Autoimmune PTSD

 "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you" 1Peter 5:7

  Let’s talk about something that I am currently struggling with.  This has really been on my mind lately.  This is a topic that is just now really being discussed in our culture but still not much in the autoimmune community. It is a very real part of life for many people who have struggled with autoimmune disorders.  It’s the topic of autoimmune PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).  So much of the time these letters are associated with the military or with those who have been abused and rightly so.  My intentions for writing this is to in no way take away from the seriousness of anyone else dealing with PTSD for whatever the reason.     
     A little background on PTSD.  PTSD was first recognized in 1678 by Swiss physicians.  It was called “Nostalgia”.   Well that makes it sound cute. Two other dates I want to share are that in 1980 it was added to the DSM-III.  The DSM stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  It is the book of guidelines universally used in diagnosing a patient. Then in 1987 DSM-III-R drops the requirement that stressors be outside the range of normal human experience.  This is huge.  As my husband and I have talked on several occasions, he is a military vet that has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, different people have different thresholds, breaking points, as to how many stressors they can handle before it affects them long term.       
     PTSD is defined as a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary or dangerous event.  I would also like to add that an ongoing stressor can also cause PTSD.  Fear triggers many split second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This is called the “fight-or-flight” response.  PTSD comes in to play when one continues to feel stressed or frightened when the danger has passed.
     Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger.
    Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. The symptoms can start from the person’s own thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing symptoms.
     I digress some but I always enjoy a little history lesson.   Currently I am working my way out of a year and 8-month battle with low grade fever, fatigue and just general inability to do anything but lie on the couch and pray to God to heal me.  I still have a way to go before I am where I was before all of this began but I am starting to be able to somewhat function again.  Anyway, there are so many days I find myself focusing on and anxious about what ifs. What if I can’t get out of bed tomorrow, what if I make a trip to run errands and I get too tired.  Some days while trying to nap I feel a panic attack coming on about what if my fever comes back full force or even what if this is it, this is all I get.  Some days my body is consumed with anxiety that moving one foot in front of the other is difficult.  I feel a pain or have a weird symptom and I wonder what could it be?  Is there something terribly wrong with me or is it all in my head?  I think when we’ve been sick for so long and life has drastically changed due to a body that no longer works the way we long for it to it is so hard to imagine what living a healed life looks like.  And sometimes we don’t have all the answers to what is going on which makes the what ifs worse. We’ve been traumatized by losing the one thing that controls everything else, our health. 
   So how am I coping with this constant fear of desperation of not going backwards and continuing to move forward.  Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years and especially in the last couple of months that are helping. 
    One of the things I find most helpful is making sure I am getting adequate sleep.  I could and will write a whole post on the benefits of sleep but here is a brief overview or sleep and how it affects our mental outlook.  When we are deficient in sleep it becomes more difficult to make decisions and solve problems.  One of the biggest things that happens is the inability to control your emotions including anxiety and depression.  I know for myself sometimes just a good nap can change my outlook on life.  I also know for myself that a lack of sleep makes it more difficult to stick to the foods that make me feel best.  Eating something that my body doesn’t do well with, i.e. sugar can cause a multitude of symptoms to come back thus bringing back many symptoms including generalized pain and fatigue. 
     According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, studies have shown that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain.  If you are sleep deficient you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems and controlling your emotions and behavior and coping with change.  It has also been linked to depression, suicide and risk-taking behavior. 
      I fully understand that sleep does not come easy to those who are anxious and fearful of not being able to sleep, concerned about staying asleep and anxious of how you are going to feel when you wake you in the morning.  If you are like me somedays I jump out of bed ready to tackle the day and other days I barely get the kids out of the door to school.  I will do a whole post about supplements for PTSD but for now here are a few that help me with sleep.  The first is phosphatidylserine which lowers cortisol.  I like Integrative Therapeutics because it does not contain soy.   And slow release melatonin, because I have trouble staying asleep not falling asleep.  If sleep is something you really, chronically struggle with please know that there is no guilt or shame from taking a prescription drug prescribed by your doctor. 
    Next up is EFT-Emotional freedom technique. This is one I have used off and on for several years now.   It can be used on its own or in conjunction with counseling.  EFT combines acupuncture, neuro-linguistic programming, energy medicine and Thought Field Therapy.  The basics of it is that you remember a painful incident or emotion.  While remembering this trauma, you tap in a series of acupressure points on the head and face.  First you do a round of thinking about the negative event/emotion.  Then you do a round of thinking positive thoughts around a situation or specific trauma.  Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is a form of counseling intervention that draws on various theories of alternative medicine including acupuncture, neuro-linguistic programming, energy medicine, and Thought Field Therapy (TFT).  Some resources that have been helpful are Brad Yates has a  Youtube channel that has been helpful and The Tapping Solution by Nick Ortner blog.  The Tapping Solution also has a list to EFT practitioners. 
     According to Emma Seppla a PhD research scientist at Stanford University, meditation reduces anxiety.  In one study people with anxiety disorders showed clinically and statistically significant improvements in subjective and objective symptoms of anxiety following 8 weeks of meditation.  The effects were still being seen 3 years later and better results found in those who continued with meditation.  Meditation decreases stress and depression and can increase positive emotions according to the American Psychological Association. 
     Some bonus points for those of us with autoimmunity:  meditation increases immune function, decreases pain and inflammation at the cellular level.  I know for myself on days I feel particularly inflamed even a short 10-minute meditation session can decrease my temperature and overall aches and pains.  Some of my favorite resources for meditation are the following apps: Insight Timer, Headspace and Simple Habit.  I haven’t used but have heard good things about the Hello Mind app.  I also love the Abide app.  It offers prayers and meditations.  We will discuss mediating on scripture in the next segment on worship. 
     I am not aware of any studies on worship and PTSD but I can attest to a change in attitude, decreased anxiety and clearer thoughts by listening to worship music.  Considering we are spirit by ministering to our spirit it would in turn affect our body and mind.  "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" John 4:24.  Another way to minister to our spirit is to meditate on scripture.  I personally like to mediate on healing scriptures.  Some of my favorite are Psalms 27:13-14, Exodus 23:25, Psalms 6:2, Psalms 41:3-4, Psalms 103:1-5, Mark 5:34 and 1 Corinthians 15:43.  So basically all of the Psalms. I am also learning to be still and listen.  
     Of course, we could not forget massage.  There are several studies that show massage decreases the symptoms of PTSD. It induces the parasympathetic nervous system therefore teaching the body how to relax again.  According to a 2005 study,8 positive changes have been shown in biochemistry following massage therapy including reduced cortisol and increased serotonin and dopamine. By decreasing the clients' cortisol levels with bodywork, a client can reduce the constant feelings of hyperarousal and danger. By increasing serotonin and dopamine in the brain, an ease of suffering and anxiety is felt.8         
      Last but certainly not least for PTSD, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, etc please see a professional and/or join a support group, no one should suffer alone.  
     What are your favorite ways to decrease anxiety, depression and PTSD symptoms?  

Comments

  1. Do you still do AIP to defeat sjogrens and does it work? Just starting the protocol as desperate to find relief. Do you think EMDR can help sjogrens PTSD? Thanks

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    1. Thank you for your comment. Yes I still follow a mostly AIP diet for Sjogrens. It definitely helps but does take time. Diet has been a huge part of my recovery. I would also recommend finding a practioner who will prescribe LDN (low dose naltrexone). Also treating underlying infections, viruses and parasites can be very helpful. Yes I do think EMDR would be worth a try. I have some friends that have been helped by EMDR.

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  2. Thank you Angela for all that generous giving....your blog is lm sure a lifeline and hope to many people. I had thought the LDN could be working a go, l know mercola and Luke who does the sjogrens blog are both positive about it too. Thank you,and l hope you're having a good summer😊

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