Monday, September 21, 2015

PTSD, Triggers And Patience

PTSD is a whole body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.  - Susan Pease Banitt

TRIGGER - a trigger is anything that sets you off emotionally and activates memories of your trauma. It is particular to you and what your experience has been. Triggered, we revert to the feelings and behaviors we had in the traumatizing situation.   -Healing from trauma: A survivors guide to understanding your symptoms and reclaiming your life.

Tears are words to painful for a broken heart to speak.

The body remembers. Stuffed until an event, a sound, a sight, a touch, a word or a person awakens them.

The inability to get something out of your head, is a signal that shouts, "Don't forget to deal with this!" As long as you experience fear or pain with an experience or flashback, there is a lie that needs to be confronted. In each healing step there is a truth to be gathered and a lie to be discarded.
       Christina Enevoldsen

   You may be tired of hearing about PTSD and how it affects those suffering from it. If you are, skip this post because I am rehashing it yet again. 

   I am continually amazed at how pervasive PTSD can be. It truly is a "whole body experience." It affects how you think, feel, perceive the world and people around you and invade's every day, every moment of your life. Even though our experience with CPS was hard and I still suffer from it, I am thankful for it because it help's me understand my children and why they react as they do to certain situations. 

   Our building project has been an endless source of fear for the children. Not having gone through what they did, I don't have the ability to appreciate how terrifying this is for them. But I can relate when I think of CPS and the fear and pain we experienced in that situation. I have every right to think that the triggers they are faced with each day as the project progresses is every bit as severe if not much worse than the pain we went through, partly because we were adults and able to rationalize and "help ourselves" during that time while they were helpless babies, unable to defend themselves, plus they had no understanding of what was happening and why.

   Since they experienced most of the trauma prior to being able to talk they don't have words, just feelings. So when they get over stimulated, ornery, defiant or meltdown kicking and screaming, they usually cannot tell us what is wrong. That can be very frustrating for us as parents because there are times they truly don't know what is wrong and other times they know but are feeling to cantankerous too tell us and we have to decipher if it is a can't or a won't.

   Part of "teaching them to talk" has been helping them recognize what they are feeling because happiness i.e. over excited can come out as anger. It took us a long time to figure out that one. 
   So we start by giving them a list of emotions; mad, sad, scared, worried or happy. When they identify the emotion we think what could be causing that feeling and keep breaking it down until we have the child calm enough to talk through their problem. The only hang up is that it can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours to 5 days to get to the root of the problem. Just to clarify, we do not talk for 5 days straight, we address the problem and then take a break before addressing it again. We keep doing that until they feel safe enough to talk, all the while watching the child for clues. It is both heart breaking and frustrating to know our children trust themselves and their interpretation of the world over what we tell them. The trust issue as we call it, has improved but we still have a long way to go.

   Kiana and Joseph had a rough weekend. Joseph refused to sleep at nap time even though he was very tired. He crawled out of bed crankier than when he climbed in, he couldn't follow commands and was constantly doing things he knew were off limits, all signs that something is wrong. But would he talk? No way! Finally he said, "Where will the kitchen be?" Now we were getting somewhere! Due to early food deprivation, Joseph does not trust us to supply his food. Never mind that he came to us at six months and is now almost 8, he still worries about food. We fill his plate because he literally, never feels full. 
  He was also struggling to understand some things that were going on at school. The students take turns being the leader. The leader gets special privileges and responsibilities. Joseph loves to be the leader but he gets overstimulated trying to juggle the extra assignments, even though those assignments are fun things. After we talked it through, I asked him why he hadn't told me what was wrong when I asked. He looked at me and said, "But mom I didn't know what was wrong until I sat on my bed and thought really hard!" Earlier Dean told him to go to his bed (where it is quiet) and think about what might be bothering him. It must be so hard to have memories but no words to express them. As we work on the trauma in their lives I need to remind myself time and again that trauma doesn't tell time, their triggers make them feel just as terrified as they did in the beginning.

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