Recently, I was diagnosed with PTSD; I prefer the term “PTS” or “PTSS” because this is an injury, not a disorder. For years, I always believed that the only people who were diagnosed with PTSD were soldiers who had been in war or individuals who were victims of war. On my podcast, I’ve interviewed both Veterans and civilians who live with PTSD as a result of war related traumatic events. I was convinced that there was no way I would ever receive a diagnoses of PTSD because what I’ve been through, in my mind, pales in comparison to people who were quite literally lost their limbs by being blown up during a time of war.
According to the Mayo Clinic
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
During the Summer of 2012 I cut my foot while I was swimming. The cut was relatively minor, however, as a diabetic, I knew I need to have it looked at in order to prevent complications.
I wasn’t sure where I should go and I decided to do what most everyone else does in a time of doubt, I turned to Google; I proceeded to search for “wound care Columbus, OH,” which led me to Columbus Podiatry & Surgery Inc. and Dr. Sarah Abshier, DPM. I chose this practice because at the time, they advertised themselves as being the foremost experts in wound care, and that was exactly what I needed.
Around August 1, 2012, I went had my first and consequently my only appointment with Dr. Abshier. She preformed a debridement on my left foot, took a culture and then decided to get an x-ray of my foot. She neglected to wrap my now bloody foot and proceeded to have me walk from the exam room approximately 15-20 feet down the hall to the x-ray room with my foot bleeding all over the floor and the x-ray equipment. It was this initial negligence by Dr. Abshier that caused me to pick up MRSA. After the fact, she had the lab report which indicated that I needed to be admitted to the hospital on IV antibiotics; however, rather than advise me to go to the hospital, she prescribed my oral antibiotics, and with the exception of a brief call from office staff informing me that a prescription had been called in for me, I never heard from Dr. Abshier again.
In the early morning hours of August 13, 2012, I was taken to the emergency room in septic shock with multiple organ failure. Doctors worked at a furious pace in order to stabilize me in order for Life Flight to transport me to a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Columbus. Once there, I was informed that in order to save my life, doctors would have to amputate my left leg below the knee; the rest is history.
The actions of Dr. Abshier have had such a negative impact on my life. It took me nearly five years to even begin to find some type of “new normal.”
Oh, and yes, there is an ongoing lawsuit against both Dr. Abshier and Columbus Podiatry & Surgery Inc. The lawsuit is public record, which is why I can freely tell my story at this point.
I never imagined I would end up being told that I have PTSD as a direct result of my experience with Dr. Abshier. When PTSD was first mentioned to me I was in complete and utter shock and disbelief. On the outside, I acknowledged it, but inside it was one of the most horrifying diagnoses I could receive.
I know all too well the stigma that is placed on mental health issues. My Master’s is in clinical psychology and I was a licensed therapist for a period of time. I’ve seen how people are treated by society who deal with depression, anxiety and PTSD; it’s unfortunate, but it’s reality.
I was afraid to tell anyone because I feared judgment, I feared looking weak and I feared ridicule and scorn for admitting that I have a problem.
In October of 2014 I began to have repeated nightmares involving Dr. Abshier; it was always the same nightmare and it occurred three, sometimes four nights a week.
I’m in the hallway at her office. Everything is completely black with the exception of a dim red light. I’m on the floor, trying to push myself to safety with my right leg and my arms. My left leg is already amputated and in the nightmare is nothing more than a bloody stump that looks as though someone took a chainsaw to it.
As I’m pushing myself backwards down hall trying to escape, I see Dr. Abshier appear in a strobe light effect. She’s dressed in what appears to be white scrubs covered with splatters of blood and has a scalpel in her hand. I scream for her to leave me alone as the scalpel instantly becomes an ax. I turn over, hoping that if I crawl, I can get away from her faster. I feel her grab me at which point I always wake up.
That’s my night. When I wake up from this nightmare, I get up for the day. I refuse to go back to sleep after that.
I’ve been having this same dream over and over again since 2014 and until recently I never told another human being. I was embarrassed, I was afraid and I believed that I could manage it on my own.
There were times I would ask my wife If she heard me screaming when I woke up, but beyond that, I simply went on with life.
This past August I had a full blown panic attack; couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, my heart was racing out of control and I felt like I was going to die. At first I was almost convinced it was a heart attack, however, the little bit of logic I had left in that moment reassured me that it was a panic attack, not a heart attack.
I hadn’t had a panic attack since 2000 or 2001 and this one hit me from out of the blue; like an RKO from out of nowhere (wrestling fans will understand the reference). I got beyond the panic attack and proceeded to have some of the worst anxiety I’ve ever experienced for the next week or so.
One thing led to another and I ended up texting with my friend Jess and it was really her encouragement that led me to seek help.
I reached out to my Heart Failure team at UPMC and was informed that they have a CRNP who treats heart patients dealing with anxiety issues. I went to my first appointment and while I shared a lot with Laura, I wasn’t completely forthcoming and held back some important details like the nightmares.
After a very trying month of numerous panic attacks, high levels of anxiety and more nightmares, I decided to move my second appointment with Laura up and when I saw her for the second time I was completely forthcoming with her which was not only a major relief for me, but it also helped establish a rapport with her based on trust and my belief that she genuinely has my best interest in mind.
This is when we discussed the very real possibility of PTSD. Laura had already prescribed my Xanax to help with my panic attacks, however I admitted to her that my daily anxiety outside of these panic attacks was becoming overwhelming and interfering with me doing the things that I enjoy; it was then that Laura added Zoloft to my treatment regimen; not because I have depression, I don’t; however, Zoloft is one of the best and safest drugs to give a heart failure patient to help with daily anxiety and PTSD.
It was also at this second appointment that I agreed to see a therapist. I met my therapist Andrea for the first time on October 9 and after talking to me for an hour, she confirmed the PTSD diagnoses.
Aside from my treatment team, my wife and my friend Jess, no one on this planet knows that I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD; it would be easy to hit the delete button and put this entire post in the trash and move on with my day; however, I’m one of the people who is tired of seeing others suffer in silence because they are afraid of how they will be treated by society for discussing mental health issues.
This is the most difficult blog I’ve ever written; but I’ll be honest, it feels incredible to share my journey.
If you know me, you know the past year has been amazing for me and I don’t have time for these issues to interfere with the work I have been called to do. It’s ironic that I’ve discussed with numerous guests on revAMPd, many times after the recording has ended, the need for people to invest just as much into their mental health as we do our physical health. Both are equally important and maybe, just maybe, me sharing my journey, will encourage someone else to get the help they need and deserve.
Today is #WorldMentalHealthDay and this morning I watched part of Sangu Delle’s TED Talk and this quote confirmed to me that I have made the right decision by seeking the help I need.
We need to see mental heath as important as physical health. We need to stop suffering in silence. We must stop stigmatizing disease and traumatizing the afflicted. Talk to your friends, talk to your loved ones, talk to health professionals; be vulnerable. Do so with the confidence that you are not alone. Speak up if you’re struggling. Being honest about how we feel does not make us weak, it makes us human. -Sangu Delle
Without the support of my wife and my friend Jess, I would have never sought out the held that I need. Maybe you’re someone who is living with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, symptoms of PTSD or any number of other mental health illnesses; you are not alone, you are loved, you are valuable, you have worth; please talk to a friend or loved one, talk to your healthcare professionals and get the help you need and deserve, you’ll be glad you did.