I am a thirty five year old female presently in good health. Ten years ago in combat I took two bullets to the right chest. I did not realize I had been shot right away and commrades tell me that for ten to fifteen minutes I continued my detail and was combative to anyone who tried to help me until finally I went into shock and collapsed. I suffered a hemopneumothorax, sternum fracture and a diaphragmatic rupture (right sided) which was repaired by a thoracotomy where they repaired the 1.3 mm tear in my diaphragm and removed the entire right lobe of my lung. While in the OR I suffered an ischemic stroke.
One year after the assault the hemiplegia on my right side much better and the adjustment to breathing with only one lung coming along well I was back on my feet and starting my civilian life. This was when my mother and a few close friends stated they started noticing changes in my behavior. My mother cried to me one day and said she didn't even know me anymore. I was a completely different person. I didn't notice but to appease my mother I made an appointment with my neurologist. He assured me that there was no sustaining damage to my brain and referred me to a psychiatrist who then referred me to a psychologist for a three day long out patient evaluation.
I was diagnosed with PTSD and put on antidepressants which I refused to take. I was a health nut and had a real fear of putting foreign chemicals into my body but I did decide to go along with the occupational therapy. Despite all this I still noticed my ability to express emotions were declining to the point that I was actually having to force emotions like crying when I knew that was what was expected or pretending to be angry because that is what was expected in that given situation. It was tiring and took alot out of me. I just thought this was the way I was so there was nothing that could be done to change it.
Six years after the assault and stroke I was losing control. I was not empathetic at all any longer had started scheming ridiculous cons at innocent peoples expense. I thought they deserved it because they were stupid enough to believe me in the first place. I felt invigorated. I took dumb risks and started drinking heavily. My marriage of ten years ended and I didn't care. It was like I hit the self destruct button and couldn't turn it off.
After the birth of my third child I spent the next three months horribly confused. I was an emotional wreck. For the first time in a decade I was feeling again and expressing emotions but had nearly no control of them. I was reflective and wracked with guilt for everything I put people through. I hated who I had become. I hated myself. I went through such extreme hopelessness I considered suicide on many occasions. I had stopped drinking stopped smoking reunited with my husband and tried to mend my shattered life as a means of extinguishing the guilt I felt.
That was eight months ago and currently I am in therapy. I have my moments but otherwise I feel better emotionally than I can remember feeling since the assault and stroke. I can express myself emotionally and I can honestly say I care for myself and others. I still have a measure of that narcisism (a pretty good measure) but I am being taught to catch my behavior and take control of the bad behavior by immediately apologizing to the person or people I acted arrogantly or unfairly treated then stop the malnevolent behavior immediately. I am essentially having to be reprogrammed. I was diagnosed again with PTSD and Major Depressive disorder and have been placed on Zoloft to manage the depression.
There is a long history of mental illness and suicide in my immediate and extended family including bipolar and schziophrenia but this only seems to show up in the males of my family. I did deal with a lot of trauma, deaths and suicide of loved ones and sexual abuse as a child. I do remember that as a child I was overly sensitive, a perfectionist, very physicially violent toward kids I felt were wrong or mean to others and I was dominating and lied compulsively to absolutely everyone and I had some ritualistic behaviors but other than that I got along with most of my peers normally and did very well in school. By the time I was 17 I joined the Army and at 18 started college. I spent eleven years in the Army and earned a PhD in Engineering Physics. I showed no signs that any of this history of mental illness was in affect with me.
I have all these questions.... Is this really PTSD or is this related to the stroke and if so why after ten years of being completely dettached emotionally can I now all of the sudden connect with people and feel regret and empathy for those I hurt? Is it normal for a PTSD patient to suddenly dettach from their emotions only to just as suddenly a decade later reconnect with them? What is up with the narcisism? Is it possible for a stroke to turn a person into a temporary sociopath? Is there even such thing? I wonder if this was chemical because it seemed that the birth of my daughter set the course for major emotional changes in me. Is it possible that the stroke or trauma to my body caused deficit chemically in my body that pregnancy fixed and if so why did my previous two pregnancies not help my emotional condition? I need to know because I am afraid I will disconnect again but if I have some idea what could be causing this I have a better chance of remaining connected.
The disconnection is a downward spiral- feelings of loss of control as well as physical changes (pregnancy, stress, crisis, etc.) can trigger your symptoms.
Honestly, you did not become a sociopath. It's just creating your own destruction seems a lot 'safer' than waiting for it to take you by surprise... that's a warped idea of survival, but facing death, escaping it, causes us to react in extremes. Please stop blaming yourself, in lieu of understanding, and feeling. You can be ok, even when things aren't. You aren't weak because you fell, but strong for getting back up... Sorry if that sounds trite, but it's true.
Giving birth often triggers preservative and protective instincts even in damaged psyches (or the exact opposite in someone feeling inadequate). Understanding you are at risk for instability because of the trauma you suffered should help you recognize when things are pushing your buttons. Let the adults around you know you're sensitive, and need their support and consideration. Also let your children know they should respect your feelings as you do theirs. Creating some genuine trust, a sort of safety net, should keep you from feeling helpless, so when circumstances arise, you know what's happening, and can deal accordingly. I think you have a strong enough will to face anything.
I am not at all saying you have or had dementia, but it certainly outlines how changes in blood vessels in the brain can affect personality and mood in various ways.
If your body can heal, so can your mind.
Hi - I don't have a psychology background but wanted to respond. Your post was so well written and so clearly expresses your story. Wow - what a lot has happened to you. Sounds more than enough to get anyone down and start rebelling. That's what the emotionally numb period sounded like to me - rebelling against all the hurt from before. Maybe life was so reckless with you that you became reckless with life - it makes sense why someone would start doing things like that.
I had another impression that maybe enough time had passed and maybe even a little healing that by the time you got to your third child, plus maybe the pregnancy hormones - you were finally able to bond and feel again. I'm not a mother myself, but I can only imagine the joy of having a child just plain offers new hope - and eclipses all that bad stuff before. Glad you're feeling better.
You said "I did deal with a lot of trauma, deaths and suicide of loved ones and sexual abuse as a child."
I realize that you are saying that you experienced these things, but how did you deal with them? All of the negative emotions from all of these events, what did you do with them? Did you just hide them away because you had no way of actually getting rid of them? Put them in boxes and hide them behind a wall because you didn't know how to get rid of them?
I get rid of trapped negative emotions from trauma for a living so I tend to see a lot of this scenario.
When you got shot and all that came afterwards was way to much for you to handle so everything got pushed behind the wall. Can't sort it out and to much to deal with already so just turn off everything! I have a young woman that I am dealing with right now that is doing this exact thing.
This stuff never stays put though, the boxes leak and some get around the wall, that bulkhead of pain and that is likely what you are experiencing. You need to get rid of the stuff behind that wall before you experience another major trauma that could easily happen. Is there a little girl inside of you?
What are you currently doing to get rid of those trapped negative emotions and are they actually leaving?
"you can't change history, but you can change the future!Ã¢ï¿½ï¿½
Emotional compartmentalization and Self destructive behavior are often symptomologic of PTSD patients.
We strive to compartmentalize emotions so we can avoid those feelings. It is easier to function without having to give-in to the feelings that otherwise might exacerbate the anger, pain or memories. It is sometimes easier to put them in a place where we can control them, or not yield to them at all.
It is well known that PTSD patients often succumb to self inflicted physical abuse, such as burning or cutting oneself. The physical pain is often easier to tolerate and sufficiently distractive and allows us to divert from the emotional pain.
Honest, truthful counseling is the answer, perhaps with EMDR in order to gain insight to the inner behaviors and motivations.
Veterans should contact the nearest Vet Center, or seek assistance from the VA department of Mental Health.
The PTSD is the cause or your suffering, and of your choices. Don't blame yourself, and don't think you are crazy. Just submit to healing sessions with a good, competent counselor. The VA has many. Shop around till you find one that works for you.