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Sailor's Medicine

There has been an uptick in triggers in the last six months that have been a bit perplexing. It takes me some time to integrate what has been happening and it takes some time to do a bit of analyzing.  I recently had a pretty extreme panic attack that came on so fast and so intensely that there was no stopping it. would like to commend the staff at Encore Dental in Lacey Township for how they handled it, as it it occurred int the middle of me having oral surgery.

When I went in for the initial consultation with the oral surgeon it was a very in depth conversation about my brain injuries, the ptsd, and my asthma. Being put under anesthesia can be dangerous if you have had a brain injury, due to the increase risk of seizures, so basically if we thought that we could accomplish the task without putting me under that was the best way to go. So we decided that I would stay awake, but then conversation moved to the idea of using the "twighlight" gas as I call it, but that could be risky with my asthma. Not something I was looking to mess with, so the conversation went on to discuss my ptsd triggers. If I was going to be awake, we needed to plan for anything that could potentially trigger my anxiety.  I explained that I am sound sensitive and I need someone to talk to me throughout the procedure. All seemed like it would be okay. 

The day of the surgery I had awoken from some pretty serious nightmares, so I was feeling really "off" to begin with, but I drove myself thinking I would be totally fine and I wasn't. I was nervous and agitated from the moment sat in the chair. I brought with me a weighted lap pad to help quell some of the sensitization in my body and it did feel comforting, but certainly wasn't a sure-fire fix for the energy racing through me. I also was allowed to use my earbuds, so I put on a recording of a colleague's trauma-sensitive meditation thinking her soothing voice would also help and it did, but again not a sure-fire end to the feelings. These tools gave me a focus, but not total relief. 

The doctor gave me the numbing agent as I gripped the lap pad and then I sat for a while letting that seep in.
I listened to the meditation. I focused on my breathing. I told myself everything was okay. I did everything I thought was the right thing to do for myself.

The procedure began and the hygenist was wonderful. She was a pleasant energy to have in the room to aid the surgeon. The tooth came out quickly and the gum graph was even quicker. I couldn't believe we were soaring through this. It wasn't so bad until it was bad.....

The next step in the procedure was to drill into my jaw bone to prepare me for an implant. You see I still have baby teeth with no permanent teeth behind them and so once they break at some point in my life, they need to be replaced with implants. It is only one tooth at this point, but there may be others as time goes on.  Okay, so back to the drilling.  They began to drill into the jaw bone and I felt an energy well up inside me that I cannot explain. It happened so fast and came from my gut on upward and I began choking and crocodile tears flowed. My breathing was so erratic, my body was shaking. The doctor and the hygenist were fast. They pulled everything off me and I sobbed and shook like a child. They thought they were hurting me and that I was able to feel the drill. That's not what the problem was. I was having a PTSD response to the drill.

I couldn't handle the vibration and rattling of my entire skull. I could feel the vibration and rumbling so strongly in the front of my brain that it set me off. I couldn't stop the energy from rising and it just came rushing out of me. There was no way for me to know that I would be triggered like that, but to me it is proof that my body remembers my car accidents. The rumbling, rattling, vibration, is all consistent with a car accident. My brain, my body, my energy remembers and I could not hold it together. 

The surgeon at first told me to breathe and then stopped himself and said, "You know what to do  better than I do. You are the meditation teacher. Do what you know is best for you and we will give you the time."  So I sat in the exam room with a gaping hole in my mouth, numb, crying my eyes out and sobbing out loud. It was such an awful, helpless experience. I texted home and asked for someone to come pick me after the procedure. I knew I couldn't drive home, but I also knew that because there was a gaping hole in my mouth, in my bone, I had to pull myself together to let them finish. I sat for 10-15 minutes or so trying to calm myself down, but the tears and the shaking needed to come out. This is PTSD. This is what it can do. 

I didn't have much care to be embarrassed until I had to do the walk of shame out of the exam room. Makeup running down my eyes. Swollen. Puffy. Unable to talk correctly. Sniffling. Shaking inside. It was terrible. I walked into the waiting area and saw my Mom sitting there. I just waved to her and walked outside to wait for her. When she stepped outside the door I broke down again. I was reliving something I can't even remember. Talk about confusing.

I was so grateful to not have to drive myself home. When I got in the house, my German Shepherd Sailor was waiting for me. She knew something was wrong. She knows my anxiety. I knelt down and hugged her and sure enough, she began gently licking the side of my face they were working on and then proceeded to lick away my tears. I laid down on my bed and pulled up the weighted blanket that I own. It is an 18lb blanket and I couldn't have needed that counter pressure more. She then hopped up there with me and crawled up near my chest. Sailor laid her paws across my chest to hold me and reached up and licked my face again and then rested her head next to mine.

I have told the Marines who come to me that it can be so difficult to explain PTSD to those who don't have it. It is not something you can turn on and off. It turns itself on and off without warning. I have told them also that they don't need to explain it to those who don't wish to understand. It is only their understanding of themselves that matters. They need to learn about how it operates inside of them and develop some tools to have for the good days and some tools to have in place for the really, really bad days. This was one of those really, really bad days for me. It was exhausting from the inside out and it didn't let go of me for a few days.  I was grateful to have Sailor as my nurse, checking on me, laying with me, healing me. In Native American culture, there is a belief that animals have "medicine" to share with us. Sailor gave me her "medicine" on those days, as well as, her loyalty. 

4 Comments to Sailor's Medicine:

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Nicole on Monday, May 08, 2017 4:27 PM
That's the thing though about PTSD.. You can keep track of your triggers as best you can... but you never know when something new will trigger you. Thanks for your bravery in recounting your story. At my treatment center with Maryland Recovery our counselors are very firm in the notion that, when dealing with trauma, it's impossible to just turn it on/off. And people who tell trauma patients to just "get over it" have no understanding of how PTSD works. Anyways just wanted to get that minirant off my chest. Thanks for sharing!
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Peaceful Warriors on Sunday, May 21, 2017 5:41 PM
Hi Nicole, That's exactly right. It is a lifelong exploration of how we interact with the world and how the world interacts with us. Thank you for your comment. I appreciate you sharing.
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