The Help I Wish I Had Asked for After Getting Diagnosed With PTSD
Recently I found myself in the deep chasm of depression without realizing I had fallen in. I had a traumatic event a year ago and have been fighting the demons that came with it, alone. I realized the fact I was so tired during the day and had little to no energy for friends or activities was because I was deep in the throes of depression — my old frenemy. Something I have fought the good fight against most of my life. To my credit, I feel like I won the battle for most of that time. Largely on my own.
But this PTSD thing… This is an entirely different animal. I didn’t mean to neglect friendships. I didn’t mean to slowly become what could be referred to as a “hermit.” I didn’t intend on me falling off my health and fitness regimen. But here, I found myself. Ignoring events, not reaching out to the people I loved for time with them or even to check in. Tired. Alone. Angry. Sad. Anxious. Worrying.
The thing about traumatic events is that recovery from them is not like healing a broken bone. It isn’t straightforward healing. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) associated with the event doesn’t just heal either. I believe the best thing you could do for someone you love going through recovery from a traumatic event is to just make yourself available. They may not ask for it, may not want it, may not know they need it or do and don’t feel like they can ask.
My life changed in monumental ways after my accident. I tried with every fiber of my being to remain positive. I cracked jokes, I brought it up casually when I noticed people looking at my bruised face from my car accident.
“I was hit from behind by a guy coming too fast. Hahahaha.”
“I didn’t have my kids with me, so thank God for that!”
I had it down. Being positive. And the traumatic brain injury I obtained during my accident kept affecting my life. Still is. There are other ways that this just isn’t over in my life and the more time that goes by, the harder it is to remain positive. I try so hard not to be filled with resentment and anger. I find it a huge huge blessing that I was able to remain positive as long as I did. But at the same time, I also stuffed down all of these feelings that life was just unfair. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and my life changed — and not for the better. My life, my children’s lives, the lives of my friends and family.
I felt and feel like the more I bring up the event as an explanation for why I can’t do certain things or struggle in certain ways, people get annoyed and think I am just using it as an excuse to not be as good of a person as usual. So I bring it up to explain the specific struggle I am having, and leave it at that. I don’t talk about how it has become increasingly difficult to socialize. I don’t mention how I think about talking to people or being in a situation with a crowd or needing to drive somewhere and find my way home later makes me so tired I often bail. I don’t talk about it. I don’t feel like anyone’s lives have room for my problems that persist from some freak incident.
I think to myself: They don’t want to hear about this. They’re just going to think you’re using it as an excuse. No one wants to hear about your problems from something that happened so long ago.
When I start to have an anxiety attack in a car during traffic, I apologize for getting upset and then secretly feel like I should probably apologize for not being over my accident.
My thought is, My world changed, but why should I negatively impact the lives of others because of something that didn’t even happen to them?
Please have patience with friends and family who have PTSD. Make them realize their struggle does not need to be struggled with alone. Tell them they matter, and that their feelings matter. Tell them you understand that they still struggle and that their struggle isn’t a burden or annoyance — no matter if they struggle in the short-term or forever. Tell them they have support. Tell them they are loved. Tell them you will always be there to listen. Tell them you understand they are in pain whether it is physical, mental, emotional or all of the above.
I wish I knew how to ask for support. I wish I didn’t insist on being so fiercely independent, because as OK as I have been, I would have been significantly more OK with more support and love from my people.
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