Nervous system afire

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

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 Reginald-Nixon Arenburg (Born January 14, 1976) is a Canadian mental health blogger, speaker, and published author. Retired from the fire service and long-term care fields, he has written and self-published an autobiographical account of his life-long battle with anxiety, depression and more recently, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Titled, The Road To Mental Wellness, he wrote it for what he calls “therapeutic release.” He published it in hopes it would help others going through similar mental health conditions. The sales of The Road To Mental Wellness have been steady selling over 300 copies since its release on October 10, 2021(World Mental Health Day). Arenburg has also been involved in a collaborative publication Called Lemonade Stand Volume III, a book featuring 20 authors who bravely tell their stories of PTSD. All authors where from the military and or emergency services. Published by Joshua Rivedal and Kathleen Myers for the i’Mpossible project, a mental health advocacy organization. Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health podcasts including The Depression Files, A New Dawn, and The Above Ground Podcast Arenburg has also consulted with the Government of Nova Scotia and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the Honorable Brian Comer and Candidates for the New Democratic Party of Canada, on improving the mental health care system in Canada. Additionally, Jonathan was recognized in The Nova Scotia Legislature by the Honorable, Chris Palmer, Kings-North MLA, for his Book, The Road To Mental Wellness, his fight to make the mental health care system better. In addition, Chis acknowledged the support he gives to others.

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