C-PTSD and Recovering from COVID
You seriously do not want to get this virus.
June 2, 2021
Well, it now appears I am not just under the influence of COVID-19. I am clinically depressed. Isn’t that just peachy? So, I thought it would be helpful to add some information about depression just in case the pandemic has also given you the blues. You may want to go back and listen to Episode 15: C-PTSD and Depression. There is some good stuff about depression in that podcast.
Gary Gilmour wrote a nice piece for Psychology Today. He is Vice-President of Preclinical Research at COMPASS Pathways. Check it out.
The Psychiatrist-In-Chief in the Department of Psychiatry of Massachusetts General Research Institute, Maurizio Fava, MD has written on the rise of depression during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mayo Clinic has posted an article on COVID – 19 and Your Mental Health. This is an article you may want to take seriously.
Arash Emamzadeh, administered the UCLA Loneliness Scale-3, a measure of loneliness, and the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), a screening tool for depression, to 1,013 people from 50 U.S. states. Here’s what he learned.
C-PTSD and Recovering from COVID
You seriously do not want to get this virus.
June 2, 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 I continue to recover from having COVID-19. It has been over 2 weeks since I fell ill to this mothereffing virus and let me say this, “You seriously do not want to get this bug.” Get vaccinated, if not for yourself, for the people you love. That’s it, I’m not saying anything more about the pandemic.
This week has been flowing like molasses in January, real, real slow. I can’t remember a time where I had no go, no juice for as long as this. This is 18 days post COVID, and I am still not functioning at peak levels, not that I ever functioned at peak levels. Right now, I would give myself 60-70%, I do not have enough appetite to motivate me to cook anything. There’s food to cook, plenty of it, I just have not had much of an appetite and besides, cooking would just get in the way of my naps and the endless hours spent staring into space wandering around the back roads of my mind.
Believe me, it is not that interesting in there, I’d rather to have the energy to mindlessly clean as opposed to mindlessly being mindless day-in and day-out. It gets to be a bit tiresome going to bed, sleeping for 11-12 hours or more, then waking up feeling as if I’ve been drugged, but I need to go to the bathroom to pee and now, I am awake. If I went to bed again, I would be there all day. So, I stay up, make some coffee, and get on social media. Whoo Hoo! Big wup! Social media, the place people go to feel more isolated, more alone and more inadequate. Yeah!
I try not to spend too much time on Social Media, but when you are living alone and there is no energy to do anything in the first place, then Social Media can get a good workout. The other option is to read, which I love to do, but I do not have much endurance for reading. My eyes get tired and there I am napping again. It is easier to watch Netflix or HBO or YouTube. Yet, when I read, the stories draw me in and I am easily caught up in the drama of the book, which currently is the first volume of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. It’s a fantastic book, but for too many days I am simply too lazy to read. So, I veg out in front of the TV.
I meditate frequently. Some might call it sitting in a trance, but I prefer to think I am meditating, and I am benefiting from this behavior. I’ve been avoiding meditating as well. I must be depressed. So, I checked it out.
There are probably hundreds of questionnaires that will do an adequate job of diagnosing depression. I like the Burn’s Depression Checklist from his breakout book, “The Feeling Good Handbook”. Dr. Burns specializes in a Cognitive-Behavioral approach to the treatment of anxiety and depression, and I was a long-time student of his work. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) involves the examination of your thought process and uses concrete activities to change the way you think about yourself and your relationship with others and the world at large.
I primarily used CBT when I worked with most of my clientele. It is a simple and effective approach to treating anxiety and depression and has been proven to be as effective as taking psychotropic medication on its own. I like it and I still think it is a good way to approach mental health in general.
So, I took the questionnaire. Two versions of it. One a quickie assessment with 15 items and another, more detailed questionnaire with 25 items. One the short scale I scored 33 out of 45. This score can be represented also as 75%. On the longer scale, I scored 58 out of a possible 100 or 58%. On the short assessment my score of 33 put me at the lower end of the severely depressed level. I had no scale for the longer assessment, but my guess is that a 58% would be in the moderately to severely depressed. Either way, it is clear I have depression.
Bear in mind that I have been taking 20mg of Fluoxetine (Prozac) for several months now. The question now comes up, Should I increase the dosage? The answer to that is probably yes. I don’t want to double the dose which would be to take 2 capsules a day or 40 mg per day. I prefer to bump it up by 10 mg per day, but that would require me to take 2 capsules every other day and 1 on the other days for a total of 3 capsules every 2 days.
I don’t know about you, but I like to keep my medicine regiment as simple as possible and taking alternating amounts of a medication, in my book is a setup to screw up at some point down the line. This is not a big concern, mind you, only a petty annoyance. Plus, these medications are relatively forgiving in that they take time to reach maximum impact so a day here or there with too much or too little medication will have virtually no impact on the effect of the medication.
By the way, if you are taking psychotropic medication, I urge you to become your own pharmacist. What I mean by that is; any medication you put into your system; I strongly recommend you become an expert on that medication. Know what you are putting into your body. Know the chemical, the side effects, the long-term use implications, and whatever other information that will help you decide if that is the route you want to take. Period. Be a smart consumer of the health care services. Don’t be a sheep. Being a sheep helps the system, but it does not help your overall health and happiness. Be smart when it comes to your health.
Isn’t life peachy, not only am I recovering from COVID-19, but I am also depressed. I am not surprised, but confirming this reality is a big boost to my motivators. Nobody wants to be depressed and I am no exception. I would much rather be active and engaged in the present moment. At this time however, I feel safe and protected in my cocoon of depression. It insulates me as I withdraw from the world at large, cutting myself off from nearly all of my social contacts. Which are not that many in the first place. COVID-19 has done a number on all of us in that department.
I’ve had so many depressive episodes in my life that it feels like a natural part of my process and maybe it is. It is pretty clear that I am living with some significant stressors. I am currently separated from my wife of nearly 12 years. There is not much hope of that situation changing so I have decided to end the marriage as soon as my permanent residency in Costa Rica is in my hand. I have announced this in very clear terms to my wife and in her customary fashion of letting things marinade, there has been no response to this declaration to date. This is what happens. There is frequently no response, which is a form of stonewalling, which, at some point, I plan to do an episode on.
Meanwhile, I am living here on my own, trying to take care of business in a country where I do not speak the language very well and I am unfamiliar with the picky-unny ways of the culture. I am learning though, slowly, but surely. I know these conditions alone would be a great stressor on anyone.
So, here I am, moderately to severely depressed with little motivation to do anything, not even the dishes. It’s pretty shitty. The only benefit I can see is that I am losing weight rather quickly, even without exercising. All you need to do is virtually starve yourself. This has been easy because of my loss of appetite. Damnit, I like to cook. I like to bake. I like to BBQ. I like to eat food, but food just has not been appetizing. I do my best to get some fruit and protein into my body, but it has been mostly a diet of highly processed carbs in the form of Doritos and tortilla chips along with granola and fruit in the morning and for dinner with a midday snack of crackers, salami, and cheese. Maybe an apple and an occasional cookie. Coffee and water are my fluids.
This has been my life. Ever since I came down with COVID 18 days ago. I am inching myself forward with tiny increments of energy slowly returning to my reserves each day, but for the most part, I am more or less, dead in the water. The good news is, apparently, I have the energy to tell you all about my sad and pitiful existence. This too shall pass, like the diarrhea and the constipation. Now, I am waiting for the other systems to come online, and I can return to going about my business and my life. I am definitely looking forward to it even if at the same time I need to drag myself into the kitchen and clean the son-of-a-bitch.
People with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress don’t do life. We feel life. At least I do. I have always been feeling my way through life and let me tell you, it has not been the most efficient way to approach living on this rock. Not in the least. I envy people who take action, who are bold decision makers, but much of my life, I don’t act until I have squeezed myself in between a rock and a hard place. It can really wear a guy out.
Apparently, this is where I am at for the moment. But I hope to move through this low spot and emerge with a new sense of purpose and the energy to carry it out. How the hell do I make my life meaningful? After all there must be meaning to a life of banging my head against the wall, succeeding at times, but failing many more times. All of this has to have some fucking meaning. It can’t all be for naught.
What does it mean to live a meaningful life? Really. What the hell does that mean? Meaningful to whom? Meaningful in what way? Meaningful to the extent it lead to personal happiness and satisfaction with life? These are the questions swimming around in my mind today. Existential? Yes, but important none the less. These are the deeper questions that aid me in self-discovery and if there is anything that is meaningful about my life or your life is that we are living it, right here, right now. No matter where you go…there you are.
I am also responsible for the quality of my life and damnit, I’m not going to squander life by being depressed and anxious. I know what is going on. I have a pretty good idea about how I got here, and I am beginning to recognize my path out of this current nightmare. It’s about time I grew up. It’s only been 70 fucking years. This is not a new awareness. I’ve pulled myself up by the bootstraps many times before. I feel like the Phoenix, rising from the ashes…over and over again. I think I’ve talked about Sisyphus. Most people know him as the guy who ended up in eternity pushing a rock up a hill, only for it to tumble to the bottom as soon as he reached the summit. Talk about a lousy job.
This means letting go of a ton of shit, which may be why I have been depressed these past few weeks. I’ve been carrying around way too much shit. Most of it being of the bullshit variety. There are some things I have held onto even in the face of conflicting perceptions of who I am vs. who I needed to be to survive. I would like to think these two world views would be aligned with each other for the benefit for the whole, but that is not how egos work. Egos tend to want to travel in a straight line from point A to point B, but life is not a straight line, it is a curvy, whirly, broken line with a thousand dead ends. That’s what life is. I wish it were straight lines. Life would be so much simpler, but the reality is, life is not straight lines, but more like a blind maze and we, me, you, are the rats in the maze. Egad. I could be drifting a bit off topic right now so let’s take a reality check and see where I want this conversation to go.
I guess the bottom line is that I am choosing to put myself into a brand-new life. A single life. A life on my own. I need to be clear with myself, that romance is not part of the picture unless you are referring to radical self-love. If, it’s self-love, then I open to some romance.
I’m going into this new environment with my eyes wide open and a boatload of new insights and understanding about who I am and what I need in my life. It’s a grown-up world I am talking about a world where there is no Mommy or Daddy to make things better when the shit hits the fan. I am conscious of the deficits I have lived with. It is clear to me that I have Complex Post-Traumatic Stress and I have been acting out the passion play of my abuse within the context of my romantic relationships. There is only one script to these passion plays and the act of repeating them for all time no longer appeals to me. I have become aware of the alternative.
That alternative is what I am calling Radical Self-Love. Maybe I should trademark that? Regardless, I have no idea what my own version of Radical Self-Love looks like, but it has got to be better that the Radical Self-Sabotage I lived for the vast majority of my life. Yes, the sun is shining and yes, the future holds unlimited potential and yes, I may actually be in a position where I can access that potential. There is plenty of pain, grief, and sorrow yet to be felt. Feelings I covered up with alcohol, dissociation and fleeing from the consequences of my choices. It feels good, but I also feel apprehensive in the “Been there, done that” department. This is not the first time I have allowed myself to fall into the abyss, just to see what happens. The abyss, in my case, is living on my own.
It’s never been easy for me, living on my own. All my life I’ve had people around me. I had great friends growing up. I have had way too many intimate relationships, between which, I spent inordinate times by myself. Of course, I worked, but even my work was with myself. Me and my client, for the better part of my career as a clinical social worker. I’ve always tended to be a social kind of guy, but more recently, I’ve taken a liking to solitude. I seem to be drawn to the absence of people in my life. This may be the few times in my life where I have been on my own, by my own choice. The vast majority of those solitary phases of my life were as a result of the breakdown of a relationship. A relationship I was clinging too.
In my life I have clung to relationships out of some dreaded fear that, to this day, I have not been able to articulate. Clinically this tells me that the fear was imbedded in a pre-verbal stage of my life. Sometime in the first 2-3 years of life. Maybe it’s the same for you. Yeah, this fear, this fear of abandonment has been an undercurrent in every serious romantic relationship I have ever been in and in the final score fear of abandonment played a major role in the actualization of the feared abandonment. The passion play has been on autopilot nearly all my life. Is it possible that after 70 years, I may be, for the very first time, manning the helm of my own ship? Imagine that!
That’s kind of a scary thought. My driving record would account for that fear alone, much less commanding the very flow of my life as opposed to feeling my way through life, like a blind man without his cane. It’s downright scary as a matter of fact. What if I fuck it up again, just like the last time? That is not an unreasonable concern to have. After all, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If you’ve done it once you’ve done it a thousand times. Neurology is neurology after all, but what I feel is the difference maker here is, is consciousness. I am now conscious of those invisible forces that drove me to be the way I was, and I am also aware that neurology is flexible, and that neurogenesis is a real thing.
Mindfulness is a key component of my plan along with diet, exercise, and meditation. Sprinkled amongst these moments are delightful visits with friends I love and adore and who love and adore me. There can be no other way at this stage of the game, and I have to go all in when it comes to playing this old game in a new way. It’s the new way or it’s no way. In this I must be committed. What will that look like? I have no fucking idea. Given a good attitude and a positive outlook on what ever I encounter in life will benefit me as well as move me along in the new direction. This is what I call Radical Self-Love.
Radical Self-Love™, is simply bestowing random acts of kindness upon yourself. Being patient and gentle with yourself. Slowing yourself down, down to the point where you can observe yourself in a non-judgmental way. Look at yourself with compassion, regard, and affection. Celebrate the fact that you are here, right now, at this very moment, breathing and taking in life. Take a deep breath right now and feel the love. That’s right, take one slow-deep breath and see what happens. Stop running yourself ragged. You deserve better and until you start treating yourself with the respect that you oh, so, deserve then the world is just going to continue serving you shit-soup, until you shift your perspective.
For me, it’s a day-to-day, moment-to-moment awareness and acceptance of where I am and what is going on around me. Take it in. Take in as much of the moment that you can tolerate. Don’t worry, the more moments you consciously take in, the easier it becomes to reside within the present. When all is said and done, isn’t it the moments of your life where you have been completely present that you remember the most? They are for me and knowing that I can create these moments any time I like, simply by being present, means, ultimately, I have control over how I respond to life’s seemingly random activities. It’s not what happens, but how I respond to what happens that makes the difference.
Get rid of the old, outmoded ways of responding to the world. Make room for new perspectives that fill your heart with joy and adventure. What do you have to lose? It is all in your imagination. And that is about all I have to say for today.
Thanks for being here. Thank you for listening to what may have turned out to be more of a ramble than a rant. I also want to thank you for taking some time to visit our sponsor, Out of My Mind Art where you can find silly gifts for those silly friends and family of yours. Go to www.outofmymindart.com to shop until you drop. Also, please share this podcast with those you know who may benefit from my fucked-up life. I encourage you to write me an email, like my listener, Abby did last week. I love hearing from you. And if you are listening on a platform that allows you to rate, review or comment, feel free to let your voice be heard. I will greatly appreciate it.
Now you’ve done it. You have wasted another half-hour listening to Out of My Mind in Costa Rica-Living with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress. This is your host, Ray Erickson saying, “Until next time. Be Courageous. Be Strong and Be Kind. I’ll catch you later. Bye.