Post-Traumatic Growth

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I have been pretty quiet this year on social media, as well as, in “real life”. I took some much needed time away from everything and everyone in order to concentrate on healing myself and my soul. In the process of it all, I put myself into what is called “Post Traumatic Growth” or PTG.

The term PTG was coined in 1995 by Richard Tedeschi, Ph.D., and Lawrence Calhoun, Ph.D., psychologists at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. It refers to a positive psychological change experienced when you become someone mentally stronger. You strive to make a more meaningful life in the wake of trauma that caused your PTSD. Basically, you come back from that trauma stronger and thriving. Post Traumatic Growth does not occur as a direct result of the trauma. It is the individual’s struggle with the new reality in the aftermath of the trauma. The person is more determined to live life to the fullest and not take it for granted in order to rise to a higher level of functioning. It goes above and beyond resilience and into thriving. Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Thriving is resilience amplified. It is resilience taken to the next level.

PTG usually occurs in 5 areas of life.
1.Realizing new opportunities or paths for one’s life emerge from the struggle or trauma that were not there before. Becoming a motivational speaker, Life Coach, therapist, advocate, etc.

2.Reaching out to others. You feel a connection with others that have gone through the same thing or who are also suffering. However, you also begin to seek out those that have made it through the trauma and are thriving to learn how to do the same. You are not content in living with PTSD. You want to learn to move past PTSD.

3. A greater sense of personal strength. This often includes moving from a victim role into a survivor role…..”If I can survive PTSD, I can survive ANYTHING!”

4. A greater appreciation for life in general. This is often associated with a changed sense of priorities and letting go of things or people that you can not change or are not healthy for you. This is also where a new way of thinking comes into play. Negative thoughts and actions become replaced with positive thoughts and actions. You learn it’s not enough to just say the words ” I want ….”. You learn you have to do the actions as well and to hold yourself accountable for the changes needed to truly take effect in your life.

“I do not want to just live, I want to THRIVE!”

5. A change or shift in Spiritual or religious beliefs. This can also involve a significant change in one’s belief system.

My Road To PTG

My 7 year battle with PTSD and depression has not been a secret. However, last year and into the beginning of this past year, I hit a massive depression that shook me to my core. For the first time, since I was a teenager, the thought of suicide danced around in my pretty little head. I did not think of ways to end my life or attempt suicide in any way. I want to make that perfectly clear. But I thought about how amazing it would be to not feel like my world was crumbling down around me and that I was not shattered or broken anymore. The thought of not feeling that any more was very powerful.

I was overwhelmed in every sense of the word and felt completely and utterly alone; although I know for a fact I was not and am not alone and never have been. I was having anxiety and panic attacks on a daily basis. Sometimes, several times a day. Damn, do they take a lot out of me both physically and mentally. I began to disassociate (almost like blacking out and coming to disoriented while realizing that a certain amount of time has gone by) in public places. Thankfully, NEVER with my children present.

My health began to really take a hit as well. Besides my depression and PTSD, my Vit D levels dropped dangerously low and I was once again diagnosed as pre-diabetic. My soy and whey intolerance also increased dramatically. No matter how much I exercised or what I did or did not eat, I could not lose weight. I think my cortisol levels were through the roof and I was not taking in enough calories to sustain myself properly.

I knew I needed to change things and quickly. It was figuring out the “what” that needed to be done, how to do it, and in what order that was extremely important and time-consuming.

Personal Hygiene
Daily personal hygiene should be a given to most people. However, when deep depression sets in, it seems that the brain begins to slowly shut down all non-essential needs to focus on what it considers essential needs for survival. Daily or weekly showers, daily brushing of your hair, changing into clean (non-stained) clothes, wearing makeup, brushing your teeth, putting on deoderant….are not considered essential needs for survival believe it or not. It is just, well, preferred.

The first thing I worked on was forcing myself to get up in the mornings and change out of my sweats and yoga pants and actually take a shower and use deodorant. I did not allow myself to put my hair up in a bun or ponytail. Instead, I had to actually do something with my hair. I put on makeup (even if it was minimal) and fresh, clean, non-stained clothes daily. I began to brush my teeth regularly again as well. Now I am even up to using moisturizer and lotion on my skin after every shower….Progress!

Simplifying
After hygiene, I begin to simplify my life as much as I was able too. I took some much needed time to figure out what was overwhelming me the most and what I could and could not change in my life. I started with the easy stuff and went from there…

Family and Friends
One of the things that seemed to contribute to my depression was actually one that I had been fighting with the most….Family and friends.

By starting here this gave me permission to be selfish in a way that allowed me to begin to concentrate on what I needed and not on what others needed me to do for them or what I perceived they needed.

There were some people that were in my life that did not treat me or members of my family in a way that I thought we should be treated. It led to a lot of awkwardness and heartbreak for myself and my children. When I confronted them about this, I and my children were called liars among other things. I realized that no matter what I said or did, nothing would ever change. I would always be the liar they believed me and my children to be and in turn, my family would still continue to be treated the same with nothing resolved and me making excuses for the behavior. It made closing the door on the relationship easier to do. I also chose to walk away from mutual friends and those family that I knew were close to them. I did this so that there was never any kind of awkwardness, me feeling like I was having to defend myself because of the choices I made or them having to feel like they had to choose sides. It was one of the harder things I have done in my life. I took what was already a very small “family” and shrunk it down to almost nothing. In the end, I know it was the best decision for my family…especially my Mermaid…no matter how much I miss them.

I chose to wrap myself in my “tiny” family as I both began to heal myself and as I continue to heal.

Purging
I began to look at my home and what I could do to simplify the chaos of my everyday life. I was being overwhelmed by all the “stuff” in my home. I could not keep it clean and clutter free. I decided it was time to make the “stuff” go away. My home was so jammed packed. Some of the “stuff” I loved. Some of it I kept out of “obligation”. I decided to purge what I was keeping out of “obligation”, what we did not need, or what did not bring us happiness. I began to purge and purge and purge some more. It felt incredible! I noticed that what I purged, I do not miss and neither does my family. Purging also allowed me to begin to redecorate some rooms in my home the way I have always wanted too.

Social Media
Social media is a big part of my world. I am creator and admin of several FB groups (including one for PTSD) and several FB pages. I had 3 different blogs. I also was on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Snapshot, Tumblr, and Periscope. It all became too much for this mama with my life and family needs. I felt like I was failing at it all. And before you think I am “just” being negative…know that I truly was failing at it all. It was too much!!!

I took a break from it all. I stepped back and accessed what I thought was a better fit for my already crazy life and I simplified it all.

I combined one of my blogs (Ravens Story) back into Simplicity Redesigned, leaving me with 2 blogs that are both very important to me. I dumped Snapshot and Periscope. I decided to concentrate on my Instagram and linked my pictorial world to my Twitter and Tumblr for now. Pinterest is a work in progress. As for my FB groups and pages, I am still deciding what I want to keep and what I want to change. I removed myself from several pages and groups already. I may decide to remove myself from more in the future.

Creating A Space For Me
It took me a long time to realize that I needed a space that was just for me to get away from all the chaos and craziness that is my home. I took over our classroom (that was actually more like a homeschool storage room) and created a haven for me. It is funny because it is nothing like what I would have imagined a calming space for me to look like. It has evolved over the last couple of months little by little. My kids love to go into this room. They have named it the “Chill Room” because of the calming effect this room has on everyone.

Getting Back Into Therapy
This was a must for me! I usually take some time off from seeing my therapist every year for various reasons (ie scheduling conflicts or lack of money). Honestly, when you have PTSD, the dumbest thing you could do is walk away from your therapist for any length of time. Making my therapy a priority was something that I had to do. I now go weekly. It gives me a reset and helps me to stay on top of my PTSD instead of barely hanging on by a thread.

Changing My Thoughts
It is so easy to get caught up in the “victim role” in life. You know the whole…”My world sucks” and “No one understands me” thing. It is hard to find something positive about your situation, your day, your thoughts, your life, your world. I get it. But I began to do a mental switch up. For every 1 thing that goes “wrong” in my life, I find 2-3 things that went “right” as a result of that wrong thing.

Example…
My daughter woke up several times throughout the night after I did not get to sleep at a decent hour. Then my Hubby woke me up and needed my help with something that I feel that he should have been able to handle on his own. I was on 3 hours of sleep. I am sleep deprived and “pissy” because I could not fall back to sleep again after hubby leaves for work. This puts me in a “BAD” mood. I went to make “flat” eggs (fried eggs) and the yolks broke. I had to remake the eggs. My Mermaid freaked out over something going on in the background. I turned the eggs down so that I would not over cook them. When I went to calm her down, I tripped over toys that were left out. I burnt the toast because I was quickly picking up the toys. I burnt my finger on the side of the toaster as I tried to pull out the now smoking, black bread. My “BAD” mood was now a “BAD” morning.

Here is the positive spin on the “BAD” morning….
I got to snuggle my daughter several times that night. I got to be the one that calmed her down and got her to such a peaceful place that she fell back to sleep feeling safe and loved. It was me that she chose. This, in turn, relaxed me. My hubby wanted to talk to me because we have not had a lot of time together recently. He asked me to help him with something that he was able to do on his own, just to hear my voice while we tried to catch up. I could not fall back to sleep when he left. So, I watched the sunrise and enjoyed just “being” for a couple of hours. I did not dare move from my warm and snuggly bed because I did not want to wake anyone else up. I wanted to enjoy those moments of absolute quiet. The first set of eggs that broke, gave Raven a much enjoyed added treat to her breakfast. I was quickly able to clean up the family room while I cooked breakfast. The burnt piece of toast caused me to clean out the toaster. Man, did it really need it. It had been on my to-do list for a while. I used Lavander Essential Oil on my burn. It calmed my pissy mood and helped to soothe the burn on my finger.

It’s all about perception…..

Learning Me
Listening to my body is something I am used to doing in regards to foods. Resting and really listening to it when I have pushed myself mentally past my breaking point without allowing myself enough time to recharge is something completely different. I tend to push my body well past what it needs. Between my PTSD and my Mermaid’s special needs, it takes a toll on me mentally. When I do not listen to my body, it moves into taking a toll on me physically. I am learning I need to listen to what my body needs all the way around.

On days when I am not doing good, I am learning to cocoon myself tighter. I am picking my battles wisely. I force myself to get the sleep I need. I meditate several times daily. I  do more EFT Tapping. I eat as healthy as I can. I rest my body more. I stay away from social media. I make simple dinners and delegate things to others. I use my essential oils and enjoy detox baths. I limit my exposure to places I know will be packed. If I am not able to, I call someone and talk to them for the entire time I am there. I use ear buds to help drown out the world around me.

There is always tomorrow, the next day, or the day after that….

Becoming Friends With My PTSD
This. Is. Hard! 
I spent the last 6 years thinking of PTSD as “My Own Private Hell” or my curse and it was. It was life altering and one of the hardest things I have ever endured. It has changed me in ways that I am still discovering. It stripped me down to my core, left me raw, exposed, bleeding, and shattered. It altered my state of mind and my body both physically and emotionally. For every 1 step I took forward, I felt like I was being thrown backward 10+ steps and shattering more every single time.

But this past year, I learned that I am the only one that can save me. There is no God or Goddess that will do it for me. My therapist is only as good as I allow her to be. No one can heal me but me.

It has not been an easy journey. I am not saying that I will not relapse or that I have not. As I am finishing up this blog post, I have spent the last 2 weeks in various forms of anxiety and panic attacks. I know that I still have PTSD. I do not know how I will react if anyone brings home an illness…especially a stomach virus. I am saying, though, that I will fight my PTSD and the depression that often comes along with it, with every piece of my soul that I am gluing back together.

More about PTG….
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posttraumatic_growth
https://ptgi.uncc.edu/what-is-ptg/
http://www.livehappy.com/science/positive-psychology/science-post-traumatic-growth

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