Into the Light: Catherine's Journey Out of PTSD, Part III

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This four-part article was written exclusively for PsyWeb.com by Catherine Vincent. She explains how her chaotic childhood gave way to PTSD as well as what she has done to overcome the disorder.

Click here to read Part I.

Soon after I graduated from high school the friction between my mother and I increased. Arguments became more frequent. Eventually, my mom told me that I had to leave home and I did. I was able to find a part-time, low-wage job while living at the YWCA. After two years of low wage jobs I decided I needed a geographic change and a way to get rid of all my stress.

I applied to a university out of state hoping to study Ayurvedic medicine - an ancient natural system of medicine. As interested as I was, I was too physically exhausted to take the courses. I didn’t know it at the time, but this is a major symptom of PTSD. I changed academic tracks and tried graphic design. I enjoyed it, but always seemed to experience a lack of creativity.

Trouble Trying to Open Up

All the stress interfered with my ability to develop lasting friendships as well. I distrusted people and it was hard to open up. This isolation didn't allow me to tell anyone about my past traumas. I know that back then all I wanted was to forget the past. I wanted to create a new life. But, my mind and heart were totally blocked.

I tried taking other courses such as poetry, but still felt stressed out and tired. After four years, my health crashed. I became so profoundly exhausted emotionally, physically and mentally that I was no longer able to attend classes. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. In desperation, I returned home to my mom.

The First Steps Forward

At 30, I was barely able to work 2 hours a day. I was always incredibly fatigued and my mind was constantly foggy. A friend saw this and pushed me to see a doctor. I went to a naturopathic doctor who not only gave recommended that I heal myself physically, but also gave me the number to an EMDR therapist. I had a lot of problems sleeping through the night and at the time I was only able to sleep for about 4 hours, on a good night. The doctor suggested Tryptophan, which was a life saver. As my sleep patterns returned to normal, I gradually began gaining more stability and mental stamina.

I also began experiencing a wide range of positive emotions I didn’t know I had. This was a light at the end of the tunnel. I felt like I was really healing. During my EMDR sessions a lot of my emotions were cleared up. For example, when I had memories, the emotions that were attached to these memories, no longer overwhelmed me. Before my EMDR sessions, all my past emotions would overtake me for hours.

In Part IV of this article series, Catherine discusses the benefits of meditation, the dietary changes she made to boost her mood and how she remains hopeful through her continual struggle with PTSD.

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