Thursday 12 December 2013

"Post" Traumatic Stress Disorder implies that it's "in the past"...

Not in any way belittling the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PRSD) struggles of people who've been through a severe trauma that happened in the past i.e. it has been and gone, and is no more... I'd say that there is another branch of PTSD which is a combination of past and present, which is particularly tricky to deal with or go through. This is when the primary trauma has taken place, but that isn't the end of it. There is still an element, or elements, that are present. So not only are you re-living past events, you are living present day events, too. In other words, it's a double-whammy of horribleness.

I think this is why my symptoms (for which I consistently score 100% in PTSD online diagnosis questionnaires) may have become stronger since Ben went away to university.

In addition to all the stuff in the past (described in all its gory detail in my book Please Eat...), there is the awareness that Ben, who was slowly improving on all counts: weight, mood, attitude to life and so on, has slipped backwards since he went away in September.

To be honest, I imagine this is very common when a former eating disorder sufferer goes away to university. I don't believe it is unique to Ben. But it is worrying.

With trauma that is "in the past", I guess the therapists can ultimately convince your mind that it's "been and gone". It is no more, and it is unreasonable to be on constant Red Alert in case the past trauma re-occurs. The chances of being involved in a terrorist bombing more than once in the Western World, for example, are fairly low.

Yet with an eating disorder, the parent has all the horrific stuff from the past which, as is the nature of PTSD, tends to surface as PTSD after a time-lapse i.e. not straight away. (Apparently, immediate PTSD is easier and quicker to fix.) But they also have troubling things that are going on in the present which may or may not lead back down the rabbit hole, to Square One.

As a result you aren't just on constant Red Alert, you are on Double Red Alert, or even Treble Red Alert - for things past, present and future, and - unlike the terrorist example above - it is a realistic worry.

And realistic worries that could actually happen (and we all know how easy it is for a former eating disorder sufferer to slip back) aren't the kind of worries that a therapist can persuade you, by whatever means, are irrational or unreasonable.

They could be real.

So I'm not entirely sure how it can be treated...

Which reminds me... and this will make you smile...

Back in the summer of 2010... the "Summer From Hell" when Ben was doing risky things and threatening suicide most days, and had basically gone OTT and into the outer stratosphere on eating disorder behaviours... I had some counselling sessions on the NHS in an attempt to calm me down so I'd be a better carer for Ben i.e. for me to stop screaming with panic and fear internally. (And, not infrequently, externally.)

The very young counsellor approached it as she might approach someone who was suffering from stress at work. In other words, there is always the option to move jobs. And at least, when you're home in the evenings and weekends, you can take a breather and gather your thoughts together.

I didn't seem to be able to convey to her that caring for someone in the grips of anorexia, at its most violent, vicious, irrational and suicidal, simply isn't like this...

You have to laugh...

And today I am being assessed (over the phone) again.

We shall see what happens.

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