Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
It’s been a strange few months for me as I continue to recover from two surgeries gone wrong and for the most part, it’s been a steady rebuild to full physical health. What I didn’t fully expect though is the experience of post-traumatic stress disorder. After the first operation went wrong at the end of 2017, the doctors determined that I was indeed suffering from a mild post-traumatic stress due to everything we’d been through. That passed over the course of the year, but having gone through a second surgery with it going more horribly wrong than the last, it seems post-traumatic stress is back at a whole new level.
Now, although it was me that went through the terrible pain, the breathing machine and the month in the hospital, I’ve always maintained that it’s in fact been Sharon, who’s suffered more trauma than I had. There are two weeks of that month I simply can’t remember, from either being delirious or being kept sedated. It was Sharon who went through the multiple moments where the doctors thought I’d have a stroke, a seizure and even die, all of which Sharon had to face and make the decisions. My trauma came just after I woke two weeks later.
I had no idea where I was, I couldn’t see because my glasses were gone. I couldn’t speak because my throat muscle had wasted away and I was in a lot of pain and discomfort. On top of this, I’d suffered major delusions during the 5 days on the breathing machine. These were basically like the most real nightmares you’d ever have for what felt like a continuous period of time. When I finally came to, I was convinced that Sharon had left me, that my family had abandoned me and I couldn’t speak to find out where I was. It was the most difficult 50 hours of my life and I’ll always remember the ICU doctor trying to order me to go to sleep. I’d been awake for over 50 hours.
When I finally got home it was amazing. I’d only seen David and Emily once in that whole month, so being back home was great. But the place felt so different, as Sharon and the kids had decorated the house for Christmas. Nevertheless, for 10 days, I was spoiled with evening food from eating Chinese and Indian food, to fish suppers and subway sandwiches. It was so good and then came the lull, where the excitement of being home had worn off and although I was improving every day, I felt like I wasn’t making much progress at all. But this was to be expected, the level of PTS wasn’t.
I think one of the few ways you could explain PTS to one who hadn’t suffered before, is almost like not feeling yourself, but times a hundred. It’s hugely unsettling and something which has added side effects. For Sharon, there were, not so much now, real vivid nightmares of the things she experienced during that time. Mine’s a little different in the form of sudden flashbacks, but the big thing is trying to get off to sleep. It seems from that period of 50 hours of sleeplessness, has now given me a fear of falling asleep, with the experience of feeling very low first thing in the morning. These are improving, but it certainly hasn’t ended.
As a Christian though, I do find these experiences helpful in that when you’ve experienced something first hand, you’re better equipped to help others and make a difference. I don’t like it, but it’s hugely beneficial. I think the part of it I struggle with the most is the not getting off to sleep. In the hospital, you tend to wake up quite sore if you’ve slept for a time with no pain relief, and it’s this same fear which keeps me from dropping off. I can lie there in bed and know that everything’s fine, however, my body just won’t listen and settles down when it’s good and ready. This not having control is a very unsettling thing and for me, very frustrating at times.
So this is exactly where I am at the moment. I’m trying hard to socialize and do the things I enjoy to continue rehab, but this area doesn’t seem to be changing. I know it will but at the moment it doesn’t feel like it and I’m looking forward to being back to normal again. When I look back, it’s been 2 years since I first had issues and that’s a long time for anyone. So, I’ll just keep pushing knowing that this will end at some stage and keep focused on what we’re building. Because if anything, the Tribulation Soldier Series and the surrounding social media, has been a good and huge distraction!