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August 31st, 2016 ~ Vol. 85 No. 34
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Pushups for PTSD
Rick's Corner
Lately all over Facebook I see the 22 Push Up Challenge where people commit to do 22 pushups for 22 days to raise awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

I am thrilled that attention is being paid to this issue. It reminds me of the ‘Bucket Challenge’ for ALS, from which my mom recently passed away.

It’s sad fact: life ain't no crystal stairs and all of us will face difficulties in our lives.

Look at me. I had a rough three years. I lost my dad and I lost my mom in the worst ways possible. A personal relationship ended and then on top of it all, a psycho hit me in the head with a friggin’ 2x4.

After that last incident weird little things started to happen to me. It began with mornings when I would wake up exhausted to the point when I wasn’t sure if I had actually slept at all.

My way of handling stress is to exercise so I ‘upped the proverbial anti’ and started to exercise at least two and sometimes three hours a day.
Then the weight loss started. Then one day the stomach issue started. You know the feeling you get when a rollercoaster suddenly drops after getting cranked up the highest point? Or when you drive over the ‘dips’ on Highway 22? That unsettled feeling in your tummy? That one.

In any case, I would feel incredibly sad right after one of these episodes. The final straw was the nightmares. I would have crazy night terrors; I dreamt that people were trying to harm me or that my mom was dying again and I was trying to wake her up.

I had no clue what was going on. Then one night one of my boys was on the couch and watched me walk from my bedroom to the front door, checking the locks, checking the windows, going back to my room and then doing it again, this time with a pillow which, after laying it by the front door, I laid on the ground to sleep. This behaviour does not conform to societal norms.
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At some point I must have went back to my room. My son said it scared him, like I was in a trance. I don’t personally recall the incident, so I’m blameless, right?

Those closest to me knew I wasn’t sleeping and I was getting awfully thin.

On a particularly bad day I received a call from a great friend of my parents and myself, Jackie Bellerose. She asked how I was doing and for some reason I reached out and told her through sobs that I was not good.

Jackie put me in touch with Jeff Sutton, a Biofeedback specialist in Calgary, and I have been seeing him weekly. Jeff has saved my life. He explained to me that I have PTSD and that together we can get through it. In a nutshell biofeedback is a technique you can use to learn to control your body's functions, such as your heart rate. With biofeedback, you're connected to electrical sensors that help you receive information (feedback) about your body (bio).

This feedback helps you focus on making subtle changes in your body, such as relaxing certain muscles, to achieve the results you want. In essence, biofeedback gives you the power to use your thoughts to control your body, often to improve a health condition or physical performance. The following are a few facts about biofeedback so that you can better understand the process and how it can benefit PTSD and addiction recovery:

• Biofeedback can help individuals learn how their bodies react to stressors that affect the autonomic nervous system and trigger the “fight or flight” responses seen in those with PTSD

• Through biofeedback therapy an individual can come to an understanding as to how the body is reacting to stress-inducing stimuli

• An understanding of physical reactions helps individuals learn how to better control their reactions

The ultimate goal of biofeedback therapy is to allow individuals to increase their awareness about what happens to their body when they’re under stress and feeling anxious. This can allow for the development of coping tools that bring stress and anxiety under control. Those who are in need of quality post traumatic stress disorder treatment may find that biofeedback therapy helps them to learn to recognize and work through the triggers for their PTSD episodes.

I’m slowly getting back to my old self. I have learned what my triggers are and have removed them from my life. In those situations where I can’t, I am learning to cope. I still get the ‘stomach drop’ but the times that happens less and less. I still have nightmares but they’re less frequent.
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After one of my sessions with Jeff I ran into Vance, Jackie’s husband, and he hugged me and told me that they both promised my mom they would look after me and that I wasn’t alone and suddenly I didn’t feel quite so lost.

I once told Jeff that I was sad this happened to me, that I thought I was stronger than this. His response: “Lisa if you have an elephant and you keep putting cars on top of it, eventually it too will fall.”

I love that analogy. I am not defined by my illness, but rather reacting to crappy situations that have brought me to my knees.

I have learned through my journey that you can tell who loves you by three things, (1) who is there when someone is sick or dying, (2) how people react when money is involved and finally (3) who is still there when you hit rock bottom.

From these three things I have identified the important people in my life, good and bad; those who tried to lift me up and those who kicked me when I was down.

I’m sharing my story so that you know that even Lisa Sygutek can fall and she can fall hard, but it’s in how we deal with failure that our true character comes forth. Because of one beautiful friend that I reached out to and several friends since who have tried to protect me, I am slowly getting myself back and getting help. I feel like a porcelain plate, I have been thrown down and shattered and I’m trying to piece myself back together and though some of the pieces were lost, it’s okay.

“There's a crack in everything,” said Leonard Cohen. “That's how the light gets in.”

If you need help, get it. Don’t repress your feelings because that is bad. Don’t be embarrassed because even slightly broken things can still be beautiful.

One final note. Because of the PTSD, my emotions have been all over the place. I was in fight or flight there for a while. Maybe I was mean to people, unfair even, erratic and for this I apologize. I am a bit passionate about life, but not to that extent.

And remember, according to my father-in-law Gary Douglas, to do a proper push up either your boobs or your balls need to touch the ground.
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