The Unexpected Symptom That Stemmed From My Childhood Trauma
Four years ago, during one of the hardest seasons of my life, I learned that I had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I think back to those days — that season — and remember vividly how cloaked my perception of life was. It’s truly the worst when you realize what is happening in your mind, and yet you feel helpless to make it stop.
My PTSD stemmed from a childhood trauma, so being on edge was my “normal.” But it was the birth of my first child that alerted me to the hyper-vigilance I lived with daily. Most women get an intense shakiness after delivering their babies, one of the reasons this happens is because of the adrenaline leaving our bodies. With my oldest? It wasn’t there. I just felt completely weak, I had no feelings — just fatigue. My husband and I were left alone for a time after she arrived, and I soon handed her off and just went to sleep. I thought it was finally hitting me once my epidural wore off — the shakiness was there, but it was sporadic. I remember how intense my pain was. I woke up to every little sound, but it didn’t just wake me — I shook. I shook, my stomach was in knots, my thoughts were racing and I was covered in sweat. I remember telling a nurse that I still felt shaky. She assured me it was normal and would wear off soon.
Over the next six months I experienced many PTSD symptoms, but chief among them were frequent myoclonic jerks. If you don’t know what this is, it’s that startle reflex when you are falling asleep and think you’re falling, except sometimes it happens while you’re awake. In non-epileptic patients this is generally harmless, but it’s a common symptom of PTSD and high stress. Some people even get daytime myoclonic jerks, which occur when you are awake — not falling asleep.
In the years since my PTSD was at it’s worst, I have experienced additional traumatic events. For myself, I found a lot of relief (not a cure) through a process called RAMP (rapidly accelerated mind patterning). I learned about this last year when my toddler had an incident in our back yard and I found myself having an uptick of myoclonic jerks again in the wake of that event.
Those of us who are familiar with trauma are often familiar with therapy and meditative practices that are used to recover from triggers. The coping skills I’ve developed for my PTSD are top-notch; I’ve graduated to teaching others mindfulness and meditation techniques. But after a lifetime of hyper-vigilance and triggers, I just cannot settle for tools that merely clean up the mess but do not help you prevent it.
We couldn’t have foreseen that my toddler would have an incident when she did; but there I was, jolting awake multiple times a night and experiencing minor jerk spells throughout the day. My life felt extremely vulnerable — my heart on my sleeve — except if anything bad happened, then I didn’t just feel it. I was physically malfunctioning. It felt like I was crawling away from the cliff and all it would take was a breeze to make the fear of falling return.
I share about this today because we don’t seem to hear many stories of civilian PTSD. Maybe it’s just me, but I know that I downplay the ways it has presented in the past. Some of that is the paranoia that comes with my PTSD, and some is fear of judgement, because my trauma wasn’t found on a battlefield. This I know for sure; trauma is trauma. Empathy suggests that every hurt deserves dignity and respect.
So this paragraph is for all of us. All of the long-struggling dreamers: we don’t have all of the answers — we probably won’t have them anytime soon — but we do have resilience and grit. We were not only traumatized once — we often relive these experiences through our limbic responses and memories. We have so much more to learn about the brain, but evidence supports that we have the equivalent of a wound — meaning it requires treatment and time to heal.
Show yourself respect and speak kindly about your baggage. When you feel it’s time to find help (even if you aren’t sure if you have PTSD), request a therapist who is familiar with the condition. Do not look to others to validate your trauma. They weren’t in your body. They didn’t see things through your eyes.
If someone comes to you who needs a safe place, please listen. Listen. Then ask what kind of support they need from you. With resilience and love, I’m on your side and in your corner.
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