Re-wiring the brain – anxious reactions – by Simone
Since my recent miscarriage and all the trauma that came along with that, as well as my recent surgery where I nearly died, my PTSD has definitely got worse again, and along with this my social anxiety. I struggled with PTSD after Bella died, with extreme flashbacks multiple time per day, and then after losing Thomas they got even worse. I finally went on medication to help me cope with them better and also did some serious work with my psychologist. The PTSD and flashbacks got a lot better, but they have definitely reared their ugly head again.
I realised the trauma that sits just below the surface waiting to explode out in 2 very recent incidences. When Murray was in theatre recently under general anesthetic having his knee sorted out, I sat outside those doors on my own in a barely contained state of panic. Only the worst thoughts were going through my head – that he would die – and as much as I tried to tell myself I was being extreme, it was impossible at the time to reprogram my response. I know that normally when Murray comes around from an anesthetic he is very disoriented and normally screams and cries a lot. I can always hear him screaming before the doctor comes to fetch me and that is the way that I know he is okay. This time I could hear the doctors footsteps coming down the passage but there was no screaming child. As he came through the doors and in the 3 seconds before he started speaking I studied his face, trying to gauge his response, trying to see if he was going to tell me my child was dead. Sounds extreme I know, but its become my immediate default, to assume the absolutely worst. Because unfortunately, many more times than once, this has been my reality.
The other incident happened while James was away hunting. I was in a board meeting at the time, and had my phone on silent but could see it going on and off a lot. First there was a call from a number I didn’t know and then an sms and whatsapp from the same number. I surreptitiously looked at it, and it was a message from the wife of the guy that James was hunting with asking me to urgently call her. My heart immediately started to race, my ears started to ring and that anxiety took over. My immediate reaction – James has been in a hunting accident and is dead. In the 30 seconds it took for me to walk out the room and get hold of her I had played the scenario of being a widowed mom to Murray fully through in my head. When I did get hold of her, she told me that James had cut his finger badly and was at the doctor having it stitched up. I was able to put the anxiety back in its box after a while, but I was completely rattled for days afterwards, my mind and body not feeling right at all.
The stark contrast of my reactions is quite clear to me as I so clearly remember the day I received the call about Bella. I was at work, my phone rang, I answered it, and Christine shouted down the phone, “Sim, get here now.” I could hear in her tone of voice that it was something urgent and so I didn’t ask any more questions and just rushed to my car. But in my mind I remembered thinking that Murray must have fallen off our newly installed jungle gym and broken his arm, or something like that. Not once, until I actually got home did it occur to me that somebody might have died. Whereas now, my immediate reaction almost every time is that the worst must have happened, someone must have died.
I know that over time the anxiety will get better as we (hopefully) get a break from bad things happening. I don’t want to say you get lulled into a false sense of normality, but hopefully some equilibrium can return and I can start to believe again that sometimes there are good outcomes and things can go smoothly for us. But for now, I need to do some seriously hard work…
Simone so much of what you have written has resonated strongly with me. It left me with 2 major feelings. The first, sadness that you have had to (and still do) enure so so much heartache and so many trial s and tribulations. I really wish I could help to ease your burden. It’s hard not to feel like it is too much and just downright unfair. I mean you have had way worse luck that random odds would allow. It’s not fair or right. I wish it made sense!! And then the second is gratitude for sharing your inner thoughts and feelings so openly, because while reading that I identified so strongly with your thought processes, flash backs and changed way of thinking, and that was somehow comforting and made me feel ‘normal’ in my PTSD responses. I think (hope) that over time as we move forward and the worst case scenario is no longer the reality that that can and will stop being our default assumption.
With so much love