Out of My Mind in Costa Rica-Living with CPTSD

Episode 27: C-PTSD and COVID -19 Part II - Buckle Your Seatbelt

May 25, 2021 Ray Erickson Episode 27
Out of My Mind in Costa Rica-Living with CPTSD
Episode 27: C-PTSD and COVID -19 Part II - Buckle Your Seatbelt
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 27

CPTSD and COVID -19 Part II

Buckle Your Seatbelt

May 24, 2021

I’ve been sick for the better part of the last 10 days and today I am telling you all the nitty-gritty details. What was I sick with? It turned out to be COVID-19. It has been a hell of a week and I am grateful to be feeling 10,000% better today.

Besides being sick, I was given permission to read a letter from a new listener and I am introducing a new Sponsor; Out of My Mind Art at www.outofmymindart.com Out of My Mind Art is known for it’s Magic Wands and Twisted Wire Novelties. Check them out. 100% of the proceeds go to the support of the arts.

Here are some websites that help give more focus to today’s topic.

Melanie Greenberg Ph.D. published an article in Psychology today which looks at Post-Traumatic Growth. What on earth is that?

Post-Traumatic Growth During a Pandemic: Is That a Thing? | Psychology Today

I stumbled upon an article by Stephanie Foo. I didn’t know about her before I read her article, but I know about her now. I heartily share her perspective as a person with C-PTSD who is also leaning into the wind in these COVID times.

Stephanie Foo is a writer and a journalist working on a book on what it’s like to recover from complex PTSD. She has worked as a producer at This American Life and Snap Judgment, and her stories have aired on shows like Reply All, Radiolab, and 99% Invisible. She is also a 2019-2020 Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow.

Coronavirus mental health: Why having PTSD feels like a superpower right now for some - Vox

Huffington Post has a really interesting article which could help you to discover if the pandemic has traumatized you. Gets you to look at a lot of key factors of PTSD.

7 Red Flags You're Experiencing Trauma From The COVID-19 Pandemic | HuffPost Life

Medical News Today has a detailed article on the impact of what they are calling: COVID-19 anxiety syndrome. This is a very reliable source for sound medical information.

What is COVID-19 anxiety syndrome? (medicalnewstoday.com)

Episode 27

COVD-19 - Part II

Buckle Your Seatbelt

May 25, 2021

Hello and welcome to Out of My Mind in Costa Rica – Living with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress. I’m your host, Ray Erickson. This week came at me like a bat out of hell and hit me like a Mac truck, crushing me into the pavement like a night crawler after a spring rain.

On May 5th, I received my 2nd dose of the Pfizer vaccine and for 10 days all appeared to go well. No symptoms, no nothing. I was feeling relatively well, physically. I didn’t have as much energy as I would have liked, but I didn’t feel bad. I was feeling confident, albeit slightly lethargic. 

The previous Thursday after I had published, I had an unpleasant exchange with my wife on the phone. I was talking with her about how it has felt to be stonewalled by her, which WAS going to be the topic for today, but COVID made its presence all too known. I was feeling a little sour following our exchange and processing the new understanding I had just learned about stonewalling.  Meanwhile I kept doing my day-to-day thing.

By Saturday, it had been 10 days and brimming with confidence, I invited my friend over for some afternoon chatter, a few beers, and some chicken I planned to BBQ. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Saturday arrives and he shows up in mid-afternoon with his traditional lunch cooler containing a few beers. As he arrived, I was sweeping the house. See, I did do something! I also marinated the chicken in a combination of Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce and Guaro. Here’s to Sweet Baby Ray. His sauce is fantastic.

It was a typical evening. I prepared dinner as he and I exchanged stories about our week or about our lives. We drank some beers, had a few smokes, a few tokes, and ate a delightful BBQ chicken meal with spinach and mushrooms on the side. Yum. 

We seem to enjoy each other’s company and he’s a really smart guy. Go figure. Regardless, I am happy to have him as a friend and I am truly grateful for his presence in my life. Here’s to you, my friend. Salud At any rate we had a great time, and the party was over by 6:30pm. That’s the way I like it. My friend went home and I picked up a little bit around the house, but I began to feel fatigued.

By 8pm I was in bed. I thought that would be the end of it and I would wake up with, maybe a minor hangover and I would get on with my Sunday, which was going to include working on this week’s episode. Little did I know that my body was getting ready for a battle. Not a battle. A freaking WAR. I am serious as death. I had no idea what was coming, and it was not pretty. Don’t worry, I will spare you many of the gory details for your own comfort.

The beginning is pretty much a blur to me now, but the experiences are not. If you have ever hobbled to the bathroom, in the middle of the night, squeezing your anus as hard as you can, only to come within inches of reaching the toilet…then you know my terror, my horror and my nausea. You have been there my friend. Fortunately, for some reason, I wore a pair of underwear to bed, as a precautionary measure because I did not want any shit in my bed. It turns out, that was a real possibility.

All day Sunday I repeated this exercise at random times throughout the day. Racing to the toilet, desperately hoping not to projectile shit feces all over the house. Most of the time I made it. But there were times when I did not. And I’d better not say what happened then. I’ll leave that for your imagination. Sorry about that.

Anyway, the week droned on, minute-after-minute, hour-after-hour, day-after-day, each moment filled with the sum total of angst in a 12-year-old boy asking a girl to dance for the very first time. Qué Dia!

It was all I could do to drink enough water to keep up with my body’s super-charged cleansing process. I kid you not, COVID really emptied me out. You know. I don’t know how many of you have had a colonoscopy but before the procedure, you drink like 3 freaking gallons of a solution that turns everything in your digestive system to liquid and the body expels it. That way the Dr. has a good clean look in there.

Now, if you ever drunk this solution, then you have a faint idea of my week. COVID was like drinking this solution every night for 5 fucking nights. After 8 straight days, I was exhausted. I had no energy, no appetite, no interest in anything other than sleeping, which I did a lot. Another thing I did was to drink plenty of liquids and at the first opportunity, I drank 4 bottles of Gatorade to boost my electrolytes. 

The body knows its shit, man. It really does. My body sounded 5 alarms and every system shut down except for those systems required to fight and expel this intruder. I AM IMPRESSED! Here’s to our bodies. Salud.

Talk about efficiency. Holy cow. I was excavated. Whoosh! How do I explain this trip? It was like getting washed into a turbulent river, naked, with nothing and tossed and turned and finally landing, like a beached whale on the beach completely overwhelmed and exhausted and I would crash. (with my underwear) Several times during the night, I needed to duck-walk to the bathroom, holding my breath to release yet another torrent of liquid. Where was all that water coming from? By the fourth day of this routine, there was nothing left, and the outcomes of those bathroom trips gradually became less frequent and less intense. There was virtually no coloration in my stool what-so-ever. Squeaky clean. That’s for sure.

If you are still with me, then here’s to you. Salud! You are a hearty crew and I respect you for that.

Events like this come to dramatic conclusions. As soon as the body was finished cleaning me out, It opened the digestive system, but close the exit. Constipation. I always experience constipation after diarrhea and diarrhea after constipation. Is that just me? I knew I needed food, but I had no energy to prepare anything, so I continued to suck on water. It was at this stage of the COVID experience that my wife and her friend showed up. They never should have come and were here for 2-3 days. It was a terrible idea.

To make matters worse, I recommended postponing the visit because I have been sick, but my wife and her friend were hell bent on visiting. Her friend, by the way was an anti-vaxxer and was, unknowingly the most vulnerable person here. My wife is a force of nature, as is her friend. I acquiesced and the next day I felt well enough to pick them up in town.

When I say force of nature, I am referring to things like earthquakes, tornados, and hurricanes. You know the light stuff. I failed her and her friend, by not setting a firmer limit and my only hope is that her friend is healthy enough and safe enough to fly back to Columbia, where she lives. I am stepping back as my wife feels betrayed by me because I made her go home the other day, half-way into her anticipated visit. But I had had enough that, my fair listeners, which brings me to a third point of insanity this week has held for me. I told my wife I planned to file for a divorce.

She is not at all happy with this declaration. That’s not important. Her response is her response. All I know is she is not happy. Me? I’m ducking and covering. It helps to have you guys there. I really appreciate it. I’m sure divorce will be a future topic on Out of My Mind in Costa Rica at some point. Meanwhile, back to COVID.

I was tested for COVID on Thursday and let me tell you it was no walk in the park. We arrived near lunchtime because my doctor appointment was at 11:15am. I got my name on the list and proceeded to wait, 5 minutes later we were all told the crew was going to lunch and then disinfect the test area. I was hungry and pointed across the street to a small restaurant, which are known as “Sodas” with the name, Soda CAIS, which was the name of the facility we were at. Lunch it was and we wandered across the endlessly jammed street in front of the hospital and walked into the neat and tidy little soda. 

There was nothing unusual about this soda, other than the menu is in the server’s head and proceeded to tell us, in his best English the 3 items of the day. There was Arroz con Camarones (Rice and Shrimp). There was Arroz con carne y pollo. (Rice with Mixed Beef and Chicken). We ordered the beef and chicken dish because my stomach did not feel up to seafood. I had also felt nauseous all week. I forget what the 3rd dish was.

In Costa Rica there are customary lunchtime drinks called “Refrescos or Naturales” which is basically fruit juice, sugar, and water or milk. We ordered the same drink, because it was the first time having this flavor. As we waited my wife and I chit-chatted about this and that and about her friend whom my wife had dropped off in town with a taxi back to her house in Heredia. My hopes for the next two days would be for the two of us begin untangling the mess we have made of our marriage. However, by the end of the day, I was convinced for my life to change, I needed to be divorced.  There was no point belaboring the process. I told her I was taking her home the next day and closed the door to discussion. Which is always fine with her. I should have thought of this technique before.

The bottom line is this. My eyes are open, and I am seeing clearly. I love my wife and I will always love and care about her, but I don’t like her. There is something not quite right, not crazy or anything like that, but there seems to a space within her that is empty and void. And I was sucked into that void for a long time, which is not unusual for me. I get sucked into the void, then I hang in there. I’m a sticker-in-there kind of guy. I was with a woman whom I loved as well, and we were together for 15 years. My wife and I have been together 12 years. Most of the time together was great, comfortable, but then, like now, our lives became a nightmare as our demons began challenging each other. Each demon fighting to the death with the hopes of being seen.

What a passion play? Maybe this is the way of life. Like magnets we are drawn to our polar opposites, like it or not and if that polar opposite happens to be just as fucked up as you, which they more than likely, are, then it is only a matter of time before Hell is unleashed. This is NOT normal, OK? Don’t think this is normal in any way shape or form. Healthy couples don’t get caught up in the drama of an emotional trigger, hell most people don’t have much in the way of triggers in the first place, but people with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress do experience these blowouts. Frequently, because there is always the dance of intimacy. We both want intimacy in the worst way, but we are not able to achieve this intimacy together. This is the conclusion I have arrived at.

There is nothing left to do except negotiate the properties and make it legal, which may not be too difficult given we were married in California. That is the sad reality of my marriage. It is not as though we didn’t try. We tried, like hell and we had a lot of good years, but neither one of us could overcome the wounds we both suffered as children.

I feel a bit ashamed because I am a therapist, a damn good one, but I could not make either one of my significantly long-tern relationships work out. There were other relationships as well, but these two relationships were special. I was committed with these women. It is all incredibly sad, but looking at the bright side, I now know I have C-PTSD and I now know what to do to heal and grow. I now know what I want to do with my life and that, apparently, is talking with you guys. It’s working for me. I hope it is working for you as well. 

Back to my guests, both of whom promised to make me chicken soup and I happen to have a pan of fresh chicken broth in the refrigerator, ready to go. Then, that day past and no chicken soup, then the next day passed without chicken soup and finally in the morning of the third day, I woke up famished and I asked my wife why she never made any chicken soup, and she tells me it was because I never asked her to make it. I say, “But you promised.” She then said, “Yes, but every time I offered to make food, you said you weren’t hungry.” Which was true. Were they waiting for me to become hungry and then make the chicken soup? Waiting for me to initiate the process of their kind intentions negates their offer and makes it look insincere. 

“Let me get this straight, You offered to make chicken soup, but I must ask you to make it.” Is that correct? Well, we will never know, but I do know that I got some chicken soup that morning, which was delicious, by the way. Meanwhile, I felt horrible about having to ask them to do something both had offered to do. I should not feel bad about it. The big issue for me was their complete inability to take responsibility for slaking off on the fucking chicken soup. Nada. Neither understood my point and they were committed to their stories. That’s when the lightbulb clicked on. 

Suddenly, I knew what was going on and I knew, from my vast mental health experience, that something was askew, something was not quite right. Their argument did not hold water. At that moment, I knew there was no turning this ship around. Our marriage had gone from a sailboat on the crystal waters to a runaway train on a crash course with destiny. We were doomed. No two ways about it. But first things first, I need to get my residency finalized while I am waiting for that decision, I am pushing the divorce as far along as possible, then when my residency is finalized, BOOM! I file for divorce. 

I want all of this to be done by the end of this year. 2022 is a new year and I want to be ready for it! Here’s to 2022. Skoal. Sound easy? Yeah, right! I’m sure it’s not going to be easy. I am very aware there is a lot of water to cross, before I am there, and the seas may be stormy. Stay tuned. I’m sure there will be more on this subject.

Meanwhile, COVID sucks! There are no two ways about it. It really sucks, some people even die, so please, do everyone a favor, get vaccinated and stop with the petty bullshit civil rights. This is a national public health crisis, and it knows no boundaries. We are all in this storm together and it will take all of us to get out of this fucking mess. So, do what is right. The hell with your politics. This is not about politics, this is life and death. So, do it, God damn it! Get vaccinated!

Sorry about that, I got a little fired up, but my point is this, COVID is REAL. Just as real as your mother, your brother or sister and your son or daughter. Do the right thing for yourself and do the right thing for your community. We are depending upon you to come through for us. Thank you.

I don’t know what else I can say on the subject today. Hopefully, this rant has been helpful. I feel 10,000% better, but for the next 10 days, I am sequestered here in my domicile. My little casita on a hill in Costa Rica. It could be worse.

Hey everyone! I want to introduce a new sponsor. Well, not really new, they’ve been around for a long time and have support me from time to time. Let’s give a rousing round of applause to Out of My Mind Art! Welcome to my podcast. Out of My Mind Art is an online shop hosted by ETSY. Out of My Mind Art is known for Magic Wands and Assorted Twisted Novelties. You can check their shop out at www.outofmymindart.com This link will take you to my ETSY shop where you can shop until your heart´s content. 100% of the proceeds go directly into supporting the arts. Get FREE global shipping with orders over $35. Be sure to like us. Thank you for your patronage.

Well, you have done it again. You´ve wasted another perfectly good half-hour listening to Out of My Mind in Costa Rica-Living with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress. Please take a moment to pass this podcast forward. It is critical to reach those people who are suffering from this very treatable condition and the sooner, the better. Rate, comment or review this podcast if you listen on those platforms that allow you to do that. Please, write me an email at [email protected] and share with me your perspective or give me tip or say, thanks Ray for being there.

Like my listener Abby. Abby wrote me this week and said;

Hi Ray,

My name is Abby, and I just recently discovered your podcasts. I have C-PTSD and find your content very helpful. This has been an especially hard week for me, as I lost one of my beloved cats just this past Friday and am facing the possibility of losing another in the coming days. I went no-contact with my narcissistic mother over a year ago, but she reached out to offer condolences (triggering me as a result). Self-care has been a challenge, and I'm nervous thinking I need to get "sorted out enough" to begin grad school in the fall (for Social Work!).

Your soothing voice and seemingly unrelenting positivity have helped me tremendously since finding your podcasts last week, and I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and warmth with your listeners. I hope you are well and finding as much peace in each moment as you can.

 

Sincerely,

Abby

My response to Abby was this;

Dear Abby,

Thank you so much for your kind words. I have been sick for the last 4 days with what I think is a bizarre reaction to my 2nd Pfizer vaccine. No need to give you the details, but it hit me like a truck.

Your letter confirms the reason I started this podcast in the first place, to help people just like you. It warms my heart to hear that you are benefiting from my fucked-up life. 

I could be a day or 2 late this week, but I'll tell you and everyone else all about my bizarre week, including the nasty little details. I'm sure I will survive. I've survived worse. All I need to do is be patient, drink lots of fluids and let my body do what it needs to do.

I know what it is like to lose a beloved pet. I am sorry for your loss. I'm glad you are setting boundaries with your mother, and I am thrilled you are going to study Social Work. It is demanding, doesn't pay much, but it is an infinitely rewarding field to be in. 

Keep doing your self-care routines. They will soon become habits that will nurture your body and feed your soul. Take care and thanks again for your kind words.

Would you mind if I read your letter in my next episode? I want to share your heartfelt gratitude with my listeners.

 

Blessings.

Then, to my surprise, she replied;

Hi Ray,

Thank you so much for your quick response; I am sorry to hear that you aren't feeling well but also so glad you're taking care of yourself by getting vaccinated and showing yourself the care, you deserve. I am eager to hear all you'd like to share in your next podcast. 

I can't tell you how much your words mean, both in your podcasts and in your response to me. Listening to you feels like listening to a dear friend who just "gets it." I don't wish there were more people out there who were traumatized (though I think most of us are to a certain degree, we just may not know it) just so they could "get it", I just wish living with this condition didn't feel so dreadfully lonely. You make it feel less lonely, and that offers more hope than I've felt in a while. 

I would be honored if you read my letter during your podcast. I hope you never stop getting letters from people who are grateful for your vulnerability, intelligence, wit, and kindness. Thank you for helping us heal.

All the best,

Abby

How can I not be motivated to continue doing what I am doing? 

Until the next time. Be Courageous. Be Strong. And Be Kind. I will catch you later. Bye.