According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (edition IV), there are 17 criteria for diagnosing PTSD. I don’t remember how many my case met, though it was nearly all of them. Going through the list today, there is maybe one that still holds true: difficulty sleeping. That may easily be attributed to having a new job that I can’t seem to stop thinking about because of the endless ideas that scroll through my head. Or ADHD. I can no longer fall asleep to the sound of my air purifier. The noise now keeps me awake. Some nights I fall asleep normally. Other nights I play “extremely difficult” Sudoku puzzles until counting from 1 to 9 tires me. Now I get counting sheep.
The irritability is gone for the most part. Though common irritating things bug me like drivers who don’t signal when turning especially when it looks like they are going in the other direction. (When you ride a motorcycle, this is not only irritating but very dangerous. You can’t stop a motorcycle short the same way you can stop a car.)
The only thing that seems to still need work are brain functions. At my first week of work, I had difficulty holding certain in-depth conversations. During a discussion with a co-worker, he added a thought that could potentially help implement what I was thinking about. I found myself unable to separate the purpose of his message and instead mixed in his contribution with the thought process that goes into developing ideas. He was patient and tried to repeat why he mentioned it. I now realize that I was having trouble with task switching. This reminded me of another person, Marta, who lived through a war and suffered from trauma.
Marta was a teenager when her family’s house was bombed while she and the rest of the family slept in the basement. Her aunt slept in the living room upstairs and died. Today, Marta struggles to stay present in conversations. Her mind wanders and creates its own reality. Within seconds, she misunderstands what people are talking about and comments on the topic based on the perspective created in her mind.
For months I also struggled with misunderstanding people. I had a hard time following simple instructions such as signing a release of medical information and mailing it. I could sign it. But when it came time to mailing, I got confused with where it was going.
These hardships with brain function are simple to improve. I can play computer brain games like the ones on Lumosity.com. I have some on my Android 2.3 also. (Yes, old release. I like my HTC Shift keypad.)
Another problem is that I tire easily. I hadn’t worked fulltime in 11 years. During those years, my brain had to deal with excess cortisol, which numbs and dulls. So, I would work for 4 to 6 hours, and then space out the rest of the day. At my new job, now almost 2 weeks old, halfway through the day I find myself struggling to remember what I’m doing. Organization is key to helping keep track. I write down as much as I can to remember. After work, I go home and maybe take the dog with me for a jog, but usually make dinner and then crash.
Before 9-11, things were much different. It’s not good to look back too much unless I want to feel sad. Instead, I will remember Marta and be glad for finding a way to recover. The recovery process is different for everyone. I hope some of what I’ve been doing will give others ideas of how they can also recover.