It took about six months and lots of therapy before I started to crawl out of the post-Wilma darkness that had descended upon my life. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a strange and unwelcome beast that I have been living with off an on for about six years now. The good thing about it is that it does get better – lots better – so much better that it lulls you into a sense of complacency so you think that it’s gone. Then, WHAM! Something really weird out of the blue will trigger a memory or sensation and darned if you don’t want to crawl right back under the covers again.
I recently discovered that loud fourth-of-July-like noises are a trigger for me. I did not know this before the day before yesterday. Last year on the fourth of July I was sitting on the lawn on the Mall in Washington D.C. under the Washington Monument watching the fireworks explode in my face with my friend James and having a blast. This year I went straight home after an early dinner at my sister’s house and ended up crawling under the covers with earplugs in my ears. While I was at my sister’s house, there had been some local “Cherry Bomb” action and the noise triggered something deep inside me – FEAR. This is not your “jump a little because you’re scared” fear. This is the “my skin is crawling right down to my bones because I’m terrified” kind of fear. This feeling doesn’t necessarily come on all at once so you know exactly what is causing it. No, that would be too easy. It lies in wait and pounces on you when you are all comfy and snuggled up with your hubby and then all of a sudden you’re scared out of your wits for no reason at all and you think to yourself, “I’m losing my mind again.” But, no, it’s just PTSD, out of its cage and on the prowl for a night or two of fun with your screwed up psyche. Fortunately, it was one my lucky “twitching” nights and I didn’t end up twitching half the night on top of being scared out of my wits. With the help of my snuggly hubby human/teddy bear I was able to sleep. Since then, the beast has been mostly back in his cage, but I know it’s awake right now and I’m aware of its presence.
When the days came where I could finally see sunshine again and I began to experience joy on a daily basis, I decided it was time to tackle a little drug dependency issue that had been bothering me. I have been dependent on prescription pain medication for the past six years, ever since that pesky 40 foot long pipe fell off the speeding semi and smacked into our car. Lots of broken bones and torn tissue. Lots of time in bed. Lots of lost life time. Time to move on. But, it’s just not that easy when it comes to STOPPING taking the meds. At one time I was taking thirteen different medications. Now I’m down to six. Remember when I said I wished that I was one of those really strong people who could handle tough situations well. This is another one of those situations that I wish I could handle well. But, I don’t handle it well. I go through withdrawal and get all freaky with anxiety and then I just want to smoke more and then you guessed it – I twitch.
I have been weaning myself off the pain meds for three months now, and I’m only about to the halfway point and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come close to saying, “Screw it. Just put me in a coma for 3 days and take away all the meds. Wake me up when it’s over.” It costs a ton of money and insurance doesn’t pay for it, but it can be done. Knowing that gives me comfort sometimes and sometimes it just makes me impatient. But, what I really wonder is if it will stop the twitching.
See, I’m not so sure exactly WHAT the twitching is a symptom of. It could be part of my PTSD and I am tending more toward this theory lately as I have quit smoking and my desire for cigarettes is significantly less, but my twitching is relatively unchanged. I could also be part of my narcotic withdrawal, but in that case, it should have stopped during the last month since my doctor asked me to stay at the dose I was at for one entire month to give my body a chance to acclimate before starting to cut down again. In which case, if my body had acclimated, the twitching would have lessened, which it hasn’t. In fact, as I write this, I’m having one of the worst twitching episodes I’ve had all week. What’s up with that?
This leaves me smack dab in the dangerous territory of hypochondria, an area wherein, I am ashamed to say I am no stranger. When I start to wander down this road, well, let’s just say I finally learned that if the t-shirts don’t tie in the back and they don’t let you keep them, then I don’t want to go there. Unfortunately, that’s the only kind of places hypochondria took me to. It really wasn’t any fun at all. I learned about a lot of stuff that wasn’t wrong with me and finally realized that I am generally a pretty healthy person with a lot of screwed up stuff going on in my head.
The good thing is that it’s a lot easier to fix the stuff going on in my head than any of the stuff that might have been wrong with my body. That isn’t to say that the broken bones and torn muscles and stuff weren’t real. Oh, yessirree, they were real all right. I guess one of the things that happened to me as a result of those bodily traumas was that I became hyper-vigilant of every, single, teeny, weeny, little bit of pain in my body. Not only that, but every time I experienced some new kind of pain, I figured it must be something equally as disastrous as the last bits of pain. Pain became the cocoon I lived in, focused on, breathed, bathed in; it was my every waking moment. It didn’t need to be. I could have chosen to step outside of that cocoon any time I wanted if I wanted to focus on something else. Take living, for example. I could have just focused on that instead.