Sunday, September 14, 2008

FirefightersStory-PTSD Affects the Whole Family

Having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was accompanied by alot of other side effects and symptoms. Major depression, nightmares, flashbacks, night terrors, sleep deprivation, lack of interest and withdrawing from everyone, and more, but we'll keep the "more" for another time. These are just some of my symptoms that made up and contributed to my helplessness. And these symptoms also had other spinoff symptoms as I will refer to them. They all contributed to my life being totally out of control at the best of times, and making my family life totally non existant, and I felt like I was always in a state of "living hell!" If I couldn't control what was going on, and what I was doing, what was happening to me, and what I was experiencing on a daily and nightly basis, well, I still cannot totally understand how my family must've felt, as their lives were in just as much turmoil and kaos as a result of my illness, and it was their lives that were also turned upside down. I would even go so far as to say that we had no life, in that they had lost me, a husband to my wife, and a father to my girls, and I lost them, as they wanted little to do with me because of the way I was acting, and the way my PTSD symptoms changed me so profoundly. And I don't blame them for feeling that way, as we were in a "living hell!".
There were so many times that I wanted to leave, as I felt so guilty for ruining their lives, and they didn't deserve to go through this, as the patient(me) is obviously not the only one affected, but the whole family. I wasn't the only one that had to keep what I was going through a secret from anyone I came in contact with, be it work, relatives etc. my family also had to hide what was going on with me, and them, because they too didn't want any of their friends to know just how miserable it was in our house. From the outside it looked like we were a normal family, but on the inside, well not so normal to say the least. My family didn't want to invite any of their friends, family to our house because of the "fear and embarressment" they all felt. Who would want to bring anyone over and risk me having an "episode" or acting and saying something that would embarress them.
The point I am trying to make, albeit it in a broad roundabout way, and by telling you a bit about how my family was affected, is that sometimes, things happened that came out of nowhere, sending you into a state of panic, scaring the hell out of you, and all your family see's is the effects it has on you, such as running out of the house, in tears, jumping in the truck, and leaving without telling them what had just happened, because they wouldn't understand,(this was pre-therapy) and driving to get away from everyone, and of course with the cell phone off so nobody could reach me as I didn't want to talk to anyone, I just wanted to get away. Sound familiar to any of you??? Maybe I'm the only one who has done things or felt like this?? You tell me. I had many episodes like this, what I called "getting slammed". Out of nowhere, I would be hit with a vision, memory, reliving a "messy" fire call , a call that was so vivid and in living color, so real you'd swear you were actually there again, and thinking and feeling like you were so out of control, and were going "nuts"! When these particular types of events(flashbacks) happened, there was no way to stop them, and you would replay it over and over no matter what you might try to do to avoid or stop them. And they would always end the same way, in a horrifically messy ending with loss of life or lives in my case, a vivid image burned into my memory, never to be forgotten, as I relived fire calls that were like that, and which I had kept to myself and never told anyone that it was bothering me, or I was having problems dealing with it, because as I have said, you just didn't talk about that stuff because that would mean you weren't "tough" and it showed you had a weakness, and others would question your abilities and capabilities on the job. Stigmatisms at its finest, right!?
This was just a small glimpse into some of what we went through and experienced together as a family, and how a mental illness affects more than just the patient.
I will end it here, as this was hard to divulge, very personal, and exhausting for me, and as I said before, I know my limitations now and when it's time to take a break.
Till next sunday, and I welcome your comments, Larry