Tag Archives: PTSD

12 STEP PROGRAMS AND A LINK TO PTSD/TRAUMA

I recently read an article written by Dr. Marc Lewis. Don’t worry I did a thorough check on his credentials and if there were any complaints against him. Dr. Lewis is a Developmental Neuroscientist who did research at the University of Toronto from 1989 to 2010. He was also a Professor of Developmental Psychology there. He’s now at Radboud University in the Netherlands. He’s had 50 journal publications in Psychology and Neuroscience. His book Memoirs of an Addicted Brain garnered high praise from top experts in the Mental Health and Addiction community including Gabar Mate.

Dr. Lewis also knows firsthand what the struggle of addiction feels like. Addicted to opiates in his youth, it cost him his family, trouble with the police and almost his life. At 30 he was finally able to stay off drugs for good and reentered grad school where he received his Ph.D.

12 Step Programs appear to put a freeze on emotional development (active drinking/drug abuse does also). Groups are known for convincing members that even if they’ve been clean for awhile their addiction is like a bogeyman you thought was under your bed as a child. Keeping you in one place no matter how much you had to pee or how thirsty you were, you were frozen. This bogeyman is patient and will wait forever for that one slip up, 1 drink, 1 pill, that will lead to a full relapse. So to avoid this you need to “Keep coming back” and define yourself as an alcoholic/addict for life.

The way you live your life and your self image is frozen in place. If you change anything, don’t follow the steps, you’re warned that you’ll be back to where you started and out of control.

Many or most 12 step groups intentionally reinforce the terror of relapse. They keep the anxiety alive in order to embed traumatic memories of addiction by telling and retelling anecdotes about how bad it was when they were at their worst or the repercussions of their last relapse.

12 step practice is the opposite of trauma treatment. To plug yourself into a static state of PTSD where you’re with people who intentionally try to get you to relive emotions that have already done damage, it’s no surprise why so many leave the program or never enter one at all. The other issue is defining yourself as a lifetime addict/alcoholic because it sounds like a self fulfilling prophecy.

MY EXPERIENCE AND PERSONAL OPINION

I tortured myself recently by listening to a Dr. Drew podcast where he said there has never been an addict/alcoholic who has successfully maintained sobriety without a 12 step program. Of course this made me a little upset. This is a person who isn’t a licensed Psychiatrist/Psychologist or Neurologist, he’s a licensed Internist. Your everyday General Practitioner who thinks he knows about PTSD, Mental Illness and Addiction. He doesn’t. What he also doesn’t realize is the damage he’s doing by promoting these false beliefs.

I had been in AA for 2 years. They were the worst 2 years of my life. I had not been diagnosed yet but a Doctor had me on Prozac and Buspar (an anxiety medication that has to be in your system for 3-4 weeks before it starts to work, the level has to be maintained). The State I live in is an odd one. The group I went to had many old timers and a few younger people. They would go to different meetings around the state to speak to large groups. When they did this members were picked to tell their stories in front of up to 100 people. If you were picked you didn’t have a choice, you had to do it. When I was chosen it was a nightmare come true. All I remember is the sound of blood rushing in my ears. I have no idea what I said but I remember a guy my age taking my hand and helping me off the stage.

This didn’t go well with the group I was part of. I was told that I would never make it, I would be a drunk again if I didn’t get on my knees and ask God for guidance.

When people found out I was on medication it was suggested I go off it because it was a “crutch” and the same as alcohol.

I am not religious and didn’t appreciate being forced to say the Lord’s prayer after every meeting. If I refused comments were made and I was told that I would fail and be in the gutter drinking again. When I missed a meeting because I had Bronchitis someone told me I better “get on my knees and ask God to forgive me” or I would never make it. Me failing was a reoccurring theme. I went to meetings all around the state and they were all the same. I heard the same stories over and over. But if you tried to be too honest someone would stop you and say “Save that for your sponsor” because they thought it was too personal. I wanted to hear it! I wanted to hear that someone had done something as bad as I did but they stopped him.

There isn’t anyone in these programs equipped to deal with those of us who have a mental illness and began drinking to self medicate. The 12 steps are life saving for some people, a replacement for alcohol/drugs for a few and damaging for others.

My Dad has been sober over 36 years without a program. My mom was sober was 29 years at the time of her death without a program. I have been sober over 9 years without a program the longest I’ve ever been able to maintain sobriety.

12 step programs are not for everyone and they are not the only option. Depending on your location your experience can differ, some areas do rely on the older version which mentions God more often. There are some that don’t. Just remember it’s your choice and there are more options now than ever so do your research and choose wisely.

 

 

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LET’S TALK ABOUT VA HOSPITALS (Oh, We Are Going There Like It or Not)

For Veterans a Veteran’s Hospital whether Federally or State funded should be a place of safety, comfort, respect, dignity, and hope. It almost never is. This is especially true for the elderly.

I have personally seen a VA Hospital with huge chunks of paint peeling off every wall. The floors so dirty that your shoes would stick to them in places. Patients with mental health issues left to wander the halls aimlessly, some touching themselves or nude, others saying words I had never heard before and didn’t know the meaning of me. The one word I heard repeatedly was “HELP”. It was being cried out of most rooms in various stages of pain and hopelessness.

I could always smell urine, feces, and vomit on every visit. On quite a few occasions I had a chance to see all three. My mother took the brunt of most of it. But I was the good one who stayed by her side when her 6 other brothers and sisters did not.

My Grandfather was at the VA Hospital with Bone Cancer. My mother, father and I fed, bathed, and changed his diaper. I never saw a single staff member except the one time we arrived to find him sitting in his own vomit and shit for an undetermined amount of time.

No one messed with the people my mother loved. I have never seen anyone so afraid in my life. The nurse she grabbed and held against the wall as she asked how long her father had been left to stew in his own waste. I could see her holding back her pain and anger but it wouldn’t be long before she broke.

The doctors at the VA decided to remove a bone in his neck and he had to wear a Halo that was drilled into his skull. When he passed away one night the hospital told my mother she would have to wait to see him and prepare him for burial because the doctor who did the Halo procedure was on Vacation for the next week.

We were all stunned that not one doctor could unscrew a screw to take that contraption off his head. Not even 24 hours went by when my mother went there with a toolbox and took the Halo off of her father herself. The hospital did try to stop her. But like I said it was only a matter of time. My mother was fierce with her love. It’s why I still grieve for her today.

My Grandfather (Papa) deserved so much better than that. So did the Veteran at the Talihina Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Center. Not one single person on this earth should die with a maggot infested wound. This isn’t 1930, 1940, or 1950. We should Goddamn know better by now and this should be a chargeable offense. This isn’t something you just “resign” over. I am tired of the treatment given to Veterans, the Mentally Ill and people with Addictions.

You know what? I would be better off on an island by myself than with human beings who find it acceptable to tell a person with a mental health issue to kill themselves, to enable anDSC01010 (3) addict to their death so they can continue to make money, and let a Veteran rot away slowly in the corner of a dirty hospital because it costs too much to do otherwise.


The Lovely DSM-5 & Somatoform Disorders

There have been some changes recently to the DSM-5 concerning Somatoform Disorders. I happen to have a Somatoform Disorder called Conversion Disorder. A very controversial diagnosis that no one Scientist or Psychiatrist can agree on. So I thought I would give some information on what is considered a Somatoform Disorder and as much info about the other disorders without putting you to sleep. Somehow I think there will be lots of snoring. But it’s important to me because I live with it.

Somatoform Disorders and Anxiety Disorders now fall under the category of Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders. Could they be any more vague? Somatic Symptoms can result from Anxiety, Depression, and Trauma.

All Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders have a common characteristic. There are bodily symptoms that cause stress and impairment BUT there is no Medical reason or Diagnosis for the symptoms. Individuals have legitimate health conditions but with no known explanation.

Illness Anxiety Disorder is a Somatoform Disorder where a person worries excessively about having a medical illness. This used to be called Hypochondria. Most people with this disorder will usually have it present in a medical setting and not a Mental Health one. They are more concerned with the meaning, cause, and course of their medical complaint. They may research their illness or concern obsessively.

My mother may have had a form of this. She kept a Medical Journal in her bedroom with every disease or ailment known to man in it. It also had anatomically correct drawings of the area of the body being discussed. She was often at the Doctors where they wouldn’t find anything really wrong with her. Some would get tired of her and say she had something small wrong with her or some would take advantage of her. I remember one Doctor put her in Traction in a Hospital Bed in the middle of our Living Room. She didn’t need it. As a family we grew used to her list of ailments and also our sympathy level decreased over the years. When she was 55 she was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. It had already gone to her lymph nodes. For someone who was always at the Doctors to have them miss this was unbelievable to us. They removed 1 lung and a small portion of the other. She lived for an amazing 7 years after that.

Conversion Disorder is an impairment in sensory or motor function that results from an unknown neurological origin.

When it’s Sensory the vision, hearing and skin sensation can be involved, also seizures and sometimes coma.

Motor Function is more complicated with symptoms involving tremors, speech difficulties, walking, fainting, trouble swallowing, overall weakness, and abnormal movements.

You have to meet a certain criteria to be diagnosed with Conversion Disorder.

  1. One or multiple symptoms of altered voluntary motor or sensory function.
  2. Testing by Doctors rule out a cause for symptoms.
  3. Symptoms are not explained by another medical or mental disorder.
  4. Symptoms cause significant stress in social, occupational, and other important areas of life.

Conversion Disorder is usually caused by a traumatic event that the brain does not want to remember. Instead it manifests itself in physical ways.

I have been diagnosed with Conversion Disorder by two Doctors. It is a difficult diagnosis to accept. I remember when the I was first told my hands felt numb and I could hear the blood rushing in my ears. I couldn’t comprehend what was being said. I wasn’t faking my hands shaking or my stutter. How could I? All these thoughts raced through my head that everyone would think I was a liar. Then I thought “Wait. What is so bad that I don’t want to remember? The stuff I do remember is bad enough.” It was then I started to cry and couldn’t stop. As most of you know this was when the Doctor wanted to videotape me and was very excited to have found me. It’s been several years and under stress, fear, or fatigue, I still stutter and tremor.

Most people recover when they are told that they have Conversion Disorder. It seems to make something in the brain click and make sense. But for those of us that go undiagnosed for a long time and have mostly Motor Functions affected it is harder to treat and sometimes never goes away.

This next one I disagree with being in this Category at all.

Factitious Disorder or what used to be known as Munchausen By Proxy. This usually involves falsifying an illness in someone else for the attention, usually children. People with this disorder have a clear intention to deceive and hurt themselves or others. They are conscious of their behavior. This is why I feel the DSM-5 fails here.

They still have a long way to go before they ever come close to getting a Diagnostic Manual correct. This isn’t a cookie cutter world and unfortunately some Doctors swear by this Manual. Which only causes more stigma and harm.

 

 

 

 


What is Trauma to You? PTSD and Conversion Disorder Discussed

A traumatic event in your life can be anything. As we all know what one person finds stressful or overwhelming another person may not. It can be going to the same job everyday and getting yelled at by your boss until you break. It can be childhood abuse, physical or sexual. It can be a sexual assault or physical assault as an adult. It can be dealing with the loss of a loved one. And yes it can be dealing with what a person has experienced during military service.

Sometimes our brain shields us from the worse of these things. When we can’t handle the knowledge or the knowing of the event or trauma. When this happens it effects our bodies. It manifests itself in a physical way. Sometimes through seizures, temporary blindness, paralysis, speech difficulties, tremors, trouble walking or swallowing. This is Conversion Disorder.

Usually with PTSD you know what the problem is or event was that triggers your reaction. It’s still hell.

I suffer from both. I’ve had people say to me “what happened that was so bad?” or “you had a good family, I don’t understand”. That’s the problem. They never will. Some of my experiences I don’t shout out to the world. The ones I remember are bad enough. It isn’t just about my mother dying. There is way more than that. Things that happened when I drank. The consequences of my bad decisions. To know that somewhere inside of me there are even worse memories that I don’t want to remember, scares the shit out of me. These unknowns cause my stuttering and tremors and also problems with my balance. What could possibly be worse than what I do remember? My mind wanders to unthinkable acts. That is the worse part.

No one wants to discuss it. My father and sister want to bury their heads in the sand and pretend nothing bad has ever happened to me. They also on some level blame me for letting some of it happen. They don’t have to worry because I blame myself for all of it. Did I deserve some of it? No one deserves to be treated as cruelly as I was. But I still chose to put myself in that environment and drink. Sometimes I think of revenge. But how do you get revenge on people who never cared to begin with? You can’t. I just have to live with it. An apology or admittance of guilt would be nice but that’s never going to happen.

Being Bipolar also means I get to relive these lovely events on my bad days. I try to stop it but it doesn’t always work. That’s when you’ll find me in the bathroom crying until I make myself sick. Therapy you say? Doesn’t matter it still happens.

Sometimes I think I see someone from my past. I become paralyzed with fear. I want to run and can’t. I can only move when I realize it’s a mistake. At this point I find a place to shake and cry.

There are many triggers for my Conversion Disorder. Supposedly once a person finds out they have Conversion Disorder the physical symptoms go away. Except when you have a coexisting mental illness like Bipolar Disorder. If this is the case it will come and go whenever you get upset.

It isn’t fun and it can be embarrassing not having control over your own body. No one has the time to wait for me to get my words out. They either don’t talk to me or finish my sentences. It can be lonely. You deal with it because you don’t have a choice.


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