Better today… pain is a bit less

Well, I got some good sleep today. Woke up about dawn (not what I wanted to do), with my joints — especially my left hip — just screaming with tightness and burning. I lay there for a while, willing it to go away… but it didn’t. I thought about getting up and just getting into my day… posting to my blog, or typing up my follow-up questions for the neuropsych. But I was soooo tired.

So, I did what I had done back about 15 years ago, when I was having a lot of pain issues — I found that acupressure point between my thumb and forefinger — in the soft webbing at the base of both fingers, near where they meet — and I applied pressure on that point. I had been told about this point, back in the early 1990’s, and I had used it pretty regularly to help alleviate pain and inflammation.

Apparently, this point not only relieves pain, but it also can help reduce inflammation, which is pretty huge with me.
Hand Showing Pain Point

I used to use this point religiously, when I was having trouble. Then, I stopped… I think because it worked so well, I didn’t have the degree of troubles I once had. I literally was all but pain-free for a number of years, tho’ recently that’s changed.

Another thing I did this morning, that I had done for years, was stretched. I stretched my hamstrings and my glutes and my hips and my lower back… under the covers, as I was cold and lazy and didn’t feel like getting out of bed.

After a little while of doing that, I got a lot of relief, and I was able to go  back to sleep — till 8:00 a.m., which is unheard of!

Woo Hoo!

So, when I got up, I was still a little creaky, but that’s to be expected from all the yard work I did yesterday, not to mention splitting the firewood. I can give my body that.

I’ve been thinking a lot about pain, lately, since it’s come up with me so much. Thinking about what it means, what it’s like to be in pain all the time, how hard it is on your system, how easy it is to slip into feeling like you’re being punished for something. I’ve read that pain is symbolically associated with rejection and isolation, so when I’m in pain, it would make sense that I feel like the world is against me, and I’m all alone. Intellectually, I know that isn’t true, but my body feels like it is. So, I feel even more forlorn than I already do… for emotional reasons. And I withdraw… which makes me less likely to have contact with others — the very thing that can relieve my pain and sense of isolation.

I wonder if this is widespread — especially amongst folks who have neuropathic pain or chronic pain that comes from tbi or car accident or some other sort of injury. Or people who have a history of child abuse or some other sort of abuse that results in a lot of memories of pain. I wonder if there isn’t a whole invisible nation of people in physically-generated psychic pain, whose sense of isolation is so overwhelming, yet so unexplicable, to them, that they are just shells of who they could be. I wonder if physical pain — and our ability to ignore or mask it with other things, like addictions or hyper-activities or just plain blocking it out — might not be contributing to our collective woes in ways we don’t understand… because it’s literally too painful for us to think about it.

When I think about my pain, when it’s really, really bad, I get so upset. I get angry. I get frustrated. I get furious. I act out. And I feel like I’m being punished — for no good reason.

I think that perhaps this condition got me used to the idea that I was unfairly punished for a lot of things in life, so I lowered my expectations, and became all the more antagonistic to the world around me.

And I wonder about the vets who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, who sustained tbi’s in the line of duty… getting back to a country that is already foreign to them (tho’ they put their lives on the line for it/us)… dealing with the difficulties of tbi… the twice-hidden disability… and having to deal with pain that has neurological origins. I wonder about them feeling more and more isolated, less and less integrated into society, more and more uncomfortable and angry and, well, in pain… because their brains were changed the day(s) the IED(s) went off near them.

I think of us all… this “tbi nation” of individuals struggling alone and separately, unable to cope effectively because the very thing we need to use to figure out our situation — our brain — is the thing that’s been injured. I think of us all, alone in our rooms in the wee hours of the dawning day, writhing in pain that doesn’t seem to have an origin and won’t let go of us… I think of us struggling with the psychological and emotional impacts of a brain that fails us at the worst possible moments, without our realizing it, and a body that can’t quite seem to get it right, since the accident/injury/attack. I think of us all, lying awake, hurting, angry, confused, desperate, in the wee dawning hours of the day…

And I thank Heaven Above for the point between my thumb and forefinger.

It works for me… and I hope it works for you too.

It hurts like a bitch, the first time I press it, but the pain throughout my body magically subsides, when I do.

I press the point on the side that hurts the most, then I press the other. And I do it again and again throughout the day. I try to stretch. And I drink plenty of water. And I pray. I pray that the relief will continue — at least in part.

Yes, today is better.

And I hope tomorrow will be, too.

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Exhausted and in tremendous pain, but feeling great!

I’ve had an extremely full day, today, and I’ll probably pay for it tomorrow… heck, I’m paying for it now. But who cares! I had a great day!

I started out the day reading through my notes from my first neuropsych recap meeting, when the doctor confirmed that yes, there are scientifically detectable issues going on with my brain and my thought process. Some of the things found surprised me a little bit — I had thought I was doing just fine, on some of them, but — as is often the case with me — the very areas where I think I’m doing great(!) are the ones that I’m lagging on.

Things like speed of processing. And memory… short-term recall. Things like how long I can last at certain tasks… things like attention issues… things like language comprehension and learning.

I admit I am more than a little relieved, even if some of the things are bothersome  — it’s not in my head! Well, it is in my head, but it’s not something I made up! As though a lifetime of hassling with all this cognitive-behavioral stuff isn’t proof enough… But for people around me who need a doctor’s opinion to convince them, this should be plenty convincing. I’m so relieved!!!

Anyway, I am compiling question  for the good doctor, which I’ll type up and take with me, so we can both follow along and make sure I don’t miss anything… and the doc will give me more info, and then I’ll come up with more questions… etc., etc. This could take a while, but I’ve been told it’s okay if I take my time. I guess I may need to… tho’ it might not seem to me like I’m being slow 😉

Then, after I pulled together my questions, I actually went for a walk!  Woo hoo. What a beautiful day — clear and crisp and very quiet. I was surprised at how much I saw today. I noticed details about houses in my neighborhood that I never noticed before. I think having the testing out of the way has taken a burden off my mind, which is allowing me to pay attention to more things around me. It feels a little strange to be seeing things that may have been there all along, but at least I’m seeing them now!

It’s been a month or so since I got out of the house on a Saturday to do anything other than errands. I had a great walk in the woods — and I was only startled by one hiker. My hearing has been really acute, lately, though, so the sound of my keys in my pocket and the swish-swish of my windbreaker was pretty distracting. I kept thinking I was hearing the tags of a dog running up to me – I hate when that happens, and I’m taken by surprise – but it was just my keys.

Then I came back home and had some lunch and read some neurology and anatomy texts I’ve had lying around, so I can at least not be completely taken off guard by what my doctor says on Tuesday. When they start throwing around all these terms, I tend to get anxious, if they’re completely unfamiliar. Now, at least I may have more of a chance of not getting spooked by terminology. Sometimes that’s half the battle.

Then I took a nap. Woo hoo! Just for an hour, and I woke up worried and anxious, but at least I did sleep a little.

Then I got up and did yard work… and split the firewood I’ve had my eye on for quite some time. The pile of wood has been sitting under a tarp for more than a year, and I’ve been promising myself I’d split it, one of these days. Well, today was the day. And I did really well — as in, I was careful and methodical and I didn’t injure myself in the process. I took breaks when I needed to, and I stopped completely, when I knew I was tired. Working with ax and maul, it’s important to be careful! I used to use a chainsaw, but I kind of screwed it up when I ran it without oiling the chain. One of those cognitive deficit things, I guess. I haven’t used a chain saw in a couple of years. I figure, it’s just not worth it, to run the risk of doing some real damage to myself — which is entirely possible, given a motor and a rotating chain and my sudden distractability streak.

After the wood was split and stacked, I ate a little snack and took a shower and then made supper. Now I’m suitably tuckered out, aching and burning and sore from head to toe — but in a good way. I’m going to bed early, to celebrate.

It’s the little things, y’know?

Brain injury blogs

  • TheFight of My Life: Living with Traumatic Brain Injury
  • TheSmile on My Forehead
  • Links to stories on TBI and vets

    Many consequences seen with traumatic brain injury
    Reuters India, India – 45 minutes ago
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Traumatic brain injury may lead to an increased risk of developing symptoms like those of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease

    Battlefield brain injuries bring long-term problems: US report
    CBC.ca, Canada – 2 hours ago
    Military personnel who suffered traumatic brain injuries from explosions on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan are at risk for long-term conditions

    Traumatic Brain Injuries Linked to Long-Term Health Issues for
    Washington Post, United States – 3 hours ago
    By Amanda Gardner THURSDAY, Dec. 4 (HealthDay News) — A new report provides evidence linking traumatic brain injury sustained by troops in combat in Iraq

    Combat Head Injuries Tied to Depression, Dementia (Update1)
    Bloomberg – 3 hours ago
    By Alex Nussbaum Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) — US soldiers who suffer battlefield head injuries face higher risks of depression, dementia and stress disorders,

    Brain-injured troops face unclear long-term risks
    The Associated Press – 3 hours ago
    WASHINGTON (AP) — Many of the thousands of troops who suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan are at risk of long-term health problems

    Panel Urges More Screening of Brain Injury in Troops
    New York Times, United States – 6 hours ago
    By BENEDICT CAREY A long-awaited government report is calling on the military to test all its new recruits for cognitive skills and then do large-scale

    Troops with brain injuries face long-term health risks
    San Diego Union Tribune, CA – 6 hours ago
    By Rick Rogers The good news is that US troops are surviving battlefield blasts and returning home in unprecedented numbers. The bad news is that thousands

    Long-term consequences from brain injury
    WFIE-TV, IN – 1 hour ago
    (NBC) – Soldiers who survive an explosion may still have battles to fight later in life, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine.

    Report: Mild TBI linked to multiple ailments
    ArmyTimes.com, VA – 3 hours ago
    By Kelly Kennedy – Staff writer A review of about 2000 studies reveals that service members with mild traumatic brain injuries — or concussions — are more

    Brain-injured troops face unclear long-term risks
    KSWT-TV, AZ – 5 hours ago
    AP – December 4, 2008 12:14 PM ET WASHINGTON (AP) – A report headed up by a University of California, San Francisco doctor says many of the troops who

    IOM Cites Poor Preparedness for Brain Injuries of Iraq and
    MedPage Today, NJ – 6 hours ago
    By John Gever, Senior Editor, MedPage Today WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 — The dramatic increase in brain injuries suffered by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan,

    NHCNE leads ground breaking cooperative conference on
    The Dolphin, CT – 14 hours ago
    NEWPORT, RI – Civilian and military medical care givers from New England gathered for a first of its kind, cooperation conference addressing Psychological

    Troops suffering brain injury face myriad possible health problems
    The Canadian Press – 6 hours ago
    Traumatic brain injuries have become the signature wound of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and troops who sustain them face a daunting array of potential

    Report sees long-term problems for troops who suffer traumatic
    Los Angeles Times, CA – 6 hours ago
    Even mild brain injuries appear to be associated with problems such as seizures, aggression and dementia reminiscent of Alzheimer’s disease, according to

    Traumatic Brain Injuries Linked to Long-Term Health Issues for Iraq Vets

    Good news on the tbi news front – the Washington Post is running news of a new report on soldiers with tbi.

    The 400-page printed report is forthcoming and will cost about $70 to purchase. You can read the full report online for free (tho’ you have to page through, one page at a time) at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12436#toc

    While I am really, really happy that national attention is being drawn to this, what worries me is the thought that many tbi surviving vets may get dropped by the wayside and/or be underserved, because people keep repeating that old mantra about “every brain injury is different” and use that as an excuse not to fully engage in helping these wounded warriors heal.

    It’s true — every brain is different, and hence every brain injury is different. But that can all too easily stop folks (especially bureaucratically bound professionals) from drawing conclusions and taking steps and reaching out to suggest new solutions to problems we tbi survivors face… just because (they insist) we’re all apparently so different from each other.

    From the article at the Washington Post:

    “The real bottom line significant finding is that there’s not a good human literature on the kinds of neurotrauma seen in Iraq and Afghanistan caused by blasts,” said Dr. George W. Rutherford, vice chair of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. “The human literature is really about people who’ve had [brain injury] from car crashes or falling down stairs and, in the military, from shrapnel or gunshots. We’re all worried that blast neurotrauma hasn’t really made it into the human literature.”

    This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to anticipate and hopefully mitigate the long-term consequences of such injuries, added Rutherford, who chaired the committee that wrote the report.

    So, does this mean… because there’s not blast-related neurotrauma literature in abundance, there should be a bottleneck on looking for solutions and treatments and preventions for military personnel?

    Because our Iraq/Afghanistan vets’ injuries are from a different source (and presumedly more severe or at least more severely unique) than your “standard issue” assaults, abuse, car crashes, falling down stairs, shrapnel, or gunshots, does this disqualify them from the benefits of the experiences of countless individuals who have experienced and survived tbi — albeit in a different form and from a different source?

    Because there isn’t “good human literature” that’s germane to neuroblast specialization, must that prevent us from doing what we can to help these folks?

    It’s a chilling thought, that people who are already disadvantaged by an injury that other people cannot see (and which may be in fact hidden from them because of cognitive issues), may continue to be under-served, because they are not your “run-of-the-mill” tbi survivors.

    While blast trauma (and the ability to survive blasts) is a relatively recent phenomenon, in relation to the thousands of years people have gone to war, gotten hit on the head, fallen, been smashed and bashed around, and generally sustained brain traumas, the fact remains that head trauma and brain injury are NOT new to the overall human experience. Where human literature is missing, we DO have human experience. After all, the human race is still here.

    Surely, there MUST be a way to employ what we DO know about tbi, surviving it, and recovering from it, to assist the folks who are coming back from one war, only to enter another, once they are back home and trying to find their feet again.

    How I deal with the source(s) of my temper issues

    Over Thanksgiving, I was telling someone for the first time about my mTBIs, and they asked how I figured out it was a neurological thing, and not just me having a bad day.

    I rattled off “cognitive problems” and “memory issues” and “tinnitus” and “constant headaches” as examples. One of the folks who was traveling with me, who has known me for nearly 20 years said, once and for all, “Rage — it was the rage.”

    I was abashed to admit it then, and I still am, but it’s true. The sudden violent rages – the yelling, smashing things, going off on people, becoming infuriated over very minor things, rolling along at a full boil, completely unable to stop my downward plunge into the blackest and most aggressive of moods… It’s always been rough for everyone — myself and everyone around me — to weather my tirades. But dealing with the aftermath — mending the broken ties, or having to say goodbye to people I hurt beyond repair, or having to look people in the face after I’d roasted them over the blazing fire of my temper — the aftermath has been at times even harder and more trying to deal with, than the events, themselves.

    I can identify a number of sources of my temper flares:

    1. Fatigue – not getting enough sleep makes me think slower, and when I’m not processing quickly enough, my frustration level goes up, while my ability to monitor and manage myself goes down.
    2. Not eating properly – being hungry makes me mad quicker, and eating junk food stresses my body and makes me even more volatile than usual.
    3. Being/feeling alone – I feel assailed and overwhelmed and put-upon, when I’m alone (either for real, or perceived)… I often feel like I can’t keep up, and I’m going to pay for it.
    4. Not preparing adequately for stresses that I know are coming down the pike – not only does this open me up to the increased stress of the unfamiliar, but I also tend to beat myself up for not being better prepared, which just throws gas on the fire of my temper.
    5. Self-recrimination/blame – being hard on myself makes me even more aggressive and short-tempered with others, while cutting myself some slack eases my attitude towards others.

    Ironically (or perhaps not), what is best for others, is when I take care of myself. When I’m in a good place and I’m happy with who I am and my place in the world, I tend to go easy on others, have patience, do well. But when I’m hard on myself, everyone around me pays – big time.

    So, I:

    1. Make a point of getting enough sleep. Sometimes I work from home, so I can nap mid-day.
    2. Plan my meals and eat well-rounded meals and avoid junk food like the plague it is. I also stay away from sugar, which whacks me out.
    3. Reach out for help, either by contacting a friend/relative, or going online and either researching or participating in forums to help others and get help.
    4. Plan my days and weeks and months ahead of time. I can’t tell the future, but I do know that if I’ve got a lot of appointments in one week, I’m likely to be more tired along the way, so I try to schedule in some down-time. If I’m traveling or visiting family, I try to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for the trips. And if I have a busy week coming up, I try to “choreograph” my time as best I can, so I can dance my way through, instead of bumbling about, bumping into everything that gets in my way.
    5. Go easy on myself, make lists of things I do right, make lists of things I’m grateful for, remember how far I’ve come and how much I’ve accomplished in my life. Even if some of the things don’t seem like big deals to others, they may be to me, so I try to claim every small victory I can.

    TBI and temper often go hand-in-hand, but if I know my stressors and I am aware of how my life is shaping up, I can often head off problems at the pass.

    Most of all, I try to keep an open heart and a clear head and seek to help others whenever I can. Seeing that others have troubles, too, and seeing that I can help them, not only makes me feel grateful for all I have and makes me grateful for what I can do, but it also gets me out of my head… which can be a very dangerous place to be trapped.

    Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic at Elmendorf AFB gives hope to wounded troops

    Air Force Live has info on the new TBI clinic at Elmendorf. Check it out!

    From the post:

    TBI has become one of the most common injuries suffered by our troops during the Global War on Terrorism, with estimates at around 320,000 men and women returning from deployment with some form of TBI.

    The patients I see commonly experience headaches, dizziness, cognitive decline, irritability and mood swings, difficulty with concentration, and other symptoms. These are often intertwined with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, which further complicates the picture.

    Fortunately, most patients make a full recovery within 3-to-6 months of the injury. I have seen some patients take up to a year to recover, with approximately 15% never fully returning to their pre-injury baseline. The good news is that even in the most severe cases some degree of recovery almost always occurs.

    It’s great to see more attention being drawn to this issue, and it’s great to see our armed services starting to rally around this important cause.

    EEGs show brain differences between poor and rich kids

    News from UC Berkeley highlights recent research that seems pretty important to me…

    University of California, Berkeley, researchers have shown for the first time that the brains of low-income children function differently from the brains of high-income kids.

    In a study recently accepted for publication by the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, scientists at UC Berkeley’s Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and the School of Public Health report that normal 9- and 10-year-olds differing only in socioeconomic status have detectable differences in the response of their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is critical for problem solving and creativity.

    You can read the entire article here.

    Personally, I’m not sure why this is so surprising to people. We’ve known for years that trauma causes changes to the brain — both chemically and cognitively and physically. And poverty contributes to trauma. Of course, there may be a chicken-or-the-egg connection — which comes first, the poverty or the impaired brain function? — but at least someone is getting tangible measurements about the interplay between socioeconomic status and cognitive functioning.

    This puts a new spin on haves and have-nots.

    My answer to (almost) everything: Just Keep Going!

    Okay, so I had a good session with my therapist, earlier today, and I did get to recount my long weekend in a way that sounded cogent to me. And I got to tell about how I have patched up a somewhat rocky relationship from many years of fits and starts and faux pas moments. I was actually able to carry on a conversation with someone who used to be really central to my life, but who had drifted away from me, over the course of the years, when I was being injured and not dealing with my symptoms at all.

    But on Friday night, I was able to call this person and have an hour-long conversation about what my life has been like for the last two decades. And by the time we were done talking, this person was not trying to get off the phone and run like hell from me, the way they had in the past. I actually heard them saying, “It’s too bad you don’t have time to get together and have coffee tomorrow.”

    Wonders really do never cease.

    It seems that my newfound understanding of my limitations has actually allowed me to fix what was wrong with key elements of this connection I had with this person. Over the years, not knowing how prone I was to just go on and on and on, I would ramble and let myself get all tangled up in nonsensical chatter… or I would send letters that ranged and roamed and didn’t really have a point. Or I would send emails that were not only rambling, but also got a little too intimate at times — a little too close — to the point where (when I took a long, hard look at myself) I sounded more like a stalker, than an old friend.

    I was actually creeping myself out there, for a while.

    But then they got back in touch — I guess out of curiosity, just to see how crazy I was, this time. But this time, I wasn’t crazy. I had the awareness of being brain-injured… brain-damaged… and I was aware of the fact that I could very easily veer off course and become that old me that was so annoying and trying and alienating and freaky. I was conscious of how I talked, how I interacted, I kept the conversation on the phone going, I didn’t rush things, and I was able to stop and catch my breath and listen for clues about what the other person was talking about.

    I actually did really well.

    And the conversation we had was interesting and interactive. I was able to edit myself and keep myself on-topic. That’s something totally new.

    Which goes to show that if I’m aware of my limitations and I develop coping strategies to deal with them, then I can be even more functional in my daily life, than if I pretend there’s nothing wrong — like I did for years. (Well, I can’t say I was necessarily pretending — I just didn’t have the awareness that I have now.)

    So, if nothing else, this Thanksgiving gave me one more thing to be grateful for — the return of an old friend and a connection I have always valued.

    Considering how few real friends I really have, that is priceless.

    So, the next time I decide I’m going to give up… I’ll have to remind myself — Don’t. No matter how bad things may feel, no matter how bad my pain may be, no matter how confused and confounded I may seem at times, I still have my little victories, and as long as I don’t quit, don’t give up, don’t hang up the gloves and keep on fighting, I still have a chance at winning.

    Better today… of pain and ptsd

    Well, I got to bed by 10:00 last night, and I was able to sleep through till 6:30 or so, which is an improvement over what I’d been able to do over the last weeks.

    I’ve been kept up by anxiety over what my neuropsych evaluation is going to reveal — that’s coming up this week — me being terribly afraid that I had given wrong information or I just couldn’t think my way through certain things… I’ve been second-guessing myself for days and days, wondering if I answered as accurately as possible… of if maybe I’m more crazy than head-injured… or that my head injuries have led to some sort of mental illness that’s invisible to me because of my anosognosia… or maybe I’m just on this wild goose-chase that will end up being all for nothing.

    I try to be level-headed and logical about this and remind myself that my neurpsych has been doing this for many years, and they have certainly seen worse cases than me. But still, not being able to be a full participant in the process and being a subject of examination and enquiry… well, that makes me uncomfortable, and even if I do trust the doctor. I just don’t know what to expect, and I cannot manage my wild rang of emotions, if I don’t know what I’m managing for.

    Fortunately, I do feel better this a.m. — not so much pain, not so much tenderness. I got a bit of a massage yesterday p.m., and it really, really helped. Even if it was painful at times — I don’t care. Short-term pain for long-term benefits. I’ll take the pain in the short-term, if it will help me feel this much better in the a.m.

    I still have discomfort when I move – especially in my hips and lower back. And my elbows are still sore. And my thighs are still tender. But I can push up my sleeves, so they’re not chafing my wrists, and my body isn’t screaming so loud I can’t hear myself think.

    I tried the Arnica yesterday. i can’t say I noticed an immediate effect, but I’m going to keep trying it — 4 tablets dissolved under my tongue 4 times a day, for a few days. I’m going to take it again after I finish my cup of coffee. (I’ve heard that you have to be careful taking homeopathic remedies when you’re eating or drinking. It’s my understanding that the remedy needs to be the only think you can taste… or I could be wrong.) I’m not off caffeine entirely — that would be too much. But I am cutting back. I only had one cup yesterday, which I think helped me sleep.

    This arnica experiment is definitely going to be totally screwed up by my other changes I’m making. In a “real” test, the only thing I would change would be taking the arnica, not getting more sleep or changing my diet or getting more exercise. But dude, I’m in pain, and I need it to stop, so I can get on with my life.

    Thinking about the role that pain has played in my life, I think there’s a definite trauma aspect to it. I have friends who specialize in treating trauma, both in medical and psychological environments, and they talk a lot about it. They also love to tell me I’m a “trauma survivor” — having had a whole bunch of accidents that left me progressively more impaired, as the years went on, along with the social, interpersonal, and physical after-effects of my impairments that haven’t helped me get by in the world.

    And since I have a history of trauma — physical, as well as psychological — I have to admit I do show signs of PTSD.

    Over at Wikipedia — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posttraumatic_stress_disorder — I found this (note: my comments are in italics):

    The diagnostic criteria for PTSD, per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (Text Revision) (DSM-IV-TR), may be summarized as:[1]

    A. Exposure to a traumatic event – multiple head injuries over the years, along with other accidents and fights/clashes with people that threatened my safety
    B. Persistent reexperience (e.g. flashbacks, nightmares) – I’ve had lots of them over the years… where do I begin?
    C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma (e.g. inability to talk about things even related to the experience, avoidance of things and discussions that trigger flashbacks and reexperiencing symptoms fear of losing control) – some things I just will not talk about… you can pump me for details till the cows come home, but I’m not talking about certain things that have happened to me, unless I can know that it’s not going to ruin my life, if I do
    D. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (e.g. difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger and hypervigilance) – well, yuh, I’ve had more restless nights and being jolted awake at 3 a.m. with my heart racing and my body soaked in sweat… than I care to think about
    E. Duration of symptoms more than 1 month – try months and months… sometimes years later, after the initial event is over
    F. Significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (e.g. problems with work and relationships.) – just ask my friends, family, and co-workers… just ask my 17 former employers

    Notably, criterion A (the “stressor”) consists of two parts, both of which must apply for a diagnosis of PTSD. The first (A1) requires that “the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others.” The second (A2) requires that “the person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.” The DSM-IV-TR criterion differs substantially from the previous DSM-III-R stressor criterion, which specified the traumatic event should be of a type that would cause “significant symptoms of distress in almost anyone,” and that the event was “outside the range of usual human experience.” Since the introduction of DSM-IV, the number of possible PTSD traumas has increased and one study suggests that the increase is around 50%.[48] Various scales exist to measure the severity and frequency of PTSD symptoms.[49][50]

    Now, this is all pretty thick stuff for me to get into. Personally, I don’t feel like I can take on much more to process, other than just dealing with my own pain… but I have to say, the pain is worse, when I’m feeling the after-effects of some past trauma. When I’m dealing with people who have really physically hurt me in the past — like adults who used to really knock me around — or I’m interacting with people whom I have hurt in the past because of my bad behavior and poor social integration.

    When I think back on being a kid, I remember a lot of pain, both from internal sources and from without. My pain issues date back to fairly early childhood – I was not a very limber kid, and I had a lot of difficulty doing things that other kids could just do, like touching toes and climbing and jumping and doing cartwheels and such. I had a lot of trouble with my balance, and I couldn’t do a somersault until I was about 5 or 6. I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but I do remember the day I did my first “real” somersault — I didn’t fall off to the side, but was actually able to just roll right over and keep my balance. When I tried to stretch and extend, like other kids could, it was very painful for me. But I kept trying, and I just forced myself to stretch and extend… until the pain was too much, and I had to stop… which was usually far short of where I wanted to be.

    I wanted so much to participate, to take part, to be a part of what was going on. I hated being on the outside, not able to do what other kids could as easily as they could, so I pushed myself — very hard. There was a lot of pain, but that was just the price I paid for being able to be a part of what was going on.

    The other source of pain was from the outside. I was raised by parents who didn’t know how to relate to me. I tended to get over-stressed and over-extended with all the stimuli going on around me (including the pain), and they tended to discipline me. Grab me. Jerk me around. Take hold of my arms and pull me to where I was supposed to be. It was excruciating, and it was shocking. My memories of childhood are full of instances where my mom would grab me out of the blue — I wasn’t following what was going on, and I didn’t understand what she wanted me to do, so she would yell and/or grab me and pull/push me to where I was supposed to be. With my sensitivities, it was like just being pounded out of the blue, time and time again. I could never prepare for it, I could never brace for it. And I didn’t really “get” why it was happening, a lot of the time.

    I wasn’t able to explain my “bad” behavior to them, and they didn’t seem much interested in finding out if I was having problems, or if I was just a bad kid who needed discipline. I think, because of their religious orientation and the role that my very religious grandparents had in our lives, they “went with” the religious explanation that I was a “sinner” and that “sin” or the “devil” had taken hold in my life, so I needed to be disciplined to stop my acting out.

    So, they did. I got called a lot of names, when I was little, because I couldn’t keep up cognitively or physically — spaz, space cadet, bugger, doofus, spastic… that was my dad. My mom preferred to call me pathetic or disgusting or asinine (asinine was her favorite). I was actually shielded from their wrath a lot, because I didn’t understand till I was 7 or 8 or 9 (?) that they were actually talking to/about me. I thought they were just saying what they were saying into the blue. It didn’t occur to me, till I had been in school for a few years, and other kids were calling me names, that my mom and dad were calling me names, too.

    Actually, come to think of it, it didn’t occur to me that my mom was calling me names, till a few years ago. Somehow, being mistreated by my mother is a lot harder to take than being mistreated by my dad.

    Even when they showed affection, my family’s hugs and touches were extremely painful. My family — for whatever reason — loves to give big, hard hugs, and it hurts like crazy when they do! I don’t know what it is that makes them think it’s okay to just throw their arms around someone and squeeze so hard… or maybe they can’t really feel it, themselves, so they have to have hard hugs and forceful contact, to even tell someone is there. My grandparents were hard huggers, and my mom was/is, too. She loves to reach out and grab people as a sign of affection, which is a double-whammy — I don’t want to shut her out, but I cannot take the force of her contact. Just over Thanksgiving, she was walking by me, and she reached out and grabbed my arm as a sign of affection. And when I was getting ready to drive home, with the weather being as rainy as it was, she got scared for my safety and she just threw herself at me and hugged me really hard, which really hurt.

    I still haven’t figured out how to tell people that when they touch me, sometimes it feels like they’re pounding on me. It’s embarrassing, it’s troubling, and I dread people knowing just how much pain they’ve caused me. Being in pain is bad enough, but then “spreading it around” by telling others about it — and telling them there’s nothing they can really do, but keep their distance — is just awful. I’ve done it before, and it’s awful. Awful to be pushed out to the margins. Awful to be forced to push people away. Awful to have to hold them at arm’s length and never let them close, without pain.

    Thinking about growing up in constant pain, raised by people who repeatedly hurt me terribly, is definitely not easy to take. I have to tell myself my parents weren’t fully aware of the effect that their behavior was having on me, and that if they’d known what it was like for me when they grabbed me or hugged me, they would not have done it. I have to tell myself that they had no idea, that they were innocent. Believing that my parents would intentionally harm me, is more than I can process right now.

    But it’s probably worsening my pain, to hold back from that belief. Now that I’ve been away from them for a whole day, I’m starting to relax, and I’m starting to be able to adddress my pain. I think when I was in the midst of it all, I was so shut down that even if I’d been in terrible pain — which I may have been — I wasn’t aware of it. I was up in my head. I was too busy talking. I was too busy trying to stay out of arm’s reach of both my parents.

    I rarely notice until days after the fact, but when I am in the midst of family at holiday/Thanksgiving time, I hold as still as possible for long periods of time — both as an attempt to not draw attention to myself, and to keep myself from acting out when I get stressed. When I’m stressed, my brain stops working really fluidly, and I end up needing to take more time to explain myself. But when things are all wild and woolly, like at my parents’ place at Thanksgiving, I don’t have the time to fully explain myself, and I end up hurting people’s feelings from a poorly told joke, or an attempt to josh around with others, and then I start flashing back to all the other times I said/did things that people took the wrong way.

    Yes, I hold very, very still during the holidays… both for my own protection and that of others.

    And it probably doesn’t help my pain — because of my rigidity and my disconnection from my body.

    And it doesn’t help my PTSD. Because I go back to that place where I’m on auto-pilot, where I’m just keeping my head down and keeping moving, where I’m just doing what’s in front of me, and not aware of whether or not I’m hungry or tired or anxious or stressed. And when I’m not aware, when I’m just soldiering through (as I do so well!), I tend to push myself even harder — do more stuff, take on more tasks, be more manic, be more forceful, be harder on myself and add more things to my to-do list — and that cuts in on my sleep, it cuts in on my rest, it cuts in on my physical well-being.

    And I have pain. Lots of it. Tearing, ripping, screaming, shooting, chafing, burning, crazy-making pain.

    So, in a way, the pain is like my barometer for how I’m doing, stress-wise. It tells me if old stuff is coming up that’s making me do things and make choices that aren’t healthy. It tells me if I’m falling back on old patterns, letting my fears and anxieties and old hurts stop me from living my life. It tells me if I’m tired — and it tells me that I’ve let myself get over-fatigued and ill-nourished.

    It’s an objective measurement of how I’m doing psychologically and physically. And it gives me a great “excuse” (in my mind, when a simple reason won’t suffice) to step back and cut out all the shit I’ve got on my plate… focus in, take care of basics, talk over my issues with my therapist, and make sure I get plenty of rest. It tells me, loud and clear and in no uncertain terms, that I’m totally f’ed up, and I need to stop doing what I’ve been doing, and just take a break. Take care of myself. Have a long, hot shower. Take care of myself. Now.

    Unless I do, I’m going to stay in pain. That’s just the way it is. And it’s my choice.

    In a way, pain is my friend — but only because it’s my mortal enemy.