Why I'm Annoyed by the Idea of PTSD Awareness Month
I don’t know why, but for some reason, I’m annoyed by the idea of designating a month for awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Perhaps it’s because this country has been at war for decades, which often subjects thousands of American men and women to atrocities that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Perhaps it’s because we just finished talking about sexual assault and abuse throughout the month of April and how that is one of the most common sources of PTSD outside of combat. Perhaps it’s because I’m feeling vulnerable as I enter my third year in therapy and my third session of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), which is just another tool with which my team of medical professionals is trying to treat my PTSD symptoms.
I’ve done and continue to do talk therapy. I do yoga. I’ve tried medication. I have gone on a survivor retreat. I’ve journaled copiously. I participate actively in a group for sexual abuse survivors. I feel like no matter what I do my symptoms won’t go away and it’s so incredibly frustrating.
You see, every day is PTSD Awareness for me. I’m constantly aware of how exhausted I am from my flashbacks, nightmares and insomnia. I’m hyper aware of the fact that I have seemingly irrational body memories that make me hyper vigilant, dissociate or become overly perfectionistic. I struggle with trust — with even those I truly trust like my husband and my therapist. It’s almost like I have a phobia of trusting people. I know if I allow myself to give into the trust, that safety net will be ripped away from me and I will yet again be left wondering, “What did I do wrong? Why am I not worthy of love? I must be the bad one.”
While I’m not actively suicidal, thoughts of how others would be better off without having to deal with me or of how I could escape the memories that pervade my brain are often there. I don’t want to die but I also wonder how long will this healing journey take and how can I in good conscience take those I love so dearly along this journey with me without hurting them irreparably.
My body and mind feel like a minefield — ready to explode at any moment, destroying everything in its path. Some days are better than others. Some days I cope well, can even feel happiness and contentment. Others I feel like what’s the point? Why am I doing all of this? There’s no hope.
Such is life when you have PTSD. I spent the better part of my life not remembering the abuse that caused my trauma. Then, all of a sudden, it came back like a tidal wave and consumed me. I wish I could return to the perceived bliss of denial. But the truth is, the trauma was always there and it was just waiting for the right moment to surface so I could begin to deal with it.
Now that the moment has arrived, I refuse to stay silent any longer. I’m going to talk about my PTSD and trauma. I’m going to advocate for survivors. I’m going to shed light on those of us who struggle in the shadows while succeeding in the light. So Awareness Months be damned. Every month should be PTSD Awareness until the collective society realizes that many of us aren’t “crazy” or broken or damaged beyond repair. We just have deep, deep wounds that need healing and that require the understanding of others to be able to feel “normal” again. Whatever “normal” is.
If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
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Thinkstock photo via lolostock