Meet Z

*Initials are used in the story to protect the individuals privacy. Story may contain triggers and sensitive topics*

Meet ‘Z’.

He is a selfless father, husband and son. His day to day involves learning to function with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] , Anxiety disorder and Depression. To everyone else he is a motivated and hardworking individual.

In 2015, ‘Z’ found himself managing a foreign medical team in Nepal following a deadly earthquake. While there ‘Z’ experienced hundreds of aftershocks and a 7.3 magnitude earthquake. He had trouble sleeping, trouble thinking and everytime he closed his eyes the earth felt like it was moving. ‘Z’ was aware enough to recognize that he had a problem but was unable to seek help until he returned to the US. He recalls returning home having issues with the vibration from the semi trucks heading down a nearby road. So much so, that he awoke one night heading down the stairs as the vibration put his fight or flight response into overdrive and ‘Z’ was attempting to evacuate the house. Finally able to see his primary care physician he was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression.

‘Z’ was first prescribed Zoloft daily and Ativan as needed to help halt the panic and anxiety attacks. After about a month he not only felt it wasn’t working but disliked the effect it had on his sex drive. Frustrated with not finding a fix on the first try ‘Z’ did not refill the Zoloft and stopped the medication cold turkey. He admits that it was the absolute wrong way to go about it. After about 2 and half years the anxiety and depression took its toll and feeling completely defeated mentally and emotionally he returned back to his primary care doctor to seek something different. ‘Z’ was prescribed Welbutrin which has not had the harsh side effects as the zoloft has had. He remarks that it is hard to tell if the medication has made a huge difference because about the same time he made major lifestyle changes to focus more on self care, healthy eating, exercise, drinking less caffeine and drinking more water. ‘Z’s work takes him out of town on a weekly basis so finding time and the ability to visit a counselor or psychologist is almost impossible. He has made a lot of personal strides that he is proud of with just some more inward focus.

These recent changes have allowed ‘Z’ to have a better “normal” day. Up until now most days he would alienate those around him and push negative energy into everyone and thing he would come into contact with. ‘Z’ noticed people around him were afraid to set him off and he would almost find comfort in allowing the darkest thoughts consume his mind space. With the changes he has implemented days are not good but are better than they were. He faces new challenges from hitting what he felt was his darkest spot. ‘Z’ finds himself trying to work through daily paranoia, worsened social anxiety/phobia and nightmares. He is more aware of his mental health and able to take note of how each day is different as opposed to before just living out the worst and not expecting any change. ‘Z’ is more willing to be his driving force to enact change in his life. He now can look for hope that one day he will get to where he wants to be and needs to be. He is able to see, recognize and allow the people around him to provide the support he needs to become the healthiest version of himself.

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Things are improving, but bad days still occur. On those days ‘Z’ finds himself wishing a building would have collapsed on him in Nepal. He is aware of his triggers, especially when it comes to the PTSD, and if one occurs and he has a panic attack, he says he feels physically ill even after the attack has passed. He hates that his kids have watched him lose control because of something as simple as a small bridge over a creek started to sway. ‘Z’s panic attacks cause him to stay frozen in place, incapable of removing himself away from the trigger. He will find himself violently shaking, gasping for air and unable to communicate and talk. Sometimes he gives into the attack and let’s it run its course. Allowing the rage to take over, he yells and harm himself until the physical pain drowns out the mental and emotional pain. These are the days he finds himself short-tempered and introverted, keeping himself distant from the people he loves. Any attempt people make to help provide support during these days can leave ‘Z’ feeling annoyed even though he wanted the companionship and love.

‘Z’s advice to anyone going through any type of mental health struggle to recognize that asking for help is only the first step. 

“Getting help does NOT mean you’re cured. Getting help does NOT mean recovery is easy. Getting help does NOT give you a pass for your actions. Getting help DOES mean you are strong. Getting help DOES mean you love yourself. Getting help DOES mean you have already taken the hardest step in a long journey to better health – keep going, I’ll be there, he will be there, she will be there, they will all be there…for you. You will never be alone, but you need to let us be there.”          

Erin BerryComment