Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Trauma: What Does it Mean?

This is a difficult entry to write.  I'm not sure where to come from as I'm not sure where I am.  Mostly I'm confused.  And hurt.  A lot of hurt, so much hurt I just lay in bed and cry.  I have a lot of questions that may never be answered.  This weekend I had a setback.  Or a hiccup as a friend called it today.  It actually feels more like really bad gas that won't work its way out as opposed to a hiccup.

I understand that we all come with baggage.  We all have a past, a history, issues, whatever you want to call it.  And I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that because of this baggage (or whatever you want to call it) we end up with emotional, mental and sometimes even physical deficiencies.  I have it, you have it, she has it, he has it, your mom has it, your dad has it, even my dog has it, believe it or not.  I'm sure you don't believe my dog has it but he does, I swear.  This history, our past, has shaped us into who we are.  But sometimes we become another person because of a traumatic event in our past.  There are rare situations when a person cannot be held accountable for their actions or their words because in theory it was not them that did or said what hurt you.  I'm sure some of you out there (if anyone actually reads this!) are guffawing and wondering what crazy nonsense I've been up to and what new age books I've been reading since my last entry.  Bear with me with an open mind and pause your guffawing.

I'm going to go into some scientific jargon here for a bit (not much though and it's all linked if you want to know more).  According to Wikipedia (and my naturopath, both trusted sources), the prefrontal cortex area of the brain "has been implicated in planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making and moderating social behavior."  Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects this area (and 2 others, the amygdala, and hippocampus).  When adrenaline rushes through the body of a person with PTSD who is in a situation of trauma or stress, the prefrontal cortex figuratively drowns in the adrenaline and shuts down.  So if this is the part of the brain that reasons and makes decisions, guess what?  Any decisions that are made are not made with reason.  Alas, they are not aware that their problem solving skills are absent at that point in time.  In fact, on a day-to-day basis, their problem solving skills are probably quite impressive and allow them to function at a high level and they are valued and appreciated by everyone around them.  When they aren't being paranoid of everything and everyone around them, that is. Yay! another symptom of PTSD. Like temporarily losing your prefrontal cortex isn't enough...

So....when someone with PTSD has an episode, a switch goes off in their brain and the prefrontal cortex says "I am outta here".  A rational conversation turns ugly and unintelligible; they lash out verbally, or even physically, and hurt the ones they love without even knowing that they are doing it.  It happens fast.  In a matter of moments the situation can go from cuddling happily to a police officer banging on your front door.  And you have no idea what is going on because your prefrontal cortex is working fine and trying to rationalize the entire situation.  Your problem solving skills are in high gear, putting pieces together that aren't fitting.  You try to recollect the conversation and at what point exactly things turned ugly.  But you can't.  Because the conversation did not make sense to you.  The person with PTSD was speaking in circles, riddles, single sentences that were formed perfectly but not connected to each other.  The conversation may or may not have had anything to do with what happened that day but the insults and trash talk and drudging up of the past hurts all the same, like a red hot poker to the heart.  What was the trigger?  Why and how did things go so wrong so fast?  I can't answer those questions.  I don't know.  And I can't keep using my problem solving skills to figure it out because it's as futile as a dog chasing his tail.

The only thing I need to understand is that PTSD is a disorder, and like my depression affects my life, PTSD affects their life.  If PTSD is not treated the affected person can continue to go on with this switch in their head ready to flip at any given moment.  I cannot live my life happily with someone while waiting for that switch to go off in their head.  I am a strong woman and have been through rough times in my own head.  I will always love but I cannot be part of the rough times in another person's head if they are not willing to seek help and treatment for what it is that ails them.  I must go on. The hurt will pass, my heart will heal and I will be well again but I will always worry and wonder because I will always remember and love the person that I saw before that switch in their head went off in front of me for the last time.

Namaste to all

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