Inside the Mind of Someone With Complex PTSD

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Article by Erin J. Erin is the mom to seven awesome kids, three homegrown and four born in her heart.  Five of her children have varying degrees of learning disabilities and special needs.  She blogs about their life at www.enteringtheborderland.blogspot.com.

I can feel it coming on. The anxiety creeping up on me all day. I don’t even know why I’m anxious. I just know I am and I can feel myself nearing my threshold. I try to explain it to my husband when he gets home from work.

“I’m having a hard time.”

I can’t get out what it actually feels like to be in my brain. He asks me why? What do I think is making me feel this way? I’m not sure exactly. I am sure whatever it is probably will not seem like a big deal to anyone else. The “big deal” they are all missing is I can’t seem to gain control over these feelings.

I try to explain. I don’t really want to go to a social event this weekend I know I’m expected to go to. I ask him if he’ll be mad if I don’t go. He’s silent for several seconds.

Dammit, I should have just been quiet. He doesn’t understand all the reasons your brain is sounding alarms over a seemingly fun event.

“It’s OK. I know you don’t understand,” I tell him.

Immediately, I can tell by the look on his face that was the wrong thing to say. Now, he feels like I’m blaming him for not understanding. That’s not how I meant it, but it’s how I made him feel. He’s angry at me now. It’s all over his face. I can read his emotions like a flashing warning sign, which is exactly what I was trying to avoid. My brain is catching fire, piece by piece. It’s telling me to run as it starts shutting down.

Run, run, run away before it’s too late!

“No. He’s not the enemy. I know that. He just doesn’t understand what I’m saying.”

Run! Run! Run! Run! Run before you die!!!

Calm down! Calm down! Just quit talking. It’s OK. It’s OK. It’s OK. Just be quiet. Just stop. Breathe. Breathe. You don’t know how to explain things the right way. That’s not his fault. You said it wrong. Wait for your therapist to tell you how to say this better. Just shut up and be quiet. Just go. Just tell him you’ll go.

My brain tells me all of this in a split second, while I stare at my husband.

“You have created this situation,” he says to me.

Oooooh God! That was it. I close my eyes. It’s too much. The switch is flipping. I can feel it slipping away from me. I’m going into the blackness, the fear and the anger. I’m drawing in the inability to even freaking think. I’m so damn smart, but my brain betrays me. It turns itself off and all I can do is run, run, run, run away.

I leave the room, grab my running shoes, and I run out of the house. I just run, run, run, run, run until I can’t run anymore. It’s not enough. My legs and my lungs can’t keep up with the adrenaline and anger inside of me. I have to do something to get this out of me! I smack a branch out of the way and stop to breathe.

“F*ck you mom!” I swear under my breath. “F*ck you for doing this to me!

I still can’t breathe, but this time it’s because I’ve run a solid mile as hard as I can. I sit down and look at the sky.

I pick up a branch and smash it against a tree, hard. It shatters. It feels good. I pick up a bigger branch. Smash.

Another branch, even bigger. I’m not sure it will break. I swing and feel the force of it hitting the tree reverberate through my arms and hands. It cracks. I smash it again. It splinters and breaks. I hit the tree again.

Again. Again. Again. Again.

I’m left holding nothing but a stub of wood in my hands. It feels wonderful. I sit down. I’m drenched in sweat, heart pounding, breathing heavily, but its out. I got it out. I was finally able to recognize my fight or flight response coming on and I beat it.

The fuse didn’t explode in my brain. My thoughts, my plans, my ideas and my memories are still where I left them. I’m not going to be picking up a war zone in my head for days this time. Today, I beat complex post-traumatic stress disorder. I walk back inside and finish making the blackberry cobbler I ran off and left. I put it in the oven.

My husband asks what he can do. He didn’t mean to upset me. What do I need? I’m not sure. I think I’m OK right now, until next time. This is the part I hate. I know there will be a next time, but with therapy, I am slowly learning how to deal.

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