New here - everything is 'too big'

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Batsville

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New here - everything is 'too big'
« on: February 21, 2015, 11:21:16 AM »
That's the best way to describe it: everything just seems 'too big'. Everything. There is too much going on inside my head, too many things I should be doing, like a crazy snowstorm of stuff whizzing around my head. Result? I am like a rabbit caught in the headlights and can do NOTHING. Complete inaction, constantly nagged by the Inner-Critic-on-Steroids inside my head which leaves me feeling physically sick.

I have to literally force myself to do stuff: socialise, exercise, work, be a functioning wife and mother, go on vacation, read a book, watch TV... anything. It is all just 'too big' and sends me into a frenzy of panic. Also lots of physical symptoms which are very unpleasant.

I am currrently seven months into treatment for C-PTSD. After a series of CBT sessions which focussed on removing the 'numbness' I'd been experiencing for so long (successful), I am now undergoing EMDR because my anxiety levels have gone overboard. Last night, for instance, my H and I went out with a couple he knows (I'd never met them before) for a restaurant meal. On the surface I appeared just like a normal sociable, ordinary person having a good evening; inside it was.... well.... whoosh! Like a Tsunamii going on!! I couldn't eat - felt as if I was going to vomit after every mouthful, and ate nothing, really. Followed by a terrible night with all the usual lucid shouting / moaning / groaning nightmares which occur at least four times a week...

Not surprisingly I am fed up with feeling like this and want to get back to 'normal'. Googling 'PTSD, everything seems too big' this morning I came across the Outofthefog website which I'd come across before and noticed there is this new forum for C-PTSD, so here I am! Just knowing that other people are experiencing something similar will be of great help.

I live in the UK, by the way and so am receiving treatment from the NHS (National Health Service) Mental Health Services.

Thanks everyone...

Re: New here - everything is 'too big'
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2015, 01:32:07 PM »
Hi Batsville! Pleased to meet you. What you're describing sounds like an emotional flashback. You probably knew that already. You just summed it up so well what flashbacks feel like. "Everything's too big". Absolutely. I get these even when I'm doing little things like buying soap - it's like, whichever way I turn, there's something I might do horribly wrong, or just some vague and unspecified sense that I'll just mess it up anyway - even though I know it's just soap, for goodness' sake, I can do this, I could do this in my sleep... but it doesn't feel like that, during a flashback. A tornado, exactly. All those opposing forces pushing at you from all sides, and you end up immobilized.  Outside, it's all sunshine and daisies and hoppity-skipping across meadows full of flowers, and inside, you feel like this:  :sharkbait:   So, yes, I had moments like your restaurant visit too, regularly. It's only made worse by the fact that one is supposed to have fun.  :sadno:

Something I found out recently has helped me begin to fix things a tiny wee bit. So just in case: have you come across the concept of highly sensitive people? It basically says that HSPs are more perceptive to outside stimuli (like noise, smells, light, touch, and/or the overall 'feel' or athmosphere of a person or a thing or a place). So we get more easily overwhelmed. And my impression is that we get flashbacks a lot more easily if we're feeling stressed and overwhelmed already anyway.

It just reminded me of this because you said you felt so overwhelmed having dinner with (essentially) two strangers. That would have made my social anxiety and social hypervigilance flare up. Then you were in a restaurant, not at home. And for me personally, some places just feel stressful. I've always ignored that in the past. But it's just true, those tiny things do make a difference. Like, if it's too cold, I'll tense up. If the air's too stale, I'll end up feeling that I'm suffocating. If I'm sitting with my back to the restaurant, I'll feel vulnerable. If the decor is too minimalist in a trying-too-hard-and-yet-failing-so-obviously kind of way, I feel like I'm dining in a butcher's shop. Lots of factors. And on top of all that: meeting new people is always stressful, especially if your family of origin has installed in you perfectionist ideas about ladylike behaviour and positive first impressions and so on, meaning that my Inner Critic is overactive and gives me a very hard time. And THEN on top of that comes CPTSD, social hypervigilance, social anxiety, etc etc etc. I mean, sometimes you just can't win.

The point is, there are times when all these things (HSP + situations where my Inner Critic has Very Strong Opinions Indeed + CPTSD triggers) come into play at once, and then KABOOM! So it follows that one thing I can do is try and minimize my overall levels of stress, avoiding sensory overload, avoiding places that feel wonky (at least for now), and trying to fix my Inner Critic. It's not like this magically fixes everything in one fell swoop. But it does help me move towards a more peaceful life. After all, every little helps.

There's a therapist called Pete Walker who specializes in CPTSD. He's got CPTSD himself, so he knows what it's like, and he writes about CPTSD in a very compassionate way. There are several free articles on his website, for example about emotional flashbacks and how to manage them, and one that's called Shrinking the Inner Critic. There's another article on the Outer Critic (our tendency to judge the world very harshly and to see danger everywhere).

So, end of infodump. Sorry for swamping you with all that. I'm hoping you'll find something helpful on Out of the Storm. All the best!  :hug:

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Batsville

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Re: New here - everything is 'too big'
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2015, 05:08:40 PM »
Thank you for your warm welcome and empathy. I was / am a moderator on another support forum (for another mental health issue) and so really appreciate everyone rallying round to help now I'm here with my newbie hat on.

I'll give you a little background. My C-PTSD doesn't stem from any childhood abuse or an abusive partner. It stems from five years of being the primary carer for my teen son as he battled with a hellish mental illness - anorexia, along with clinical depression. It was five years of *. Thankfully he has now recovered. After approx a year of me recovering from this trauma, too, and beginning to get my life back I was suddenly hit, like a bolt out of the blue, with this C-PTSD. Well, not like a bolt out of the blue, I guess it crept in the back door, and gradually I realised that I had changed. Then, just over a year ago, I realised I needed professional help!

I've been struggling with the CPTSD over the past year and thankfully have fixed the numbness (although sometimes I think the numbness had its benefits!!), but am stuck, now, kind of frozen, like a stone statue or a rabbit in the headlights, unable to focus on anything or concentrate, with extreme anxiety, almost nightly nightmares (shouting, moaning, groaning, etc) which leave me feeling awful the following day and coiled up like a spring inside.

I panic at the way I just can't do all those things I should / could be doing - things that I did before all of this and which I was beginning to pick up again after all those years of putting my life on hold while I battled with my son and his illness, 24/7 (that is another story...)

Before the CPTSD reared its ugly head, I was busy helping other families that were going through eating disorders with their teens, I even wrote a couple of books and a blog, spoke at conferences, etc - but then, a year ago, that all stopped and I just couldn't face any of it. Since then I haven't done any of this stuff and have avoided the forum referred to above. It triggers panic / anxiety attacks too much. But what was good about all of this was that I built up such a great circle of friends and now seem to be actively severing myself from them and isolating myself. And they were / are genuine friends, too. I miss them! It's not great and it's all down to this frozen / stone statue / rabbit in headlights thing which I just don't seem to be able to shift. So I feel kind of isolated in this new era in the post-teen-anorexia world because I don't think I can ever go 'back there'. It's too triggering. Daft thing is that if anyone would understand what I'm experiencing (aside from all of you here, of course!), they would, but I just can't face anything to do with 'that world'.

Anyhow, I've been ranting on a bit, so I'll stop. Just wanted to give a bit of background.

Thanks everyone, again.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2015, 05:14:56 PM by Batsville »

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coda

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Re: New here - everything is 'too big'
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2015, 12:18:32 PM »
When I read your title, it occurred to me that "everything is 'too big'" is another way of saying "I am too small". That's exactly what being overwhelmed is like. There's suddenly nowhere to turn and nothing/no one to trust, not even our very own old standby instincts or energy. Freezing and withdrawing are safety measures when panic hits. Even when that doesn't exactly soothe us, at least we feel protected. Occasional nights out, when we get through them, can leave us even more depleted. We're simply not the same people anymore. Do we really want to be? Isn't that how we got here?

Although the genesis of your C-PTSD doesn't stem from early or ongoing abuse, it still reveals the pernicious toll long term trauma can take. In a sad way that confirms the basics about this whole, miserable condition. We serve and survive for years because we have no other choice (or can't conceive of one), being needed defines us. Then we get overtaken. We keep wondering why and how everything changed, and there's a sense of shame when we stop functioning like before. In a way, it's always seemed to me like those martial arts "touch of death" blows - hits you just absorb and only destroy you long after. Weeks, months, years...decades since the punches and suddenly you're on your knees. The worst is when you don't even want to get up up again - that would require hope.

The world is vast and mostly indifferent, coping is hard. A sense of duty and purpose kept many of us going for a very long time, but take away the need -- or the blindfold of parental abuse masked as obligation -- and we're startled at how of us felt left. All of us are hoping to repair ourselves, but also to find a way of rebuilding differently...a new "normal" if you will, a way helping others without losing yourself, a way to navigate without judging yourself. 

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Charlotte

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Re: New here - everything is 'too big'
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2015, 06:21:08 AM »
One quick thought... I'm new here and have not been through your trials, but after years of panic and depression, I became super tired and found myself resting and sleeping whenever I could.  It kind of felt good.  A little concerning, but mostly just a chance to not be stimulated.  I didn't like feeling stuck but loved the rest I got.  I pull over in my car a lot these days and sleep.  Anyway, Just a thought, I'm sure you know a lot about recharging. 

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fairyslipper

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Re: New here - everything is 'too big'
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2015, 08:34:29 AM »
Welcome Batsville. I am still very new here and just beginning to find my way. This community is a great and very safe place.  :hug: