No, not always. But more times than not.
“When there’s smoke, there’s fire” is a phrase to say that if something seems wrong, it probably is. When I was younger, I was very in tune with my body. The slightest hint of something being “off” I noticed right away. I remember one day I went to the doctor and was telling her about the various symptoms I was experiencing and she laughed! She called me a hypochondriac. Told me that everything little thing isn’t a thing. Her experience led her to believe that smoke doesn’t always mean fire.
I took her advice and started being a lot more lax in my views of “smoke”. That rationale serves a healthy person very well. Now that I have MG, I’ve reverted back to the smoke = fire mindset. Not just a small candle fire, I’m talking brush fire in the desert fire or burn down a whole apartment building fire.
It’s actually to the point that I see smoke even when there is no smoke. I anticipate smoke. During my weekly reflection I was able to see correlations to what I’ve been experiencing and PTSD.
Post traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD as it is best known) is a mental health condition that develops when a person has experienced or witnessed a shocking, scary, dangerous or terrifying event. My associations with PTSD is heavily military centered as it is often spoken about in conjunction with our veterans, who have witnessed and/or experienced indescribable acts during their duty. Much respect and a hearty thank you to all who serve. But don’t be lead to believe that only vets can have PTSD. Anyone can develop PTSD regardless of age, gender or class. Interestingly enough, women are more likely than men to develop it. Due to the similarity in symptoms, PTSD is often misdiagnosed as depression.
The word that sticks out most to me when describing PTSD is TRAUMA. As humans we are all wired differently and respond uniquely to circumstances. So what it traumatic to one person, may not be traumatic to the next. However, some instances of trauma that may trigger PTSD include being a victim or witness of a violent life threatening situation such as domestic abuse, rape/sexual assault, physical assault, verbal assault, natural disasters, car/plane/train crashes, terrorist attacks, unexpected death or being diagnosed with life threatening illnesses.
Signs that you may have PTSD
So how do you know if you have PTSD? Usually, PTSD symptoms fall in one of four categories.
- This occurs when memories of the traumatic event can come via nightmares, flashbacks and/or triggers.
- This occurs when you try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic such as going to certain locations, doing particular activities or even talking about it.
- Negativity / Mood
- This occurs when way you think about yourself and others becomes more negative. This can be seen in a lack of trust, loving relationships or positive feelings towards others or being pessimistic about the world in general.
- This is a more physical trait of PTSD. You may be jittery, have difficulty sleeping, trouble focusing and easily startled. You may also become angry or irritable very easily.
If you have a number of symptoms from each of these categories (for a month or longer) to the severity that it is causing disruption to your daily life, it is possible that you may in fact have PTSD. I recommend you seek the assistance of a medical professional for assistance. Another way to check for PTSD is through this self-test I found online via PTSD Journal. You can find a copy of the test here.
Having PTSD from my MG
I took the test and I was not very surprised to come to the conclusion that I do in fact have a mild case of PSTD. I say mild because it has not completely affected my daily life but I do see the impact and presence. In all honesty, I feel as though my PTSD was brought on by my MG. Not just the diagnosis but that first year was so traumatic that it definitely left an impact. The frequent trips to the hospital, the adverse reactions to the medications, the fluctuating and serve symptoms have all placed me in a constant state of fear and anxiety.
Going through those questions, it was really eye opening as to how stressful having an autoimmune disease can be. Someone who has never experienced a crisis may say that my behaviors are irrational or I’m just being dramatic.
I have symptoms that fall into each of those categories. For example: whenever something is medically wrong with me like shortness of breath, a migraine or a rash, I immediately go into a tailspin of emotion. “OMG. Why me? Another thing is wrong with me”. It is fear driven that I will end up in the hospital for an extended stay. I avoid a lot of places and activities that have any chance of being outside because in my experience going outside in the summer is basically the expressway to a crisis. I don’t view myself the same way and often question my purpose in life. I wonder if I’ll ever get married or have children because I don’t think that any man would want to be with me. My mind is constantly racing. I rarely sleep soundly. While some of this can be due to the steroids I’m on for treatment, I believe it’s partially attributed to hyperarousal.
How I manage my MG PTSD
Depending on the severity you may need to psychotherapy, medication or a combination of both. There are a number of avenues you can take to address the disorder. Seeking help and getting treatment is key to management. As always I have opted to start out by trying more holistic methods until I deem them to be ineffective.
Practicing mindfulness helps me be present in the now. I also use it as a pain management tool when I’m feeling uncomfortable. I’ve been experimenting with different apps to see which one helps me the best. Right now my favorite is Calm but there’s also Insight Timer and Headspace.
Exercise has been a long time treatment favorite of mine. Not only am I able to transfer and release my emotions through the workouts, but the endorphins released post workout make me feel calm, relaxed and happy. After a run, I feel so much mental clarity. It’s an amazing feeling. Not to mention that I’m trying to drop some lbs anyway.
I want to disclose that I am not a medical professional I’m not here to diagnose anyone with anything. Not everyone who experiences a trauma in their life will develop PTSD. As I mentioned earlier, two individuals who experience the same trauma may respond differently. It’s just a matter of how you personally are wired. I do want to stress that mental health is just as important as physical health. It’s imperative to make mental health discussions less taboo in our communities.
Am I the only person who PTSD after my diagnosis? What are your triggers? How are you coping?
References (and Resources!!)
Mayo Staff Clinic. “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). National Institute of Mental Health, Feb. 2016. Web. <https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml>
“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Fact Sheet.” Sidran Institute Traumatic Stress Eduation & Advocacy. Sidran Institute, n.d. Web. <https://www.sidran.org/resources/for-survivors-and-loved-ones/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-fact-sheet-2/>
“PTSD Basics.” PTSD: National Center for PTSD. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, n.d. Web. < https://www.ptsd.va.gov/index.asp>
“What is PTSD?” Not All Wounds Are Visible. PTSD Journal, 2017. Web. Retrieved from http://www.ptsdjournal.com/what-is-ptsd/