What It's Like to Live With PTSD: A Poem

Like so many others who live with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other chronic illness, people often ask, “what does it feel like?” I wrote this poem to explain what it feels like for me to live with PTSD.


It doesn’t matter if it’s cold, hot, sunny, snowing, or raining

There is no telling when it’s going to strike.

Are they alive or dead?

Is that pain real or echoes from pain long ago that

Resurface with a memory?

It’s like being held hostage by your mind

Thinking that today would be the day I am free.

I look like everyone else

I know the difference between right and wrong.

Yet in my head, I sometimes can’t remember

The last ten minutes of my life, or what day, year or time it is.

Are those smells real or is that a smell from a place and time

when I was being held against my will?

Am I really hearing the sounds of helicopters, planes, cicadas or birds

Or is that the sound coming from a place that no longer exists and

Should never be talked about?

I want so much to be like everyone else.

So I will keep pulling myself up the rope,

Out of the clutches of PTSD and all the skeleton hands of the past that

Keep trying to pull me down.

I am like everyone else only my job is to live so I can live.

For now, that’s all I can ask of myself if I am going to have a future.

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

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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

Related to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

young young surrounded by leaves

The Mixed Feelings That Come With a PTSD Diagnosis

I remember exactly where I was when my previous therapist sent me information about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I was at a train station and read the information immediately. After that, I started crying. For the first time in nine years, I thought, “So I do have it?” Although things suddenly made a lot of [...]
woman face

7 Ways to Help Someone Experiencing Dissociation

Our bodies seem to want to protect us when our environments — or even our own heads — feel too scary to sit with. I believe this is why dissociation occurs. Dissociation is a protective measure. It is a way of disconnecting ourselves from the triggers that are making us feel unsafe or out of [...]
abigail breslin

Abigail Breslin Shares Photo of What Life After Domestic Violence Can Look Like

Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced domestic violence or sexual assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by clicking “chat now” or calling  1-800-799-7233. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. On Sunday, Abigail Breslin posted on Instagram in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The [...]
woman crying

5 Reasons Sexual Assault Survivors Don't Open Up About Their Abuse

Editor’s Note:If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contactthe National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. I’m finding myself increasingly angry the last few days and I’m finding my PTSD symptoms flaring up. Flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance, panic attacks. It’s not a random coincidence. It’s being fueled [...]