Recovery: Panic Attacks, medical procedure, slow & steady healing

Rainbow aka healing light aka love
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Panic Attacks

Well, life likes to kick my ass on a regular basis. It’s a good way of reminding me to stay present, be kind  to myself, and stay open minded about what might come up as life changes.

My body does not often experience a physical panic attack bad enough that all of me is out of commission for any period of time these days. A rough estimate is 2-3 times a year for the last 3-4 years. Compared to once a month or once every few months before that, this is a big improvement.

So why did it happen? Well, something triggered a seriously scary and painful set of body memories that became flashbacks. The flashbacks literally had different parts of me reliving and re-experiencing the past all over again. No, I am not going into detail. Yes I will tell you it all goes back to my childhood/adolescence and life in the cult. And yes, I will confirm it does have to do with being female, puberty, and menstruation.

Beyond that, no I will not share anything else. Every individual experience puberty differently. What happened to me and continues to happen in my body is unique; just as yours is unique to you. Whether male or female, the changes are sometimes obvious; other times not so obvious. But we all go through it. And it affects our experience of life in the present and future.

The gassy, bloating sensations and cramps trigger negative thoughts and experiences for me. From there, it’s like dominoes. One knocks down the other until the entire chain falls. In response, the rest of my physical body tightens and prepares for “attack”. It doesn’t rest until the “threat” or “trigger” (in this case the flashback or series of flashbacks) ends.

On the good side, this one didn’t last as long as the others or cause exhaustion; I was able to work and go on with life as usual the rest of the week.

Medical Procedure

Wednesday, I had my fallopian tubes removed. The procedure itself did not hurt much at all. And my recovery is going well. I’m late posting because I’ve been sleeping a lot the last 2.5 days. The bruising is going away, and the incisions are healing fast – itchy but not painful.

The hardest parts of all this are a) recovery from anesthesia and other medications and b) having limited wardrobe options in cooler weather. 

What? you ask. Well, here’s the short version.

A) Medications and I do not mix. My body has a strong sense of self-protection. While all parts of me felt safe and comfortable in the hospital and around the nursing staff, they/we did not trust them enough to put in the IV. After 5 pokes with the needles, two nurses, and 3 injections of numbing agent, the anesthesiologist managed to get an IV needle into a vein in my right hand. Once the IV worked, I fell asleep and woke up in recovery not knowing anything happened.

But, coming out of the anesthesia was awkward. I experienced flashbacks and panic attacks (like Sunday’s panic attack) as my mind and body struggled to wake up. The nurse offered me extra pain meds, and I accepted not realizing the pain came from flashbacks at the time.

Upside, the pain meds helped with abdominal pain from the procedure.

Downside, I had my usual reaction to pain meds and passed out for a while as the flashbacks and panic attack pain continued to move through my body. No, the pain meds did not help. My body fought the meds like it fought the imaginary intruders in the flashbacks while I was asleep.

B) Because the incisions are on my belly button and abdomen, I can’t wear pants or skirts or keep anything like waistbands on the area for too long. March is still cool/cold out in the Pacific Northwest, so I still need to wear something under and over my dresses. It’s made getting dressed/staying comfortable at home and going out a bit difficult. Plus, I can’t bend over or do much heavy lifting even at home. That requires some creativity to get things accomplished and easy meal options. Luckily, my relatives sent care packages that made cooking easier the past few days. But I’m kind of tired of all that and itching to try something else for a change.

Slow & Steady Healing

This Wednesday marks 1 week since the procedure. Everything is healing well even if the rest of my body is protesting with physical pain. The most painful areas are unexpected to be quite honest. I am often aware that the sides of my body and mid/lower back around the bottom of my rib cage and shoulder blades experience sore muscles and pain. Same with my hip joints and the base of my skull.

But I have not experienced actual pain in those areas for some time. They would feel tight like a rubber ball when poked. The pain appeared in my face or along my spine. Confusing, yes? Lately, though, I have been some experiencing physical pain (kind of like when you exercise too hard and your muscles protest a day or two later) in those areas. Not enough to limit my movement, but enough to trigger anxiety and flashbacks.

And this is where the aromatherapy classes and exercises come in to play. In each lesson we are given category of essential oils to learn about and “blending” exercises to complete. That means I use the class knowledge about essential oils, essential oil chemistry, blending, carrier oils, and therapeutic properties to create my own oils, lotions, bath salts, body butters, etc. My first blends were geared towards muscle pain relief, decongesting my sinuses, and improving circulation in my body (not just blood, but lymphatic system too).

They worked really well, so I felt hopeful about the next group of blending exercises. Many of the oils in these three categories helped with pain relief, stress, anxiety, and wound healing. So I chose to create a bath salt, a healing lotion for minor cuts and bruises, and an oil-based ointment that worked like Neosporin for short term use. 

antibacterial, nourishing, and relaxing bath salt

Since the incisions are too new and delicate, I can’t use any of these blends directly on those areas. But I used the bath salts the night before my procedure because 2 of the 3 oils have antibacterial properties and I can’t use over-the-counter antibacterial soaps. The third oil has general anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties.

lotion to reduce stress-related muscle tension or pain

And the lotion works really well for my entire body and head/face. I’ve been using it 1-2x a day on specific body areas every other day to test it out. Last night, I tried it all over and experienced a really good sleep. For the rest of this blend’s use (until I finish), that will probably be my go-to choice. Put the lotion on all over before bed time and relax into sleep. But, the next time I make this, I will be using less oil overall because the ratio of oil to lotion is too high for long term use.

trial blend to heal wounds, bruises, etc. have to see if it works…

The third ointment has not got much use yet. It’s a powerful healing ointment made with Tamanu carrier oil and a mix of essential oils with wound healing therapeutic properties that works well on bruises, abrasions, rashes, or scabs/scars. I’ve been waiting for approval from the doctor and nurses to use around (not on) the bruised and tender areas near the incisions. 

And no, I am not going to list the oils and blends at this time. One day, in a future post, I will share some of my recipes with you. For now, there are many safety concerns related to using essential oils, and I am not willing to give you half-assed information that includes a recipe, but not measurements, safety precautions, or reliable places to make purchases.

So the recipes will have to wait.

And posting new content might be erratic until I catch up with my day job and am more mobile. Recovery requires me to sleep more, rest more, and get up and move once every 1-2 hours while I am awake to keep up circulation. There’s a lot going on, and I want to be present for you when I share these posts.

Thanks for reading.

 

PTSD: Depression is not always a chemical imbalance

Introduction

I was talking with a friend of mine over dinner earlier this week, and she mentioned not wanting to take meds for depression.  Another male friend of mine said the same thing a few months ago.  Both said that the medicine makes them foggy and feel numb, so preferred not taking the psychiatric prescriptions.  And during my final visit with my dietitian yesterday, depression and stress related food issues came up.

So I thought this would be a good time to share some facts I’ve learned about depression and anorexia as related to (symptoms of) my PTSD.  You see, the complex posttraumatic stress disorder sometimes includes symptoms and side effects that can also be standalone diagnoses.  Depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, self-harm, phobias, Dissociative Identity Disorder, and dissociation to name a few.

Depression

I struggle with depression often.  It comes and goes in waves depending on a schedule of personal holidays and anniversaries embedded in my mind and body.  For a long time, psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses tried to give me all kinds of pills.  Sometimes they gave me the same ones my mother was on; this made sense to them as our supposed symptoms of anxiety and depression were similar.

Then they started giving me other pills to help with the psychotic symptoms: hearing voices; hallucinations, sleep issues, and so on.  The pills were supposed to make the symptoms go away – i.e. I wouldn’t hear voices or hallucinate anymore.  The nightmares would disappear.  And I’d sleep through the night.

Well I did start sleeping a lot.  And for a few months at a time, my mind would be quiet.  But, I felt numb and spent most of my time living in a fog.  Nothing penetrated the fog.  And my coordination problems got worse.  Concentration became difficult.  I started to get sick often.

So I stopped taking medicine and tried to find other coping strategies.  But I kept wondering what was wrong with me that the medicine couldn’t fix a biological/chemical problem like depression the way it did for others.  If I had depression, then it was a chemical imbalance.  Medicine fixed chemical imbalances.  Right?

Not exactly…my last psychiatrist explained to me that people who have experienced severe trauma do have problems with depression.  But their depression is not biological or chemical based.  It comes from having been traumatized; only therapy modalities that focus on healing from trauma can help with that kind of depression.

He said that about anxiety too; the symptoms of anxiety can be masked by medicine, but the cause of the anxiety cannot.  So when the medicine wears off, I will experience all of the symptoms of anxiety and/or depression that were masked.  Sometimes, the symptoms will be worse because they were repressed (backlash).  It’s a risk I would take every time I took one of the pills.

These days, the only time I take one of those pills is if I haven’t slept for more than 24 hours and need to knock myself out.  Hence the nickname “knockout pills”.

Final Thoughts

Find a mental health provider who understands trauma (trauma-informed or trauma trained).  Not all of them understand trauma or how it affects mental health.  Then discuss symptoms and past experiences with medication with this person and see if medication is the right path.  If it’s not, ask for other suggestions and options.  If medicine does seem like a good path, keep a journal of the different symptoms and side effects that occur or not occur when on and off the pills.

I am not opposed to taking medicine or pills.  I am opposed to having my mental clarity and independence compromised.  So if ever there comes out an FDA approved pill that can help with my symptoms without making me foggy or so tired I sleep 20 hours a day for weeks or sick to my stomach, I will try it.  Until then, I am better off without the pills.

Thanks for reading