Posts Tagged ‘AWARENESS’

“Never giving up” is the trait we need most


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I have learned to keep trying, to keep going when life feels hopeless.

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If you endured serious childhood abuse, life has always had a tinge of hopelessness.

We have a choice, give up, deny or never give up, no matter how bad it gets.

I wonder if my father felt powerful beating a helpless child violently and often.

These actions are so against my nature, I try not to harm anyone, especially kids.

Never giving up relies on our ability to play defense when PTSD is active.

I can not react, not panic, and not make any judgments for days until PTSD calms down.

My fear gets muted, my anxiety accepted as harmless, unattached sensations and my thoughts get discounted as worthless creations of trauma.

I may suffer but I do not fear PTSD.

I distract myself, meditate and use my mindfulness skills.

Know that PTSD is like a wave coming in, forceful and damaging until it loses its momentum.

Withstand the force of the wave and it will return to the sea harmlessly.

As much as possible, I have learned to not think, not judge while PTSD is active.

Dissociation fuels PTSD, and ruminating on triggers leads to explosions.

I am not winning the war but I do triumph in some of the battles with PTSD.
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What would PTSD look like if it manifested physically?

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Would we be covered in scars, have cancer, or look like a Leper?

People would recognize our disorder and empathize.

PTSD seems cloudy to us, a confusing state of Mind we live in.

Our trauma memories are loaded with such fear and anxiety, that we isolate for protection.

Hard to be social and free when we feel danger around us.

PTSD is an entity, he/she lives inside our brain and the cells of our body.

It is difficult to ignore PTSD when he is active.

Hypervigilance, avoidance, triggers firing, intrusive thoughts and panic can not be ignored.

We are a captive audience.

I tried to avoid PTSD and my triggers, I stopped going out.

Isolated alone in my dark garage, I could not escape my mind by changing geography.

My triggers fired without outside stimuli.

We can not escape our mind.
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Part three: THE FEEDBACK LOOP

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“But what mechanism connected trauma exposure to low cortisol to future PTSD? We began a series of studies to answer this question. Significantly, we found that Vietnam veterans with PTSD had a greater number of glucocorticoid receptors. These are proteins to which cortisol binds to exert its diverse influences. That suggested a greater sensitivity to cortisol: a small increase in the hormone’s concentration would precipitate a disproportionate physiological reaction. But it wasn’t until we looked more closely at the molecular underpinnings of cortisol functioning—in part by examining epigenetics—that we understood how exposure to trauma might reset the cortisol feedback loop.

In the 1990s scientists were realizing that the output of our genes is sensitive to factors not written directly into our genetic code. Genes provide the templates for producing proteins. But much like cakes baked using the same ingredients may turn out differently depending on variations in the oven’s temperature, how much of those proteins gets produced, or “expressed,” depends on the environment. The discovery gave rise to epigenetics, the study of what influences gene expression and how. It proved crucial to understanding both the neurobiology of PTSD and the intergenerational effects of trauma.

Epigeneticists explore the switches that turn gene expression on and off. One such mechanism, called methylation, involves a methyl group—a methane molecule that is missing one of its four hydrogen atoms, leaving a chemical bond free to attach to another atom or molecule. Methylation is a process by which, in the presence of specific enzymes, methyl groups attach to key sites on a strand of DNA or within the complex of DNA and proteins known as chromatin. By occupying these sites like roadblocks on a highway, methyl groups can alter transcription, a basic step in gene expression where a piece of RNA is made from a DNA template. Increased methylation generally impedes RNA transcription, whereas less methylation enhances transcription. These changes are enduring in that they survive normal cell division and require specific enzymes for their removal.

In 2015 our group became one of the first to pinpoint epigenetic changes on stress-related genes of veterans with PTSD. These alterations partially explained why trauma’s effects were so persistent, lasting for decades. Specifically we observed reduced methylation in an important region of NR3C1, a gene that encodes the glucocorticoid receptor, likely increasing the sensitivity of these receptors.

This epigenetic modification suggests a potential explanation for how trauma might reset cortisol levels. The body regulates the stress response through a complicated feedback mechanism. A rise in cortisol levels will prompt the body to produce less of the hormone, which may drive up the numbers and responsiveness of glucocorticoid receptors. Given the epigenetic and other changes occurring with sustained responses to trauma, the feedback loop might become recalibrated. In people who have already endured trauma, their stress systems might be sensitized and their cortisol levels diminished—increasing their adrenaline response to further trauma and leading to PTSD.”

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Part two: Low Cortisol levels linked to PTSD

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This is groundbreaking. Low cortisol levels have never been linked to PTSD before. This explains why we behave as we do.

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“A shape was emerging that connected childhood adversity with low cortisol and the possibility of future PTSD.

So my team of five people landed in Cleveland, along with a centrifuge and other equipment. We stayed in my parents’ home, walking door to door to interview people by day and returning to test blood and urine samples in the evening. When the results came in, they were clear: half the Holocaust survivors had PTSD, and those with PTSD had low cortisol. There was no question about it—even if the traumatic experience was long ago, PTSD went hand in hand with low cortisol.

But why? And which came first? An important clue came from a 1984 review by Allan Munck and other researchers at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. They noted that among stress hormones, cortisol played a special, regulatory role. High levels of stress hormones, if sustained for a long time, harm the body in multiple ways—weakening the immune system and increasing susceptibility to problems such as hypertension. But in a context of acute trauma, cortisol may paradoxically also have a protective effect. It shuts down the release of stress hormones—including itself—reducing the potential damage to organs and the brain. Such a trauma-induced feedback loop could conceivably reset the cortisol “thermostat” to a lower level.

I picked up another piece of the puzzle and placed it. In the early 1990s we’d shown that Vietnam veterans were more likely to develop PTSD if they’d been abused as children. Slowly a shape was emerging that connected intense childhood adversity—a period of “freeze” because a child usually cannot fight or flee—with low cortisol and the possibility of future PTSD. We studied people who’d been raped or who’d been in auto accidents when they came into emergency rooms, finding that those with lower cortisol levels were more likely to develop PTSD after the attack or accident.

Could low cortisol levels have been present before the event that brought them into the emergency room? I wondered. If someone with low cortisol was subjected to a traumatic experience, we reasoned, the cortisol levels in their bodies might be too low to tamp down the stress reaction. Adrenaline levels might then shoot way up, searing the memory of the new trauma into the brain—from where it might later surface as flashbacks or nightmares. Perhaps low cortisol marked a vulnerability to developing PTSD.

The study of Holocaust offspring supported this conjecture. Children of Holocaust survivors with PTSD tended to have low cortisol even if they did not have their own PTSD. As we’d suspected, low cortisol seemed related to vulnerability to PTSD.”

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PTSD: My daily challenges

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Parts of every day are filled with trauma memories and depressive thoughts.

Resentment and shame overflow my soul, and unworthiness permeates my being.

This daily battle is the price I pay to stay alive.

Distrust grows when PTSD brings these strong feelings of unworthiness.

I am both ashamed and afraid of these destructive thoughts that enter my consciousness.

A separate entity lives inside kids who were abused.

I battle this demon.

How would you live this life?

Remember I have a decade of intense effort trying to heal using therapists, reading, and meditating.
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PTSD: A few of my traits


Many of these traits were accepted as old habits, part of who I was instead of PTSD symptoms.

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Distrust: Friendships can be tenuous, any betrayal ends any friendship immediately. This distrust limits deep relationships because of the basic need for protection.

Security: From my earliest memories as a child, feeling safe and supported was missing. All I know is this void. No mentor, no adult has ever gained my trust unconditionally.

Hypervigilance: Entering a restaurant, any group or meeting, my defense mechanism takes over, spotting imminent danger, always on alert. This is automatic, almost subconscious, and quick.

Avoidance: PTSD narrows life, we isolate to avoid triggers firing. Our fight or flight mechanism firing signals danger, this is our chemical version of fear.

In some strange abstract way, I fear and distrust people. Childhood abuse brings a vulnerability that never leaves as an adult. I can not grasp words to make you understand.

Thinking: PTSD brings intrusive thoughts and negative emotional trauma memories. These thoughts are numerous and highly invasive, filled with what we fear most.

Thinking, and dissociating into past trauma memories, fuels PTSD. The more time we spend ruminating into the past the more PTSD powers up.

Mood Swings: Life can be a rollercoaster ride of emotions and thoughts. I can spot the shift at times. My demeanor swings wildly and forcibly without my conscious input.

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PTSD feels like there is another self or being inside my head. A highly sensitive, dysfunctional, and vulnerable soul. That other self has the power to take over the organism and does at times.

Who am I?
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PTSD is Invisible like chronic pain

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PTSD is invisible, others can not see it, including family, friends, or strangers.

Inside my 15-person chronic pain group, predominately spinal injuries, those with low back injuries received the most empathy from strangers.

They used a cane or a walker, strangers could see their pain.

Strangers could not see my neck fusions and nerve killings.

Not many see our mental disorder, PTSD.

It too is invisible.

Even if they did, it’s not their problem or concern.

People are wrapped up trying to fulfill their desires or living their own dysfunctional life.

I learned early on, PTSD is our internal battle.

Healing and quality of life are determined by our actions not others’ opinions.

PTSD is like the boogie man from childhood, no one else can see or hear him.

He has a voice, voluminous intrusive thoughts, and those crisis chemicals of cortisol and adrenaline.

It is why I can be with friends in a mundane environment, where I feel panic for my life while they are carefree and calm..

It is invisible to them, all except my numbness, my quietness and my hypervigilance may give me away.

Do we try to act normal, hiding our panic?

Are we feeling vulnerable, ashamed, scared or angry?

How do we express our condition to a friend?

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Hemispheres of the brain

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From Bouncing Back by Linda Graham

The right hemisphere processes our experiences holistically: for example, we recognize someone’s face all at once rather than adding up individual perceptions of the eyes, nose, lips, and other features to make a whole.

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It processes any situation as a gestalt, the big picture, automatically.

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Because of its extensive neural connections with the limbic system in the lower brain the source of our most primitive emotions the right hemisphere is sometimes referred to as our “emotional brain.”

It is the seat of the sense of self who we know ourselves to be in relation to the world and the seat of our common humanity.

In contrast, the left hemisphere processes experience logically (for example, by identifying cause and effect), linearly (by evaluating one piece of data after another in sequence), and through language.

(The verbal processing and speech centers are located on the left side of the brain.)

The left hemisphere matures in the developing brain significantly later than the right and so it has fewer neural connections with the limbic system than the “emotional” right does.

The left hemisphere has been dubbed the rational side of the brain: its massive powers of analysis, judgment, and planning are what have made science and civilization possible.

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Approval and Condemnation

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“As much as we thirst for approval we dread condemnation.”

Hans Selye

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My two cents: Approval is far more important than we realize.

We want our families’ support and approval from strangers.

It is why we join teams, organizations, political parties, and gangs.

We fear criticism and condemnation.

I fear condemnation more than I crave approval.

How about you?

PTSD; Feeling Disconnected

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When PTSD is active, life feels disconnected.

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It is like having a barrier between me and the world.

Avoiding or isolating enhances PTSD’s thick fog of confusion.

I inhabit my inner world when PTSD explodes.

A battle of emotions connected to traumatic thought unfolds.

It is high anxiety, and perceived danger connected to perceived fear.

The danger rarely materializes, but it does not seem to matter in this abstract world.

My life before PTSD activated was drastically different.

I did not know what PTSD was before it exploded at 55.

I had mild symptoms that we’re not recognized as PTSD, they we’re just odd habits and strange quirks.

Life changed one night, PTSD exploded, and it has never been the same.

The damage abuse wrought on a child seems permanent.

Like a soldier haunted by flashbacks, it never quite goes away.

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