I'm trying to recover from divorce after a 20 year marriage, repeated sexual assaults from him, lack of support from family and friends.... How can I best recover and keep my sanity?
Seeking expert counseling is a sign of strength. A personal relationship with a caring professional is proven clinically effective.
I believe that I can help with this situation.
Your recovery has a lot to do with the symptoms that you are feeling.
A prolonged period of abuse can cause traumatic emotional damage which can be healed.
Can you enumerate some of the "symptoms" that you feel?
Are you easily startled?
Do you become even more so when you are around anything, any place, or any person that reminds you of your husband?
And, do you feel more isolated from other people?
I am sorry for so many questions but am trying to understand you state of mind. I think that I understand but I need to confirm some thing.
Do you have poor concentration?
Do you get irritable??
Are you less interested in activities that formerly interested you more?
When you say "panicky", does that include rapid heartbeat, difficulty catching your breath, tightness in your chest, fear of heart attack or death, sweating?
Those are panic attacks.
Cumulatively you have a complex anxiety disorder that often comes with the kind of longterm and harsh abuse that you have suffered.
It is called Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and can be treated with therapy; rather than with drugs.
If the panic attacks are serious (and they usually are - frightening or terrifying but not physically dangerous) then your physician can give an antianxiety medication that works to stop them in minutes - but the drug - alprazolam (Xanax) must be used sparingly for miraculous results without addiction.. Panic attacks are part of PTSD.
Let me give you the diagnostic criteria for PTSD so you can see for yourself.
309.81 DSM-IV Criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following have been present:
(1) the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others (2) the person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Note: In children, this may be expressed instead by disorganized or agitated behavior.
B. The traumatic event is persistently reexperienced in one (or more) of the following ways:
(1) recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions. Note: In young children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the trauma are expressed.
(2) recurrent distressing dreams of the event. Note: In children, there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content. (3) acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur upon awakening or when intoxicated). Note: In young children, trauma-specific reenactment may occur.
(4) intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
(5) physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by three (or more) of the following:
(1) efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma
(2) efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma
(3) inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
(4) markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
(5) feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
(6) restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)
(7) sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)
D. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), as indicated by two (or more) of the following:
(1) difficulty falling or staying asleep (2) irritability or outbursts of anger (3) difficulty concentrating (4) hypervigilance (5) exaggerated startle response
E. Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in Criteria B, C, and D) is more than one month.
F. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Specify if: Acute: if duration of symptoms is less than 3 months Chronic: if duration of symptoms is 3 months or more
Specify if: With Delayed Onset: if onset of symptoms is at least 6 months after the stressor
That is covered in item 5.
I have worked with many PTSD clients and panic attacks are very normal.
May I recommend a workbook for you to familiarize yourself with the process and help you choose a therapist?
I do not recommend a psychiatrist because they usually use too many medications.
I shall recommend two different ones for two different approaches:
You can overcome this but it needs work and professional help, but both of these books can start you off.
I shall keep you in my prayers for recovery, and you will, with guidance, fine you way back.
Elliott, MAE, LPCC, NCC, CCMHC