PTSD – The Changes No One Told You About

By: Nathalie Michaud, PTSD Survivor

Note from Chief Avsec: I’m delighted to have guest blogger, Nathalie Michaud, “back in the house” with another piece on her struggles as a PTSD survivor. This is a long read, but I firmly believe that you’ll find it to be very worthwhile, especially if you or someone you love is also struggling to be a PTSD survivor.

A word of caution. Nathalie is an extraordinary writer who has a real talent for putting her emotions to the written word. I’m talking “powerful prose.” I’ve only edited Nathalie’s work for spelling and grammar…this is all Nathalie in her own words.

Yup! Me again. After a long time away, away from writing, away from people, away from… you name it. It didn’t help that my computer simply crashed and I lost everything. I mean everything of the book I have been writing with my guts out in the open, the previous blogs I had the privilege to write and I think part of my sanity as well.

So here I am. An incomplete, perfect imperfection of an epic « WTF? » Yes, I’ve dropped the F bomb more than once in these blogs but a “what the fuck” may not be great here… oh wait! I just dropped it! Oh well, those who have been reading me – basically getting in my head, you poor souls – y’all know I don’t really chew my words. At least I didn’t use to…

What do I mean? I lost myself. I lost my “mojo” or so it feels like it anyways.

Wow! I just read these previous lines and I sound so negative. That’s not me… usually. So, what happened to the seemingly confident, self-assured, witty, positive and happy me? “Bite me in the ass PTSD symptoms” is what happened to me.

This whole PTSD thing is more than what any shrink could possibly tell us. Seriously. They all know the basics of it, the science of it, the consequences and more of it. Hey! They even made a nice medical chart, like a checklist of symptoms to be able to diagnose this injury… but what the hell do they do with us after? Do they really get it?

Not the science of it! Anyone could get a diploma to get into our heads… but they are not in our heads. We have a 911 switchboard that’s fully lit up 24/7 and breaks are not an option.

Since my last blog, many things have happened. Like normal life “shit happens” right? Well, my “shit” did. Before you read on, “shit” doesn’t mean negative. For me I also means the stuff I can’t control so I just have to find a way to not give it so much importance so it does not control my life.

The Beginning of the Changes

So, I guess there is positive shit after all. Here’s a quick recap: got a new job finally and started building myself up again; had water damage to my home that cost me a fortune and my mind; and had to put down my Cane Corso puppy of 9-months due to joint disease.

Then my boyfriend (James) moved out to get closer to his work. I adopted another pup—Cane Corso X German Shepherd—and had to have him put down at 5-months of age because of kidney issues. Oh, and I moved, too, to get closer to work. So add that.

Oh, then my grandmother went from bad to worse, then bounced back a little bit, but we’re all on edge. Especially my mother who cares for her 24/7 (God I hope I can do the same for her as she does for her mom if the time comes).

And then, my boyfriend started acting like a f***** Jack Ass, and I thought I was the problem. I was on edge, he was on edge, I resented him and he resented me and yet, we didn’t tell one another because we both have a Ph.D. in not being able to “open up” to others! (Yes, that’s an actual “Life Diploma”).

We cleared everything up yes, but it left a “dent” on both of us. We are stronger for it, but individually it shook us to the core. I’m still licking my wounds. You have to understand that James and I fell deeply in love for the first time in our respective lives, so our NEED to run and to push people away is very strong.

Adopted an abandoned black kitten (I wanted another one for the past 4 years) and yes, adopted another rescue (Nordic Dog Rescue) from Forever Home Rescue (my friend Sarah runs it) and this little turd is quite the light for me. She’s a beautiful mix of Lab, Husky, Braque de Weimar (maybe) and probably more! She smiles. I picked her up the day I moved here in Brome Lake, August 15th. WTF was I thinking??? I don’t regret her at all.

Introspection

So, for you who either are injured with PTS or PTSD and those who have no clue what this is, well let me tell you that those famous shrinks did NOT tell me that “change” can trigger everything. It makes sense now that I think of it, but please let it be known that this “shit” really, and I mean really, brings back everything. Not the traumas, no, no… the symptoms that I thought I mastered and kept quiet. Tadda! Surprise Hun! BULL SHIT!

Change is good. BUT you must be prepared. I was not. I was clueless. Again.

When James moved to Montreal, even though I totally (I mean that) understood why, I felt that he chose his career over me. So, my fears, my insecurities came up to the surface and I turned into the most perfect stormed bitch you could ever meet in your lifetime.

Nathalie Michaud

Not kidding. I am very mean. I am very hurtful and I will use your very personal and deep information that you managed to share with me and use it to hurt you. Bad. I did that to James.

I will always be very sorry I did that and I’m grateful he actually stuck around. I tried my hardest to achieve my self-fulfilling prophecy that his career was more important than me, so I did everything to make it happen. When it didn’t, I’d get more resentful. WTF right?

After he left I was now sleeping alone for the first time in about two years; in hindsight I see that the “hyper-vigilance” symptom started to creep up. OK fine, it didn’t help that I had a “crazy guy” that had threatened to kill me, my partner, all that we loved and even kids.

And the “Hits” Just Kept Coming

Still, I became paranoid. Insomnia kicked in and I thought I was strong now so I would be ok and not need meds again to sleep. Night sweats started again as well as nasty nightmares. I noticed that when James would come over during the weekend (even though we made fun of it) we both had night sweats and went into combat with the sheets. The sheets always lost.

The loss of Keean as a nine-month-old puppy nearly took the rest of me with him, but my love and need for dogs kept me going. So, I adopted my sweet Colt. He even went to doggy daycare so he would have the best chance at being a good and well-mannered pooch. His death was numbing to me.

Colt died the week I moved here and, it is my dearest and brave friend Marie-Josée (also an amazing dog trainer and behaviorist) that did it since he was in her care at the time and honestly, I just could not do it. I’ve never let any of my animals cross over the “rainbow bridge” without me being there, but this one was a little too much.

My “sisters” Cathy and Isabelle were with me when all of this went down and they tried to make me feel better. It worked, but still. So, now I had this adorable pup (Cleo after my Greyhound who smiles) waiting for me at home and all I had was a broken heart. Thank God she was there.

My point is this. I got “triggered.”

What “Triggers” Brought About in Me

Not triggered by an event, a sight, a sound, a taste, a smell or a memory. I got triggered by “the change.” I lost my roots when I moved here. Yes, it started when James moved to Montreal, but it got really bad once I was here. Alone. Afraid. Afraid in my house.

Yes, crazy threatening guy is still here, but we got a restraining order and that’s not quite what I was afraid of. I realized I could not go into my basement. I became the same little girl that didn’t want to go downstairs because it was dark.

I started sleeping with the lights on, 1000 times checked the doors to ensure they were locked, put noisy stuff in front of the doors so that if they opened I would hear it.

Then it got worse. I’d jump from the door into my bed to ensure my feet were not at the edge of the bed. I was afraid – a real fear – that a hand or something would grab it. It didn’t help the night I tried to be an “adult” and put my feet down and my kitten attacked them. I think all the city heard me scream, then cry.

I sleep with mace, a taser and a baton in bed. Yes, IN THE BED. James teased me a little by saying “you’re afraid of your own house?” Until he realized his own crappy symptoms started acting up, too. He comforted me a lot when he said that he found out all that was triggered by “the move.”

More Introspection

I explored myself at this point and realized I was in the same boat. CRAP!!!! But hey! At least I get it now. My roots were all taken away. My family and friends/family are far away and I feel very alone.

For the first time in life I feel solitude. I am surrounded, yet I feel complete solitude. Not alone, solitude.

So, slowly, more symptoms started coming back, too. The want to be alone, stay in the house and not go out at all. Fear of public places, paranoia, irritable, angry all the time and sad all the time. My weight went down again, my face looked old and my eyes got dull and empty. I hid everything from all and even from those whom I do trust.

Started a life here and God knows I have made amazing friends that I can rely on and I know that they know they can rely on me, too. My dearest friends—Bibi, Steve and Alan—I could not have done all this without you. They all know that I am injured and they have my “six” where James can’t because he’s afar. More symptoms that resemble depression came into action. I mean, they wanted in, right? I’m already down, may as well kick me, too.

It took me falling on my ass and hurting myself very badly for me to realize how tired I am. How exhausted I am from fighting something that’s invisible. I can buck up, put on lipstick and face the day, but my insides are… let’s just say they don’t reflect how I really am. Hum… I guess now everyone will know! 🙂

Moving On and What I’ve Learned

It’s OK. I am comfortable with this. No. Wait. I’m not. I’m not comfortable at all with this. I liked the “getting better me.” I like the “I’m on top of this shit me” not this! Not this person I don’t recognise anymore.

Someone who’s afraid of speaking up, who finds herself ugly now, sees herself as ordinary, has nothing to offer anymore, old news, getting older, who’s in premenopausal, now has PMS, totally hormonal and not in control of anything. This feels like I’m back to 2014 and I’m pissed.

I wish someone told me that changes like these, losing the comfort zone, etc., could reactivate PTSD symptoms. It wouldn’t have changed anything. Being taken out of my comfort zone is not the problem. Being taken out of my comfort zone took away my sense of security and safety, and that my friends, is the KEY TO EVERYTHING.

Feeling of safety helps alleviate some symptoms and helps to heal.

I didn’t fall back my dear readers. No! I just took a step back without knowing it and now I see the stairs I took once and they are easier to take than the first time. I know how now.

I didn’t fall back. I didn’t regress. I got the privilege to see how far I have come simply by goi

Get the e-book, Essays on Firefighters and Post-Traumatic Stress! Click here to get yours today in PDF file format or from Kindle!

ng back to where I was.

Let me assure you, the view is beautiful!

Other Posts on PTSD by Nathalie Michaud

PTSD: My New “Friend”

PTSD Suffer/Survivor: The Challenges Moving Forward

Catching up with a PTSD Sufferer and Survivor

About the Author

Nathalie Michaud is a PTSD Sufferer and Survivor. Nathalie served for more than 15 years in a variety of Emergency Services roles including EMS Paramedic, Firefighter, Fire Prevention Technician and Fire Investigator in the province of Quebec, Canada. She also served for 13 years with St. John’s Ambulance in positions that included: Regional Assistant Director; Provincial Training Team; and Master Instructor. She’s currently a Fire Prevention Technician with the Brome Lake Fire Department in Knowlton, Quebec.

Nathalie has served for three years on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Association and was recently elected to the Board of Directors for FQISI (Quebec Federation of Emergency Responders).

She makes her home in Brome Lake where she continues her journey living with PTSD…every day.

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for FireRescue1.com and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec and his wife of 30+ years now make their home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, rpa1157@gmail.com.