Out of My Mind in Costa Rica-Living with CPTSD

Episode 25: C-PTSD and Baby Steps - Am I Feeling Better or Is It Prozac?

May 04, 2021 Ray Erickson Episode 25
Out of My Mind in Costa Rica-Living with CPTSD
Episode 25: C-PTSD and Baby Steps - Am I Feeling Better or Is It Prozac?
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 25

C-PTSD and Baby Steps

Am I Feeling Better or Is It Prozac?

April 29, 2021 

In this episode, I am talking about feeling better on a more consistent way. This enhancement in my mood also corresponds to the window of effectiveness for Fluoxetine which is better known as Prozac. It doesn’t matter to me because the experience of feeling better is motivating regardless of it’s source. My role is to build on that emotional and cognitive shift taking place into a better world for myself and for the people I love and care about.

I am taking Prozac, which is classified as a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibiter or an SSRI. This class of anti-depressant has been shown to be just as effective in treating depression as psychotherapy. There are currently 15 different name brands of SSRIs using six fundamental compounds. For more information click on any of the links below.

Lexapro (escitalopram),  Zoloft (sertraline), Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), Celexa (citalopram), Luvox (fluvoxamine), Paxil CR (paroxetine), Brisdelle (paroxetine), Sarafem (fluoxetine), Luvox CR (fluvoxamine), Prozac Weekly (fluoxetine), Pexeva (paroxetine), Selfemra (fluoxetine), and Rapiflux (fluoxetine).

In the Costa Rican healthcare system, I was given the choice of Prozac, Prozac or Prozac. So, I chose Prozac.

Dr. Arielle Schwarts has been writing about the journey of healing from Complex-PTSD for years. 

Healing Complex PTSD and Dissociation | Dr. Arielle Schwartz (drarielleschwartz.com)

Here is the official government site on PTSD. I have given you the link to their information on Complex-PTSD.

Complex PTSD - PTSD: National Center for PTSD (va.gov)

I have given you this resource before. It’s an oldie, but a goodie.

Complex PTSD Healing | CPTSDfoundation.org

Thrive After Abuse has a YouTube Channel and they are doing their part in helping people with Complex-PTSD. 

Healing from Complex PTSD: Relaxation and Affirmation Video - YouTube

 Episode 25

C-PTSD and Baby Steps

Am I Feeling Better or Is It Prozac?

April 29, 2021 

Hello and welcome to Out of My Mind in Costa Rica. I’m your hose, Ray Erickson. I know, I know. I’m late again and I apologize. I am still working on consistency and just so you know, this has been a lifelong challenge for me. I was a nicknamed “Late Ray” by a friend of mine who, despite my best efforts, endured many times waiting for me to arrive so we could go rafting. Just to be fair to me, I was driving a 1971 VW Bus. These cars get you to your destination, but it is on their timetable, not yours. Attention deficit didn’t help either. What can I say? I’ve been a basket-case all my life and I am super-grateful to those friends of mine who tolerate my shortcomings.

My excuse this week is because I have been busy. Yeah, there have been a few more trips to the EBAIS, my medical clinic, and a medical test that needed to be done at the hospital. No big deal, but the healthcare system here in Costa Rica is all about hurry up and wait. No need to whine about that today. Today I want to talk with you about feeling better.

I’ve been feeling a teensy-weensy-itsy-bitsy better this past couple of weeks. Now keep in mind I am talking about very low-level changes. I’m not ready to trip the light fantastic, yet my mood has been improving, gradually over the past 14 days. So much so that I have become a bit more productive and a bit better focused. Not by leaps and bounds, but I can see a quantitative difference and I feel a qualitative difference.

This is the first week I have had the energy and the interest to become more active. My mind has been shifting from a steady diet of thinking about all the stuff I don’t want to do to a more consistent diet of thinking about stuff I want to do. Believe me, this is huge and at the same time it is a very subtle experience.

If any of you have been treated with antidepressants, especially selective-serotonin-reuptake inhibiters, or SSRI’s, then you may relate to what I am going to try and describe. These meds, which include, Lexapro (escitalopram),  Zoloft (sertraline), Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), Celexa (citalopram), Luvox (fluvoxamine), Paxil CR (paroxetine), Brisdelle (paroxetine), Sarafem (fluoxetine), Luvox CR (fluvoxamine), Prozac Weekly (fluoxetine), Pexeva (paroxetine), Selfemra (fluoxetine), and Rapiflux (fluoxetine) have a relatively positive track record for people with PTSD and C-PTSD. These 15 SSRIs are based on variations of 6 generic compounds. If you want to look into this more, go to the transcript and click on the links. In the CCSS Healthcare system here in Costa Rica, my choices were Prozac, Prozac and Prozac. So, I chose Prozac.

These medications take time to be effective if they are effective at all and everyone has their own response to these meds. Hell, any med for that matter we all respond slightly different from one another. I can speak to my experience and maybe it will align with your own experience taking SSRIs. Of all the antidepressant medications, these meds tend to be just as effective as psychotherapy. Don’t take my word for it. Look that up.

I began taking Prozac (Fluoxetine) 35 days ago which puts me at 5 weeks, This means I am in the window of effectiveness which is encouraging. I am feeling a slight lift in my mood. Like I said, I am thinking about stuff I want to do versus thinking about the stuff I don’t want to do. This is one an indicator that the medication is working.

Energy is another symptom which suggests the SSRI is functioning. I have more energy and more focus which compliments the cognitive shifts I have experienced. Not only am I thinking about stuff I want to do, but I also have the energy to take on some of these activities. Now, grant you, I am not talking about a huge shift in energy. I’m not slipping into hypo-mania territory, no. This is subtle and it challenges me to act. Sometimes I act and sometimes I don’t.  Hey, I’m working on consistency in all phases of my life. I don’t let what I don’t accomplish that day get me down. The way I see things, everyone is doing their best, each and every moment. If we could do better, we would. You would. I would. Everyone would. This small truth helps me from falling into pits of despair when I lose sight of the light.

I have also been very isolated. I don’t see many people and I’m not sure if that is because of COVID or because of my lovely personality. I have been quite isolated with little human contact. This is a prescription for depression. Humans are social creatures and speaking of humans. I have had some intermittent contact with my wife and these experiences have gone relatively well, all things considered. We have been talking on the phone and not just texting. We even had a “lunch date” and I am cautiously, very cautiously optimistic. We have yet to be tested, truly tested. We agree to go slow, like we should have done in the beginning. 

Meanwhile, I appreciate my wife’s increased interest in working on our relationship. Neither one of us is taking anything for granted and we should not take anything for granted. Our dysfunction became woven into the fabric of our relationship and our personalities. I know for myself; I need to move slowly if I am going to be serious about make this marriage work. Nobody is holding their breath and both of us are approaching each other with the highest regard possible. Which is a good thing.

There is a tendency for people with Complex-PTSD to take these small gains and project them onto their futures and as expected, when the projection fails, well short of their desired outcome they despair. Needless to say, people with PTSD and Complex PTSD tend to live lives of quiet desperation and at times, when we are triggered, not so quiet disappointment in life. At least that’s what it’s been like for me.

You guys know I am a big dreamer, not like a rock star big dreamer, but I have a strong desire to help as many people out there as possible and to be honest, I’ve been quite disappointed in myself. I know where I want to go, but it seems like the instructions are written in Latin or some space alien language and I do more head scratching than moving forward. I don’t understand. I really try very hard. I have always tried hard. As an athlete, I was made the team, but I spend much of the time on the bench. I was a solid backup most of the time. That was disappointing, but I got enough out of being on a team to give me what I needed from the experience.

Sure, it would have been nice to have been a starter and to have played a lot of snaps, but I didn’t. I was certainly athletic enough, but something was not working right, and I have no idea what that something was. I know I always did my best and people were happy with that. Maybe that’s all that matters in life is we do our best and we get what we accept. Seems like it should be easier though. For some people, it seems easy for them. I don’t get it, but maybe I am where I am because this is where I need to be at this moment in time. Talking with you. Let’s find out.

Time has taught me to keep my expectation moderated. If your experiences are anything like mine, I get my hopes up and I am singing and I am dancing and I am living it up and then. KAPOW! I stumble into one of the many holes I dug for myself. To prevent this, it’s important to be pragmatic. Notice your improved mood and pay attention having more energy but be pragmatic. What I mean is to take it slow. You have suffered from Complex Post-Traumatic Stress, perhaps most of your life. I have learned that being like a rabbit may be appealing because you have been in pain for such a damn long time, but NO! Don’t go there. Go Meditate. Be a turtle. Be slow and steady. 

I’m serious, GO MEDITATE! You don’t have to leave at this very moment but do put it into your daily itinerary. It will pay you dividends in the long run and you are in this game for the long haul whether you like it or not. You have skin invested in this life of yours and it is your duty, your obligation, and your responsibility to take charge of your life. This means getting your emotions under control in a way that does not stifle their expression. I know I am preaching to the choir, but I am saying this to myself as well. Sometime we need to give ourselves a good old fashioned pep talk. Rah, rah, sis, boom bah. Go Team!

Getting control of my emotions means changing my responses to being triggered. This is no simple or easy task. As many of you may already painfully know. I am clear that my trigger response represents my six-year-old’s last-ditch effort to avoid being abandoned by my mother. It has failed every time. It never works and there is no reason I need to have this particular survival tool in my repertoire. No sir-ree Bob. I don’t need it and neither do the people I love and care about.

I don’t think I have the time to go into this any deeper today, but rest assured I will bring it back into focus since the triggering phenomenon is probably the most difficult challenge for people with PTSD and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress.

Speaking of having more energy. The other day, I decided to go mushroom hunting. It had been raining more consistently and even though it is a tad early for mushrooms, I figured, what the heck, why not. I had the interest and the energy to do it. My property is surrounded by hilly pastures where the locals raise dairy cattle. This makes for a perfect environment to find Psilocybe Cubensis. For those of you who do not know what these are, they are known as Magic Mushrooms. You may have also read or saw many news stories pointing to the benefits psilocybin for treating depression, PTSD and Complex-PTSD, not to mention anxiety and who the hell knows what else.

While strolling around on these lush green hilly pastures there were slim pickings. It is early in the season. I did meet a couple of Ticos working on a fence for their cattle. They were brothers who live in the area. They are very nice people as are most Ticos and they did not mind me walking amongst their passive bovines. In fact, one of the brothers located a mound of manure that had 6-7 small mushrooms protruding out of it. Naturally, I snipped them off and put them into my container. Turning the pile over, I found, to my delight, the remaining stem parts of those mushroom and a number of tiny, baby shrooms beginning to poke their heads out of the dung. I did not hesitate to throw this particular pile of poop into my bag and brought it home. 

Magic mushrooms are not recreational for me and they should not be considered recreational for you as well. They are serious medicine. For some people, it changes their lives and sends them in a direction they never thought was possible. This is because these mushroom expand your mind, and they open your consciousness to your connection with all things and to a world that we have lost touch with vis-à-vis our insane culture. No, I don’t eat Psilocybin Cubensis for fun, I eat them to heal. When I returned to my little casita on a hill, I had collected about 20 grams of the now purplish gray mushrooms.

Twenty grams was not enough to give me a good treatment, but it was enough to have an enjoyable experience. So, I threw them into the blender along with some fruit, a little bit of water and blended them into a nice smoothie. This is not a trip report, but just to let you know a little bit about how things went, I had a mild, albeit very pleasant experience. One of these days when I have found enough mushroom for a full treatment, I will let you know in a more detailed episode where I focus on the medicinal and healing aspects of higher doses of psilocybin. I’m talking in the range of 50-75 grams fresh or 5-7.5g dried.

Some people say this is crazy. I understand where they are coming from and I am not recommending anyone take any controlled substance based upon what I have to say about it. I am not here to get you high. I am here to help you heal and if you are going to explore the healing possibilities of psychedelic compounds then you are doing it on your own and I bear no responsibility for that decision. Kapish? There, that said, this is not the first time I have taken psilocybin for healing purposes. Since I have been in Costa Rica, I have taken advantage of the naturally growing fungi here to practice these healing activities and in my opinion, the process has been productive thus far. I am still looking for the right dosage where I experience the cognitive restructuring mushrooms are known to be able to do.

This is the rainy season which means mushroom season and it is not just the psychoactive mushrooms I am interested in. There are many edible mushrooms growing wild and I am interested in all of them. Unfortunately, there is not a comprehensive field guide to edible mushrooms in Costa Rica. There are plenty of sites to help identify mushrooms, but nothing that focuses on Costa Rica specifically. I’ll be sure to take notes, photograph them and be careful.

Back to feeling better. Yeah, it’s true. I am feeling a bit less depressed, and I am taking it slow as far as stepping up my activity level. Eventually I will strike a balance between being active in a way that doesn’t exhaust me for days afterwards. Like any conditioning, I need to do the behavior regularly which always seems to become a problem for me. I abhor routine and at the same time, I crave routine. Anyone else feel that way? It’s hard for me to establish a regular routine and once I have that routine established, I get bored with it because it is…well, for lack of better words, because it’s routine. Talk about a drama queen!

I have been here before, many times throughout my life and the struggle has always been to maintain a reasonable cheerful state of mind. Maybe that is just being unrealistic given my experiences have been a series of ups and downs. It must be because I am self-sabotaging. Who else would make decisions that undercut my potential and undermined my progress? I know I have Attention Deficit and I know I have Complex Post-Traumatic Stress. Is the combination of C-PTSD and ADD such a fucked-up thing to have that you spend your life like Sisyphus pushing that boulder to the top of the hill only to have it roll back down again? Over and over and over!

I don’t think I am alone. How many of you have felt like this? How many times have you dragged yourself out of a hole that you dug yourself, then, as you stepped back to admire your efforts, you fall into another hole? Is this making any sense? Am I talking for anyone else out there? I think I am, but I could just be ranting. Either way, my point is to pay attention to those moments when you do feel lighter. Acknowledge it. Take time to sit in it. Savor it. Don’t just pass it off as “Having a good day.” Take a more seriously because it is a tiny, itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny, baby step. This is where you heal and move yourself forward in your life. This tiny, fragment of an experience is telling you that there is life beneath the surface of hell. There is growth and there is potential for more.

Take responsibility for feeling better. Own it. Take it out to dinner and celebrate it because this could be the first baby-step you have ever taken and you want to make sure that when you fall, and you will fall, you have the courage to get back up and take another baby-step. This is what life is. One baby-step after another. Just like an infant learning to walk and then learning to run and then learning to drive and then leaving home. It is the process of life. Don’t get hung up in the outcomes. Enjoy the ride. Yeah, sometimes the ride will scare the living daylights out of you and sometimes you want to just get out of the game, but most of us continue because there are possibilities on the other side of the hill so we climb that hill one baby-step at a time.

I am living my life one day at a time and one baby-step at a time. For me there is no other way. My ADD brain won’t let me coordinate my goals with a plan to accomplish said goals and the Complex Post-Traumatic Stress has caused me to fail, repeatedly at achieving my own expectations. The world somehow ends up throwing me a screwball and I’m a sucker for screwballs. Just ask my baseball coach. 

That means, today, I am focusing on talking with you about C-PTSD and sharing with you my experience in the hopes that, somehow, it helps you understand yourself a bit better. Like I say in my intro, Socrates said, “An unexamined life is a life not worth living.” And like my mother said, “Live it up. You have your whole life to live it down.” So, that’s where I am at right now. Not down and not up with most of the day being a little bit of both. I try not to dwell on the down because down is not the direction I want to go. Up is the direction I want to go up and taking baby-steps seems to be working for me.

You may not be in a situation where you can slow your world down and limit your activity. You may not be retired, and you may not be able to pay all of your bills on time and you may be suffering from a myriad of wrongdoings, the wrongdoings of others and your own. People never fail to disappoint, but people also know where you are coming from because our experiences are common. You read about the difficulty of life every day. The world will always have plenty of tragedy and drama. What you want to cultivate into your live is more love, more connection, more joyful and fulfilling experiences. And to do this you need people to be involved because the most fulfilling experiences always seem to involve people.

Check in with yourself every day, in fact check in with yourself multiple times every day. Take your mental temperature and don’t turn a blind eye to it. Many people believe that they feel the same way, all day, every day. It is simply not true. Just like your blood pressure changes from moment to moment so does you mood. Pay attention to what captures your attention and make note of it. Are you attracted to drama and chaos or are you attracted to serenity and calm? I know I have been a drama junkie without realizing it for most of my life. Now that I know I’m a drama queen, then it is up to me to alter what I am attracted to.

All it takes is a little bit of mindfulness over the course of the day. Nobody can be 100% mindful 100% of the time. We drift into and out of mindful states. Most of the time we are not even mindful when we are being mindful and that is just plain silly. It takes no more effort on your part to notice these things as it takes you to pull the vail down and gloss over your life experiences. The benefits definitely out way the sleepyhead approach to life. Yeah, you will feel frustrated with yourself, but be gentle because your brain is not used to you being in control. It is used to you being asleep at the wheel and waking up when you crash and burn. At least this is what I have come to learn by examining my life. Take some time to build mindful consciousness into your day-to-day, moment-to-moment lives.

Thank you all for visiting Out of My Mind in Costa Rica. I’m your host, Ray Erickson and I really appreciate you taking the time open your mind to my fucked-up life. And with any luck at all, my ramblings will become the fodder for you next baby-step. One baby-step I would like you to take is to share Out of My Mind in Costa Rica – Living with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress with your friends and ask your friends to share this podcast with their friends. In this way I can reach those people who desperately need to listen to me. Please take another baby-step by rating or reviewing or making a comment on those platforms that allow you to do that. Also, if you have a question or you want to call me out on my bullshit, the write me an email at ray@rayerickson.com. I will get back to you right away.

Until the next time. Be Courageous, Be Strong and Be Kind. I’ll catch you later. Bye.