What the 'Stress' Part of PTSD Looks Like for Me

Author’s note: This was written to illustrate the process following being triggered by news reports of assault.

What does the “stress” part of PTSD really look like? Why do trigger warnings matter?




I experience a sweeping feeling of uncontrollable exposure. Who knows my story, who might connect this to me? I know I have no control.


What stance is this article taking? How will people like me be spoken of? What will this change?


Who have I been forced into being now? How does it affect how I think and react?

The next stage of panic could go several ways:


If my mind follows the “terror” and “memories” route, I shake. My knees become wobbly, my shoulders tight, everything on me feels wrong. It’s as if I’m trying to shiver off all I know shouldn’t be there, but I can’t, because it will always be there. I can’t cry anymore

“Brain tangle.”

This is more like internal shaking. I lose sight of what’s up of down, nothing seems logical and I forget quite how I’m supposed to exist. During these “shaky” periods, all communication seems taken from me. Talking is very unlikely or it’ll at least be stuttered. Any typing is a jumbled heap.

These attacks leave people unreachable. They make victims and survivors feel isolated and forever changed.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via ARTQU.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

union of man and nature (Cbm painting)

The Difference Between Being 'Alone' and Being 'Lonely' as Someone With PTSD

Am I learning to be alone, or am I drifting into silent loneliness? Are my mindful days, lack of thoughts and constant urge for change considered “resting,” or am I flowing into an abyss of blackness? Is my contentment to be OK with a sparsely-filled calendar, an awakened new period of self-discovery and growth? Or [...]
young woman lying in bed unable to sleep lost in thought

What It's Like to Feel an 'Emotional Flashback'

I awake highly anxious. It takes me hours to realize that perhaps I’ve had another nightmare — only this time, despite being triggered, I don’t remember the nitty gritty. I can’t shake the anxiety; something awful is about to happen, surely. But nothing comes, nothing happens. I feel it in every inch of my body, stomach flipping over, [...]
Vector fashion illustration sketch girl in red dress. EPS

Why You Shouldn't Tell a Trauma Survivor 'It Could Have Been Worse'

The world we live in is so often built upon comparisons. Is she thinner than me? Is he in a better job than me? Do they work as hard as I do? So much so that even mental illness seems to have been categorized. Upon discussing my mental illnesses, the reactions I have had have [...]
giant fish floating in the sky above man in black cloak, digital art style, illustration painting

How I'm Learning to Accept the Fluidity of Recovering From PTSD

It seems I have a pattern — I am continually shocked that I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I’m not sure if it’s mental gymnastics that I perform with gold medal perfection or it’s normal when living with a chronic illness to have a fluidity of acceptance. The past year has been a whirlwind of [...]