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How I Recovered From a Major PTSD Breakdown

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With hope, I would like to share my story.

About a year ago, an event occurred which caused a wall I didn’t know existed in my mind to get smashed to bits — I actually felt it crumble. Behind it lived all of my terrible stuff. When it fell, everything came rushing back. The experience was crushing, debilitating.

• What is PTSD?

I started hearing a male voice. He said all sorts of mean, hurtful, evil things. I didn’t fight the voice because I believed every word he said. I felt worthless, helpless, a failure at everything. I got really sick. Some of my symptoms were uncontrollable shaking, chest pain with tachycardia, complete mental and physical exhaustion, with debilitating self-doubt and self-loathing. I was unable to make simple decisions because it was too much pressure. The voice — or as I started calling it, “the Demon” — was very loud and powerful. He towered over me, screaming all these nasty things, all while mentally beating me. I was falling faster and deeper into the blackness, crushed and alone.


I sought professional help. I felt like such an absolute loser. I shouldn’t be depressed or have anxiety. I should be able to “get over it.” My therapist was kind. Instinctually, I knew I could trust her. I told her everything. It was so exhausting, I spent the weekend unable to get out of bed. My family rallied around me. They showered me with their love and support, which I thought I didn’t deserve.

A friend came to my rescue. She looked me in the eyes and told me I control the Demon — he’s actually my inner-self. She said I’m letting the Demon control me. I give him his power. As I began to comprehend what she said, the Demon changed from male to female. (It had been male because most of the people who have told me I was crap/stupid/worthless were male). I started repeating “I control the Demon. I give him his power,” over and over in my head. I realized she was absolutely right. The relief I felt was indescribable. She threw me a lifeline and slowed my long spiral down the blackest of holes. Where there had been no light, I could now see a ladder way off in the distance. I wasn’t able to get to it because I was a puddle of ilk in that black hole. But, I could see the light and the ladder, which gave me purpose and hope. I was able to start my fight. I learned about mindfulness, meditation, controlled breathing, having a “sanctuary” where I could be alone to recharge — all things to help me cope.

The Demon — we called her Ruby — was still relentless. I still believed every word she said. After all, several people of “authority” had always told me I was stupid and would never amount to anything. I always believed them, but I worked hard to prove them wrong. That is where Ruby got the idea that telling me I’m worthless would inspire me to do better — to fight harder.

While trying to regain control from a panic attack, I had an epiphany. I could have a conversation with Ruby — she’s my inner-self, right? I took a deep breath and envisioned her in my mind. We spoke, which is weird, but we spoke. I told her I appreciate everything she did to protect me. However she needed to stop trying to help me the way she was because she was being really hurtful — she was being a bully. I needed her to become my cheerleader. Positive, happy thoughts and attitude. Much to my surprise, it actually worked. She changed her method on how she was “motivating” me. She became 100 percent positive. I slowly started to climb out of the blackness and become a person again. It was such hard work. I knew going into therapy, that my therapist is only a guide. I have to heal myself. She cannot do it for me. Having this knowledge saved a lot of energy.

Time passed, and I was working really hard on myself, both mentally and physically. I started to feel a bit of happiness. I could listen to music, read and watch movies without pain. Then Ruby decided I was strong enough to deal with my worst traumas, which were still deeply buried. I smelled smells, felt things, replayed every horrible thing in a constant loop, all mangled together. I remembered stuff I didn’t want to remember. I was having terrible nightmares again. I was trying to get Ruby’s help, but she was strangely silent. Since I had learned all of these coping skills, I was successfully using them to stay above water. Finally, I was able to reach Ruby and have another conversation. I told her we need to stop letting them have any impact in our life. We need to stop the movie from playing, to change the channel. It is not our fault. We did not deserve to be treated the way we were. She said “I know.” I felt profound peace in that moment.

I’ve learned to be kind to, to be forgiving of and to love myself. I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished. I still have battles to fight, but I am a warrior. I am braver, stronger and more powerful than I ever imagined.

We all are.

Thinkstock photo via djedzura

Originally published: June 7, 2017
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