Thursday, August 20, 2015

PTSD and Depersonalization and Derealization

Usually when I post things they are what has happened in the past. When I am over whatever has been happened to me. Mostly because it's easier to talk about something that has already happened. And also, becuase I'm not good at sharing what is going on in my life right now. But this post is different. This is what is going on right now with me. And it is one of my biggest challenges so far...

Let me rewind to last August. I was waiting for the results of my Western Blot Lyme test to come back. But the Doxycycline I took to see if I had lyme had made me super sick. My doctor had said that if it makes you sick, you have Lyme. Just because I didn't have a paper back from Palo Alto, California stating that I was a positive carrier of the highest vector disease in America, didn't mean that we were pretty sure I had it. I was researching Lyme more and more everyday. 

When I wasn't doing that, I was laying on my bedroom floor, unable to get up form the depression and exhaustion. I was dealing with anxiety more so than ever because my mom was in Switzerland and I had serious attachment issues after coming home. Do deal with all of this, I was cutting. I cut to escape the feeling of complete hopelessness that entrenched me since coming home early. I cut to feel normal. To release the pain and worry I felt inside mind that I couldn't explain and couldn't understand. I released the pain physically because it was easier to deal with, and it numbed the mental and emotional pain... I was in a bad spot.

Now fast forward past the official diagnosis, past dealing with the PTSD that came after all that trauma. Fast forward past the new symptoms that appeared, losing my reading and focusing ability, locking my keys in my car, feeling nauseous all the time, fast forward to now. A year later... My PTSD is back. And it is known as the "Anniversary Reaction."

Anniversary Reactions happen when the brain is trying to process certain memories, but can't because they are stuck in short term memory. While the brain is trying to process the certain memories into long term the memories are being replayed in the brain. The body is experiencing these memories as if they are real and react the way the body did originally. For example there was a woman who was caught in a burning building in New York, but escaped and ran away. And on the anniversary she found herself in that part of town running away, even though there was no fire, and no danger.

One theory about why reactions like this happen is because it is believed that encoded in a memory is information on how to cope with the trauma. These traumatic memories tell the body what they should be afriad of, how to look at something and react, even how to think and feel in a certain situation. So if the memory is being replayed over and over again, the information is being sent repetivley too, thus the body reacts the way it is told. The woman caught in the fire ran away from a non burning building a year later because her traumatic memories were being triggered by the date and sending the information to her body to "run".

Right now my body and brain are doing the same thing, but with a twist.

An artists depiction of Derealization
It started a couple weeks ago, I noticed people would sound like they were underwater. Super muffled, and I felt disconnected. I didn't know how to explain it, but it felt like my depression was back again. I explained it to my doctor and we switched up some medicine. But things started to get worse, soon I was in what I felt was a "dream-like state" I was watching myself do everything. I was completely detached from myself and society. I was there but I wasn't. I was watching myself do everything. I felt like I was going insane! I was so scared. But still I didn't know how to explain it. There really aren't words to describe how detached I felt, and still feel.

At the beginning of August I never once felt like I was one with myself. I was stuck in my "dream" and I had stopped sleeping, and if I was asleep, I was still watching myself sleep, it was maddening! That was when the thoughts came back... And they were so strong, they weren't fleeting, or subtle, it was as if my detached body was telling me (floating above it), to cut myself so I could feel level headed again. And I started to do it again. I only felt attached to myself, and also to the world if I was in pain. So I picked up the razors again...

It's important to note that at this time my parents were both in New York, like my mom was gone a year prior to Switzerland... I eventually broke down (see my last post about my good friend "LEO") and called my doctor, I explained how I was feeling, they immediately went to action, and I am once again showering without a razor, I am doing all the old things I was doing last time I was in this state of mind.

Then this week, I went to my therapist. I explained to him everything. I told him my frustrations with feeling like I have back slid and I'm not actually getting better. I told him that I was cutting again. That I felt disconnected still, detached. And in a dream. I tried to find the words to describe it, like I am now, but I couldn't then, and I can't now... That is when my therapist said it was probably an Anniversary Reaction, of PTSD... As he explained what it was (like I have done above), all the pieces came together:

My mind is dwelling a lot more on the fact that it was my diagnosis anniversary. I am thinking about it more, and my body is reacting how it had when the events were actually cutting. However, I asked my therapist about my detachment and "dream-like state", because that is new. He said it is probably other parts of my brain trying to get as far from the traumatic memories of hurting and cutting myself as they could. The Irony of it all, I realize now, is that because I am experiencing the detachment it is causing me to cut, which the detachment is trying to avoid in the first place. It's a vicious circle.

My therapist also explained that there is a word to describe my "dream-like" state. When I feel separate from my body it is called Derealization. And when I am separate from others or society it is called Depersonalization. They are real disorders, but can also come from PTSD.

I now am in the process of what is called "Grounding." For some reason it is really hard to do! I have all these techniques that I use to try and keep my mind in my body and my body and mind in the now with others. I practice a lot of breathing techniques, those are easy. But the hard part is when I feel way separate, whether it's Derealization or Depersonalization, I have to find 3 different sights, and notice the details. Then 3 different sounds, then tastes, then smell, then touch... If I am not "grounded" I have to repeat with 3 different kinds of the 5 senses. The idea is to get my brain to recognize reality and focus more on the now and staying in my current state. It might sound easy, but it's not if you are floating around way above your head.

Beginning next week I will go through some therapy called EMDR. It is super hard to explain but it is the process of helping the brain process the traumatic memories stuck in short term, and helping them move to long term... If you want to know more about EMDR CLICK HERE.

When I found all this out. That I had PTSD again, along with Derealization and Depersonalization, and that it was all because of the Anniversary Reaction, you might think I was more discouraged... But actually I felt more hope! I felt relived! In my mind, before I new everything, I felt like I had back slid, and was getting sick and again and that treatment wasn't working because my thoughts were back to self harm. In reality my brain is working hard to get better, it's trying to process those memories, and at the same time I have all these things going on, but it is a relief to know my body hasn't quit fighting along with treatment. I am grateful for it. It may be slow, but I am definitely still fighting. And grateful to know that there is still hope in fighting this crazy disease as well as PTSD!

-The Lyme Warrior