The Cancer Diary: Afterthought 2 – PTSD

The Cancer Diary: Afterthought 1
July 17, 2013
The Cancer Diary: Afterthought 3 – Too Young to Die
July 30, 2013

The Cancer Diary: Afterthought 2 – PTSD

Last week I wrote about my survivor’s guilt, but I realize now it’s part of a large phenomenon; what is referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. According to WebMD, there are three primary symptoms of PTSD:

  • Reliving: People with PTSD repeatedly relive the ordeal through thoughts and memories of the trauma. These may include flashbacks, hallucinations, and nightmares. They also may feel great distress when certain things remind them of the trauma, such as the anniversary date of the event.
  • Avoiding: The person may avoid people, places, thoughts, or situations that may remind him or her of the trauma. This can lead to feelings of detachment and isolation from family and friends, as well as a loss of interest in activities that the person once enjoyed.
  • Increased arousal: These include excessive emotions; problems relating to others, including feeling or showing affection; difficulty falling or staying asleep; irritability; outbursts of anger; difficulty concentrating; and being “jumpy” or easily startled. The person may also suffer physical symptoms, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, rapid breathing, muscle tension, nausea, and diarrhea.

Looking at this list, I can see I have quite a few of the symptoms. I constantly relive the last days and months of Max’s life in my mind much to my misery. I have yet to move my office back into the bedroom where Max suffered and died because I can’t face being in that room for long, or in the adjacent bathroom, where he spent inordinate amounts of time dealing with colostomy and nephrostomy bags. The memories are still too fresh. In these rooms I can see his suffering. Feel his helplessness and pain. Smell his deterioration. I have yet to have a full nights’ sleep since Max died and wake up often and early. And I have begun to have emotional dreams that leave me in tears when I awaken.

On top of all that, I have periods of anxiety that strike at the oddest times.  Although I want to be out and about, I’m finding it more and more difficult to organize myself to do anything in a timely manner and I dally around the house, trying to pull myself together . At the same time, I can’t seem to do much at home. Dishes remain in the sink, laundry in the basket.

While all this is frustrating, I realize PTSD is probably a normal side effect of dealing with a traumatic and lengthy  illness. And both of these adjectives apply to Max’s situation.

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