Tag Archives: nightmares

30 Day Mental Health Challenge – Day 1

Day 1: What is/are your mental illness(es).  Explain it a little.

 

I am currently diagnosed with Bipolar, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

My Bipolar disorder has varied from BP 2, to BP 1, to BP NOS — so honestly I am not sure which one I have.  I have moved a few times since getting the diagnosis and depending on the psychiatrist, they just decide on what they want.  I think my most accurate diagnosis is probably Bipolar 2 though.  I have had the severe highs before, but only 3 times since I ever was diagnosed back in 2012, and the majority of it is extremely severe depression.

With my PTSD, I basically have horrible flashbacks, nightmares, and dissociation related to past traumatic events in my life.  These include childhood abuse that has happened to me.  Sexual abuse by a teacher when I was 13.  Also I was raped in college.  I am not currently facing this, but for a time I also had some PTSD related to a surgery which paralyzed my right arm due to complications and then in turn caused a great deal of stress and depression due to lack of my use of my arm and my future of my job.

My BPD affects me in many ways – although I honestly figure that out on a day to day basis.  My bipolar makes me depressed 97% of the times.  But then if something makes me mad or upset, I will be set off to be even more depressed or angry than I was before.  If I was suicidal before cause of my bipolar, my BPD could cause me to become even worse because of something someone said or did to me.  My emotions don’t usually swing up though like some people do.

Therapy Tomorrow

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Tomorrow I see my therapist.  My bipolar and borderline personality disorder have been fairly stable over the last year.  Since August 2013 though I began working with a therapist who specializes in trauma therapy.  I never talked about my past history of abuse/sexual assault.  It wasn’t even until these past few months that I truly began opening up to my therapist though, which has made things incredibly hard for me.  Nightmares, flashbacks, and panic attacks have been almost a daily part of my life.

In one way, I am looking forward to seeing her tomorrow because I feel like I really need talk about things.  I was able to talk to my brother prior to our family reunion about some of our childhood growing up and it really brought up even more memories that hurt me.

It is amazing how the brain works with post traumatic stress disorder.  For so long I thought I could just block all of it out of my mind.  But the more I did it, the harder it hit me when it came back up.

Once I get past this though, hopefully I can get rid of the numbness, guilt, shame, nightmares, flashbacks, anger, hopelessness, self-destruction, insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, and bad memories.

I am getting closer and closer to coming to terms with my past though.  It is hard now, but my future is going to be so much better for it.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Having PTSD has made my life extremely hard. Waking up from nightmares, going into panic attacks in the middle of the day, suddenly having a flashback, having horrible social anxiety as if people can just tell about my past and are judging me, guilt about things that happened, and even the awful thoughts about suicide.

While many tend to relate PTSD to veterans that have come back from war, often PTSD is related to other traumas that civilians have experienced – such as childhood abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, rape, natural disasters, or violent crime (anything that might have caused physical harm or the threat of physical harm).

There are three stages of PTSD. You can experience one stage at a time or multiple stages at a time:

1: Re-experiencing
-Nightmares
-Flashbacks

2. Avoidance
-Staying away from places, events, things that are reminders
-Numbing your emotions
-Having trouble remembering the event

3. Hyperarousal
-Being easily startled
-Being on edge

I did not understand how I easily got through life from 8th grade – 12th grade without having any problems despite being sexually abused and then suddenly fell apart after my rape and other issues in college. Upon talking to my therapist I realized I had been in the avoidance stage at those times and so I had numbed myself and avoided things that reminded me of the situation so I wouldn’t have to face it.

Children will deal with PTSD in similar stages, but they will also have slightly different symptoms as well. Bedwetting, acting out, and being clingy might also occur.

There are different treatments for PTSD:

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Talk Therapy

Group Therapy

Family Therapy

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I currently am working with a therapist at a crisis center that specialized in trauma therapy. We are doing talk therapy at the moment, but focusing on different techniques to help me process through the trauma – rewind techniques, collages, etc. I couldn’t talk at first, but slowly as I have begun to trust her more, I have opened up more. It has been extremely hard, but I know that it is for the best.

As easy as it might be to try and forget that it never happened, eventually the trauma might come up and haunt you eventually. Some people can work through it on their own, but many cannot. It is always good to work with a trained professional and talk through it with them. Let them help you process through your thoughts and feelings about what happened and how you are dealing with it. Having a good support system will also help you out a lot. I did not have therapy as a child and I avoided talking about my traumas with anyone until I completely broke down. Twelve years after my first trauma and 8 years after my second trauma, I am finally facing them. Even though it has been incredibly hard, I know it is the best decision I have ever made because it is going to pay off in the long run for my mental health.

Grounding Techniques for Anxiety, Panic Attacks, PTSD

I have struggled with anxiety for forever!  I have PTSD and so panic attacks have come and gone in my life for a long time.  Since I began therapy to deal with the trauma specifically they have become much more frequent though.  Luckily I have an amazing therapist that has taught me some wonderful grounding techniques.

1) When you begin to feel anxious and panic, take deep breaths in and out.  Blow out longer than you breathed in.  Pick a specific color that you see in the room around you, then begin to focus on all the things you can see in the room that have that same color.  For example, if you see something that is green, look for all the other items in the room that are also the color green.  This particular technique is my favorite.  I am a very color oriented person and so this distracts my mind.  It took some practice at first, but it has become an excellent tool for me to use.

2) Again, begin to take deep breaths in and out, with the blowing out being longer than breathing in.  Begin to name the objects in the room.  Describe them, such as where you got them or who gave them to you.  Think about why it is important to you.  This one is still a bit hard for me, mainly because many times I do not have much attachment to the things in my apartment.  They were simply bought at a store that I do not remember and not many things that people gave me.  But many people have antiques or special gifts from family members, and this could possibly be very good for them to use.

3) Pick a particular object.  Use all 5 of your senses to describe it.  For example, make a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.  (This way you can enjoy it also!)  Look at it intently.  How does it look?  What is its color?  Are there swirls in it from stirring?  Is the cup warm to touch or too hot to touch?  What does it smell like? How does it taste?  Is it flavored coffee with a hint of French vanilla, or regular strong coffee?  Is it a dark chocolate or milk chocolate flavor? Do you hear anything?  Are you stirring your cup? Does the spoon clink against the glass?  Or is it simply quiet where you can only here the birds outside or the fan spinning in the room?  This is an activity the I enjoy as well.  It allows me to focus strictly on what is going on in front of me.  Although it is a bit harder to do exactly during a panic attack, I can practice it at other times to help me be more mindful and reduce anxiety on a daily basis.

4) To bring myself out of a nightmare of panic attack and back into the present moment, it has been recommend that I just simply grab a piece of ice.  Simple right?  Doesn’t sound like it will help?  I didn’t think it would do much at first.  Supposedly the change in temperature shocks your body into recognizing there is a difference and therefore coming back to the present.  So, if you go into a panicked mode, a flashback, or wake up from a nightmare and do not really know what exactly is going on – are scared and frightened and need a way to refocus… simply grabbing a piece of ice or running your hand under cold or warm (not scalding hot) water, this might help to bring you to the present moment.  Then once in this place, you can begin to practice one of the other grounding techniques.

Those are a few techniques that have helped me.  Everyone is different though and not everything that helps one person will help another.  It is important to try things out though.   If it doesn’t work the first time, don’t give up, because most times things do not work on the first time and take practice.  Talk with your therapist or doctor though to see if they have any ideas as well, as there are a multitude of grounding and mindfulness exercises out there.