Sleep is one of those things that we can’t live without. At one time or another, we’ve all had problems sleeping. But what happens when lack of sleep starts to get the best of you? Read the poem below to find out.
We all love a good night’s sleep. When I picture falling asleep, I think about having just the right amount of flat sheets, a soft comforter, a few pillows surrounding me, just the right temperature in the house, and having sweet dreams. Just thinking about this scene would make all of us stop and long for sleep.
Sleep can be one of the sweetest things in the world, and then on the other side of that coin, it can be that of agony for a person living with PTSD/trauma on a daily basis. There is also no rhyme or reason as to when sleep deprivation will occur.
Breakdown of My Sleep Aspect of Trauma
Five years ago, unbeknownst to me, I entered an extremely toxic work environment. At the time, I had already been dealing with sleep issues as a side effect of the trauma of my divorce, as well as the events immediately preceding and following the divorce. I would describe the events as a crazy Lifetime movie. Unfortunately, this movie was my life. Although I was already having problems staying and falling asleep, nothing could compare to the level of sleep problems that occurred as a by-product of working at this company for nine months.
People living with PTSD/trauma often face two issues when it comes to sleep: falling asleep and staying asleep. I had and have both. During the time that I worked at this company, I would try to fall asleep around 10 pm. From 10:00 pm to 3:00 a.m, I would fall asleep for a few minutes, wake up with my teeth and whole body tense and clenched tight, and the cycle would start all over again.
Breakdown Part Two
I am going to keep it real here. The first couple of times that this happens, you find yourself trying to stay positive and you start telling yourself not to overly think about. “Don’t be concerned about the time.” However, when you have done this 5 or more times within five hours, and realize that you have only had a total of maybe one hour of sleep, and you have to get up pretty soon for work, the positivity can wear off real fast. I had to wake up at 6:00 a.m. to get ready for work, which if we all do the math, we know that this isn’t enough time for restful adequate sleep.
The toxic job, along with this vicious cycle of sleep caused major life-threatening thyroid problems, along with an overactive adrenal gland.
God granted me grace by allowing me to be let go from this toxic environment. It gave me time to heal and try to breathe again.
Sleep Aspect: What’s Going On Now
I still have issues with my sleep patterns due to trauma. They are not as frequent as they were, but they are still a problem. Last week took me clearly by surprise.
I had been suffering with sinus and allergy issues since August, and last week these issues came to a head. And guess what came with it? Sleep deprivation from trauma. I had two nights with four nights of sleep.
Then, I had one night with five nights of sleep. Just as I thought I was turning the corner, the following night was an all-nighter with only one hour of sleep at best. I nodded off for ten minutes at a time, woke up, and then stayed up for hours, with my body attempting sleep several more times.
I have to get up at 4:00 for work, and so, when this time came, and I was still awake, I reluctantly resigned to calling in and staying home. What I had to do was to give myself grace and compassion. I had to tell myself that I needed a time-out to rest, get in as many liquids as I could to help my sinus issues, and just relax. Finally, I fell asleep at 5:00 a.m. and slept until close to nine.
I would have liked to sleep until one o’clock. However, that didn’t happen. What did happen is that I literally laid down for part of the day, and sat up part of the day and allowed myself to rest physically, emotionally, and spiritually in Jesus. Sometimes we just have to admit that we are having a bad day, week, month, year, and simply REST!!!
Sleep Aspect Conclusion
Sleep deprivation from trauma is real. I won’t downplay it. However, God is also real, and he can meet us right where we are. When we have these hiccups in our schedule, the devil wants to make us think we are right back where we are. WE ARE NOT!!
Unfortunately sleep issues are a part of living with and healing from trauma on a daily basis, but it doesn’t define us. God does! And guess what? When I couldn’t sleep during the night, I had praise music playing in my head as if I had turned on a radio. Even though my feelings were telling me different, God was telling me that he was with me.
God bless and have a wonderful rest of your week!!!
What are some of the things that you do to help yourself when you are dealing with the sleep aspect of trauma?
Today, I am featuring another aspect in the “Living With and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis” series. This aspect is that of music. Music can have several effects. It can make you go from feeling relaxed to nervous, anxious, and scared, and then switch over to anger, frustration, and sadness in a heartbeat.
Whether you are suffering with trauma/PTSD or not, listening to music can take you back to twenty years of memories that can feel like it was yesterday. Our emotions get stirred, and if we are not careful, we can start riding the waves. You can start thinking about old relationships and all sorts of things.
When it comes to music and PTSD, it can be both a good and bad thing, depending upon the situation. If the music is loud and harsh, with screaming involved, it can cause you to have the trauma symptoms of irritation, dissociation, and anxiety.
Unfortunately, I have experienced all of these. About five years ago, my son was listening to some metal Christian music. I had to ask him to turn it down, then off. It was just too much. The screaming caused the Fear Aspect of Trauma to settle in. I started to feel unsettled in my spirit, along with feeling agitation and anxiousness.
Whether you are listening to loud or soft music, if you haven’t processed memories that are associated with a particular song, you may not be able to tolerate that song or style of music for a while. You’ll usually know if you can tolerate the song/style because you will be able to listen to it without any problems. If the song is intolerable, you usually end up with bad flashbacks or dissociation.
Just recently, I realized that I am fully able to enjoy gospel music again. Starting in 2013, it became hit or miss. Gospel music is associated with attending a missionary baptist church as a kid, leading the choir with my ex-husband, praise dancing, and my roots in general. In order for me to truly appreciate it again, I had to process the important events that this genre held close to my heart. The events weren’t just from one particular time period. They were spread across years.
Recently, my friend invited me to two gospel concerts she performed in. I felt like I was back in the church that I attended as a kid. I knew that this genre had helped me to place the piece of puzzle of my identity in this area back to where it belonged.
Music from the 70s and 80s is also some of my favorites. When I listen to this music, it causes ambivalence. Why? This time period represents a life of simpler times. I have relatives that were alive then, and no longer alive. Community was food, dancing, talking, and enjoying one another’s company. Sometimes, I find myself dancing and crying at the same time.
The more I listen to it, the better it gets. However, I still have moments of extreme grief from trauma, as well as joy at the same time because these memories will forever be in my heart.
How has the music aspect affected your PTSD? Would love to hear your thoughts!
There is nothing worse than feeling stuck. Literally stuck! Sometimes we have a zipper that is stuck. When it happens, it is usually when we are in a hurry. So, what we do is to keep pulling and tugging on the zipper, creating a worse situation. Then, we pull long where we end up with extra material in the way of the zipper, and the next thing you know, we have a ripped coat and a stuck zipper.
How about being stuck in an elevator? I don’t like elevators myself, and so the thought of being stuck on one just makes me feel claustrophobic and helpless. And of course, for people who have been stuck on elevators, their first reaction is to panic. Lastly, what about feeling stuck in a relationship? There is nothing worse than feeling powerless, and not realizing that you do have options. However, you have grown so used to dysfunction, that you don’t know what it is even like to exert boundaries, and explore these options.
Today’s topic, “The Stuck Aspect”, deals with a dissociated state of trauma. In this state you end up feeling helpless, trapped, and not sure of how to proceed, where to go, or when to go. We will explore two aspects of this state: the stuck inside and the stuck outside aspect.
STuck Outside Aspect
The Stuck Outside aspect of trauma is when you are dissociating, and having an experience where you are “outside” of yourself. This experience makes you feel like you are watching yourself as if you are watching a movie, but you are not part of the movie where all of you is integrated together.
I first experienced this when I was living at my last place of residence, and trauma was reigning, and in the forefront of my life. Basically, I was in survival mode. I hadn’t done much work in the area of healing because of being afraid to face my feelings, possible retraumatization, and fear. I had all of this going on coupled with the fact that I had just been released from working in a toxic environment for nine months. When it happened, I felt out of control, and I started feeding more into it, with the anxiety from trauma escalating.
It continued to occur when I moved to the residence that I am living at now. However, I realized how to manage the symptoms better. Instead of panicking more, I started to remind myself that I was fine, and of the status of my present surroundings and situation. This created a calm inside of my brain, and then it would pass.
Stuck Inside Aspect
The stuck inside aspect deals with you feeling like you are trapped inside of your body. People on the outside can see from your facial expression, or the lack thereof, that something is wrong, but they aren’t sure of how to handle it. You feel like your whole body has gone stiff as a board, and you can tell that your eyes are doing something weird. This might sound strange, but I have also noticed that since having trauma, eating certain foods can bring this on.
I was at a worship service with a friend right before Christmas a couple of years ago, and it happened right after I’d finishing eating. I could tell that she was trying to figure out what was going on, because I saw her staring into my eyes, trying to figure out if I was okay. Once again, I grounded myself in my location, and in the present moment, and I told myself that I would be fine, that it had happened before, and to just let it pass. It eventually passed. However, it had definitely caught me off guard.
Have you ever found yourself in the “Stuck Inside” or “Stuck Outside” Aspect of trauma. And if so, what did you do to calm yourself down? What was the reaction of others around you? Would love to hear your thoughts!
We have been dealing with the series “Living With and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis” for a while now. Today we will dissect “The Anniversary Aspect”. Just in case you missed the last post in this series, “The Unpredictability Aspect”, you can read up on that particular issue here.
Anniversary dates can bring on several reactions: laughing, smiling, crying, dread, and so on. These reactions can be separate. Or, they can coexist. The one thing that is true about anniversaries is that no matter how much you try to prepare for them, when the time comes, there is no preparation in the world for what the reality will look like.
January 13, 2019 made six years that I had to put my ex-husband out. It was two months before his planned exit. Although that was six years ago, when the beginning of this past January rolled around, it felt like it had just happened yesterday. One surprising fact is that the 13th of January fell on a Sunday once again. Just like it was six years ago.
For the first time in almost six years, I dealt with triggers in regards to this event for almost an entire month. I knew that I wasn’t back there, but when the triggers came, it was as if I was standing around in the townhome 6 years ago, trying to decide what to do about the situation that I found myself in at the time: a husband who was staging a fake suicide four days in a row.
If I hadn’t responded in the manner in which I did, by going downstairs and checking the garage, me and my sleeping children could have ended up dead. There are some things that happen in life in which there are no words for, and this is one of them.
How did things get to this point? How could an individual go this far in order to regain control and pull you back in so they could emotionally and psychologically abuse you again?
So many unanswered questions.
And these things will more than likely never been answered on this side of heaven. Hurting people hurt people. Until we begin to take responsibility for our actions, we will continue to bleed out on everyone else in the form of drama, trauma, and layers of brokenness.
One thing that we can do when we are taken back on these anniversary dates is to ground ourselves in the present. We ground ourselves by reminding ourselves of where we are, what we are doing, and how it relates to now. We also create new memories to replace the old ones. There are times when following these steps don’t seem to work, and in those instances, you hold on to Jesus, and give yourself grace as you would give a friend.
Is there an anniversary date that you dread coming up every year?
When things are predictable, we feel safe, secure, and at ease. We are not God, and thus, the truth of the matter is that not everything in life will be predictable. However, when unpredictability becomes your norm, then it can be the perfect recipe for disaster. If you already have a history of PTSD or trauma, then after a round of unpredictability at its finest, you will be in line for more.
I was young, in my 20s, married, a full-time employee and a full-time student. And although I was very busy, and I did feel stress because of it, it wasn’t anything major. Out of the blue, everything changed. I went from doing all of the above to running to the emergency room and/or doctor’s office once or twice a week. Unpredictability rocked my world to put it mildly.
The symptoms started off with a racing heart. My ex-husband dropped me off in front of our apartment building one night so that I could get settled, and he could continue driving around to find a park. My heart started racing like crazy. I remember thinking to myself, “What is going on?” It finally stopped by the time that I got upstairs.
A couple of weeks after that, on my 24th birthday to be exact, I was standing in front of the copy machine at work when I started feeling excruciating chest pains. One of my coworkers rushed me to the ER in her car. They didn’t find anything.
However, after that, every few days there was a new symptom occurring: extremely high blood pressure, racing pulse, hammer-pounding headaches that made you long for heaven, diarrhea, an unsafe drop in weight, fibromyalgia,etc. It got to the point where my belts were no longer able to keep my pants up.
Days turned into weeks and weeks into months as the physician ran every kind of blood test that he could think of. On one particular occasion, I was blow drying my hair, when all of a sudden, my heart and pulse starting racing as if it was going to beat out of my chest, and then my entire body started twitching. I finished blow drying my hair and headed to the ER. My mother, my ex-husband, and some other family members met me there.
As soon as my ex-husband saw me with my hair just blow dried and no curls, he stated, ” You couldn’t have done anything to your hair?” It was one of those moments when you stared in shock, cognitive dissonance sets in, and then you pretend like you didn’t hear what you just heard.
This vibrant twenty year-old, straight “A” student who was able to do it all suffered a time-out. I ended up having to drop two of my classes. The exhaustion and insomnia wouldn’t allow me to keep up.
Finally, during one particular visit to my physician, I gave in and told him that I was feeling depressed. He said that it was just the stress. My reply was, “Something is wrong with me.” He listed everything that he had done already, and then he said, ” How about we check your thyroid?”
In no time, I got the results. Bingo! I had hyperactive thyroid. Better known as Graves disease. I finally had an answer for this madness. I was happy and feeling blessed. However, that didn’t last long when I found out that it would take about four months before I would start feeling better.
I decided upon the “Radioactive Cocktail” as my method of treatment. A lady who worked in the nuclear medicine department gave me the best advice ever. She told me not to be surprised if my condition reverses because of medicine not being an “exact science”. It was the same thing that had happened to her.
At first, I was mad, and wondering why she would say something like this. However, I soon realized that it was the best advice ever because I was prepared. Just like she forewarned, my thyroid condition went normal, and then reversed to the other side, better known as hypothyroidism.
Four months later, I was back to my normal self so it seemed. However, the unpredictability of trips to the doctor and ER led me to develop compounded trauma. I already had childhood trauma under my belt. Then were was the trauma of being in a toxic relationship, a verbally abusive job, and my physical health was now added to that list.
If I had to look back at that twenty-four year old woman, I would tell her what I now know: “Breathe! Allow yourself to feel the feelings! When you don’t allow yourself to feel the feelings of overwhelm, your body will take it on. The stress has to go somewhere. Let it out! Nothing is worth your health. Community is everything. God is enough!”
Episode 13: Grace Aspect of Living With and Healing from Trauma Healing Our Brokenness Podcast Seri...
00:00 / 00:15:34
Our last podcast, Lost in the Woods of Trauma, dealt with the process of going from having the trauma identity to reign, to have our identity in Christ to take over. This week’s episode: Grace Aspect of Living With and Healing from Trauma, shares about the embarrassing moments that we all have when we live with and heal from trauma on a daily basis, even when we have come a long way with our healing. It also handles how to see these moments as God sees them. Click to listen!
Traumatic Childhood Events
My Traumatic Childhood Event
My Eye Doctor Visit
Grace Aspect: My Resolve
Grace Aspect: Bible Verses for Meditation
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy, and find grace to help us in our time of need.
In our Living With and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis Series, I dissect issues and symptoms of PTSD/trauma. This is in hopes of letting people know that they are not alone, as well as giving people the freedom to comment, and talk about how PTSD/trauma has affected their lives in these areas. The last post in the Living With and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis Series was one dealing with the Holiday Aspect of trauma. You can find that post here. Today’s post will focus on the Digestion Aspect.
One surprising revelation for me was realizing that PTSD/trauma actually affects your digestion. I stumbled upon this realization in June of 2014, a couple of months after getting divorced. There are three things that I noticed when it comes to trauma and digestion:
Trauma and grief will come out in the form of regurgitation.
I am not trying to sound gross here, so please bear with me. Due to complications with my ex-husband’s health, as well as the fact that I had stuffed my emotions for so long, my grief was delayed. Grieving my divorce, and all the events surrounding it, were delayed. Alleviating some of the symptoms that I was experiencing seemed downright frightening because of stuffing for so long.
This caused me to be in a vicious cycle of stuffing and feeling like my face and chest was going to explode, with very little relief. Trauma is in the tissues, and so I discovered, along with reading information on my own, that movement, grief, and massaging helped to release it. The problem came into play when I finally felt like I could release the trauma. However, the underlying feeling was that if I started crying, there would be no bottoming out. Subconsciously, I knew it was going to be a bad release.
Instead of my system waiting any longer, it released the trauma and grief in the form of regurgitation. Initially, I thought that it was just that maybe something upset my stomach. However, after four rounds of this, and feeling grief in between each round, I knew that wasn’t the case at all. It didn’t take long to put two and two together.
I felt very vulnerable, and my son kept asking me, “What did you eat?” I told him that it had nothing to do with the food. It was physiological.
Trauma will cause your system to get confused about hunger and fullness.
Another weird discovery that I made is that every now and then, stored trauma and unreleased grief will make your system confused as far as satiety is concerned. There are times when I have felt like I could keep eating forever. Then, there are other times that I feel hungry, and then attempt to eat, but will all of a sudden feel full.
Lastly, there are times when I can literally feel my emotions trapped in my midsection, causing my body to try to figure out whether it is satisfied, or it needs more food. It is the weirdest thing. It doesn’t happen as much anymore. However, when it happens, it can be very frustrating.
When doing research, one of the explanations that I found is that because of PTSD/trauma, at times, the blood that should flow into the stomach, moves away from it, going to other areas like the arms.
Trauma will cause you to become hypersensitive to certain foods, causing severe panic attacks when consumed in normal portions.
The last issue that I would like to discuss is how trauma causes hypersensitivity to foods. These foods vary from person to person. For me, it was sugar. I first discovered this when I decided to eat a glazed donut in 2015.
Within five minutes, a severe panic attack came on, I felt like I was going to hit the roof. The only thing that would help my system to calm down was drinking an excess amount of water, and then deep breathing, and a lot of prayer. Taking multivitamins has helped , but it is still not the same.
My system has improved a little. However, it can’t handle what it once was able to. Sometimes, I get frustrated with this fact. It is what it is. I have learned to accept the fact that a few moments of pleasure for an hour or more of panic just isn’t worth it.
How has PTSD/trauma affected your digestion? What are some of the ways that you use to cope with it?
Episode 12: Lost in the Woods of Trauma Healing Our Brokenness Podcast Seri...
00:00 / 00:21:08
Have you ever lost your kid? That’s the scariest thing in the world? What about you? Have you ever been lost yourself? I mean really lost!!! Think about how you felt. Today, on Healing Our Brokenness, we are going to discuss being lost in the woods. Lost in the woods is a term that I give for “Identity Issues of Trauma.” I described this issue in the poem that I wrote that is called, “Stolen Identity”. You can find that poem here.
Lost in the Woods of Trauma Outline
Discussion of Being Lost
What Led to My Discovery of Being Lost in the Woods
Background on The Holiday Aspect: Living With and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis
About a month ago, I discussed The Flashback/Images/Nightmare Aspect of Living with and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis. You can find that post here. Today, I will discuss The Holiday Aspect of Living With and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis.
The Holiday Aspect: Living With and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis
Holiday time can be tough in general. Let alone, if the holiday time is when you experienced a series of events that led to PTSD/trauma. When the holidays come around, it can feel like you are reliving these events. This is because the energy from them are still residing in our bodies.
The holiday season of 2012 is when a great majority of the trauma that my kids and I experienced in the last six years took place. It started a little before Thanksgiving, and reached its peak right after New Year’s Day. Almost daily, emotionally draining activities and sabotage were done to myself and the kids in order for me to put him out, so that he wouldn’t have to be the “bad guy” who left us.
The peak was a fake-suicide stunt with my ex-husband starting up the car with the garage door down, and the engine running. It was a last attempt to pull me back in emotionally, and to get me back to being the person that was a doormat/enabler, with low self-worth.
God had already begun to work a miracle in my life six months prior to this event, and so this “doormat” person was not there anymore. It was God’s grace that I went downstairs to check the garage, or this fake suicide stunt could have killed all of us. The kids were sleeping upstairs at the time.
Ever since then, the holiday time has been painful, and a time that I struggle. It has gotten better in some areas, and worse in others.
The first holiday season (2013) after my ex-husband left, was very difficult because I wasn’t able to tolerate any Christmas music or movies. A friend of mine dropped me off at the grocery store, and she waited outside for me. I had to pick up a few items. I remember Christmas music playing on the radio, and literally feeling trapped. The reaction to the music surprised me. Before I knew it, I was caught up in the “Overwhelmed Aspect”. An explanation of that aspect can be found here.
I quickly found the items that I needed, and got out of the store as fast as I could. This continued being my normal for the first year. A few weeks after that, the church that I was attending for Divorce Care offered a session for dealing with grief during the holidays. I gladly signed up for the class. We discussed all the practical unexpected things that could happen during the holidays, and how to handle them.
I can listen to more Christmas music now than before. I can also watch Holiday movies, with breaks in between for some of them. It is almost like the smell outside and the feel in the air knows it’s November, and then the trauma aspect kicks in for me. Down below, I have listed some things to help you ease through the holiday aspect of living with trauma during this season.
Self-Help for Making it Through The Holiday Aspect
Take advantage of the community that God has given you. Talk to friends on the phone. Have a girls’ or guys’ movie night. A month ago, me and my friends got together to watch a home movie in front of the fireplace. It was a wonderful time of eating, fellowship, and laughs. When you are dealing with anxiety or depression, you need something to help lift your emotions.
Therapy. This therapy could involve going to see your therapist, writing in your journal, poetry, painting, or cooking. There are several activities that allow us to be creative and are therapeutic at the same time.
Movement. Give your body the gift of movement. When you exercise, the blood and oxygen starts flowing, and the natural feel-good hormones rise to the surface. I like going for a walk, even if it’s cold, just to make my adrenal glands happy, and feel refreshed at the same time. I also like dancing to 70s’ and 80s’ music and walking the stairs for a certain amount of time to get my heart pumping.
Doses of Music, Movies, Etc. Try to allow yourself to watch or listen to music, movies, etc. a little at a time in order to build up resilience. Everyone is different. I found that when I tried to ban everything, it only made the trauma worse, so I introduced a little bit at a time. I am still in the process of giving myself little doses here and there.
Self-Care. Practice self-care by trying to get enough sleep, rest, and food as possible. Taking your vitamins and drinking herbal tea can be relaxing. It might be a time to take get bloodwork done to see if your vitamin D is low, since we are in the winter months, and there is less sunshine.
Prayer. Ask others for prayer, and lift yourself up in prayer as well. Listening to uplifting Christian music can be comforting and minister to your soul.
Send some comments to let me know what you use to get through the holiday aspect of trauma.
Prayers for you and your family as you march through this season!