This week’s therapy post brought to you by the symptoms memory loss and heightened startle reflex

miss muffet had exaggerated startle reflexThis would be my weekly after therapy clearing the brain stuff, but it’s not because my therapist was a no-show for the second week in a row.  That would make a really hilarious scene in a black comedy show.  It wasn’t amusing last night at all.  But more on that later.

We had company this past weekend. They’ve been stationed overseas for a while, but now are moving to a base about a day’s drive from us, so en route, they stopped to say howdy.  While they were here I learned something startling about myself.

To give a quick recap of the first three months of our year, in January the FYG broke her leg in multiple places and it was horrible, required surgery, rods, screws, and a hospital stay of 8 days, plus two ambulance rides.

In February, Pip totaled her car on the highway in horribly dangerous place, the car bounced off the guardrail and ricocheted back across both lanes of the highway into the median guardrail on the other side, and it is a miracle she walked away relatively unscathed.  Miracle is not a word I use lightly.

In March, The Cherub came down with a still unknown virus or infection of some sort which caused a lung to collapse and another ambulance ride and 11 days in the hospital so she missed her sister Pip’s wedding, and, of course, in March we had Pip’s wedding.

Last month the Equuschick ended up with an overnight stay in the hospital because first they thought she had preterm labor (they expect their fourth in September) but we think it was kidney stones, and when she was released from the hospital her family spent a few days at our house so she had childcare and cooking help while she recovered.

I think I’ve always had PTSD.  I know I’ve had it the last seven years in the wake of that of which we do not speak because that whole avoiding any discussion about it is one of my PTSD issues.  And then this year was a doozy for hitting all my triggers and then some and probably adding a few dozen to the mix.

That’s the background.

During the course of our conversation with visiting friends this weekend, I learned that something else that apparently happened  in February is that the husband of the family that stayed with us this weekend was in the states so he came and spent some time with us.  I have almost total non-recall of that visit. I remember one thing about the visit, and nothing about it puts the visit in February.  I know that he came to visit us and brought us Kindereggs – but in order to avoid the wrath of the CPSA, they separated the chocolate and put it in one bag and put the capsules with toys in a  separate bag.  I mainly know this because I keep several capsules with toys from kindereggs in the toy cupboard in my room where the grandbabies get them out to play with them, and I know they aren’t available to the poor beknighted citizens of the USA because our government doesn’t trust the products of its own institutionalized school system, and these friends have given us kinderegg toys before so a logical deduction is that they brought these to us.  But if  asked, I would have put his visit to us squarely in the year 2013, not in February of this year.   Even though I now know it was in February and have this cloud of witnesses testifying to the same, I still remember nothing else about it.  No matter how I try, I cannot believe in that Feb. visit because there’s just nothing about it in my memory.  And that feels unsettling.

In July of this year the family had a big volleyball, fourth of July celebration.  I don’t do fireworks for obvious reasons.  My son bought the fireworks and he tried to pick out a number of very pretty , less noisy versions, the idea being he’d start the fireworks with those, and then I would take the Cherub and go home before things got noisy.

However, there were other people there, including other teen age boys who did not know of this arrangement or the reason for it, so random fireworks started much earlier than planned and I was given absolutely no warning.  My son and husband were playing volleyball and very focused on their game.
I was visiting with others in the party barn and tried to maintain my composure, but I guess something about being hunched over with my fingers in my ears and and the panicked look on my face wasn’t as convincing an imitation of calmness as I thought because two people offered to take me home. I stood up, politely and graciously (I thought) said my goodbyes to those persons nearest me and walked off to the vehicle of one of my ride offers.  A part of me stood back and looked on, and noted that the expressions on the faces of those to whom I was making my gracious good-byes indicated that my idea of polite and gracious probably looked more like panicked escape than I imagined.

So, I arrived home to a calm and quiet house.  A few minutes later my eldest daughter and her family also arrived- their little ones don’t like noisy fireworks, either.  Strider had a box of pretty fireworks that didn’t make loud booms and such, so we sat in the driveway and watched those for a while, and then played with the babies a few minutes while they gathered their things and they went home.  I retired to my room to watch a K-drama and recover my own equilibrium.

Exactly three hours after the moment I left the party, I remembered that I was supposed to be watching the Cherub, and I had gotten up and left the party without her.  Now, in my defense, our house is a five minute walk away from the house with the party, and the Cherub’s father was still there. When I left,  all of her siblings, five of whom are legal adults, as well as her 16 year year old brother were all there. Three of her brothers-in-law were still there as well.  Pip’s in-laws were there, and they are kind, thoughtful people.  There were other adults as well who know the Cherub’s limitations and know where we live, and know that they should pay just as much attention to her when she gets up and walks around as they do to any unaccompanied 2 year old.  She was in no danger.  But did that knowledge, at some unconscious level, inform my actions when I left without her?  I am afraid I don’t know.  I want to believe that is the case, but I don’t want to take the chance that it isn’t.

I could go on- those are the two biggest incidents that I know of in recent months, but my days are filled with me asking questions like “What did I just tell you do? What book did you just read for school?  I know I asked this five times already, but what time do you have to leave?  Why am I in the kitchen?  How long have you been my kid?”

IMG_0860

The wrong kind of alarm clock to have if you have PTSD, but yes, it’s mine.

I walked into Walmart last night (after my non-therapy session) and as I set foot in the store I had no idea what I had gone in to get.  I wandered aisles trying to jog my sullen, recalcitrant memory awake, but I had to quit after about 15 minutes when I started to feel panicky about it all.  As I was checking out with all the stuff I had not gone into Walmart to get, I noticed batteries. I knew I needed batteries for my alarm clock.  I still don’t know if that’s the one thing I went in to get, though.  But at least I have batteries.  And also crackers, whopper candies, new peechee folders, pencils and a pencil sharpener, cheese spread, new fine line sharpies, and crayons for the grandbabies.

Sometimes reading up on PTSD makes me feel worse, and I can’t do it for very long at a time.  But sometimes, it makes me feel better, like when I read stuff like this:

“These problems of memory loss can contribute to increased anxiety and the sense that we are “going crazy.” While the symptoms of memory loss are often debilitating and quite annoying, there is no evidence that they will become permanent. You are not developing dementia.

An area of concern in the military is the overlap of PTSD with TBI.This has been referred to by some as the “signature injury” of the Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) (Warden, 2006). Thus, the shared characteristics of TBI and PTSD have been studied extensively.

Symptoms that overlap the two disorders include the following:

  • Verbal Memory Impairment
  • Attention Deficits
  • Problems in Concentration
  • Working Memory Deficits
  • Impulsivity
  • Mental Confusion
  • Slowed Mental processing of Information
  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Deficits in Abstract Thinking
  • Depression and Stress

Memory problems and other problems of thinking can occur with the development of PTSD. It is important to rule out the effects of trauma on memory loss. This form of memory loss associated with trauma is reversible with proper diagnosis and quality treatment.”

And this:

“Studies suggest that the psychological effects of PTSD may in fact correspond to the actual physical damage to the brain as a result of trauma. Particularly affected by stress is the part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is responsible for organizing memories and making associations. Thus can memory loss be a symptom of PTSD. Fragmented and dissociative memory are some indications of the impairment, and experiencing flashbacks or nightmares may be related symptoms.

Brain scans using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can illustrate the amount of physical damage that has been incurred in relation to PTSD. A number of Vietnam War veterans have been found to have an 8% reduction in the size of their right hippocampus, while no other differences were seen in other sections of the brain.

Damage to the hippocampus can get in the way of making new memories and overall cognitive function as well. Some of the latest research show that among the functions of the hippocampus is to build new nerve cells, also called neurons, which are responsible for transmitting brain impulses. Stress, especially PTSD, can damage this function. Respectively, a decline in the number of neurons results in poor memory function. Among the many concerns regarding the implications of the research is that those who have experienced trauma, especially in childhood, can be at a great disadvantage when it comes to learning.”

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/1991315

What was I saying?

 

Anyway, Last night I had that therapy appointment.  It’s hard to get to it for me because I cannot be in the car with any level of comfort, and because my family’s schedules are varied, complicated, and constantly changing- I had scheduled it for yesterday because my husband told me he was off, and then he wasn’t, so Shasta had to step in, but then the FYG and FYB had made other plans that, hah, I didn’t remember, so there was nobody to watch Cherub, so FYG canceled her plans and then at the last minute it seemed better for all four of us (the three kids and I) to go into town a little early to do some banking before the appointment.  Driving with me as a passenger is rough on everybody.  I jump, yelp, flinch, and sometimes actually chew my seatbelt as every little thing startles and/or panicks me- lane changing, other people lane changing, somebody putting on the breaks, turning in front of us, and horns and or sirens are just totally right out.   I do what i can- i wear sunglasses, pull a hat over my eyes if possible, listen to loud k-pop on my i-pod, try to close my eyes  (but sometimes that’s worse), and remain so tense that I am stiff and exhausted just a few minutes in.

That’s all bad enough.  Last nigiht, The FYG had an altercation with a pole at the bank drive-thru, and that was tense for all of us.  Outside of the first shocked shriek I think I handled it well, but what do I know?  Plus, even if I really did, I am sure she was on pins and needles waiting for hyperventilating, crying and other PTSD type outbursts.  I did have a moment of panicked desire to immediately step out of the van and just start walking, but I couldn’t open my door because it was blocked by the machine in the next bay.  I was pinned in, another sensation I don’t enjoy.  The FYB had to get out of the van to help her straighten it out without more scrapes and scratches.  We’ve been thinking of selling it, btw, since it’s a 12 passenger and there are only five of us still at home.  The HM was filled with chagrin that we hadn’t already done that before the scrape on the side lowered the resale value.

Then I got us mildly lost on our way to the office- there was never any doubt we’d find it, it’s a small town, but I accidentally directed us down a road that curves back on itself and took us a few blocks the other direction, missed a turn we should have taken, and then resorted to going three blocks out of the way but at least on a route I knew I wouldn’t get wrong.    Getting lost can be one of my triggers, so yay, me.

And then we got there and the door was locked.  The phone number on my appointment card is to a disconnected number. There was no email in my inbox, and no voicemail either.  Last week she was also a n0-show, but there was a voice-mail, we just hadn’t thought to check messages before leaving for our appointment.  This week, nothing.   Last week was understandable.  One of the therapist’s children had a medical emergency while at a sporting event.   Of all people, I do understand medical emergencies.  But that wasn’t it.  I sent an email expressing my hope that all was well, since I had no email or voicemail and didn’t have a working number for her or her office.

Her reason?  She’d let her temporary state license expire and had been called before the disciplinary board and that had taken much longer than she’d planned, and she didn’t have my number with her (it was in another town quite some distance away, so that she could let me know.  Her license is re-instated at the moment.  There was more, but I don’t know that it’s fair to share it all so I won’t.

I don’t even know what to say.  This is so perfectly, totally, typical of my town and county that I’m laughing, and it’s so not what I expect from a therapist.

I mentioned before that when i left my first appointment, she was crying.  Well, she’s cried every appointment since.  Honestly, the first time we met when she cried, it was because of all the reasons I had for being in therapy.  But the two subsequent times, it was because of some hard stuff that’s going on in her life.  On the one hand, I am really, really sad for her, it’s heartbreaking. On the other hand, I am thinking, you are the therapist, not me.  Should I even know all these things about you?  She’s told me enough about it that i don’t even feel comfortable sharing it with my family- it feels like that would be a breach of patient-client privilege or something.
Updated to add: I have looked into other therapists- the nearest I can find are 40 miles away.  That’s just not an option right now.  Maybe later, but there’s no way I can commit to a 40 mile drive one way each week.   I’m trying to look into online therapy options in the meantime.  And thanks for all the positive comments here and elsewhere.-=)
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8 Comments

  1. Lady M
    Posted July 29, 2014 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Oh my. As you have been posting these, I see so much of my mom in them. My poor mom. We had no idea what she was going through all those years. I understand so much more now. Her varying kinds of abuse before she went to college would very much have put her at risk. Thank you so much for helping me understand my mom so much better… I wish I had known when she was still with us.

  2. Karen in SC
    Posted July 29, 2014 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    And I assume you are paying her for the time that she’s telling you her problems? Good grief.

    I really hope you can find a dependable, competent, and convenient therapist.

  3. Katie M.
    Posted July 29, 2014 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    No idea if this would work for you, but it sounds like you need someone more reliable and there aren’t a lot of options in your area, so: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/06/30/325488110/online-psychotherapy-gains-fans-and-raises-privacy-concerns

  4. AmyP
    Posted July 30, 2014 at 3:41 am | Permalink

    Wow–your therapist is terrible. It’s so unprofessional of her to be a no show and to waste YOUR time talking about HER problems. Therapy is supposed to be her walking you out of your problems, not walking you into hers, especially when you are in such a fragile state.

    Careful, because it is possible for her to actually make things worse, especially with PTSD.

    I hope you can find somebody better soon!

  5. Anita
    Posted July 31, 2014 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Oh, love… My deepest empathy. And afternoon prayers. PTSD is a monster.

    And to echo the other comments: no licensed therapist should EVER tell you much of anything about their life outside of the office. It is just not done. GET. OUT.

    There are phone therapists all over the place — good ones. And I am sure there must be several who specialize in PTSD. These professionals exist for people in situations like yours, who cannot travel and/or who live without convenient access to therapy. You’re the most dogged investigator I know, I know you can find a reputable one who won’t bankrupt you.

    But you do need and *deserve* help. K? Huge long-distance hugs.

  6. Fatcat
    Posted August 1, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    I think you told us why you could not change therapists right now, but I forgot. I think some of the forgetfulness is just part of being in your 50s. :-)

    I hope you can find a way to deal with it.

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted August 1, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      Small town. Not really another one in town, can’t go elsewhere because it would involve too much of me being in a car which is one of my biggest ‘no-can-do’ things right now.

  7. Sarah
    Posted August 2, 2014 at 1:24 am | Permalink

    Oh Headmistress. I’m so sorry you’re having such a tough week. I really hope you can find another alternative to this therapist that is more helpful and yet not tougher logistically.

    I’ve been having a rough week too (for instance, I was in the middle of leading music rehearsal just prior to worship service, and my ability to verbalize deserted me completely, replaced only with a thousand-meter stare–and that was before the lightning struck the steeple). I’ve been turning my week and yours over in my head and here’s what’s popped out. My advice is worth exactly what you paid for it, so take with as much salt as necessary. ;) You don’t even need to publish the comment if you’d rather not.

    I noticed that you don’t mention “what happened” because it is too hard. I was that way too for awhile, and still am. But I noticed that it stressed me more to try to come up with a way to refer to it without referring to it (if that makes sense), as my brain performed all kinds of mental gymnastics trying to skirt around it. I think about what Albus Dumbledore said of Voldemort: “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” So I don’t use the four-letter r-word, but I simply say “the surgery.” Obviously the surgery was not the issue, but it coincided, and the people who need to understand what I mean do understand. And it’s precise enough yet vague enough for my own brain. Would there similarly be a more helpful way for you to refer to your incident?

    I can empathize with how you feel when your mouth is covered. For me, it’s when someone grabs my hair/braid, especially unexpectedly. Since it is very long, and humans are rude, that happens with absurd frequency. I hope I will be able to have the self-control needed when my children do it someday. (The baby does it now, but I expect it and can see him reaching up for a small lock, so it’s not yet an issue.) Do you think perhaps this aversion of yours stemmed from the incident you mentioned at the end of your 4/23/14 post? If yes…at least take heart in the fact that you were smarter, and faster, and escaped safely.

    Congratulations on your progress toward being able to do the task (in the kitchen, I think?) that makes you stress and sweat! Do you think there would be any helpful strategies that could carry over from that to the car thing? Perhaps you could work on the car thing in teeny tiny baby steps, by first trying to replace your negative associations with positive ones? Maybe you could sit out in the car a few minutes at a time, in garage or driveway, and read a little of a good book, with a cuppa and some of the lavender oil? Maybe a picnic “dinner date” in the car with the Headmaster? I’m just brainstorming here–if you think it’s worth trying, substitute your own pleasant experiences. Once you get to where you can sit in the car all right, then maybe try turning the engine on, and get comfortable with that. After that maybe you could just idle up and down your driveway/lane, windows down, feeling the breeze, as if you were simply out for a stroll? And so on.

    Sometimes jigsaw puzzles help me sort things when my brain is feeling particularly fragmented or swiss-cheesey, and help me settle when I’m feeling ragey. Do you like them?

    As for leaving the party while the Cherub stayed with the rest of your family–
    “But did that knowledge, at some unconscious level, inform my actions when I left without her? I am afraid I don’t know. I want to believe that is the case, but I don’t want to take the chance that it isn’t.”
    It is hard when we don’t know, isn’t it? I’ve been in situations where I similarly acted in a way I would not have chosen, but it turned out okay, and I’d like to think my subconscious had it covered, but can’t be sure. My husband (who also has PTSD, and has had for much longer than I) tells me every time that yes, my subconscious was still in control. I’d like to believe him. I’d feel more comfortable believing it was the Holy Spirit rather than anything from my own self. And I guess maybe that’s the bottom line: even when we’re a mess, we can trust in God far more than we can trust ourselves. Psalm 91!

    Take care, Headmistress. Hang in there. Some amount of healing does come in time, though it may be a long and non-linear process. Peace be with you!

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