This is the first of a four-part series on mental health disorders and how real people handle them. These people are your neighbors, brothers, sisters, children, parents, even your grandparents. You know them. They’re around you every day.
Well, not specifically these interviewees, no, but you get the idea. They are perfectly normal people facing big mental health challenges.
We will be looking at the following disorders and how these people have handled them.
- PTSD/Complex PTSD. Note that C-PTSD is not yet a diagnosis in the DSM-V but as with many disorders, it comes on a spectrum, such as Treatment-Resistant Depression.
- Treatment resistant depression. This is a case of Major Depressive Disorder that has been resistant to several drug therapies.
- Bipolar disorder. This is a case where a person has struggled with Bipolar for years and has learned to cope with it.
- Borderline Personality Disorder. This is a case of the much vilified BPD that has shown incredible growth with and without medication.
These interviews have only been edited to protect the identity of the person answering. Gender neutral terms only—and the singular ‘they’—have been used where appropriate. “Spouse” instead of wife or husband. This is to ensure their privacy so they’re free to go into detail on certain things.
I will never reveal my sources, so please do not ask me to do so. I hold confidentiality as sacrosanct and will carry their identities to my grave.
None of these people are or were my patients. I do not confirm or deny how I know them or where from I know them. On my Facebook page, people were invited to be interviewed and some chose to take me up on my offer in the hopes that it would help others.
Case #1 — PTSD
When were you first diagnosed with PTSD?
How was it initially treated?
Lexapro, Ativan, and therapy.
When was it discovered that your PTSD might fit into a diagnosis of CPTSD (a diagnosis to be submitted to the APA for consideration in the next DSM)?
My therapist suggested it at the time of my PTSD diagnosis. She said that the symptoms bled into each other.
How were your family or loved ones affected by your illness?
My behavior affected my family. I wasn’t being the spouse or parent that I should’ve been. That behavior was all they knew of me though. It had been 17 years and I wasn’t dealing with it properly. My spouse suffered the most with the lack of emotional or physical intimacy.
How did the PTSD change your ability to function?
I was very jumpy and untrusting. I didn’t have self esteem, and I didn’t set boundaries. I had the mindset of “whatever happens, happens. I can’t do anything about it.”
How did you seek help for your PTSD?
I had what I considered an emotional breakdown. My therapist doesn’t 100% agree, but that episode where I went to the ER three times in 24 hours is what highlighted my need for a change. It was a panic attack brought in by hemiplegic migraine, but I thought I’d had a stroke.
What is life like on medication?
I went through a broad array of anti-anxiety/depression meds, but they all gave me what I considered an emotional lobotomy. I hated them and just got by with drinking. I still felt my emotions, but I could change them for a short time with the alcohol instead of feeling like a robot night and day. I didn’t talk with my doctor either. I had a whatever happens, happens mindset.
How was it at first compared to how it is now?
The Lexapro that I’m on for anxiety suffices. I also take Ativan which I’m afraid of being on because I can have really bad days. I am currently trialing medical marijuana to get away from the Ativan since you can’t really overdose on it.
What kind of action plans do you have for a medication check?
Every six months I see my doctor for a med check. I have made a couple of adjustments but I’m back on the original dosage.
What is your relapse plan?
I try not to think about it.
How do you build on one victory to the next?
I’ve been trying to have nightly talks with my spouse to debrief for the day. I talk to them about my emotions so I can process them without shoving them down. They help me to avoid my triggers and makes suggestions for when to chill out.
What are your “tricks” for getting past a flashback or coping with triggers?
I’ve had a couple of flashbacks. I try to avoid the similarities of the event and the flashback. If I can, I try to desensitize myself to smaller aspects that I can handle. I talk through and process my thoughts with my therapist, spouse, and friends to get different perspectives.
Points to Reflect Upon – For People with PTSD
Do you think it’s a good idea not to have a relapse plan? Why or why not? What are the pros and cons of having a relapse plan?
What would you consider a victory with PTSD? How would you build upon it?