Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

As a mom to a person with Opiod Use Disorder(OUD) ptsd has affected me greatly. If you don’t know what PTSD is, you may not have it. I would say It’s a severe form of anxiety that can usually be traced back to an event or series of events. The department of Experimental Psychology describes it this way:

  • Unwanted distressing memories of the trauma, flashbacks or nightmares
  • Feeling emotionally upset, tearful or irritable for example, or bodily reactions such as sweating, shaking or a racing heart beat when reminded of the event
  • Avoiding talking about the trauma, thinking about it or feelings associated with it
  • Avoiding reminders of the trauma: people, places or activities
  • Feeling emotionally numb, difficulty experiencing feelings like love or happiness
  • Negative thoughts about the self, the world or the future
  • Feeling detached and cut-off from other people, finding it difficult to be close to anyone
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Feeling overly alert or watchful or feeling jumpy 

For loved ones caught in addiction, the families can certainly have all of these symptoms and more. I remember so many times trying to describe symptoms to yet another therapist as they looked at me like I was crazy.

I mean….. Aren’t all their patients???

Kidding aside, usually addiction isn’t seen as an event like war, rape or deaths of a parent or close family member. I can truly say over the last 3 years I have had all of the above stated symptoms.

There are specific things to do for ptsd such as emdr which is explained in this short video

Here’s another one:

There’s also Prolonged exposure, which kinda scares me- I’m not gonna lie.

You can find a therapist who does these treatments by typing into your browser (I prefer duck duck go) psychology today. Type in your zip code, then you can click on your insurance and all therapies like emdr, that you’re interested in.

My coping skills for my outbreaks ( between therapists)  have been many things depending on where I was at. If I was in my car I would turn up the radio loud to songs that I knew and purposely breathe deep and loud while singing in gasps. Although sounding ridiculous, this helped bring me out of my head, get the needed oxygen to my brain (I hate trying to take slow deep breaths when I’m upset), and back to the healing sounds of music.

If I was at home, which happened usually at night; I would leave my bed which wasn’t doing it’s b anyway, go to my couch & snuggle under my weighted blanket. I would turn the tv onto something that would catch my eye with beautiful scenery or fast-moving scenes. I didn’t want to hear what was happening, I only wanted my visual attention to be drawn in and mesmerized while my body calmed down.

At work, it was a different story. I once went into my boss’s office at the beginning of my shift and told her I couldn’t breathe and needed to go home. I don’t even know what had happened, it seemed like my son had a court date or similar, but it doesn’t matter if it’s anything “serious”. Almost all things addiction- are upsetting to us. I hate to say it but at work, if I’m upset about my son, I have to take a beta-blocker such as propranolol it metoprolol for anxiety. Please consult a doctor for your unique situation.

At work I teach my patients to do a 54321 sensory exercise like the Mayo clinic recommends here:

Stress bomb illustration

Everyone feels anxious now and then. But there are things you can do to minimize those feelings. Mayo Clinic Health System staff suggests trying the exercise below the next time your mind is stuck on the worry setting.

Sit quietly. Look around you and notice:

  • 5 things you can see: Your hands, the sky, a plant on your colleague’s desk
  • 4 things you can physically feel: Your feet on the ground, a ball, your friend’s hand
  • 3 things you can hear: The wind blowing, children’s laughter, your breath
  • 2 things you can smell: Fresh-cut grass, coffee, soap
  • 1 thing you can taste: A mint, gum, the fresh air

This exercise helps you shift your focus to your surroundings in the present moment and away from what is causing you to feel anxious. It can help interrupt unhealthy thought patterns. They also have a cute stress video:

Holding a bag of ice or frozen vegetables can be grounding. Going outside barefoot with a change of scenery helps. I put a bag of rocks on my patio, that I bought at home depot with some paint pens. When I needed distraction I would pick up a rock & start painting. Later at the therapists or in your journal you can work through the emotion. Most importantly is to give yourself grace. Like my fellow mom wrote in this blog about self love.

Looking back, things that I worried about, had a way of working out, whether I worried about them or not, so why did I waste my energy, tears, risk my job, etc? Pick your battles- people ultimately are going to do what they’re going to do. When it’s all said and done your health matters too. When I used to hear that, I would say- I’ll take care of me later- but later might be too late.

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A unique perspective on the world from a small town girl turned big city nurse. Now a grandmother to 6 gregarious, resplendent boys and 5 endearing, magical girls, she strives the make the world a more understanding, pleasant place to experience this intense thing called life.

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