Post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) I’ve come to understand is a thing many folks with bipolar lug around as an additional, and often untreated, mental health diagnosis. I’ve got PTSD. It sucks sometimes.
There is some skepticism about the sincerity of diagnosing PTSD in New Mexico because it is the only behavioral health diagnosis that qualifies an individual for medical cannabis, and speaking with DBSA leaders in Southern California, the same sort of “one diagnosis qualification” increased the number of PTSD diagnoses in California dramatically, like outside of twenty billion standard deviations. Part of this I was told was very much driven by back end monetary gain for providers and advocates, and there is one provider I know of in New Mexico who fits the bill in a starring role.
Being in DBSA, I’ve heard many traumas, and except for one individual who covertly placed marijuana literature out at group (at the risk of getting us expelled from the city facility because it is literally against the law to do so), I’m not skeptical in the least that these are real, honest, and valid diagnoses. And like so much in peer support, I know can understand because I have a real, honest, and valid diagnosis of PTSD.
Following is an email I wrote to my colleagues in MHRAC today, and I’m posting it now to remind me that it’s time I started sharing my experiences with PTSD. Because I enjoy sharing my stories to educate anyone who will listen (or read this blog) on my triumphs and challenges of having bipolar, I’ve always held back on PTSD. It’s more than uncomfortable. It’s downright terrifying dredging up everything that contributes to my PTSD.
So, I’m posting this email, and it is going to be public, and I’m going to talk about it. Openly. And I will share this with myself, and I will share this with others.
No turning back now. This is a huge milestone in my recovery journey… I’m about to hit publish…
I was interviewed today by Jeff Proctor about my personal experience with the NM Solutions PTSD card.
I’ll be publishing the story I shared with Jeff on my Thoughtcrimes blog later today, as well as what PTSD is like for me, the primary factor
(ex-wife) that created this condition for me, and how the most mundane thing can be triggering.
The story I shared has to do with a traffic stop I had for speeding, and how I perceived the incident, and that I was triggered because the officer was a woman and that her stern tone reminded me of how badly I was abused (in every way possible) by my ex-wife.
This is a story I have just begun sharing with CIT trainees, and it’s a very difficult thing talking about PTSD… mainly because talking about my history with PTSD for me kind of triggers the physical and emotional reactions of having PTSD.
I felt the interview with Jeff went well, and that I was able to convey that knowing David Ley and about the NM Solutions PTSD card helped guide my conversation with the officer at that traffic stop.
Jeff wanted to know if I physically took out the card and handed it to the officer that night. The answer is no, because I felt reaching for my wallet at that time might get me shot. I won’t pull punches on this one.
That’s how I felt, and that’s the kind of disjointed thinking I have because the emotional response to a PTSD trigger will distort the reality of the situation just that badly. I KNOW the officer wasn’t being threatening to me. She reminded me of my ex-wife for whatever reason. And that’s how quickly someone like me who was very successfully handling my bipolar symptoms can go off the rails because PTSD is its own separate creature.
I didn’t physically hand the card to the officer, although because I knew about the content of the card I was able to use the concept expressed on the card to “buy myself some time” to calm down. I also asked for a CIT officer that night.
Closing off, I realized something about PTSD that I hadn’t thought of previously. Jeff was asking me specific questions about when this traffic stop occurred and where it occurred. That’s all very…
secondary to the emotions and fears I had that night, and the emotions and fears are what I remember most vividly. One the things that came up for me was that I’ve known about David’s concept for the card for a quite some time, and it was an odd feeling trying to frame my memory in terms of “Was it the card itself that helped me think of how to ask the officer for a few minutes to calm down, or was it that I’d heard David talk about it so many times during its development?”
That differentiation is a point of academic trivia. The real point is folks like David listen to peers and develop tools to help us in crisis situations, and he’s only able to do so because he listens to the needs of peers to begin with. Thanks, David!
I’m posting this email to my blog first, because getting it down and published will encourage me to finish off talking about a very difficult aspect of my life and how it affects my interactions with folks, including law enforcement.