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Yeah....then there's that.

The unmentionable of the most unmentionable. On my own path with this I had to go through this one too. Fairly young for it, bloodwork discovered I was 'pre' and the only hormone low as testosterone. Therein became a very long, eight year battle of the hormones and PTSD. There are those out there who always argue with me that women aren't given testosterone, but they are. There is also a reason that EMTs are trained to ask women if they are on Viagra. So yeah.

I loved the rush of this stuff. Everything was different on testosterone. I stopped being so tired, stopped being so 'out of it'. However, the sleeping issues became far more profound. At odds with the rush of the day, my nights became ones filled with screaming nightmares. It was almost as if the hormone bump had also bumped those things into life. Those I most needed to keep secret, to keep locked away in order to do my jobs. Yes ... jobs.

Yet day to day I was strong, farmer 'boy' strong as one of the Fire Rescue instructors put it. Yes I went up about 30lbs but it was muscle. I'd actually leaned down. It was so easy to get caught up in the glory of being so physically strong. To get caught up in the ability to just NOT get caught up in the emotional drama at work, at college. My brain was thinking very differently. No one wants to hear that. Nope nada, that's not how it works everyone argued.

Yet my family, all women (except for my sons) noticed the change, were intimidated by the change. They were very upset on a level I didn't understand about how I wouldn't fall for the snide remark game anymore. I started 'calling them on that s***.' We started to all fracture under the 'blame' of that hormone. Relationships fractured. Ones which were unhealthy to begin with.

I became that 'black sheep' who spent her extra time in the gym. I fought, I boxed, I did martial arts. I ran, I ran and ran. Always my 'set mode' for stress. I liked fighting, it relieved stress in a way I'd not experienced before. I'd also gotten back into going to the gun range and finding that silence of extreme focus. I look back now and think "there were some healthy things there and a LOT of not healthy things."

Always the outsider. Even to myself I was an outsider. Even now I can almost pinpoint that moment, that night when I had 'the' nightmare that started the road of decompensation. I'd not had solid sleep in weeks and finally fell into a deep sleep for several hours. All the terrible burst through that door in that short period to never be put back behind it. I woke screaming so loud my kids came into the room, the dog we had back then barking and jumping on the bed. I was soaked in sweat and I didn't know where I was at the moment of awakening. I was still "there", in that terrible place. I woke with the scents of all those terrible things in my mouth, my nose.

Everything for me, inside myself changed after that. I became short tempered. I fought too hard, hitting so hard on the heavy bag I nearly broke my own arm with too fast, hard combinations. Gawd I hit so hard then. Darkness descended every night yet I fought the battle of sleep. Hormones became a raging thing I couldn't control and the PA couldn't get any regulated levels. Weight changed, I went down, stopped eating and then it went up. Nonsense of bumping the estrogen and I got headaches, hair loss, couldn't eat at all and kept gaining up. It wasn't muscle in spite of the testosterone this time.

I wish now someone had pinpointed the hormone connection. I look back and see it. Hormones added to the 'inner crazy' that was going on. The smell of blood on a call and I started sweating with the chills. Later being so hot I wanted to tear off the three layers of uniform I always wore. The hormone imbalance caused my hair line to recede sharply. I see it in pictures from that time now. I couldn't see it then. My skin started getting so thin and I was so cold all the time. Then hot but not the clinical definition of 'hot flashes', it was a heat that was only sweating underarms, behind my ears, behind my knees, inside my elbows and other areas that made no sense.

I thank gawd for the small gym I was at then, one of those locked down use a code to get in ones. Mainly body builders there at odd times. I'd go at night and box, do forms, lift, box, run, box, oh, hit until I was streaming sweat and at some point would start yelling on the exhalations until tears would stream down. So alone and in so much inner pain during that time.

There's an odd thing which happened. No one believed I wasn't eating. Because I'd gained UP.

So I just kept not eating. Because what did it matter? Wow..yeah eating disorder issues ran through my head. You don't deserve to --fill in all these blanks- because they were many to fill those blanks. A multitude of networked opportunities kept coming my way and I was not the person they remembered anymore inside I was NOT. I kept faking it on the outside. I didn't want to let anyone down. Keep giving 'em that 110%! I wanted to hold so tight to the reputation I had, I wanted to excel in spite of the darkness threatening to consume me.

One day that long slow trigger pull I always refer to, well it just happened and I was suddenly just DONE. I knew I was unhealthy, I knew something was very wrong. I knew I needed help and I was ashamed that I needed it. I was ashamed to ask.

Menopause. It took away so much but it also was the catalyst for a deep inner understanding that I couldn't out run the PTSD. I needed help. I needed to get off the hormones. There then became a change in my choice of doctors. No one was listening, I was being discounted when I tried to share that this was NOT normal to go UP forty pounds while NOT eating. "you just need to watch WHAT you're eating and eat better choices" they'd say with no eye contact, or while writing. I finally said one day "you are NOT listening to me, I said I don't need to watch WHAT I'm eating. I need TO eat." When I saw the eye roll before they looked up. I walked out to never go back.

Enough! I'd had enough of being discounted in this too. I got my referral (from my insurance advocate) to the Oncology office for the treatment by a Hematologist and the first panel was concerning to them as it came back....looking like an anorexic's bloodwork. Inside my body my guts have been rearranged so this actually made sense and yet didn't. Now I get asked all the time "have you been keeping up with your eating? How's that going?' Especially when my bloodwork comes back low and in the anemia range. Eight weeks seems to be the longest I can go with out needing another iron infusion which I'll need the rest of my life.

My new doctor one who questioned, not why I had been on testosterone, but why I'd been on hormone replacement for eight years. Why had it been changed, increased, and why had I'd not been listened to about wanting to wean off? "you know your body with your medical history more than anyone else does." Our new goal? listen to your body. This is absolutely a process.

It's been only 6 months or just over and hormones are settling down, it's a very slow process. The nutritional deficit will probably really never be 'fixed' it's an ongoing issue now. I feel more settled each week as I eat more each day. It's an overwhelming task but I'm doing it.

PTSD and menopause, it's a volatile mix. I'm lucky I didn't hurt someone. It was a blessing I had more control than I thought and never hit another coworker. I often would feel that response in me and stop it before I saw it through. However that effort set me apart in a lot of ways. My 'distance' from others did hurt people. I can't take that back now. I can't remember a lot of it frankly. But I can own that it is part of who I was and most of all I see I was a person who desperately needed help and would not ask for the right help. None of that is an excuse it's just what it is. An admission that I needed help. Desperately needed help.

I'm blessed I sought help even so long after the fact and I know now that it's a process to face this Disorder, a process to learn to live with it's presence. I know I can grow to live along side it, just as I have with Multiple Sclerosis. It's not 'living with the enemy' it is more knowing the shadows are there and choosing to live in a more light filled space where those shadows are smaller now. They'll always be there. I'll still choose growth. I'll still choose each day to face those shadows because they don't get to win.

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Comment by Janet Liebsch on January 25, 2015 at 4:42pm

incredible post Bree .. thank you for pouring your heart and soul into these posts. Sharing them on our USFRA facebook page asking people to please share with others battling PTSD/TBI. Hugs & prayers....

Comment by Bree N. on January 25, 2015 at 9:45am
Thank you Cam, I am working it through. Not always gracefully! Strong has gotta be my middle name my friend.

Fire Editor
Comment by Cam Mitchell on January 25, 2015 at 9:08am

Amazing post!! So open, with so much feeling and insight. I must share this one. Stay strong lil sister.

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