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Question:

First a little background. I know I was suffering from some pretty serious depression about two years ago. My brother had passed away, and I was deployed to Iraq shortly afterward. I fought with all of my friends. They no longer speak to me. I drank to the point of blacking out. I cheated on my husband. A year of this later, I had debilitating headaches. Migraines and Tension headaches so bad that my hair hurt. I slept about 2-3 hours a night. I went to see a counselor and he diagnosed me with PTSD and serious depression. There were a few OCD tendencies that came with it, but went away over time, and with treatment. While going through this counseling, I began having flashbacks of when I was 5 and was molested by a 14 yr old girl at my babysitters. I spoke with my mother about it to find out more info as I had blocked it out for 22 years. At the same time as the headaches began, I was supposed to have gotten out of the military (stuck in Iraq due to stop-loss), and I was promoted. I had some serious issues. Growing up I had tendencies of eating disorders. I would throw up my food, I counted my calories, limiting myself to 900 a day if possible. I was continuously worried about upsetting people. I was raped twice while I was in college (most likely because I was promiscuous due to the childhood thing). I still have a very low self-esteem. The medicine worked for awhile, but my life over the past three years has been a series of nothing more than major events. I returned from Iraq, got out of the army, moved back to the US from Germany, found a new job, and moved again all within a 6 month period. I was feeling okay, and stopped taking my medicine. Which lead to what my mother calls "crashes." I was able to recognize the symptoms this time, as I had studied depression in hopes of trying to get off the meds. Over the course of the past year I have quit the meds four times, and consequently crashed each time. In April, my husband and I divorced. I wasn’t happy, and couldn’t find a way to be happy. Not unhappy just with the marriage, but life in general. I moved to a new state and started a new job, where I travel continuously, so I don’t have to deal with people for very long. I can’t prevent these major life events from happening, but how can I cope with them better? I am still on anti-depressants, but lately I fear they’re becoming less effective. I have major fits of rage over the smallest things. I am paranoid, and wonder what motives people have for asking me questions or why they do what they do. These can last from a few minutes to a week. I KNOW when I am angry, I don’t know what triggers it. In my mind I can tell myself to stop saying mean and hurtful things, but they happen anyway. I am a successful woman, and I have worked very hard for what I have, but I am afraid that I am working very hard at making myself worse by trying to ignore the root of my issues. What is wrong with me? How can I control this? I am trying to maintain my control over my mental health, but I really feel like my body is tired. I am definitely not suicidal, nor do I want to hurt myself. I just want to be happy. I have acknowledged my issues, so how do I get past them?

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Answer:

Thank you for your very thorough description of the issues with which you are coping. It really helps in understanding you.

I suspect that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is your major issue and the other problems, such as anger, paranoia and depression, are the results of ADHD, at least it seems that way to me.

Let me explain about Post Traumatic Stess Disorder. We know that the deepness or seriousness of the PTSD symptoms depends on whether or not there is an earlier history of PTSD. I can tell you from direct experience in talking to Iraq veterans that those with PTSD were not only in combat but had serious problems while growing up. In fact, most of them suffered from some type of ongoing abuse or parental alcoholism.

In your case, there were some terribly traumatic things that were done to you when you were a child. Then, with serving in Iraq, your PTSD was almost guaranteed.

It is because of the PTSD, including the childhood tragedies, that you relapsed every time you went off of medication.

Suggestions:

1. In my opinion and even though I am NOT a psychiarist, you should remain on your medications. All of the PTSD Iraq veterans whom I have met and gotten to know are also on medicines to help them sleep through the night. When I worked with survivors of the 9/11 tragedy in the World Trade Center, they had also been put on medicine to help them sleep. It seems that getting solid sleep every night is an important part of recovering from PTSD according to what psychiatrist have told me. In addition, anti depressant medications are also used but I guess you know about that.

2. However, not everything is medication. It is vitally important that you get into some excellent stress reducing behaviors that will be very helpful to you in the long run.

I urge you to learn and get into Meditation. There are several types and it makes no difference what type you learn. You can attend classes that teach and do Meditation and, once you learn, you can do it by yourself every day.

Part of meditation and something that is important even separate from meditation is learning deep breathing techniques. Deep breathing interrupts anxiety. When stressed, we tend to not breathe fully and that adds to stress and anxiety.

You also need to learn deep muscle relaxation. Whe anxious and stressed we tend to "tense up" and deep muscle relaxation relieve that tension.

Listening to calm and relaxing music really helps and listening to running water, nature sounds, etc, either on a recording or going into nature.

3. I want to urge you to return to psychotherapy. I would really recommend the type that uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy so that you can learn how to change the thinking patterns that make things worse for yourself.

Best of Luck to You and Please start getting help for your PTSD.

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