As I’ve stated before, I know my PTSD is no where near as sever as entirely too many veterans out there. However, hell is a personal perception and as such, what I experience is just as valid as what Jason or anyone else goes through on a daily basis. As I count down the days until I get to visit K9s for Warriors, I thought I would take the time to walk you through what a typical day is like with PTSD, if for no other reason than to give me something to look back on after I have my service dog.
Each morning, my husband wakes me just before 6am. Unfortunately, most mornings my night time medications have not worn off and I end up falling back to sleep until my children come downstairs. I say ‘unfortunately’ because I am NOT a morning person. It takes me at least half an hour to get past the ‘grumpy’ stage, otherwise I end up being rather short with my three youngest children. Generally they wake up around 7am and I spend the next hour getting them dressed, fed, lunches made and two of them on the bus. Most days the youngest stays with me, though she does go to preschool on the days I have doctors appointments or therapy. The days I stay home, I generally have minimal symptoms. Moodiness, irritability, depression, perhaps some mild anxiety. I do have mild agoraphobia. I’d much rather be at home than anywhere else most days. If I can be home with my husband…well, thats the best of all scenarios. Currently, my medications keep my symptoms under control most days. I was having multiple anxiety attacks a day, depression, nightmares, insomnia, mood swings, problems with concentration and memory.
On days where my youngest goes to preschool, as soon as the other two are on the bus we get in the car and I take her to start her day. By 8:30am I am normally child-free and head back to the house. Thankfully the traffic is minimal at this time of the morning as I don’t have to navigate the interstate to get to preschool. Upon returning home, I normally take about half an hour to get myself grounded again. Even with minimal traffic and the fact that I actually like Madi’s preschool teacher (its an in-home preschool), I still sometimes find myself overwhelmed with having to deal with stupid drivers. I take some time to get myself breakfast and take a shower before heading to my appointment around 11:00.
Now, keeping in mind that I have MAJOR trust issues with authority figures and therapists, saying that I actually like my therapist is huge. I am beginning to learn to trust her and slowly open up to her. Lately we’ve been spending time just talking, she gives advice, then we talk more. Once I have my service dog, we will start working on more in-depth treatment such as EMDR (I had a severe reaction to the one “mild” EMDR session we did, so we’re waiting until I have my SD). Even though we spend most of our time just talking, I still leave feeling agitated and worn out. Often if I have errands to run, I do them after therapy as I’m already feeling out of sorts, might as well get things over and done.
Trying to run errands during the day is exhausting for me. Being around crowds of people causes me to feel hyper-aroused, causing me to be extra alert of my surroundings and personal space…which makes me over-stimulated, increasing my hyper-arousal, causing me to be even more over-stimulated. Its a vicious cycle. If I have to run errands, I try to do it at the slowest time of day so the crowds are smaller. I have given up on trying to do something like grocery shopping by myself. I can run in for an item or two, but staying in there long enough to get an entire weeks worth of groceries is just too much. I used to enjoy walking through the mall, even if I was just window shopping. However, since leaving Dillard’s due to a stalker (as well as some rather unethical business practices) I can’t do it anymore. Yes, much like the grocery store, I can go in for a specific item or two, but beyond that, forget it. I’d be a wreck, especially if I ran into Mr Creepy (the stalker).
I have started to really dislike driving. Often I find myself wondering where I am and having to find some landmark to remind myself which road I’m on and where I’m going. My lack of concentration has become so severe some days that I went home and stayed there because I didn’t feel safe driving. When my symptoms are at their worst, I do my best to avoid driving at all because I find it so hard to concentrate on everything that needs my attention while I’m behind the wheel.
Once I’m home, I’m completely frazzled and emotionally and mentally exhausted. I try to get something to eat, get on the computer or turn on the TV…something, anything to get my mind off of whats bothering me and onto something generally mindless. Too often, I tend to fall asleep. To most people, an afternoon nap sounds like a wonderful escape from the world. For me, not so much. You see, my bedtime meds help me with the nightmares, however I have no meds to take for when I may nap, so the nightmares are there and all too real. Dreams of my time in Iraq, or being assaulted, or having someone trying to take my children away from me. I wake up feeling even worse than when I dozed off. Instead of feeling refreshed, I spend the rest of the day feeling off kilter, agitated, and irritable. I want nothing more than to hide away in my room from the whole world. Not exactly the best way to parent my children, but whats the alternative? Going off on them for every sound they make? They’re just children being children, but their noise and commotion aggravates my already frenzied nerves. Sometimes its easier for everyone if I hide….however its not fair to anyone for me to just hide.
By time time we finish supper and get the kids ready for bed, I’m exhausted. I have zero energy, no ability to concentrate on anything more than watching television or playing mindless games on my phone. Yet, I can’t simply fall asleep either. Thankfully one of the meds my doc put me on has drowsiness as a side effect. I don’t know how it keeps the nightmares at bay, but it does MOST of the time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t leave me feeling very rested when I wake. Perhaps thats why I wake so grumpy. Who knows.
In the end, as I said before, my symptoms are not as severe as others, but they are my perception of hell. I used to enjoy being the center of attention at all times. I was the loudest person there (my husband would say I still am, but I can feel the difference in myself), I loved life and living it. Now I’d much rather retreat to the safety of my room and stay there. I’ve been told this service dog will give the parts of my life that PTSD has taken from me. Even if he/she can’t give them back, I hope they can at least make them more tolerable.
So, what’s a day in your life like?