Nervous system afire

The only haunting I have ever encountered is PTSD’s constant presence. It sets my nervous system afire.

Jonathan Arenburg
Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan is a mental health blogger, published author, and speaker. He has appeared in numerous newspapers and has been a guest on many podcasts.

Most of my writing takes place first thing in the morning. When one doesn’t sleep well, one might as well be productive, right? Besides, the wee hours of the morning are still and stimulus-free and by default, I am at peace.

I am the furthest thing away from a morning person. In fact, I’m such a grump, I can’t even swear at my constant spelling errors. At times, I think, if coffee came in IV bags I’d be golden.

Alas, it does not and because of it, I have to begrudgingly brew my own. Besides, with having the quiet and nothing but my cat sitting on my keyboard from time to time, the early morning dark is “me” time.

Oh, of course, I have one more entity lurking, a constant travel companion – my PTSD. While the pre-dawn hours provide me with some relief, it is PTSD that gets me up in the first place. Strange to think that the very thing that has brought so much pain to my life, also gives me licenses to be creative.

The only haunting I have ever encountered is PTSD’s constant presence.

One of the hardest things I find about being post-traumatic is how it seems to set my nervous system afire, from the top of my head, to the tip of my toes, I am in fight, flight or freeze mode and let me tell ya, it’s a force that extends its reach to my relationship. It hits hard like being struck by lightning, it shocks my partner and hurts her heart.

Front and back cover of the road to mental wellness - 8 sings your relationship is hurting your mental health.
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I know some of you must be wondering what I mean when I say, “my post-traumatic stress disorder sets my nervous system afire.” Well, what I simply mean is, I am hypersensitive to everything! One of the best examples that demonstrates this well, is when people hug me. Now, I’m not ashamed to admit that I am a hugger, but at times, a hug ignites my nervous system and triggers a wave of panic. Unfortunately, what this wave of panic does is send me squirming to break free. And like a cat who fell in a tub of water, I fight my way out.

This is, of course, not something I am doing by choice but rather, I am hijacked by the powers of my mental health condition. A sad and painful reality, one that is mutually heartbreaking for both of us.

Full list of PTSD symptoms

The power of observation?

What must be remembered is that observation isn’t always as accurate as we would like to think. With that said, I know that the feelings loved ones feel after I full-on panic and break free from their embrace is quite naturally hurtful.

Although this is true, the intent on my part is not to be cold and callous. It’s fear, inexplicable fear that has absolutely nothing to do with those I love. Yet, despite this, they rightfully feel like they did something wrong. Sad thing is, I have no idea how to make up for those moments, nor can I ever expect them to take them with a grain of salt.

Help for families of people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

My only hope is to keep travelling down the road to mental wellness, to continue therapy and self-care. Included in that is a good diet and exercise. All of this effort will hopefully quell my fight-or-flight mode and better manage my PTSD when my nervous system is afire. 

To my dearest family, please know that the truth is, your support keeps me going.

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Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan Arenburg is a mental health blogger, S speaker, writer, and published author; He is also the host of the mental wellness podcast, #thewellnesstalksHe has also appeared in the i'Mpossible's Lemonade Stand III. He has also been a contributing writer for Mental health talk, a column in his local paper. In addition, he has also written for the mental health advocacy organization; Sick Not Weak.Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health-related podcasts Including: A New Dawn, The Depression Files, Books and Authors, and Men Are Nuts. Since being put off work because of PTSD, Jonathan has dedicated his time to his mental wellness journey while helping others along the way.Educated as an addictions' counsellor, he has dedicated most of his professional life of eighteen years, working with those who have intellectual disabilities, behavioural challenges, and mental illness.He has also spent fifteen years in the volunteer fire service helping his community.His new book (2021), “The Road To Mental Wellness,” goes into detail about his life-long battle with depression, anxiety and more recently, PTSD. In it, he hopes to provide insight on how mental illness cultivates over a lifetime and, if not recognized and treated, how it impacts the entirety of one's life; right from childhood into the adult years. Jonathan lives with his two children in Nova Scotia, Canada.

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