Why I'm Finally Opening Up About My PTSD
It occurs to me that even though I’ve written before about what PTSD has taught me about myself, I haven’t actually written about living with PTSD or why I have it. There are a few reasons for this. The first reason is most of the people in my life don’t know I have it. I have spent the bulk of my life keeping people at a distance, including family. Especially family! PTSD isn’t just considered a weakness by society, causing those who have it to feel shrouded in guilt and shame (though I could care less what society thinks of me) – it is also considered a weakness within my family (or certain members, anyway). I learned very early on that crying is weakness. Sensitivity is weakness. So, from an early age, I learned to keep my emotions inside. I developed a poker face. No emotion means no one can tell what’s really going on. No one can see how much pain is inside. It also means that even though my body was being hurt, my soul was safe.
Another reason I haven’t discussed my PTSD is I have family members who refuse to believe me. They can’t believe me though, because they are still stuck in the midst of their own battles with their own demons. I understand this. Battling demons is hard, especially when living in denial. Denial is the worst of the demons because when you live in denial and disassociate from yourself, you become very hard-headed and angry whenever anyone brings up the past – but you also refuse to admit you’re even angry. I’ve been there. So, I get called a liar and attention-seeker for finally having the courage not only to admit what happened to me but to talk about it.
The third reason is no one really wants to hear about it. Why should they? They aren’t living with it. They don’t understand it and they certainly aren’t interested in hearing any real life horror stories. That’s what Hollywood is for. They make scary movies so we don’t have to deal with our own internal scary movie.
So writing this post and opening myself up in this way about something deeply personal is very hard. I’m doing it though because for the most part, I have healed. I still have my own demons that like to creep up on me every now and then, and while this does send me into a depressive state, I have learned how to identify the problem, fight the depression and scare off my demons. That’s not the only reason, though. I have to give credit to all of the soldiers out there who are struggling with PTSD. They are my inspiration for this post. They are strong and capable and they fight PTSD too. If they can fight it, so can I!
Being a survivor of child abuse hasn’t been easy. I lived in survival mode for most of my life. But living with the abuse itself wasn’t the worst part: the worst part is what happens when the abuse finally stops. What happens when you no longer have to fear for your life? Like the soldier trying to adjust to civilian life after living in a war zone for however long they are deployed, coming home to “safety” becomes the stuff of nightmares, quite literally. The aftermath of any trauma can leave night terrors, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance and isolation. And survival mode? You are still living in that state, sometimes long after the effects of your trauma have worn off – or so you tell yourself – because in reality, you are still living with the trauma. It has affected every part of your life. That trauma may be a part of you, but it doesn’t have to control you.
I won’t and don’t plan to go into detail about my trauma. The purpose of this post is simply to raise some awareness about what PTSD is and how my own trauma has impacted my life. It’s for me to finally have the courage to admit I have it. I also want to reach out to others and let them know they can heal. It’s been a long road for me. I was diagnosed 10 years ago and I have a great therapist. I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am now, finally making peace with my past while at the same time, embracing my hardships. Understanding what happened and knowing it wasn’t my fault has helped me improve myself. I have finally climbed out of that dark bottomless pit, fighting every step of the way. I’ve stared down my demons and come out the other side (mostly) intact. I can now focus on being happy because I know happiness can be had. I no longer have to live in the darkness of my past because I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel – and it shines brightly for me!
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Thinkstock photo via AnkDesign.