How I finally realized I had Complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD)

I first depersonalized in 2014 … or maybe 2015 …  It was the scariest thing ever, even including riding the Great Bear at Hershey Park, which I still believe almost killed me.

I had been off benzos for about 6 months, and I assumed that depersonalization was a withdrawal symptom, but it scared me so much that I immediately went to a therapist, got a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and started Prozac.

At least it stopped the depersonalization.

But according to my therapist, my withdrawal shouldn’t be that severe. According to her, the depersonalization was either a symptom of my GAD — or something else altogether. Read More

How trauma has made me more compassionate

Last election season, a video came through my Facebook feed. I don’t remember if it was connected with a candidate or not, but I do remember it went something like this. “What if every morning a truck drove around to the cities’ homeless and offered them a day’s wages for a day’s work. Wouldn’t that be a good idea?”

Two years ago, I would said “Yes, what a great idea. It separates people with a good work ethic who are just down on their luck from people who are lazy, or drug addicts maybe.

But that wasn’t my response this time. Without hesitation, I asked myself “But what about the people who can’t work? What about people who have a physical disability, but just as importantly, what about people with mental impairments. You know, the one’s who may look able-bodied on the outside but are fighting an invisible battle?

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Is what you’re watching making your depression worse?

I was listening to my new obsession, the Buffering the Vampire Slayer podcast, and the co-hosts were talking about what shows they had to stop watching because they were too intense. One of the hosts (I still can’t tell them apart when they’re speaking) said she had to stop watching The Walking Dead because it was too gory. Her co-host then said she had to stop watching Making a Murderer because, in her words, it was “affecting my soul.”

This got me thinking. I talk about the healing power of TV and film all the time, but it stands to reason that anything that can heal can also harm. I love mysteries, but can only take so much gore. Just this year I had to stop watching a BBC production called Penny Dreadful, and as much as I love, worship, and adore Bruce Campbell, I’m still a little afraid to try Ash vs. the Evil Dead.

Then, of course, there’s the legendary X-files episode Home. It was an entire season before I worked up the courage to go back out in the field with Mulder and Scully.

But there are darker, and ultimately more damaging, things than mindless violence. Things less obvious and more insidious — and harder to spot until you notice that your heart is heavier than it was an hour ago. Read More

What depersonalization feels like

I was riding on the metro in Washington D.C. the first time it happened. It was 2015, and a friend and I were on our way to The Nutcracker at the Warner Theater.

We didn’t talk, but that wasn’t unusual. What she didn’t know was that I was going crazy.

I would have told her, but every tiny movement—even the attempt to speak—was like trying to fly one of those radio-controlled helicopters. The controller (my mind) couldn’t control the rotor (my body).

So I sat there in silence. Read More

CPTSD is the worst thing that ever happened, but it saved my life

I have clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD).

Sometimes I have them all at once. Some days only one. There are certain days when I feel like I could conquer the world for a few hours. Then, inevitably, one of them shows up.

There are symptoms that they share—like difficulty concentrating and insomnia—and symptoms that are unique to each one.

I’ve lived with depression since I was a teenager, and the symptoms are so recognizable that I just ride it out like the flu. Physical exhaustion. A loss of interest in pretty much everything. A weight so heavy that even my mind struggles to function underneath it. Depression is a room without windows or doors—a place without even hope—but it is also a place I know well, so I just wait it out until time or medication or God opens it from the outside. Read More

Why #DressLikeAWoman kicked me in the stomach.

I don’t follow the news anymore because I know that anything important will show up on Twitter within a few minutes.

Last week, I noticed #DressLikeAWoman showing up in my feed. Assuming it had something to do with Trump, I googled it and discovered that some anonymous aide had told a news outlet that the president requires the females on his staff to “dress like a woman.”

Generally, I don’t jump on bandwagons of any sort – not for political reasons; its just not my personality – but this one stung. Like someone had just told me I wasn’t pretty enough to be on the cheerleading squad. (Oh how high school stays with us forever). Read More

The power of being honest about mental illness

There is power in being honest. Take it from someone who spent decades keeping her mouth shut. There is a glorious joy in not being ashamed of who you are.

I’m not just talking about telling the truth when someone asks – which should be the human default but usually isn’t – but in starting the conversation. Talking about something just because the words need to be birthed and sent out into space.

In a world where speaking the truth will get you killed in some countries, I spent decades silent and alone because I chose to. Well, that’s not really fair. Depression, anxiety, and later, complex PTSD, are not choices. They were (and still are from time to time) a very real prison. Well, maybe more like a prison guard, who stands over you with a black jack. Any attempt to speak – or even stand up – is greeted with a swat to the extremities, and down you go again.

Eventually, you stop trying. Read More