Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicidal ideation are linked, and I have to admit that this week I found myself reverting to thoughts of ending my life. When life gets overwhelming, as it has for me lately, it's so easy to slip into thinking that things would be much easier if I just didn't have to feel anymore. Out of the blue, my employers informed me, and the other nurse practitioners I work with, that we will be jobless in six weeks. We were all left in utter shock.
Three years ago this month I joined the HealthyPlace blogging team by creating this blog. I did so because I wanted to write about symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and what it takes to heal. This was a personal mission: I am a PTSD survivor who struggled for almost 30 years before launching a healing rampage that led me to freedom. And now, while I'm sad to do it, I must say goodbye to Trauma! A PTSD Blog.
For a long time after my trauma I felt sucked into the darkness and despair of grief, loss, fear, anxiety and the frustration of the same question I repeatedly asked myself, "Who am I now?" It seemed that trauma and PTSD symptoms had branded me for life and there was no way to: go back to who I'd been before (I was right about that) go forward and become someone new (I was wrong about that) What do we do when we get stuck in that place??
Posttraumatic-stress disorder (PTSD) involves a lot of sadness: about your having been victimized, about having developed a persistent mental disorder (and that's exactly what it is), about how few people understand what happened to you, about how few people understand how your life has been changed as a result, and about how difficult it is to get it all resolved - fixed - taken care of. And that's hardly a complete list. What do these all have in common? Loss. Sadness is a reaction we have automatically and outside any direct control when we realize we've lost something that matters. What can you do about it? Two things, basically. You can shift your attention or you can deal with the problem directly. The first option is almost always the easiest, but you should know that it's temporary at best.
I have been asked by a reader to “explain the interaction between grief and PTSD”. Her brief question also made reference to “"PTSD symptoms" of flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts” whose content relates to her “death trauma”. There is a lot to respond to in this query. As with many common words, most of us don’t much pause when we encounter the word “grief”. It has, however, received a detailed and careful consideration in psychology, and I have written in detail about some aspects of this elsewhere. In summary, grief is a variety of a feeling called distress, which is the brain’s automatic response to loss. It lies on the high end of a continuum that runs from minor loss (say, of your car keys) to extreme loss (such as of a child), which can be called “anguish”. Put into words, that continuum might look like this: distress → sadness → sorrow → grief → anguish. In summary, grief is involuntary, fairly serious, and can become very serious.