PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder – childhood presentation – avoidance, shutdowns

My name is Xanthe Wyse. Diagnosed bipolar 1 disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder. Bipolar and PTSD currently affecting me the most. My presentation of PTSD isn’t well known. Is the childhood presentation of mainly avoidance and shutdowns.

During mania episodes, I am more likely to experience the typical presentation of PTSD as well.

Young children 6 and under tend to freeze to escape when in a traumatic situation which can include sexual abuse trauma.

In this video, I list some of the characteristics of my presentation of PTSD:
Avoidance – of triggers, emotions, my former name, memories
Shutdowns – shutdowns of emotions, cognition, body – is like a freeze then switching off
Dissociation – detachment from the body as don’t feel safe – like a heavy cloud through to like being unconscious. Is the freeze survival response constantly activated
Fight or flight hyperarousal – tend to go into this state more when in bipolar mania episodes then alternate with extreme shutdowns
Seizures – I have had seizures during times of extreme stress (in mania episodes).
Memory issues – short-term memory issues, blanking out most of trauma
Sensory sensitivities – may increase suddenly at times – sound, smell, light and when doing a lot of processing. I forgot to mention migraines where this happens too.
Don’t feel safe – tend to stay in my room most of the time
Hypervigilance – always on guard for danger – can’t rest
Sleeping impairments (also with bipolar)
Anxiety & panic attacks – fight/flight activated usually with trigger.

Some treatments for PTSD:
medications (forgot to mention) – meds don’t process the trauma though
Trauma directed CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) – this is the therapy I have weekly with a trauma psychologist
EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitisation & Processing
Exposure Therapy
Somatic Experiencing
Learning self-coping skills such as breathing techniques, grounding, mindfulness

The main form of therapy I do is DIY creative expression, usually using music. Music reaches shutdown emotions and I process with expression in metaphor which gives me distance from what I’m processing. I tend to go elevated into hyperarousal temporarily. Then need recovery and rest time. Is like a wave.

Whatever form of therapy – need to feel safe and to not go too fast (which may activate the fight/flight/freeze constantly at severe levels). Processing may be uncomfortable but can reduce the impact of the triggers in the long run. Don’t need to keep experiencing it over and over. Talking about the trauma constantly doesn’t help, in my opinion. Avoidance & shutdown never processes it either.

Source: Youtube