There are many symptoms that come with having PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder); lack of focus, hypervigilance, heightened startle response, avoidance of anything connected to the event and night terrors to name a few. My biggest battle has been the night terrors. I battled night terrors for seven years straight following the end of my abusive marriage. They were not every night, but they were usually a few times a week. I would wake in a cold sweat and feel completely disoriented and scared. In my night terror I would have been fighting something or experiencing something horrible. I would suddenly wake and it was like I woke in the “fight or flight mode.” For those who do not know what the “fight or flight” mode is, it is a part of our automatic defense system. When we sense danger our body will initially freeze and our brain will send adrenaline throughout our body, along with extra blood flow, to prepare us to either fight the danger or flee it. This morning was one of those mornings. I woke from a night terror and I felt like I was in that moment where I am frozen and I am trying to decide if I will fight the danger, stay frozen or flee. I was completely disoriented as my brain was also trying to grasp that I am no longer in the danger of my dream, but I am awake in my home with my husband calmly sleeping beside me. To say that I woke confused is an understatement. I then got up, went downstairs, still feeling fear from my night terror, walked towards my kitchen and saw that the dog that is staying with us had had an “accident” in our kitchen…..and then suddenly my son came running up behind me to tell me that he was having a bloody nose! My brain could not compute all of this and I felt my cup running over. Thankfully I was able to focus enough to tell my son to go up to the bathroom where we dealt with his bloody nose. I also woke my husband to tell him what was waiting on our kitchen floor as I could not cope with everything this morning. He got up as I pulled off my sons bloody sheets and threw them in the laundry, then my tears started to flow. My cup had officially runneth over.
There is a theory amongst those who deal with PTSD. It is called the PTSD Cup Theory and it explains how we cope or don’t cope with extra stress. Please refer to below diagram.
Believe it or not we do have good stress in our lives. Good stress is getting out of bed, going to work, making supper or any other day to day task. You can see in all of the cups there is a level of good stress. The second cup shows what happens to a person who does not have PTSD when bad stress comes into their life. Bad stress can consist of getting fired from your job, a break up of a relationship or paying bills for example. The third cup is someone with PTSD. Their cup is already nearly filled to the top with their day to day good stress and the trauma that they have gone through. When an additional stress is added, say a night terror and you add in a child with a bloody nose or a dogs accident in the kitchen well their cup will overflow. Their reaction of a complete breakdown may seem irrational to the average person, but if you understand PTSD you are aware that they have nowhere to hold that extra stress so their cup overflows and often there will be tears or even outbursts of anger as they are completely overwhelmed.
That is where I was this morning; my PTSD cup had overflown. It does not help that I also had had a child in and out of the Hospital this past week and a former neighbour died this past Friday. Clearly it was all too much. I get that, I see that now, but this morning as the tears streamed down my face I just felt lost.
How can you cope when your cup overflows? Self care, I believe, is especially important during those times. Try to find some quiet time where you can write, perhaps draw, paint or colour, listen to relaxing music, meditation or yoga to name a few things. Whatever works for you to ground you is what I suggest you do. Then I would suggest reaching out to your support systems; friends, family and/or Professionals. They can perhaps ease any extra burdens you are carrying. It is important to remember that you are not alone. There are people available to support you.
Now, as my rough morning comes to an end I am reminded that I am loved and I am safe. I am not stuck in that night terror that is not my day to day. I am in my home with my family. My husband has cleaned up the dog’s accident and has even given that lucky dog a bath! The world will keep turning and I will keep battling this battle called PTSD. I will also remember that I am one heck of a Survivor!
Are you an abusive relationship? Do you need extra support? I supervise a Mentoring Program at DASH Domestic Abuse Survivor Help. Here you can receive free support via email from one of our Mentors. You can sign up at https://relationshipabuse-recovery.com/abusive-relationship-support/
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