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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
As someone who was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which was brought on by my horrific discovery on Rday 4/99 I never really understood what the long term ramifications were. I knew that I had immediate symptoms which included temporary amnesia, but I didn't understand that this was a life long alteration in the brain.
Because of the recent tragedy in our country, many more people will be suffering from this disorder. There was a psychologist on the evening news discussing PTSD and as I listened, I began to have a certain clarity of my behavior.
I know that many others on I.com have suffered from this as well and thought that I might share with you some things that you might find interesting.
When someone experiences a severe trauma scientists have discovered that it permanently changes the brain chemistry. All the feelings that you felt on the day of that trauma…heart pounding…unable to breathe…mind racing…feeling like you were going to die…fear…anxiety…anger…screaming…wailing…often come back when you experience a minor trigger because of the altered brain chemistry. There are chemicals that get released in the brain that cause these reactions and even a minor trigger will cause the re-release of this surge of chemicals.
For a war veteran, it might be the sound of a helicopter that triggers them. For someone that was traumatized by a severe car accident, they might be triggered by something as simple as screeching tires. For those of us who have experienced PTSD as a result of infidelity, then it may be triggered by a particular date or place or name. I have also found and I have also read on the boards that many of us are triggered by something as simple as the weather. Knowing the time of year that my H met her and hearing his description of it, I know that it was an "Autumn-like" Day. We had our first Autumn-feeling day recently and I began to feel sad. It was an overwhelming feeling of sadness. When my H recognized how "down" I was, he wanted to know why. I explained to him that it was the weather. He said, "but it is a beautiful day. Yesterday was rainey. I would think that you would have been sad on a rainy day, instead of a gorgeous day like today!" I went on to explain to him that the weather had been a trigger for me because this was the type of day that he met her on.
This was not a conscious choice that I made about the weather. I didn't go through some elaborate thought process and then become sad. It happened on a subconscious level and then I was able to analyze it.
The same sort of thing happened as our 2 year anniversary of dday approached and I couldn't understand why I was having panic attacks. Everything between my H and I was going so well, why was this happening to me. I couldn't understand it. I now recognize that I was being triggered subconsciously and my body was responding to the PTSD.
There have been several times during the last 3 years that my H would say something benign, but I would get a trigger and go totally bonkers. I couldn't explain it and I couldn't understand it. I would be out of control and inconsolable. The situations did not warrant my extreme reactions. I now understand these things after hearing this Dr. describe the lasting effects PTSD.
Now, that being said, I do believe, although the Dr did not describe this, that there are some triggers that you can become accustomed to and not experience severe reactions. I believe that you can be "conditioned" to them.
I used to have a severe reaction everytime that we passed by a certain hotel, but after passing by it numerous times, I do not have as a severe response to it. I can hear her name spoken and not hyperventilate. I can see an ad for diamond earrings and not start crying. However, there are things that come out of the blue and catch me off guard that send me into a deep saddness or extreme reaction. Being able to recognize these reactions for what they are and being able to intellectualize them makes them more manageable.
I know that they are not based on what is happening now. I know that they are a result of the past only. I feel, what I feel and let it pass. It may take the whole day, but it does go away. I always tell my H what is happening because he can read it in my eyes anyway. One day, I was teary and weepy all day. We had gone to a friend's 50th BD party the night before where I had spent a portion of the night crying during the loving speeches given by her H and her family and then her loving speech back to her family and all of us.
This event set off a trigger in my brain that caused my saddness. I had an elaborate surprise party for my H when he turned 40 and it was during his affair. I remember reading the email between he and the OW 2 years later. He had been complaining about me being out shopping and ignoring him when I had been out with his mom buying things for his surprise party.
My 40th BD the next year went unnoticed by him because he had moved on to another OW the day before my BD. Don't get me wrong, he did acknowledge it, but just as a normal BD. I was very hurt by his lack of attention to me on that day. I was also very disappointed. I kept waiting for people to jump out and yell, "surprise". I held out hope all day and stayed dressed just waiting and waiting for something that never happened. As the hour got later and later, I finally went to bed. This is one of those things that has really stayed with me and affected to me.
The BD party that we went to on that night set this chain of events off in my mind that left me very sad. I haven't cried as much as I did that day in a long time, but by the next day I was back on track.
I know that days like this will happen and I know that they will be far and few between. I know that we can get through them and that it is just another baby step in the journey of healing. All I can do, and all any of us can do…is JUST KEEP WALKING!!!