by Patty Fleener M.S.W.
I thought I would discuss PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as I
suspect that many of us have it due to the very nature of the life we
have lived as a result of our illness. Whether we have the borderline
disorder or the bipolar disorder, chances are we have lived a very
stressful life. I know I have. In fact, chances are your illness has
affected every area of your life as it has done with me.
I received a letter from someone recently asking if I could discuss PTSD
and it wasn't long after that that I "flashed back" to the
earlier and very sick life I have lived.
I never thought of myself as having the PTSD. I am not a war veteran. I
haven't been through a major catastrophe such as a major earthquake,
hurricane, etc. However, I experienced severe traumas in my adult life -
some brought on by myself and experienced through my BPD/BP eyes. This
trauma was not a one-time thing. Its course lasted for most of my adult
life. I would have breathers in between but for the most part I was in
crisis not uncommon for people with my disorders.
I am sure it does not manifest itself in a person's life the same way it
would someone else. However, this is what it's like for me:
Oh, I'd say once every week (more or less) I dream that I am feeling
very ill, just like I did in my earlier life. I would normally dream
that one of my ex-boyfriends is in the dream as much of my trauma
centered around these horrendous and sick relationships. The dreams are
always different. A boyfriend would be there (different ones sometimes)
and though I do not experience the good feelings I used to about that
person, I only seem to experience the craziness. I re-experienced all
the sick feelings I had during most of my life. These feelings included
abandonment, feeling unable to cope, addiction to relationships, severe
depression and anxiety, doing crazy embarrassing things to hold on to
the person like calling all the time or showing up. I was usually out of
control with my behavior and emotions. I experienced severe panic and
the feelings I had of being invisible without a man in my life. I don't
remember if I have dreamt about my rages but I sure had them in real
life. The men in my life were always perceived as "bad"
because they did not live up to my expectations of always being there
for me, etc. So I would rage at them for being bad and I felt it was
rightfully so. Bad people deserve to be punished.
However, just as soon as I raged at them I risked losing them and I
would (sometimes within minutes) beg them for forgiveness and attempt to
get them back. It didn't matter whether I liked them or not or whether
they earned my respect. I just knew and felt that I was beginning to
become non-existent and I could not cope with those feelings. They were
All those horrid sick feelings came back in the dream. Here is the
catch. When I woke up you would think that I was glad to find myself not
living that way anymore but the whole day after my dream, I felt like I
was still there - back in time. I couldn't seem to get back into the
present. My mind was filled with memories of the past. I not only
remembered, I felt those awful feelings and self-hatred began to develop
over the stupid things that I have done in order to "survive"
my illness. I could not shake the past until I woke up the next day,
assuming I did not dream another similar dream.
During those days I was normally incapable of functioning very well. I
was unable to work on the Internet, to do household chores. I didn't
want to go out and I didn't want to see or talk with anyone. I didn't
take a shower, didn't change clothes. If my husband was gone I wouldn't
answer the phone.
I am sounding like this is all past behavior but it still goes on to
this day. In fact, I just had another day like that less than a week
I have discussed this with my caseworker and my nurse practitioner who
agree that it is PTSD. You know, it isn't as if I don't already have
enough disorders. (frown)
I began to realize that this must be a common experience for those of us
who have had traumatic and stressful lives.
I didn't have an abusive childhood but I made up for it in my adult
life. Many of you I know began experiencing PTSD at a very early age due
to childhood abuse and trauma.
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