Did I Beat My PTSD?

Hello dear reader(s)!

Today, I was going to write a fiction story slightly based on a real event from my past.  I decided not to though, because this was the fourth morning I went by one of my key triggers without a flashback.

After all of the times I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, I started having flashbacks of being taken in whenever I would see an ambulance and fire engine in combination.  Just one of each, because that is how they always responded to my emergency situations.  I could drive by an accident with more than one of each and not have a problem.  I could see one of each individually without worry.  But that combination would always bring me right into the moment.

Since that is how medical emergencies are typically responded to, it is something that I encounter a lot.  It was so bad, that if I was driving, I’d have to immediately pull over so I wasn’t a danger on the road.  Pull over, and look away.

When I was seeing my last therapist, he went over the plan for my treatment.  He taught me a grounding technique (the 54321 thing), and told me about ACT.  ACT is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.  The rough idea is to expose the person with PTSD to their triggers in a safe environment until the brain learns to accept that it is indeed safe in the presence of the triggers.  (There is more to it, but that is the main thing as far as I could tell.)  Then the reception people starting rescheduling my appointments without telling me and not confirming them when I called to find out when they were.  So I left.  And I was very worried being without a therapist.  After all that has happened, it feels like I really should have one.

And I probably still should, but I know it isn’t urgent anymore.

Because I was out driving a while ago, and I passed by a medical response.  I did the 54321 thing, and it forced me to stay in the present.

A couple of days later, I was out for a walk.  Down my street, was another one.  A man was even getting wheeled out of his home on a stretcher.  I started with the 54321 thing, in order to walk past until it was over.  Once I got through it, I decided not to walk away from it.  I turned and looked.  I started to go back to one of the times I was being transported to the hospital from the clinic.  How worried I was, Hannah was, and the doctors and nurses were.  And then I did the 54321 thing again.  Only this time, the things that I saw and heard were individual things on either the ambulance or the fire engine.  And it brought me back to the present.  Then I just watched.  I noticed the man sitting up and talking to the EMT’s.  I looked around, and realized this didn’t affect me.  I waited until they left before I proceeded with my walk.

Since then, I have passed by now four scenes of that without even needing to do the 54321.  Four times with no response.  No pounding heart, no sweating (except the normal amount on my walks), no tunnel vision, no flashbacks.  Nothing.

Also since then, my temper has gotten dramatically better.  We’re talking about just a couple of weeks here, but the change has been very noticeable to me.

They say PTSD never really goes away.  I wonder if that is true.  I suppose I will be on a lookout for the return of symptoms, but being constantly on the lookout for things is one of the symptoms.  So…I guess I will just be cautiously optimistic.

Later this week, I have a doctor’s appointment and I am not at all anxious about it.  I would be looking forward to it if I were able to get into the stupid lab before it.  As it stands now, I don’t care that much.  Tomato tomato.  (You have to read those differently for that to work.)  I don’t remember a time going to the doctor’s since I first noticed I was sick that I haven’t been anxious to go.  Even when I learned to control the anxiety, it was always there.  Not now.  Hopefully my numbers are good, but even if they are low, I know I can do okay with numbers being pretty low.

For a while I was concerned I was numb, or lost any fear completely and that is why the flashbacks stopped.  I know it isn’t that because yesterday I had my laptop on and left it out in the living room when I got up to use the bathroom.  I was in the bathroom when a video on the site I left it on started to autoplay.  It was a good thing I was already in the bathroom, otherwise there would have been a big mess to clean up.

So I still have a sense of rational, in the moment fear.  I still have awareness of my surroundings.  I still have an appreciation for the gravity of all that has happened.  But for some reason, I just don’t seem to go back there anymore.

Maybe I’ll write that story later today, or maybe tomorrow.  I just had to share the good news.

Score one for the ill guy.

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Author: Josh Wrenn

Cancer survivor, wanna-be artist, musician, author, and all around good guy.

20 thoughts on “Did I Beat My PTSD?”

  1. What is the 54321 thing? I am assuming it is hear and see five details in your surroundings when encountered feared situation? I have anxiety about sleeping without meds so anything you can tell me is appreciated.

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are different variations, but the oe I learned was you say to yourself, I see 5 things and say each one individually. Then 4 things you can feel or touch. Then 3 things you can hear. Then 2 things you can smell. Then one thing you can taste. Kind of forces you out of the past or future and back into the moment. I don’t know how well it would be for relaxation though, because you are actively observing and thinking.

      Like

      1. I had never heard of this, but suffered from PTSD for years following a bad car accident in high school. Wish I had known this back then, but good to have it in my arsenal in case it ever arises in the future. Good job practicing it successfully.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Damn, that is really impressive. I’m proud of you for being willing to give it a go, and very glad it worked for you. Maybe I’ll try that next time I find myself alone with a large male looming above me…But that is why I always have a dog. To make sure that kind of thing never happens again. With my dog guarding me, I can sleep without fear of bad things happening. In my experience in other realms, the sooner one can take action to debrief or to find a strategy that works, the better one can dispel the triggers of PTSD. I learned this when I was director of a pediatric ER, that all the nurses were suffering from PTSD from the horrible cases that were brought in. I learned from another source that if I debriefed the nurses immediately following a horrible case, that they recovered immediately and were not haunted by images. Unfortunately, nobody debriefed ME, so I got stuck with the PTSD. If I had it to do over again I would teach some of the nurses to do it, so that I didn’t have to carry that around…But in reality there wasn’t time. Oh well…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yay!!! I wish I could like this a million times. 😀

    ACT is how I got my PTSD under control as well. I wish it was a more mainstream treatment, because it really does work wonders. Hopefully you can find another therapist to finish out your course of treatment. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When I left home as a teenager, I decided to go to every place of prior trauma to confront it. It probably wasn’t the best move to do it by myself. It was terrifying and hard, but when it was done, I found my responses to triggers was diminished. I can at least function now. The PTSD is heightened if I am under stress, exhausted or am faced with a situation/person that reminds me of the past. I am so proud of you. You did so well to face what you did. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

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