10 posts from February, 2015

“You can get better” – PatientsLikeMe member jeffperry1134 shares about his journey with PTSD

Posted February 12th, 2015 by

Many veterans are a part of the PTSD community on PatientsLikeMe, and recently, jeffperry1134 spoke about his everyday life after returning home from military service. In his interview, he touched upon his deployment to Somalia in the early 1990s, and how his memories of Africa cause daily symptoms like anxiety, hallucinations and nightmares. But despite everything, Jeff remains upbeat and reminds us that there is always hope. Scroll down to read what he had to say.

Note: the account below is graphic, which may be triggering.

Can you tell us a little about your military service and your early experiences with PTSD?

I entered the military in the Army in July 1990 as a heavy wheeled mechanic. I went through basic training and AIT at Ft. Jackson, SC. I went to my first permanent duty station in December in Mannheim, Germany. I was assigned to a Chinook helicopter unit. My unit was very relaxed and we got along well. As soon as the war broke out we received our deployment orders. We returned home in July from deployment. My PTSD was early onset after returning from Desert Storm. I experienced nightmares, depression, alcohol abuse and drug abuse. At the time I was a 19 year old alone in Germany away from my family struggling with this mental illness. My supervisors were able to help me hide my problems well and it was not discovered at that time. I feared being singled out for having these problems. Three days before it was my time to PCS stateside our company was deployed again, this time we were going to Somalia. I was told I could leave but I felt guilty so I volunteered to stay and deploy with my teammates. We deployed in November 1992 and returned in June 1993. During my time in Somalia it was rough. During the deployment my job was perimeter guard duty and body remover. During the deployment I used local drugs of Khat and Opium Poppies to control the symptoms of my illness. After returning from Somalia not only did I have the symptoms that I had earlier but now I was hallucinating hearing voices, smelling smells and seeing flashes. I went stateside a week after we returned. I went to Ft. Leonard Wood, MO in an engineer unit that was strict. I made a huge impression with my skills as a mechanic and a soldier so when I was having problems my superiors hid it for me to keep me out of trouble. I did get in trouble once after a night of heavy drinking and smoking marijuana and was given an article-15 for being drunk on duty. Before that day I had still considered myself as a career soldier and I decided then that I was not going to re-enlist. I spent the rest of my military time waiting to get out and finally July 1994 came and I was out and had a job at a local car dealership as a mechanic. After working a while I got into a verbal confrontation that turned physical with the business owner and had to be removed by the police from the dealership. After that my thinking became bizarre and very hyper-vigilant. I took newspaper clippings and taped them to a door so it would motivate me to exercise harder and be ready if I were ever in a life or death situation. At the time I was working with a great therapist and she did wonders for me keeping me stable. She convinced me to take my medications and stop drinking daily.

What were your feelings after being officially diagnosed? 

I was blown away when I was diagnosed in 1995 after a suicide attempt that ended up with me being hospitalized on a psych unit for a week. My sister walked in on me at my apartment with a loaded gun in my mouth. I was resistant to treatment or even acknowledging that I had this illness. I was linked up with a therapist and psychiatrist before leaving the hospital.

What are some of the symptoms you experience on a daily basis?

On a daily basis I usually deal with a lot of anxiety, some depression, occasional hallucinations and nightmares. On a bad day I will have sensory hallucinations with me smelling dead bodies, burning flesh or cordite. Usually when that happens I get physically sick.

You recently completed the Mood Map Survey on your PatientsLikeMe profile – what have you learned about your PTSD from your tracking tools?

I learned that my PTSD is not as well managed as I would like it. It made me press my doctor to give me an antipsychotic medication and I have a new therapist at the VA that is working hard to help me identify when my symptoms are becoming worse.

By sharing your story, what do you hope to teach others about PTSD?

I just wanted to show that you can get better and that there is hope and that they can get through it.

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Getting to know our Team of Advisors – Karla

Posted February 9th, 2015 by

This past Monday on the blog, Emile shared about her fibromyalgia and what being a part of the PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors means to her, including how she hopes to help doctors understand that patients need to be treated as individuals, rather than just disease names. Today, we’re featuring Karla. She’s also a member of the Team of Advisors living with fibromyalgia as well. Read below to learn Karla’s views on patient-centeredness, open communication and healthcare in a rural community.

About Karla (aka kam-turtle)
Karla refers to herself as a Southern Gram, who tries not to let her fibromyalgia get in the way of having fun with her grandkids. Karla served as president of a community college prior to retiring from full-time employment in 2010. She has led volunteer boards and fundraising groups, worked in public relations and advertising, and actively worked in a variety of roles in her church. She continues to work part-time as a grant writer, researcher, and owner of a chicken farm where she has a rooster named Handsome. 🙂

After spending a long time finding treatments that worked for her, Karla is passionate about helping others shorten the time between diagnosis and condition management, and she would like there to be better understanding that fibromyalgia is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ condition.

Karla’s view of patient-centeredness
She believes patient-centered healthcare involves open communication between healthcare providers and the patient: “it should be an active and ongoing process to evolve the patient’s care toward results to create a more productive and comfortable lifestyle. It is a two-way communication stream based on mutual respect.”

Karla on being part of the Team of Advisors
Being a part of the PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors is very humbling but also refreshing to my soul. At times when my illness is at its worst, I have always hoped my affliction could at least somehow benefit someone else, somewhere, even in the future. That is actually happening with the opportunity to be on the Team of Advisors. Like me, each team member is willing to share freely and openly in hopes of making the future better for others. It is so humbling to represent patients from so many walks of life and bring hope for a brighter tomorrow. The work PatientsLikeMe and the advisors have been doing can truly change the way health care functions.

Karla’s experience seeking care for fibro in a rural community
A decade ago, fibromyalgia was a foreign term in my rural community, even to me. Doctors dismissed me as stressed, depressed and overweight. Employers openly joked that people with chronic fatigue syndrome, bipolar and other hidden illnesses were lazy. One doctor said I had a ‘bucket condition’ or unknown problem. After two hospital stays, XRAYS, MRIs, CAT scans and three or four doctors later, I confided in a nurse practitioner who knew me. She knew me before I had spiraled down into a life of pain and she knew I was not faking. She suggested a condition called fibromyalgia and advised seeing a rheumatologist in a regional area. There I received the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. I was devastated and utterly embarrassed. I didn’t want to suffer the ridicule from the uninformed public. When I was too sick to work, I would call in but if I had a doctor appointment, I would generally take vacation time so no one at work would know I was traveling to the rheumatologist.

I desperately wanted to learn about fibromyalgia to see if there was a cure or at least proven ways to manage the pain and fatigue. Eventually I had to give up my career and focus on my health. My family became educated about the condition and they understood my situation. So, then I began to own my situation and share my story. Amazingly, as word got out, many neighbors in my area contacted me to share similar frustrations. Healthcare in rural areas is in short supply, doctors are overloaded, hospitals are money-making machines and patients are deliberately kept uninformed. I firmly believe if not for the concern and care of one nurse practitioner who knew me personally, I might still be switching from prescription to prescription with no answers.

Unfortunately, ten years later, fibromyalgia is still very misunderstood. Based on my experience, I have learned to share about my fibromyalgia life, to advocate for hidden and chronic illness, to educate people about fibromyalgia and to encourage those on a personal journey to keep fibro from taking over their lives!

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