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What It Means to 'Live With' PTSD

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At first, an unintended grin swept across my face. I may have even let out a little giggle.

• What is PTSD?

Depression, yes. Anxiety, of course.

But post-traumatic stress disorder?

That’s a bit dramatic.

Then my whole body slowly crumbled under the weight of my psychologist’s words as she stared at me, unflinching. I sank deeper into the couch, as my brain filtered through all I knew about PTSD from my psych classes. She waited, knowing full well how I process things.

This feeling of defect flooded in with a very strange wave of relief. There was something that had coated my whole being, and no matter how hard I scrubbed, it would never come off… but I finally understood myself like never before.

Once she saw the tears finally well up in my eyes as I realized my new truth, she began assuring me with tips and tricks to “live with this.”

Live with this?

Through the last six years I’ve gotten married, had two kids, and “living with this” has become my reality. I describe it as a reel of film in the back of my mind constantly playing back my multiple traumatic experiences as well as new ones thought up that “could” happen. (Oh the brain, so creative. I completely understand how the “Saw” movies were thought up.) When I am practicing good things and avoiding triggers, this little theater is a dim and quiet presence.

But there are the bad days, some bad weeks and, very rarely, bad months. Sometimes between dishes, laundry, preparing meals, and playing referee to my kids, there isn’t much energy left over to fight against triggers that come up. I’m so thankful my husband recognizes when I need to go hide in our room, but I can’t stand knowing I’m missing out on sweet moments with my babes, especially when I hear their little voices traveling down the hallway. I hate explaining that “Mommy is not feeling well” once again. I hate that this is their reality.

Our world looks normal on the outside. I’ve got the family portrait to prove it. But when trying to explain why we may not make it to a certain event or why my husband is taking over the kids, the feeling of isolation comes over me in those awkward silences that follow.

I’m fortunate to have a few people “there for me” in my life, but what I would give to be completely understood, for someone to know the exhaustion of battling the brain every second of every day. Like I’m treading water just to breathe.

So I’ve made it my life to reach out my hand to anyone who feels misunderstood…because good needs to come out of this somehow. PTSD is something I will always live with, putting this into words is healing, and my hope is others like me will feel less alone.

Originally published: March 14, 2017
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