PTSD made me a stress-athlete

Even when my brain is trying to move on from the memories, my subconscious delights in rehashing everything. My body, too. Stress attacks my body in strange ways sometimes, and I’m still learning how to a) handle stress and b) soothe it. Stress comes from many places. It could be situational, and it also could be PTSD, nightmares, etc.

Right now I’m having nightly bad dreams or nightmares. I had a nightmare last night where I was screaming a lot. It just was not safe around dad. It made my shoulders more tense, and when my neck and shoulders store up all that stress, it affects my balance. I feel like a fishbowl. My arms are sore even after I haven’t lifted weights with it. My hearing changes. And it’s not a migraine–I think the stress must be pinching nerves or something. After about a week of it,  I went for a massage last night in hopes that it might loosen up some of the stress.

It didn’t solve it, but it was a start. Then I had that nightmare last night, so today I keep having the fishbowl feeling as well as sparks in my vision.  Anyway. PTSD, trauma, and stress has a definitive impact on the body, even after one leaves the traumatic situation.

Growing up, the stress of constantly being on edge around dad was tremendous. The stress, since it had nowhere safe to go, attacked various parts of my body. It’s possible that stress messed up my reproductive hormones. I’ve heard that childhood stress can mess up the cycle, but it is also a hereditary thing. My mom had the same problem, but she also had childhood trauma. But who knows.

Stress gave me weird heart pains when I was in my early/mid teens, and my mom took me to the hospital. Once I was in the car, it started subsidizing, but I went through all the tests anyway for the doctors to find nothing.

Stress attacked my knees. It was so weird. Either one knee hurt, or the other, or both. I tried Ace bandages and Advil, but the pain was both real and ephemeral. Knee pain subsided when I started college and was away from home a lot, and I pretty much never have those pains anymore.

My back still aches on occasion. All the stress and PTSD and anxiety just gets stored up in my back, and it was hard to get relief.

One of my eyes would twitch like crazy. I remember talking with a college professor about an assignment and for the life of me I could not make it stop twitching and I worried that he thought I kept winking at him.

I also developed these full-blown dizzy migraines in my teens. My head rarely hurt–it was mostly light, sound, and touch sensitivity, coupled with incredibly awful dizziness. It took a long time to figure out a) what the heck it was, and b) find the right treatment for it. I had migraines on a weekly basis. Sometimes a couple times a week, and it would linger even after the worst of it was over. I drove, worked, and studied even while I was so much wanting to puke. Sometimes I succumbed to it. But it was so much better to be out of the house than at home in many ways, because dad’s yelling or raised voice (precursor to his anger) would make it worse. I’d be recovering, then he’d talk loudly, and I’d suddenly have to grab hold of the walls as they lurched at me.

I had a near-asthma for a year. A cold led to “post bronchial sloughage” or however the doctors termed it, and I coughed. It got worse when I was exposed to smoke, strong smell of cut grass, dryness….and stress. Sometimes it just randomly got worse. I’ve had to miss some class and group work in undergrad because of the incessant coughing. The doctors didn’t know what it was, so I went for asthma testing at an allergist’s office. I had almost no allergies. My lung function was good. But my lungs were scarred from the coughing. She told me I was using Albuterol like a pacifier, and asked me point blank about stress at home. With my mom in the office with me. (“Sure, home is good. Not much stress…” we lied). I finished up the course of inhaled steroids that she prescribed to heal my lungs, and I moved out of home. The coughing subsided.

It was amazing how much less frequent my aches, pains, and illnesses were after I moved out of my parents’ house. I’m still battling the tension, stress, and anxiety that builds up in me. I still get the eye-twitch sometimes at work. My back and arms still ache sometimes, as if I’m physically carrying the weight of all my stress. And there’s the migraine, and migraine-like, symptoms from my neck tension. PTSD made me a stress-athlete.

I wish I could give you tips on how reduce the effects of PTSD and stress, but the truth is, I’m still figuring it out. Here are some things I’m doing (or trying to do more of, anyway). It’s taking me a little while to learn how to channel stress in more positive ways, and that’s what therapy is for.

  • Massage
  • Art
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Exercise
  • Meditation/prayer
  • Yoga
  • Grounding
  • Eating healthy
  • Playing with the cats
  • Growing seedlings

Speaking of which, I’m going to try to do some art when I get home.

What helps you when you’re having extra stress?

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