations they do not think I need medication. Instead I am doing brain pt. I will be doing exercises to be able to associate, to fix the bridge, to connect my logical side with my emotional side. I have a program I will be doing, sort of like teaching a person out of a coma how to tie her shoes lol. I am really hoping it works. If it does (both my counselor and psychiatrist are sure it will) I will eventually be able to accept love. It really is not something I just say for attention, but a physical reaction to emotional scarring. My neurons have over fired and now are rusty and not working right.

Because my trauma most relates to Borderline Personality Disorder the treatment for it is much like the treatment for BPD. We are doing DBT therapy for starters.

A person with Borderline Personality Disorder will also often exhibit impulsive behaviors and have a majority of the following symptoms:Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonmentA pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
Identity disturbance, such as a significant and persistent unstable self-image or sense of self
Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior
Emotional instability due to significant reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
Chronic feelings of emptinessInappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
Transient, stress-related paranoid thoughts or severe dissociative symptoms

Because I do not have BPD I do not identify with all of the symptoms. The ones I do identify with is unstable interpersonal relationship, identity disturbance (I cant be loved.), and chronic feelings of emptiness. I am not impulsive, suicidal, angry, etc.

Another one of the factors of BPD is: Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.The perception of impending separation or rejection, or the loss of external structure, can lead to profound changes in self-image, emotion, thinking and behavior. Someone with borderline personality disorder will be very sensitive to things happening around them in their environment. They experience intense abandonment fears and inappropriate anger, even when faced with a realistic separation or when there are unavoidable changes in plans. For instance, becoming very angry with someone for being a few minutes late or having to cancel a lunch date. People with borderline personality disorder may believe that this abandonment implies that they are “bad.” These abandonment fears are related to an intolerance of being alone and a need to have other people with them. Their frantic efforts to avoid abandonment may include impulsive actions such as self-mutilating or suicidal behaviors.

This is one I can absolutely identify with. I don’t get extremely anger but I do think “they cancelled because they don’t like me.” Instead of, their kid is really sick. I also get rid of people before they get rid of me, try to distance myself from relationships etc.

Because of how extremely different most of my symptoms are from BPD it is not my diagnosis, just for these purposes, the closest to explain the symptoms of my ptsd and neuron issues.

I just wanted to share what I learned this week. My self esteem issues, lack of wanting interpersonal relationships, and my paranoia actually comes from a PHYSICAL disorder. Now that we have recognized it we can work on fixing it. Hope is a magical thing and I am very excited about working on my issues and finding healthy ways to process things.

We have a treatment plan set up to include daily homework and journaling. Im looking forward to rebuilding my bridge. Please be patient while I do!

1 comment:

  1. I am glad to hear they are finding ways to help you recover! I think you should totally come here for awhile and utilize the base's Resiliancy Center! (Check it out on the ACs page!) They are doing some great work with PTSD and TBI recovery for the guys, and its open to spouses as well!! Bonus is its free!!