PTSD: Signs, Risk Factors, and Treatment

I still have hospital nightmares that have me being rolled onto hospital beds or transport, with me running away from a criminal, only to be trapped in ICU. Not joshing with you.

I have sudden thoughts and feelings when put into a specific circumstance that closely identifies with my hospital trauma, I feel like I am physically and mentally back in Emory University hospital the summer of 2012. IVs, tubes, Physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, labs 4 times a day,, new IVs every 2-3 days. You know I really think the hospital likes needles and tape.

The last time I felt PTSD extremely serious was Christmastime 2015 when our niece, MJ, was in ICU due to a horrible car accident. I had prayed and taken 1mg of Ativan (needed more), I felt the cold air (to keep the germs away, the sounds of the non stopping beeps, and the sound of her ventilator. A ventilator has a specific sound that I will never forget because I had been on them many times.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms can include:

    Persistent re-experiencing of the trauma
    Reoccurring dreams or nightmares
    “Flashbacks” or “deja vu” (sensing that the traumatic trauma is happening in the present)
    Sleeping disturbances
    Increased avoidance of general social situations

These symptoms are certainly not all, but some of the most common symptoms to describe the official definition of the PTSD. They disturb the quality of life starting with lost sleep, decreased mental capacity to focus on the present , and declining having meaningful friendships.

Risk Factors can include:

People who have experienced a natural disaster, catastrophic illnesses, combat exposure, incest, rape, assault, losing a loved one.

Types Of PTSD – Clinical Presentation Acute (less than three months) and Chronic (More than 3 months in duration).

Psychological origins and consequences of severe trauma

Attachment and Repetition: Severe stress experienced in childhood and infancy is Attachment and Protection. They experienced in-utero, at birth, or sometime early childhood. These children or infants will seek out attachment, even to an abusing parent, developing into a lifetime of perusing attachments with abusing friends or spouses.

Hyperarousal : Inescapable shock, depression, and a depletion of norepinephrine. This leads to a receptor sensitivity in parts of the brain Their nervous systems may be permanently altered so people are unable to reduce the excessive emotional arousal.

Since PTSD often comes out of nowhere, at an instant, how should we get treatment?

Most professionals and most people would recommend psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, or Behavioral therapy.

Secondary, but much less recommended – medications to help certain aspects, but won’t completely heal.

If you don’t know where to get help and you’re in trouble, call 9-1-1.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.

Call a friend, call a pastor, counselor, priest, Rabbi, or someone you admire with spiritual leadership.

PTSD and any other mental illness doesn’t get bettor on its own. “Time Heal All Wounds” is not true.

Sources include : Handbook of Clinical PSchopharmacology for Therapist; Susan Tankersly Therapy; Greenville Psychology and personal experience.

Nutrition and Anxiety

“You are what you eat,” as the saying goes. To a certain extent, we are. We eat sugar (or in my case drink a Coke), I get the caffeine and short term pleasure – sugar – and sooner or later, I crash. Worse, my addiction to refined sugar is strengthened. On the flip side, most days I eat 7-9 servings of combined fruits and vegetables and feel full, but not stuffed.

I’ve read a lot of articles of what foods can help with depression, anxiety, and targeted vitamins and minerals that will help my lab results.

Today, I’m focusing on anxiety. It may seem silly, but every January/February I’m anxious about getting the flu or viruses, especially when I’m in large crowds. (If you are new to my blog, I’m a transplant recipient). I also get anxious for my two kids in school, because traditionally, the third quarter is the toughest.

So here is a comprehensive food list to help reduce anxiety.

From – Asparagus, Avocado, Blueberries, Turkey, Almonds, Yogurt, Kale (or Arugla), and Salmon.

From – Vegetables, Fruit, Salmon (but more information is needed).

From – Brazil nuts, Fatty Fish (2 times a week), Egg Yolks, Pumpkin Seeds, Dark Chocolate, & Tumeric (not for those with transplants. Turmeric strengthens the immune system).

Foods that make anxiety and irritability worse:

  1. Alcohol (dehydrates)
  2. Coffee
  3. Aged, Fermented and Cultured Foods (But during the process, bacteria break down But during the process, bacteria break down the food proteins into biogenic amines, one of which is histamine. Histamine is a neurotransmitter that aggravates digestion, hormones, and the cardiovascular and nervous systems. In susceptible individuals, it can trigger anxiety and insomnia.the food proteins into biogenic amines, one of which is histamine. Histamine is a neurotransmitter that aggravates digestion, hormones, and the cardiovascular and nervous systems. In susceptible individuals, it can trigger anxiety and insomnia. {per}
  1. Added Sugar (Soda, Processed foods, desserts)
  1. Hydrogenated oils, also known as trans fats, which are packed with LDL cholesterol and can lower HDL cholesterol

My Challenge – January 6- February 5

Since I don’t drink alcohol, or coffee (except an occasional Starbucks sugar Frappuccino), I’m challenging myself for 30 days to have no soda and cut down on processed foods. Will you ride this roller coaster with me?

Feelings vs. Truth

This is going to be a very different kind of post.

One concept I have learned in 5 & 1/2 years of therapy, is that feeling are REAL, but feelings are not TRUTH. We feel what we feel, but it doesn’t mean it’s true.

Abraham Lincoln said “I have noticed that most people in this world are about as happy as they have made up their minds to be.”

Notwithstanding things like medical depression, anxiety, PTSD, or another diagnosis, a traumatic life event, or a natural disaster, I agree with the 16th President.

Now, I’m much happier living at home and not the hospital. I feel better and stronger when I sleep for more than 7 hours. I like when my car works. I like when the internet works. But in general, we experience joy, anger, sadness, fear, disgust ( remember the movie Inside Out?).

Another concept over the last two years I’ve learned is that no other person CAN MAKE us feel the emotions we feel. Think about it. We can be talking and I say, “I want you to get really angry. Now. Get really angry.” Did you get angry? I hope not. We get angry when we perceive someone has mistreated us ( and it must have been on purpose!!).

Another reason is that we have unmet expectations. For example, I call my husband on his way home from work and tell him I’m making pasta for supper, but I don’t have very much cheese at home. He arrives home with no cheese. I got angry because he didn’t think to stop for the thinly sliced Italian 6 blend cheese mix. Now, should have stopped? Possibly. But, I should have expressed my need for him to stop to get pasta cheese. He didn’t make me angry, I chose to be angry, or more accurately, disappointed that I won’t have cheese with my pasta.

A third reason can be plain miscommunication. Did we read into the message we received? Was it an email, text, phone call, a quick exchange? Face to face communication when both parties are willing to remain calm is the best setting to correct a miscommunication.

A lot of our emotions are in our control.

Emotional Journal

While it’s still New Year’s Day and we are in the mindset of changes and setting new goals for the year, I finished my second year of a writing a journal. Emotional Journal is available at

This 12-month journal makes it easy to track your daily moods, record factors that contribute to moods (like sleep, exercise, screen time, and social interaction). Each day also includes a space to journal notes for the day. Get control of your moods and make it easier to talk to your doctor or therapist about how you feel.

Changes from 2018 include: the weeks are numbered and not dated (it can be purchased at any time of the year, not just in January); at the end of each week is a space to record your week’s accomplishments; I included a recommended reading list; it is less expensive even with shipping; lastly, the journal is in a coil spiral format.

Upon purchasing – please review it with feedback. Thank you so much!

New Year’s Day 2019

I’m kicking off this year by blogging, publishing the second edition of my Emotional Journal, and establishing better health routines. I plan to take some health classes to become a health coach.

I went to college for communications and worked as a receptionist, a non profit fundraiser, then returned to go to cosmetology school. I worked as a hairstylist for almost four years, before adopting two children. I became a stay at home mom and loved it. Until November 2009.

My CHD (Congenital Heart Disease) came back to haunt me. I was in heart failure and it affected my blood vessels to my liver.

To summarize late 2009-2013, I had open heart surgery with a mechanical valve and a pacemaker, rerouting the blood flow. This surgery was successful for 18 months. My medications started to fail, I was retaining liters of fluid, and eventually I needed to be on oxygen 24/7. September 2011, I was listed with UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing). I needed a new heart and a new liver. I waited at home until May 19, 2012. I was hospitalized as I declined and contracted several viruses in CCU. My renal system failed and I needed dialysis. In the eleventh hour, I received a heart, liver, and kidney on July 12-13, 2012. My recovery was longer than most and I went between the hospital and home for the next year.

It has been 6 years, 5 months, and 20 days since my transplants. My life has turned out so differently than thought it would. Physically, I have good days and bad days; I have chronic pain, painful side effects, peripheral neuropathy and a low immune system. Emotionally, I struggle with depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

I hope to encourage others and bring new information through blogging.

Showing Thankfulness, When You Are Struggling to Live One Day At A Time

You’ve made it through Thanksgiving (maybe you have the in-laws or another Thanksgiving celebration to go to this extended weekend). Between the food, friends, family, football, and Black Friday, everyone seems happy, joyful, delighted and thankful. In the depths of depression, it is difficult to join in and there are times, I feel like I am performing and even though I can be surrounded by people, I can be lonely.

This is the time I have to write out what I am thankful for and sometimes we write it out as a family. It can start out simple – air. After being on a ventilator, I am VERY thankful I can breath on my own and eat and drink whatever I want.  Clean water – access to it all the time. Medicine – even with side effects, medicine daily saves my life. My doctors. Shoes. Hair (after the transplants I lost my hair) and it’s grown back Heat. Clothing. Running water.

Then I go to the people in my life. then, most importantly, to my God and Who He is and His unchanging character.

After my transplants or any significant event in your life (wedding, birth or loss of a child, surgery, moving, a marriage separation or divorce, etc.), there seems to be an acceptable amount of time society thinks you need help, prayers, one on one visits, your grass cut ( you get the idea) and you should be recovered.

However, a mood disorder, that is something most people dismiss or don’t know what to say. Some people do, and will remain faithful in keeping up with you, holding you account spiritually, socially, and making sure you are taking care of yourself. Cherish those friendships, invest time and care into them, make time to pray with them or ask them to pray for you when you are too depressed to pray for yourself.

Don’t try to fake it so much, holidays are not all joyous without drawbacks, But you can start making a thankful list and see how blessed you are. Take advantage of the sunshine, give to others and push yourself to make your thankful list as long as possible.

Recognizing Depression

The topic of depression is talked about often in our society. Prescription drugs to fight depression are advertised on television, magazines, and pamphlets in physician’s offices. News stories are easy to spot at all major television networks, print, and online. Even our children say they are depressed after a day at school when they have been teased or bullied.

I started showing signs of depression in 2003, years before my heart failure. I didn’t know these signs and was suffering for a while before I could get professional help. My family misunderstood me and it would cause conflicts and many hurtful words were exchanged on both sides. Meanwhile, a lot was happening physically, chemically, and emotionally inside of me.

There are many depressive disorders, also referred to as affective or mood disorders. Researching these with the guidance of a therapist and a psychiatrist helped me tremendously. Some common early signs of clinical depression can include: mood of sadness, despair, or emptiness; the loss of the ability to experience pleasure (Anhedonia); low self-esteem; apathy, low motivation, and social withdrawal; excessive emotional sensitivity; negative, pessimistic thinking; irritability; suicidal ideas.

Some depression facts include: Suicide rate for patients with major depression is 9%; 18 million people per year suffer from major depression in the United States; the incidence of depression ratio of women to men is 2:1; Only 50% of Americans who suffer a bout of depression will seek treatment. Treatment can be effective up to 80% of depressed patients. *

When I started seeking help from my primary care physician, it was a catastrophe. I highly suggest seeking help from a medical professional – a therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist or a combination of a therapist and a psychiatrist or psychologist.  Therapists and psychologists cannot prescribe medication. However, a good therapist will be well versed in psychotropic medications.

If you suspect you or someone close to you may be suffering from a depressive disorder, seek professional help right away.


*Handbook of Clinical Psychopharmacology for Therapists, 6th Edition