Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Thursday's Therapy - TRAUMA Therapy Toolbox - PTSD and Understanding the Hypervigilant Child-Loss Brain

Thursday's Therapy

TRAUMA Therapy Toolbox

PTSD and Understanding the Hypervigilant Child-Loss Brain

Criterion D symptoms, the final set of symptoms that define PTSD, have to do with the body's physical response to trauma or threat:

  • feeling constantly revved up,
  • startling easily,
  • getting angry easily,
  • having difficulty sleeping, and
  • difficulty concentrating.

Criterion D (to ascertain whether a person has a sufficient number of symptoms in the final category of symptoms to qualify as having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) has to do with the body remaining on high alert to threat and able to respond instantly if needed - the fight-or-flight response. Small things can trigger large physical reactions, including

  • rapid heart rate and breathing,
  • heightened sense of fear or anxiety,
  • jumpiness,
  • irritability, and
  • muscle tension. There may also be
  • stomach queasiness or nausea, because during times of stress intestinal function shuts down so that blood can be shunted off for more important purposes like keeping muscles going. The increased physiological reactivity can lead to
  • sleep disturbance,
  • concentration problems,
  • memory problems, and
  • the feeling of never being able to shut down.

~Charles W. Hoge, M.D., Once a Warrior Always a Warrior


After the first year or two, when the shock and numbness of losing Merry Katherine began to wear off, Tommy and I each noticed a heightened sense of hypervigilance begin to set in with many of the symptoms from the list above. We were feeling "constantly revved up, startling easily, getting angry easily, having difficulty sleeping, and difficulty concentrating." We were getting only four hours of sleep each night, and would consider it a good night's rest if we could get that much.

We were exhibiting such jumpiness and hyper-startle at any sudden movement or noise (and at that time, we had NO IDEA WHY we were feeling so threatened... This was before we learned about the "brain damage" that can come with living with severe distress over a long period of time along with the stress hormone cortisol raging through our bodies...).

So, as we were continually living in such a state of hypervigilance, we didn't think twice about going to get our permits to carry fire-arms!

First we had to go through a fairly intensive course of safety training from the appropriate officials. We took hours and hours of lectures and demonstrations and videos first. Then we took a written test. Next, we were going to have to shoot at targets before we could qualify to pass the course so that we could proceed with the process of getting our permits.

Out of 50 shots, we were going to have to have 70% of our shots land in the designated target area of our paper targets that were in the shape of a person in order to qualify to get our permit...

After all of our class-time was over, and our written tests were turned in, the instructor suddenly stopped everything, and asked,

"Has ANYONE in here NEVER shot a pistol before?"

The class seemed stunned by the question. I timidly raised my hand. (I was the only one in the class to do so.) The look on the teacher's face said it all; there was a "Well, I Never...!" look that came over him. He must have been a very good instructor who knew a lot about guns as he wisely advised, "Be sure you rent a small caliber gun to shoot with."

The instructor knew Tommy had brought only two guns, and they were both high caliber, and both were snub-nosed (if any of you know the implications there). There would have been what I call a high kick-back factor there (a painful recoil factor tantamount to having the car door slam on your hand 50 times), and a snub nosed gun would not be accurate past 7 yards! I rented a 22 caliber despite Tommy's nay-saying. And I not only passed the test with flying colors though the only gun I'd ever shot in my life was a b-b gun, but my score even beat state-award-winning shooter Tommy Prince's score (with his snub-nose gun that about took his arm off after 50 shots). After that, Tommy stopped calling me "Angie"; instead he began calling me "Angie Oakley"! LOL!

We got our permits, 10 fingerprints apiece later at the Highway Patrol's office. Like a former post said, Nobody had better mess with this Grieving Mother... She's packin' heat!

For the excerpt, thank you to Charles W. Hoge, MD, Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired), author of Once a Warrior Always a Warrior: Navigating the Transition from Combat to Home Including Combat Stress, PTSD, and mTBI


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