Sunday, 9 December 2012

PTSD, Paroxetine and PSY

I had a lot of response to yesterday's blog post, particularly privately. I wanted to explain a bit more about PTSD and the medication that I am on. This is personal reflection and my experience only, its not a clinical article. For accurate advice please contact your own health professionals.

Last night I was playing on Twitter, as you do, having a banter-type conversation with two friends. One friend referred to me as "sexy". I panicked, and initially felt very uncomfortable. Now the old me would have over reacted, deleted and blocked that person. But the new me approached things slightly differently.

Let me explain. When we are in a traumatic or difficult situation all our senses work to protect us and determine whether to use "fight or flight", that basic survival instinct. As a little girl the man who I was afraid of would often refer to me as "sexy" before doing something I didn't like. That word would trigger a response, the hairs on the back of my neck would stand up, I'd start to breath quickly, sometimes my asthma would flare up and I could hear myself wheeze, my airways constricting. I'd start to dart my eyes about looking for an escape, wrack my brains looking for a way out. Sometimes I would be able to make excuses and get away, sometimes I would fail.

When I was a little girl, to panic at that word and put a plan in order was an entirely appropriate reaction. The emotions and physical responses it would trigger would alert me to the trouble ahead, and enable me to react in a way that would try and keep myself safe from harm.

Now I am 40 that response is not appropriate, its an overreaction. The person who called me that yesterday is a Twitter friend, who I chat to occasionally, and he was just being playful, he didn't mean anything at all by it, it was just friendly banter. I was frightened because of past associations I have with that word, it wasn't his fault. Someone else possibly would have been flattered.  It's up to me to change what I associate with that word, to change it from something dark and frightening, to something more positive.

The medication I am on slows that firing in my brain that says "danger, delete and block - protect yourself". It enables me to step back and go "hang on a minute, is this a real threat or am I just perceiving it as one". It also enables me to have a laugh at myself and move on.

One of the things I have learnt previously is EMDR eye movement densensitisation and reprocessing. However there are other ways to reprocess fears and negtive emotions. My therapist taught me a variety of techniques but one is to associate something else to a trigger. So for me the word is "sexy" which to me means "danger", "scary", "not safe". So what could I do to help myself think of this word in a different way? As in the pictures, I can change the colour, that shape, the way the words look.

And as for sound, the answer is Gangnam Style. Genius. How could that music, that dancing and my good friend PSY singing "Hey Sexy Lady" be frightening. It isn't scary, its silly, and it makes me smile, laugh even. If I repeat the word, in my head (even I am not going to attempt to sing Gangnam Style, for all that my first real boyfriend was Korean), it changes the meaning and makes it funny, approachable.

There are ways to desensitise from these feelings, with or without medication. It could be preventative. As NICU parents its something we can do for new parents beginning our journey.  I always suggest buying NICU mums a lovely smelling moisturiser, or better still a range of them so there are always different scents, and a positive feeling, of soft sweet skin. I often suggest buying blankets for babies, so they can be used in hospital to help counteract the white sterility and bring a little bit of home in to the hospital. Later on once home it could be that you need to work to turn those beeps of the monitors into something else, rather than symbolising a hospital stay incorporate them into a song, or another sound like jingle bells. The song NICU at Nite does this really well, look for it on YouTube.

I'd urge anyone struggling to seek out help, there is lots around, you just have to look for it.

1 comment:

  1. Looking for Blue Sky9 December 2012 at 19:19

    Thank you so much for this: it's given me hope that I might be able to deal with my difficulties: I had thought they might be PTSD, but couldn't face more counselling, which is all I am ever offered. Now I see that there may be other solutions, thanks again xx