Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

It feels like a cold hand gripping my heart from the inside, taking my breath away and leaving me spinning, unable to focus, Post Tramatic Stress. I have been told I have classic symptoms an RCMP officer and I have been told I need to just “Let it go” by those who don’t understand. I actually cannot remember if I have written about this event before or not and cannot guarantee that this will be the best read you will have but I just need to get it out of my body and mind.

I can honestly say that it is not this event alone that caused this. One small event after the other, gradually leading up to this one moment paved the path for my present. I realize that healing comes in layers and when I am ready they are revealed to me. I somehow never fully acknowledged this event for what it was and now it is begging for my attention as I move into a new phase of my life. I know that I cannot be successful in my business until I give this event the energy that it is demanding from me right now.

I am unsure about the date at this point and it seems irrelevant to me now but I do know that this event is one of the main reasons I left my place of employment, a place I had worked at for 10 years. It wasn’t just the event itself but also the reactions, response and lack of compassion and support from my colleagues and those that I feel are there to protect me and help me as a professional when I am not in a mental state to do so for myself.

I am pretty sure I was 27 years old when this event happened and I was working as a Registered Nurse on a medicine floor. It was nearing the end of the evening shift and the floor was quite as the shift change was imminent and report was being given. My patient had been confused and combative all night and I had previously witness him punch the charge nurse at which point I asked if we could give him something to calm him down and was told “No.” So when he wandered out into the hallway at 2315hrs or so, confused and talking gibberish I was hesitant and knew that I needed to be cautious with him.

A few days earlier he had been the exact opposite of what he was now; talking with me, confident, alert, ready to leave with no signs of delirium. He also told me about his life and career in the Navy so I knew that he was very skilled in the art of combat and self preservation. As he walked down the hallway trying to get into other rooms and beds I followed calmly redirecting him back to his room with very little physical contact, keeping my distance. We moved further and further down the dark hallway until we reached the end where two stretchers sat. He tried to climb on one of them, thinking it was his bed and at this point I took him by the hand and began to guide him off and away from the stretcher.

Suddenly he came alive, like he totally switched into a different person and turned around quickly and placed both his hands firmly around my neck and began to squeeze. I remember looking at his face and although the hallway was dark I could see that his eyes were totally vacant, they seemed black and hollow but angry at the same time. They looked right through me, similar to the eyes of the man who sexual assaulted me a few months later.

I remember that I thought right away that this was not really happening to me and that he would just let go and stop any second now. When he began to tighten his grip on my neck was when the reality kicked in and I yelled for help. At first with little effort and then the hands got tighter. I had a moment of clarity where I thought to myself “Ok, I know I need to bust out of these hands but I don’t want to hurt him, he is old and frail,” which brings so many other factors into play and I see how my entire life lead up to this moment. So I chose not to physically protect myself from a man who was literally choking me because I didn’t want to hurt him and this pattern has played out in my life many times before and after this event in a variety of ways. It is one of the main issues I work with through my healing journey and it always shows up in new places – like the bathtub tonight, which lead me to write this, finally!

I yelled for help 3 times, each time getting more and more faint. I was standing 3 feet away from the door to the room where all the new nurses and the charge nurse were gathered taking report and yes it still took three times of calling for help to actually get help. I was told later on that my co-workers on shift that they thought I was just a “little old lady calling for help, so we just ignored it” to which I say shame on you, either way it was the wrong choice.

When the door to the report room did open and someone came and pulled the patients hands off of me, I suddenly found myself leaning up against the wall in shock with a nurse beside me saying something along the lines of “oh, I had a little old lady bite me too….” and then proceed to show me her bite mark on her arm. Im sure there were some people asking if I was ok but it was short lived as I was soon told by the charge nurse to give the patient something to calm him down. I remember walking back to my cart, drawing up some Halodol in a state of complete shock and walking over to the man that had just assaulted me, who was now in a secured chair, arms still flailing, and giving him an injection. I felt like a zombie.

As people began to chirp about the big event and what they had just witnessed I was left to  myself to finish charting about it and it was I who inquired to my charge nurse about filing some kind of report to which I was told that if I wanted to I could and was then left to do it on my own and had to ask for help. No security, no support, no genuine sympathy as everyone was too busy feeling bad about their part in the event or their own abuse stories. I filed the report as best I could and left when I was done.

I drove home alone, in the dark, to my home where I lived alone and crawled into my bed covering my head. I was in shock and had no idea how to handle it. I was sent such mixed messages by the nurses I was working with that I didn’t allow myself to feel the magnitude of the event and maybe that is what is finally happening in this moment. I remember that I called my brother and told him, possibly the next day or maybe that night – I don’t know. He told me not to tell my parents because they wouldn’t be able to handle it, which is a pattern that I have followed most of my life in order to not cause them more pain. I now know this is really not my job but I somehow thought it was for many years and kept nearly everything to myself. Eventually all things good and bad were off limits because I was so bitter about this dynamic.

The next morning I was awoken by a phone call from the unit manager, sounding horrified and upset, asking if I was ok. Of course I was going to say I was -I barely knew her and honestly I felt like I was in trouble or going to get into trouble if I told her what happened. I did tell her that I was ok and satisfied she hung up and I don’t believe I heard from her again. I went to work that day, same shift, same patients and some of the same staff. I was assigned to look after the man who had assaulted me and it felt horrible, my stomach flipped and flopped and I became very angry. I said I was not going to care for him and I wanted to switch. I did end up caring for him for about half the shift until I finally just couldn’t take it anymore and said I needed to go home. My hands were trembling and I could barely breath. They were talking about the event on the floor but it was more like a good piece of gossip that did eventually get wildly out of hand, but yet I was still expected to care for this patient and that makes no sense to me at all.

The fact that I was assigned to this patient told me that I was over reacting to what had happened the night before and that I was not justified in feeling the way I did – very, very anxious and afraid. The response from the co-workers was even more disheartening as I was yelled at down the hallway by the woman who showed me her bite mark the night of the event and told that she would not make a statement on my behalf if I was pressing charges or going to security. In her eyes, he was the victim not me (I feel we both were). I was cornered on the next shift by a young nurse who was angry with me for involving security which must have resulted from the report I filed the night it happened. She told me I should go apologize to him because he was very upset – to this I lost my cool, began to cry from rage and dropped a few *F* Bombs before leaving the floor. This may have been my last shift, at least on that floor anyway.

I received a phone call from Pastoral Care and was asked if he could do anything for me, I didn’t even understand what he was talking about at the time. What kind of care could he offer me,  and what was God going to do for me? At this point in my life I was VERY angry towards Religion. I asked to have a meeting with the charge nurse and the nurse who was the witness and refused to file a statement. I could not understand why they treated me the way the did and wanted answers. I was very angry.

At the time I also worked at the Morgentaler Clinic as a Nurse assisting with abortions and the charge nurse that night had previously called me a “Sinner” and told me I was “going to hell” during a dinner break in front of my colleagues and I wondered if that had anything to do with her treatment towards me on the night of the event. I will never know because I did not hear from anyone again in terms of follow up or other services available to me.

Ok, so that felt good to write it out and just get it out of my system but I see where the projection, the blame and anger lie within the way that I tell it and I know that it is not 100% accurate because I was in shock and that my interpretation was or is still clouded by anger and other emotions. This is not ideally how I want to view the world but this is part of the process and I am going to do what it takes to heal myself even if it doesn’t look so pretty. This is another step towards facing this issue and making a mends with my past. I have once again requested assistance from services available to me but have previously had very little support even from programs designed specifically for this kind of help. I once called a crisis line and was told to call back in the morning!??? What the……???? Anyway, the Universe works in mysterious ways and I needed every obstacle I encountered to get me to this moment right now.

This issue not only clouds my view of Nursing but also of men and self trust. It was a big factor in the date rape that occurred only a few months later, the reason I was calling the crisis line, and in the man I chose to be in relationship with a few months after that. I am tired of being afraid but the truth is I don’t fully trust myself in situations because of the unhealed parts that remain from events such as this.  The energy that takes over me when this is  triggered feels sooooooo powerful and I am unable to make good choices from this space. Its like I leave my body. There is no “just let it go” from this as it is a very intense healing that still needs time to be recognized.

I wonder where my protection was that night? Why did I choose to let a man strangle me and fear hurting him even though he was capable of killing me? Why do I loose my ability to say no to people who hurt me? What are we as women or nurses so afraid of that we turn our backs on each other in times of crisis? Where is the safety net? I had nowhere to fall but I did anyway.

I fell apart a few years later after more hard hits, I couldn’t take anymore of that life and I finally just let it all fall apart. What was I met with? Anger from many people in my life that continues to this day. I was denied benefits from my insurance provider through work for going and living at an Ashram, a place where my Dr., my specialist and my psychiatrist were supportive of. I am not sure if I  spoke to my Union rep about this event, its a blur at this point but there was nothing that could be done and I was left to fend for myself.

Taking responsibility for my part here by saying that I told everyone I was ok after the event and felt like I had nothing to complain about or that nothing could be done for me, so I became very very angry with the system and myself. But as I look back on the event with clearer eyes, I see that no matter what someone says, a person who has just been strangled cannot be trusted to take care of themselves no matter how convincing they are – they were assaulted and are not thinking clearly. I needed help.

I faced more bullying from coworkers at a new job,  in a different hospital around the same time. For this event I did contact and get quite heavily involved with my Union to protect myself but it was exhausting everyday especially since I was now the known tattle-tail to those who were afraid of change and those doing the bullying. I was also becoming increasing ill and frail. I felt so alone on this journey of simply standing up for my right to be treated with respect in my workplace. I also had lots of support from co-workers who were sick of the way they were treated as well but not many were willing to stand up with me to make changes actually happen. I eventually left on sick leave for the first time in May of 2009.

I feel that I have accepted and worked with this issue quite a bit over the course of my healing but now is the time to remove another layer and take back my power. This event had a major impact on my life, my career and my health to which I am now and have been working very hard to rebuild. I see how I was repeatedly pushed to stand up for myself and how much I needed these hard lessons but I am ready to move past them now. This event and the way that my worth has been diminished by other major events in life are about to be revisited in a new way, a stronger way and I know I need to do this to demonstrate self love to me and to the world.

I deserve to ask for help and receive it, as a person, as a professional and as a victim of abuse. I have repeatedly tried to return to the practice of Nursing but was met with closed doors and now it makes so much sense. As I begin to open up these old wounds I see that this needs to be revealed before I can return to something that will ultimately be very good for me but I cannot rush into it. I will know when I am ready, my body will tell me.

Classic response from my body during times of severe emotional trauma is to feel ill, and get “Fibro” pain. This time around the pain was very mild and subtle which is a marked improvement and it is because I know and understand myself so well that I see these symptoms not as a cold coming on ora consequence to something I ate…..but as emotional release and a necessary step in my moving forward into healing and health. Because of this I rejoice in the symptoms and embrace the time that I have to be still and process.

Fibromyalgia to me is not a disease that a Dr. can diagnose or treat, it is a message to me that something needs attention. My body is finely tuned, self healing instrument that speaks a language all its own and it was Yoga that helped me learn my own body’s language. The only reason I call it Fibromyalgia is to relate to those who have been told the same thing or given the same diagnosis. But for me, I do not have “Fibromyalgia” in the sense of the word used by Medical Dr’s. It is a spiritual diagnosis and it is both the cure and the disease all rolled into one. Neither one existing without me having created it. I created it and I can use it as a tool to guide me towards enlightenment for which I am eternally grateful! I am grateful for all the pain, all the trauma and all the lessons!

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