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Trauma and Women’s Health

Women’s Health Week is this week and I can’t help but cringe when I hear it. I have struggled since a teenager with accessing healthcare, for several reasons. After some time in therapy, I learned that all of the reasons why I wasn’t able to access necessary healthcare, all came down to: trauma.

After explaining to several different providers the history of my trauma and how it effects me in medical settings, I was offered little solutions and supports and instead heard, “well keep going to therapy and it will get better,” or “it won’t feel the same as the trauma did”. The amount of insensitivity and lack of training around trauma that I have observed in so many practices astounded me. I thought if anything, OBGYN’s would be well-equipped.

So for years I went undiagnosed and untreated and eventually found myself in the depths of serious health complications that I had to face. About two years ago, after a horrific experience getting a pap smear, my diagnosis left me feeling shame, embarrassment, guilt, and worthlessness. In order to attend to my physical health needs, I had to put my mental health needs aside, which was a recipe for disaster. I spiraled into a severe depressive episode, started to have plans of suicide, and struggled to keep my addiction recovery strong. I had to get procedure after procedure, all under heavy sedation, which sky rocketed my medical bill, and brought old traumas to the surface. Not only was I now experiencing physical and mental health issues, but this situation caused a huge financial burden on me and the savings I accumulated over the past few years was back to negative.

I’m still struggling to find a provider that truly understands trauma and can respond appropriately and empathetically. My current provider tries to understand, but can be very dismissive and have a “no big deal” type of attitude. Attending to my physical health needs caused a PTSD episode as I continued to experience the traumatic events as if they were happening all over again. This caused strain in my romantic relationship, distance from friends, and secrecy from family. All the while, I struggled with keeping things private because of the transparent person that I am. I’m not at the point where I’m comfortable talking about what I’m going through, but I can say that I’m taking it a day at a time with gratitude at every step, even on the rougher days. I’m saying yes to self-care and I’ve established firm boundaries around my professional and personal life. As for support, I have people in my corner that I trust, and the one’s who question and don’t honor my boundaries, I have 0 desire to teach them respect or alter my reality to fit their comfortability.

How Trauma Has Changed My Life

Nobody likes thinking about how trauma has affected them. But, there’s no hiding the fact that trauma has had an impact on my life. Whether I like it or not, there are a lot of things I do and don’t do because of past traumas.

Trauma isn’t always one event. Sometimes it’s repeated events. Anything can be trauma, it’s different for everyone. There are some things that I would consider traumatic that I have flashbacks about that people would probably argue aren’t trauma. The problem is, they are traumatic because those events have completely altered me.

Before I get into how trauma has affected me personally, I’d like to give you a list of some of the effects of trauma:

  • Flashbacks
  • Panic attacks
  • Dissociation
  • Unable to relax
  • Sleep problems
  • Low self-esteem
  • Grief
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Alcohol and substance misuse

I’d love to tell you I’ve only dealt with a select few of the issues on that list, but I have struggled with all of them as a result of traumas in my life. I’m sure a lot of you are thinking there’s no way someone who’s only 25 has dealt with that much trauma in their life. But, due to a lot of mental health issues, I put myself in a lot of really bad situations, but there were definitely things that happened to me that were completely out of my control.

I think one of the worst things I’ve dealt with are flashbacks. There are days when it’s constant. I’ll have periods where they won’t be an issue, but then they’ll come back full force out of nowhere. This typically leads to anxiety or even panic attacks as I relive the traumas.

The flashbacks also lead to dissociation. Sometimes the dissociation is not being able to differentiate the flashbacks from reality. Other times, the dissociation is literally my brain completely shutting down in an attempt to protect myself from my own thoughts. In other words it’s a bunch of nothing-ness while I stare at a wall with no thoughts for hours. Dissociating is something I’ve even turned to during traumatic events to escape the reality of what was happening to me.

Oh and don’t forget how the flashbacks also negatively affect my sleep. The flashbacks love to come as I’m trying to fall asleep at night. Some nights they will be so bad, I will be terrified to close my eyes. So instead of taking the chance of closing my eyes and getting sucked into a flashback, I’ll keep my eyes open and stare at the ceiling until I’m too tired to fight it anymore.

My traumas have lead to a lot of suicidal feelings. Sometimes when I think about the things that happened to me, I can’t help but think why? There were many times when I thought about ending my life after traumatic events.

Another way I tried to deal with my trauma was by using substances. I used alcohol and marijuana to numb myself. I didn’t want to feel anything. Getting so stoned or drunk that I was barely there was an escape for me. It was my way to avoid the flashbacks and the anxiety.

That’s the other thing about trauma. A lot of traumas are tied to people, places, and things. I avoid a lot of people and places because of my trauma. I have lived in the same area since I was a kid and there have been a lot of times that I have honestly thought about moving away because I drive by triggering places just in my everyday life.

I avoid places where I might see someone from my past that I went no contact with. If I can’t avoid these places, I am anxious the whole time. There have even been times where even going to one of these places was mentioned and I’ve had a panic attack that lead to hyperventilating and tears. How do you tell someone that you can’t go a certain restaurant or another normal place without feeling like you’re going to die? How do you explain that to someone who has never been through it?

While I don’t want my trauma to control my life, I feel like it definitely does sometimes. Sometimes, it makes me feel completely helpless. It’s like a never-ending hell. I hate that there are places I can’t go to because they’re attached to certain things that have happened to me. I hate that I have to live in fear going to certain towns because I might see someone who did something to me.

But, this is the reality of being a trauma survivor. It doesn’t matter how many years have gone by, the effects are always there. Sometimes the symptoms are in my face, other times it’s subconscious because I’ve been living with these things for so long. This is my life with CPTSD from years of repeated trauma.

If you’ve dealt with something traumatic, I am so sorry. I really would not wish any of these aftereffects of trauma on anyone. I know how hard it has been for me. But, if you are struggling, there is help out there. Check out some of our resources to find help.

If you liked this post, be sure to check out Sasha’s post My Thoughts On Trauma right here on turningpointct.org.

Calendar for Mental Health Awareness Days: 2019

TurningPointCT.org’s 2019 Awareness Calendar is here!

Every month there are awareness days that celebrate and recognize different things relating to mental health and advocacy. Have you ever wondered when all those awareness days are?

If so, check out ours below! Scroll down to find it!

Download the PDF or save the PNG to your desktop. Print it, share it, and enjoy it! #YouAreNotAlone

So, if you ever have felt like you are the only one experiencing your struggles, you are not alone. These awareness days exist to remind us of that fact. Together, we are strong. Love yourself, spread awareness, and fight stigma.

Make sure you are following us on Facebook and Twitter to see our posts on each awareness day. You can also find out if there are any events happening in honor of the days.

Questions? Ask the forum!

Did we leave out any awareness days that you want us to include? Or, do you have any suggestions? Then let us know in the forum!

You can scroll down for the PDF!

Here is the PDF link:
2019 awareness calendar PDF

And scroll down for the PNG! Hint: you can save these by dragging them to your desktop. If you are on your phone hold down your finger and save the picture!

Here is the entire calendar, month-by-month in PNG form:
January 2019:
January 2019
February 2019:
February 2019
March 2019:
March 2019
April 2019:
April 2019
May 2019:
May 2019
June 2019:
June 2019
July 2019:
July 2019
August 2019:
August 2019
September 2019:
September 2019
October 2019:
October 2019
November 2019:
November 2019
December 2019:
December 2019

If you want to check out last year’s awareness calendar, click here!

S.G.’s Monster (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Sara is inspired by Toby Allen’s illustration of the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) monster. Relative to the anxiety monster, the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Monster can be found stalking battlefields or lurking near traumatic events and natural disasters, feeding off the collective trauma and fear. On her monster’s back are various targets to remind her of experiences. 

Artist: Sara

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Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention – May is Mental Health Month! Please join us in spreading the message that suicide is preventable and it starts with being smart about our mental health.

Let people know why suicide prevention is important to you!

Watch the video below and follow this link to learn more about how you can help to prevent suicide.

Find more resources HERE: https://turningpointct.org/resources/.

The Magical Pill

I take my medication in the evening, but sometimes if I have an impromptu overnight stay somewhere and I didn’t pack them, I can miss a dose. Sometimes I might also fall asleep early and/or forget, but I am definitely getting much better because I know the major difference and side effects from missing a dose.

Apparently, there’s a new “Smart Pill” that can be taken to remind you to take your medication. There’s an app on the phone that it alerts to and also can contact providers (to make sure you are following through with medication management).
“(It’s) a pill coated in digestible metals — copper and magnesium — which react with stomach acid to send a tiny electrical signal through your body. This charge zaps a Band-Aid-like patch on your skin, which sends a signal via Bluetooth to an iOS app that notes you’ve taken the pill. The skin patch, worn for days at a time, also transmits physiological data like step count and time spent being active versus resting.”
You can read about it Here
or here ->>>> http://www.buzzfeed.com/stephaniemlee/this-smart-pill-tells-your-doctor-if-you-miss-a-dose#.kyO4yODlP
Right now, only some medications work with the “Smart Pill,” such as medication for hypertension. However, they are making progress with introducing more medications like anti-psychotics.
It might actually save a life, but it seems a bit odd in my opinion, a pill that will actually determine if you took your medication!?
What do you think? What are some tricks you use to remind yourself to take your meds?