My Truth

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I’m very passionate about mental health and abuse awareness, mainly due to my own expieriances. I am very open about my past, which I know is something that many do not like, but I do not see why I should stay silent – afterall that’s what the abusers told me to do and I can’t let them win can I?

I don’t want nor do I expect pity or sympathy. I do not deserve it, and I do not want it, what happened happened and I am only who I am today because of it. I do not want hugs and people saying they are sorry, what I want, what I fight for every day, is for OTHERS to feel safe that they will not be judged. What I want is to make it so that those who currently suffer in silence scared of what may happen if they open up know that they are not alone, and maybe make it so that they no longer have to fear judgement and blame.

I know that my work and my speaking out will not end abuse, discrimination and suffering, but if I can just let people know that they are not alone and do not have to suffer in silence and maybe if I can make a few people stop and think then I am happy with that. I cannot stop abuse, I cannot change the world, but maybe I can help to plant the seeds of change, plant that idea in to the minds of others, and then they can help that idea to grow until one day change can and does occur. Maybe one day the things which I fight will no longer exist, but I doubt that I will see that day. I can do so little, but it’s the best I can do, I just have to hope that human nature is not as bad as I fear and that these seeds if change and the glimmer of hope will take root.

I tell my story, my truth, not for pity, but for the hope that I can help to ignite change in this world. I know most will not believe this, but I know my truth and I hope that a few of you know this truth too. This is why I spend so long creating websites, writting letters, speaking in schools, raising money and trying to spread awareness. It’s an inconvenient truth I know, but it’s a truth that needs to be known, I cannot just sweep it under the carpet when I know that it could help others. So I fight and strive with the hope of helping, of making the suffering of others that little bit better that bit more bearable.  I wish that this truth was not there, that it did not need to be spread, but it is and it does. And for this I am sorry

This is my truth

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Nightmares and PTSD

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Nightmares refer to complex dreams that cause high levels of anxiety or terror. In general, the content of nightmares revolves around imminent harm being caused to the individual (e.g., being chased, threatened, injured, etc.). When nightmares occur as a part of PTSD, they tend to involve the original threatening or horrifying set of circumstances that was involved during the traumatic event. For example, a rape survivor might experience disturbing dreams about the rape itself or some aspect of the experience that was particularly frightening.

Nightmares can occur multiple times in a given night, or one might experience them very rarely. Individuals may experience the same dream repeatedly, or they may experience different dreams with a similar theme. When individuals awaken from nightmares, they can typically remember them in detail. Upon awakening from a nightmare, individuals typically report feelings of alertness, fear, and anxiety. Nightmares occur almost exclusively during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Although REM sleep occurs on and off throughout the night, REM sleep periods become longer and dreaming tends to become more intense in the second half of the night. As a result, nightmares are more likely to occur during this time.

How common are nightmares?

The prevalence of nightmares varies by age group and by gender. Nightmares are reportedly first experienced between the ages of 3 and 6 years. From 10% to 50% of children between the ages of 3 and 5 have nightmares that are severe enough to cause their parents concern. This does not mean that children with nightmares necessarily have a psychological disorder. In fact, children who develop nightmares in the absence of traumatic events typically grow out of them as they get older. Approximately 50% of adults report having at least an occasional nightmare. Estimates suggest that between 6.9% and 8.1% of the adult population suffer from chronic nightmares.

Women report having nightmares more often than men do. Women report two to four nightmares for every one nightmare reported by men. It is unclear at this point whether men and women actually experience different rates of nightmares, or whether women are simply more likely to report them.

How are nightmares related to PTSD?

A person does not have to experience nightmares in order to have PTSD. However, nightmares are one of the most common of the ‘re-experiencing’ symptoms of PTSD, seen in approximately 60% of individuals with PTSD. A recent study of nightmares in female sexual assault survivors found that a higher frequency of nightmares was related to increased severity of PTSD symptoms. Little is known about the typical frequency or duration of nightmares in individuals with PTSD.

Are there any effective treatments for nightmares?

Yes. There are both psychological treatments (involving changing thoughts and behaviors) and psychopharmacological treatments (involving medicine) that have been found to be effective in reducing nightmares.

Psychological Treatment

In recent years, Barry Krakow and his colleagues at the University of New Mexico have conducted numerous studies regarding a promising psychological treatment for nightmares. This research group found positive results in applying this treatment to individuals suffering from nightmares in the context of PTSD. Krakow and colleagues found that crime victims and sexual assault survivors with PTSD who received this treatment showed fewer nightmares and better sleep quality after three group-treatment sessions. Another group of researchers applied the treatment to Vietnam combat veterans and found similarly promising results in a small pilot study.

The treatment studied at the University of New Mexico is called ‘Imagery Rehearsal Therapy’ and is classified as a cognitive-behavioral treatment. It does not involve the use of medications. In brief, the treatment involves helping the clients change the endings of their nightmares, while they are awake, so that the ending is no longer upsetting. The client is then instructed to rehearse the new, nonthreatening images associated with the changed dream. Imagery Rehearsal Therapy also typically involves other components designed to help clients with problems associated with nightmares, such as insomnia. For example, clients are taught basic strategies that may help them to improve the quality of their sleep, such as refraining from caffeine during the afternoon, having a consistent evening wind-down ritual, or refraining from watching TV in bed.

Psychologists who use cognitive-behavioral techniques may be familiar with Imagery Rehearsal Therapy, or may have access to research literature describing it.

Psychopharmacological Treatment

Researchers have also conducted studies of medications for the treatment of nightmares. However, it should be noted that the research findings in support of these treatments are more tentative than findings from studies of Imagery Rehearsal Therapy. Part of the reason for this is simply that fewer studies have been conducted with medications at this point in time. Also, the studies that have been conducted with medications have generally been small and have not included a comparison control group (that did not receive medication). This makes it difficult to know for sure whether the medication is responsible for reducing nightmares, or whether the patient’s belief or confidence that the medication will work was responsible for the positive changes (a.k.a., a placebo effect).

Some medications that have been studied for treatment of PTSD-related nightmares and may be effective in reducing nightmares include Topiramate, Prazosin, Nefazodone, Trazodone, and Gabapentin. Because medications typically have side effects, many patients choose to try a behavioral treatment first.

What happens if nightmares are left untreated?

Nightmares can be a chronic mental health problem for some individuals, but it is not yet clear why they plague some people and not others. One thing that is clear is that nightmares are common in the early phases after a traumatic experience. However, research suggests that most people who have PTSD symptoms (including nightmares) just after a trauma will recover without treatment. This typically occurs by about the third month after a trauma. However, if PTSD symptoms (including nightmares) have not decreased substantially by about the third month, these symptoms can become chronic. If you have been suffering from nightmares for more than 3 months, you are encouraged to contact a mental health professional and discuss with him or her the behavioral treatments described above.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

EMDR is an information processing therapy and uses an eight phase approach to address the experiential contributors of a wide range of pathologies. It attends to the past experiences that have set the groundwork for pathology, the current situations that trigger dysfunctional emotions, beliefs and sensations, and the positive experience needed to enhance future adaptive behaviors and mental health.

Basically, EMDR is a therapeutic technique in which the patient moves his or her eyes back and forth while concentrating on a problem or a traumatic memory. The therapist waves a stick or light in front of the patient and the patient is supposed to follow the moving stick or light with his or her eyes. The therapy was discovered by therapist Dr. Francine Shapiro while on a walk in the park.

Noone is really 100% sure of how EMDR actually works. A commonly proposed hypothesis is that dual attention stimulation elicits an orienting response. The orienting response is a natural response of interest and attention that is elicited when attention is drawn to a new stimulus.
Another theory is that humans naturally process memories and new informaion during REM sleep, but with traumatic memories this processing does not fully occur, leaving the memories unstored and still strongly connected to emotions and physical sensations. The idea here is that the eye movment in EMDR simulate REM sleep allowing the memory which is beng focused on to process.

However, there is a lot of empirical evidence for the effectiveness of EMDR, esspecially in the treatment of PTSD.

our time in the mental health system

I don’t remember much before the age of 16… I know that my eating habbits were bad and my mum had kept forcing me to doctors saying I had an ED, though she thought I was eating “too much” despite being very underweight . and I know that I haad been to see the school counsellor a few times, but can’t remember what came of that

When I was 16 I got put in hospital for about 2 weeks, I can’t remember how long exactly… I had attempted suicide while pregnant and lost the child. While I was there I got told a load of rubbish about how at 16 I could not possibly have any real reason to try to kill myself.

About 4 months later I was hospitalised again, and diagnosed with anorexia. They kept me there until I was an “acceptable” weight then released me and I never heard from them again

When I was 17, I went to a doctor and told them I was loosing time and hearing whispering, that there were “children” in my head and that I would find writting and art around my home that was not by me. They told me to stop drinking :/ despite the fact that at this point in life I had never drunk alcohol

When I was 18 I ended up in hospital after a stupid act of trying to make myself “clean”… basically I dunk some cleaning products and burnt my esothagus… I had to see an on call psych again, this time she came to the conclusion that “voices told me to do it”, which they didn’t! I just wanted to be clean…

When I was 19 I went to see a councillor who told me I was beyond her skill and to go to a doctor. So I went to a doctor saying that i thought I had an anxiety disorder only to be told it was “stress” and “homesickness”, even though I had moved away from “home” 3 years before

So I went back to the counsellor. I told her a lot, about nightmares, flashbacks, “loosing” full days, etc. But she was always more interested in my financial situation than my actually problems

I went to another doctor, this one told me that I was just stressed and prescribed me sme sleeping tablets which I then ODed on… The on call psych in the hospital basically called me a melodramatic attention seaker…

I went to another doctor, this one told me to “stop living in the past” and that what I went though was “not that bad, at least no one died”

10 months ago I went to another doctor who referred me to a psychologist. I saw her for 4 weeks before she referred me to psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy said that I was “not bad enough” and so I was removed from the waiting list…

My GP sent me to the urgent referral team at the psych hospital, who screaned me for psychosis and she promised me a CPN

2 weeks later I was told that I was not “bad enough” for a CPN

I went back to my GP and told her a load of stuff I had not soken to her about before (i.e. the “people in my head”) and she phoned the psych hospital to ty to get me seen again

Not long after this I “lost” a few hours and ended up ODing during this time. I went to hospital and the on call psych came to see me… she told me that the abuse was all my fault, that I was never raped, that I was making a big deal out of nothing and that DID was not real so I should stop being stupid and just admit that I tried to kill myself… she said that the abuse from my ex wasn’t abuse and that my parents were at worst “slightly emotionally abusive” but not enough to have “messed me up” so I should just stop making a big deal out of nothing

This resulted in several weeks of not leaving bed, crying all the time, and loosing a lot of time where I would “come back” to massive cuts and quite disturbing writing…

5 months ago I got another psychologist, after only 2 sessions with her though she took me off her service. She didn’t believe that DID exists

3 months ago I got a new psychologist. She has diagnosed me with PTSD, DID and EDnos, and suspects mild agrophobia… she took me to see a dissocosiation specialist who “brought out” the alters and stuff…

So… taken 6 years, but I finally have a diagnosis lol. But… I am being referred again after Christmas…

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