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The Truth About PTSD, Anxiety and Nightmares

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Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

It’s 5:07 a.m. and I’ve been up for almost an hour now.

This is the third night in a row I’ve woken up before 5 a.m. This is the third night in a row I’ve woken up panicky from a dream of getting murdered. I can already tell this day is going to be too much too handle.

• What is PTSD?

I’m exhausted.

People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are supposed to have nightmares of their trauma, right? Partially right.

People with PTSD have intrusive thoughts throughout the entire day, not only at night. This is what I struggle with 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Someone is murdering my family while I’m taking a shower, and I’m next.

I can picture getting into a car crash, the car is rolling over; it’s on fire.

Driving over a bridge, the wheel slips from the driver’s hand and we head right down into the water.

I hear a door creak at night and know someone broke into the house and my entire family is getting murdered.

The man walking behind me is going to murder me.

An event is too big, I can already picture an attacker coming in or a bomb going off.

The person that just walked past my house is going to break in.

The man complimenting me is going to rape me.

I take the fastest shower I can to make sure my family isn’t dead.

I backseat drive just to assure myself the driver is paying attention to everything.

I roll down the windows to ensure that if our car goes underwater I can get out.

I plan out all the places I can hide at so no one can find me.

I walk a little faster and verify another person is in sight.

I worry until I’m in a safe and secure place again.

I lock all the doors and watch them walk by until they are out of sight.

I say thank you and walk away quickly.

These are just a few of the thoughts I have on a daily basis. I used to put so much belief into these thoughts that they would consume my every day, looking for ways to avoid every worst outcome I could think of. With a proper diagnosis, medication, therapy, mindfulness, different dialectical and behavioral techniques and skills, I have learned how to accept these intrusive thoughts as they come. Now my energy goes into reminding myself these thoughts are just my mind being over-analytical; my mind is trying to protect me from further trauma.

I wake up most nights from nightmares about my trauma, but also of every worst case scenario that could have happened throughout the day. I then have to face a full day of intrusive thoughts where I attempt to combat them with coping skills I have learned in therapy.

No wonder I am exhausted. PTSD is much more than flashbacks and nightmares, yet those do come included. PTSD is intrusive thoughts, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, paranoia, suicidal ideation, triggers that bring you back to the trauma. All of these symptoms are what can also cause a misdiagnosis. PTSD is a disorder that can consume a person’s life. It is exhausting.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

Thinkstock photo via cyano66

Originally published: June 22, 2017
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