Don't Judge My PTSD If You Don't Know What It's Like
What they don’t know is that it all really comes down to your fight-or flight-response. And if your fight-or-flight response is “flight,” but you’re frozen and you can’t … well, the trauma just continues to ensue.
What they don’t know is that even by just stepping out the front door to our house, we could be triggered.
What they don’t know is that there is no “getting over it.” This event is a part of our lives forever, we can never change it. We have to figure out how to live all over again with this trauma influencing our every move in the present and future.
What they don’t know is that triggers aren’t caused purely by rewitnessing the event. Triggers are emotions, sights, sounds, smells. Triggers are words, motions, feelings. Triggers can be anything, to anyone, at any time.
What they don’t know is that we don’t like ourselves like this. We didn’t ask for this to happen to us. We didn’t want this to happen to us. We truly just wanted to live out our lives. We don’t like who we are now most of the time, because who we are now is almost always nearly the complete opposite of who we were before.
What they don’t know is that naps can become a common occurrence due to the high levels of stress and anxiety we face on a daily basis. If we go to a community event for our kids or significant others, even though we know our anxiety is going to be through the roof, the moment we come home, we’re either on the couch or in bed with a blanket and most likely asleep within ten minutes of our heads hitting the pillow.
What they don’t know is we never truly feel safe.
What they don’t know is we suffer through the good times because we know once they’re over we’re going to be angry, hurt or disappointed in ourselves for not having the exact amount of fun we really wanted to have because of our anxiety.
What they don’t realize is, every tiny thing that shouldn’t be a big deal, makes us feel like it is a big deal because we’re afraid you’re judging or talking about us behind our back. What they don’t realize is we have no idea who to trust or when. The nightmares never go away for me; they may subside for a time, but they never go away. Our feeling of being safe is gone, for what we believe is forever. Even when we know this event was a one-time thing in our lives (sometimes), we still believe it’s going to occur again. We often still feel like we are and always will be victims of this trauma.
Progress takes time. Sometimes we have to rebuild our entire lives in order to heal. Sometimes we need to find a way to desensitize ourselves to certain things. Sometimes we truly need to sit in the corner of the restaurant facing every single angle so we can know exactly what is coming toward us and when.
Sometimes we just need to cry.
Sometimes we just need to vent.
Sometimes we just want to punch someone in the face.
Sometimes we’re so angry, we’re tempted to hurt ourselves just to feel some physical pain.
Sometimes we let our emotions get the best of us and it lands us into some complicated relationships and troubles.
Sometimes, what they don’t realize is we can tell if you support us or you don’t. Even when you act like you do, we can tell by a certain look or phrase or movement of the eyes that you’re “trying to be supportive,” but you truly think what I’m going through is bull. And sometimes, we’ll call you out on it, because we’re angry. And other times we’ll just let it go because we’re sad and need a shoulder to cry on. But the majority of the time, we slowly stop talking to you about what’s going on.
But the most important thing they don’t know about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is it’s not just men and women who have served their countries who are diagnosed with it. It’s people like the girl who is haunted by a man in the middle of the night in her bed. Like the little boy who’s consistently picked on at school and is told he’s nothing. Like the survivors of 9/11. Like the woman who lost her son in a car crash in the river. Or the man who had his fingers crushed by a machine while he was at work.
It’s people like me who get diagnosed as well, and it could very well be people like you who get diagnosed with PTSD. Don’t just think since you don’t serve in the military, you’ll never end up with PTSD, because it’s more common than you might think.
What they don’t know is we’re annoyed with ourselves too; so there’s no need to belittle us. We’re already doing that to ourselves, we don’t need your voice in our head, too.
Support us. In every way possible that you can. Be our shoulder to cry on or our person to vent to. Help us make sense of the tornado of things in our head spinning around that we don’t understand. Be the person who is consistently lifting us up with encouragement, even for the smallest steps toward recovery.
Because the one other thing they don’t know? We need support more than we need anything else.
Getty image by MangoStar_Studio