Amanda Wilson

@amanda-wilson-2 | contributor
Writer | Blogger | PTSD and GAD Fighter | Mental Health Advocate | Earth Defender | Chai Latte Lover | Anime Fangirl | Islander | Wife | Fur Mama | #fightingthegoodfight
Amanda Wilson

When My PTSD Makes Me Feel Like a ‘Bad Mom’

Three months ago, my life changed in the most life-altering, beautiful way. I never imagined I would get to this point in my life; after all the trials and tribulations I faced over the years because of my illness, and then nine months of complications and more trials and tribulations, I was able to welcome a beautiful, handsome, healthy little boy into the world. Despite years and years of doubt of being able to have kids, and the (still) constant fear of passing on my illness to any kids, I am so blessed to have my beautiful little boy in my life. Even 12 weeks later, I still wake up baffled, looking at his cute face, thinking, “How did I get to this point in my life?” Well, I know how I got here — I just can’t believe I was able to accomplish this dream of mine. Living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has that effect on the brain; living with constant doubt sometimes holds me back from living to my truest potential, to be afraid of the “big” dreams I wish for myself and the people I love. But as I sit here and type this, watching my son play on his playmate, the same old jungle lullaby music that I’ve been listening to for weeks on end ringing in my ears, I can’t help but wonder two things: Was that a fart or a poop? Am I a bad mom? Am I a “bad” mom? That is the road my PTSD (and my recently diagnosed postpartum depression (PPD)) has been taking me down lately. For the last eight years, I had to worry about whether I was a bad friend, a bad wife, a bad daughter, but now I worry the scariest thought of them all: Am I a bad mom? Does my PTSD (and PPD) make me a bad mother? I know it affects my life greatly, but will it make me become a bad mom? And why do I worry about this so much? Because despite still having good treatment and trying to maintain all my old and new symptoms, I still have bad days. I still have night terrors and triggers, and days where it takes everything in me to get out of bed. This isn’t something new for me. I’ve lived with these symptoms for nearly a decade. I’ve had lots of bad days (and months!) before. Except there is one “big” difference with my bad days now. And it’s not just the new PPD symptoms. I have a newborn son to take care of on these bad days. My depression and anxiety doesn’t stop my son from having his daily needs. Bottles still need to be heated, feedings need to happen, tummy time and playtime are a must and every other day a fresh bath is required when he starts to smell a little too much like sour milk. However, when I have a really bad day, and it takes everything in me just to open my eyes and meet a new (bad) day, it’s almost nearly impossible to keep up with the new demands of motherhood. He needs me, and sometimes I feel like I’m not living up to the title of “Mom” nor am I winning brownie points for the Mother-of-the-Year award. The new pressures and challenges of motherhood are now twice as hard as I weave my way through managing through the expectations of being a mom while also living with several mental health issues at the same time. If I thought I had challenges before, I really was not prepared in the slightest for how great my life would shift after my son arrived in the world (despite reading every baby book and mom blog out there). And no matter how on top of everything I stay, there are days where I still feel like I’m failing. And not just that new mom “What the hell am I doing?” failing. I’m talking about being an ultimate failure — one that I fear my son will grow up and resent me for. Am I a bad mom? Deep down, I know I’m not a bad mom or a mean mommy (yet!), but there are days my mental illness is still going to win despite the expectations of being a mother. I’m still going to have days where I have panic attacks. There will be times that I will be trapped in a depressive episode and not be 100 percent in the moment. I will have episodes where my head is riddled with such terrible thoughts that I won’t be able to see all the good I have in front of me. My illness affects me on a daily basis, so how can it not affect my son as well? So maybe there will be days where we will spend all day in our jammies and sleepers (and probably just cuddle). There might be times playtime and tummy time are cut short (or vetoed all together) in favor of watching a movie or just chilling on the couch. Sometimes I’m sure a bath or two will be skipped because I just won’t have the energy, and I know there will be nights that I roll over to my husband and whisper, “I need you to do the feedings tonight” because I will just be too mentally and physically exhausted to keep up with the demands of breastfeeding. I know these days and nights are bound to happen — it’s inevitable. So, will these days make me a bad mom? I’m sure when I’m stuck in that black cloud my mind will be screaming, “Yes!”, but hopefully deep down, my heart will call BS! Despite my illness, I would give everything I have to my son if it meant I do without. I would go to the ends of the world to protect him, because despite my illness, I am a mother now. It is my job and duty to protect my child. While there will be days that maybe I won’t be able to give 100 percent, I know that I will always love my son unconditionally, even in the darkest moments when I hate myself and the spiral my illness puts me through. Every day won’t be great, nor will every day be bad. While I wish I could hide my demons from my baby for the rest of my life, I know one day he will have to learn and understand the truth of why Mommy has these bad days. Even though my illness makes me feel like a bad mom sometimes, I sure hope I can prove to him that I am anything but. Because I love him with every ounce of my being, and I’m so grateful for his little life. Even on the days I can’t say it, or necessarily feel it. Even on the days I’m being a “bad mom.” Follow this journey on Fighting the Good Fight.

Community Voices

Why Spouses Don't Get Enough Credit

Ah, Spouses.

Partners. Lovers. Boyfriends. Girlfriends. Soulmates. Better halves. Pain in the necks.

What would we do without them?

When it comes to being in love and being in a loving, committed relationships, things will not always been smooth sailing. Roads will not always be pothole-free. Ships sometimes might take on water (or seasickness may endure, if you’re anything like me). But regardless of these rough roads we sometimes must endure as couples, if you both love each other and are committed to one another, things will always work out in the long run. And in most lucky cases, that big blow out or that troubling time becomes something to laugh at later on, which is typically followed by the dismayed, “What we’re were even fighting about anyway?” question.

Being in love and spending your life committed to another person doesn’t always mean sunny skies and beautiful sunsets. The honeymoon phase doesn’t last forever (I don’t care who disagrees otherwise). But the beauty of a true, loving relationship is when you fall into that sense of calm, that part of the relationship where things just “feel right”; no need to impress the other constantly, not having to act a certain way as to not cause offence, not minding your p’s and q’s, or withholding farts until they leave the room. In addition to being happy and in love, contentment is something to always strive for. That sense of them feeling like “home” the minute they walk into the room, or the way the quirk of their lip makes your heart flutter all over again. Relationships don’t always have to be sunshine and rainbows (or hot and steamy, if you know what I mean). As long as you’re both happy, there is no harm or foul.

Again, it’s common for couples to face rough roads sometimes. It’s normal to have spats and fights, and hissy fits when one of you doesn’t get your own way (or getting cranky when someone buys unripe bananas…right, Z?). While in the heat of the moment these episodes can be upsetting, they don’t last forever. Couples fight and bicker, and when the moment passes, it’s like nothing happened in the first place.

But when you’re living with several #MentalHealth issues that leave you “emotionally crippled” and sometimes “emotionally stunted”, sometimes fighting can seem like a life- or-death scenario. Sometimes those pissy moments become moments of extreme tension and triggers. When you spent your childhood being abused to the point that you didn’t learn how to properly express yourself and also having to hide your feelings, becoming an adult with mental illness can turn these tense conversations and disagreements into war zones in my head. Not only do I not know how to “argue” or “discuss” properly, I don’t always have the right emotional reactions or responses when my spouse’s mood is anything but happy and content. The minute I sense he’s tense, or moody, or grumpy, I’m instantly put into high alert. And of course my first automatic thought is, “What did I do to make him mad?”

This is why I believe that spouses (and most importantly, my husband) doesn’t get enough credit when it comes to living and loving someone with a mental health issue. Not only do with have “normal” couple problems, but we also have to deal with my mental health issue problems as well. Even though my husband has “normal” reactions when it comes bickering and hotly debating (God, can that man debate!), I know in his head, he’s also ends up being on high alert during our fights because my mood can be so unpredictable. Because I still can’t argue properly at the age of 27, even I don’t know how I’ll end up reacting when things get tense. And I can sometimes see it in his stance and his eyes when he approaches me in these moments. His posture is bracing for “B***h Amanda” to have a complete meltdown over the stupidest criticism. The tension around his eyes is waiting for “Crybaby Amanda” to surface and have an emotional breakdown.

I know I don’t give my husband enough credit nor express my gratitude as much as I should. I know I’m not an easy person to live with all the time. I know having my issues hanging over our heads (constantly waiting for the next episode to strike) takes it toll on us. My illnesses have affected our relationship over the years in many different ways. There are days I feel guilty because he doesn’t get to have a “normal” wife. He doesn’t get to always have that easy-going relationship that most couples get to have. Sometimes for us, things can be difficult. Our lives can be difficult to navigate, especially during my episodes when I’m so hateful towards myself that I have no room to feel anything else – including expressing my love for him. Even the days leading up to our wedding this past year, I had asked him several times, “Are you sure you want to marry me?” Because there are days where I believe he deserves better than me. He deserves a wife – a lover, a caregiver, a friend – who can keep her emotions in check. He deserves someone who doesn’t spend weeks trapped in a bed, fighting invisible demons. He deserves the world – and some days I know I don’t have the strength to give it to him. And that makes me sad.

But despite all this, my man deserves so much recognition and appreciation, because he has also went above and beyond when the call of duty to help care for me came early in our time together. He never once left my side, and he has done things for me that I know half the men in my life would never do. Does it hurt me to watch him be hurt by my pain? Yes, but still he constantly fights for me. I know loving someone with a issue isn’t easy. I know he signed up for a lot of baggage and bad days once I told him about my past. Yet, he still never left.

I don’t know what I have done in this life to deserve someone as brave, and loyal, and loving as him, but somehow I won first prize. And while I know I don’t always express my gratitude enough, I am so thankful to have him in my life; I’m so grateful he’s my partner in crime and my best friend.

So for those of you out there who have a loving and supportive spouse like me, remember to give them credit where credit is due. We’re not the easiest to love nor the easiest people to understand, but to have someone stand by us through the good and the bad, that’s irreplaceable. I know we won’t always see eye-to-eye, and I know our fights may always be a little harder to handle than the average couple, but I still wouldn’t trade any of that for the world.

So remember to give your spouse a big hug and kiss tonight. They deserve it…and so much more.

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Amanda Wilson

The PTSD Marriage Vows I Can’t Say Out Loud

To my future husband, As the days begin to count down, far too quickly in my opinion, and we rush to finish last-minute wedding plans, making sure all our affairs are in order – gifts bought, cake topper selected, heckling people for late RSVPs – I can’t help but take a moment to reflect back on how far we have come, of all we have been through and to be hopeful in all we have yet to see. And even though we have our ceremony planned and songs picked to walk down the aisle to, there are still some vows that I won’t get the chance to say to you on our wedding day. There are some promises I don’t have the courage to say out loud to you, in front of all our friends and family. For these vows are too hard, and too deep, for me to recite to you. But even though I don’t have the strength to say them to you out loud, I still want you to hear them because I mean every single word; these vows are as precious to me as the ring you placed on my finger. With everything that I am, I make these silent vows to you: I can’t promise every day will be a good day. When it comes to battling my mental illness, I know there are bumpy roads still ahead. I know there will be days, weeks, maybe even years where I could relapse into another post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) episode, another depressive spell, another anxiety -ridden haze. While I can’t guarantee if or when this will happen, I vow to fight like hell to remember the good days, to do my damnedest to make sure I try to get through it, even if it means weeks without showering or days of endless tears. I promise, if my suicidal thoughts and intentions resurface through the dark days, I will lean on you, even though I know it will break both your heart and mine. I vow to try to find the strength to keep pushing forward, even in the times I am in the “grey” area. Rather than let those demons push you away, I will reach out my hand and confide in you because I know the cost is too high a price to pay. And if the day ever comes when I have to admit, “I don’t want to live anymore,” I want you to promise me you will not blame yourself. You will never be at fault for the pain my mental illness causes me. I was sick long before we met, so the demons of my past should never eclipse the happiness and light you bring into my life. And if on the really bad days my illness makes you feel defeated, please remember that short-haired, slightly intoxicated girl at The Backlot who screamed, “You’re an idiot!” to your face at least five times. She is the girl you would fall in love with, and she’s still the girl who continues to love you; she’s just struggling right now, and you’ll never be blamed for that. I vow to always let you hold me, even if it means many sleepless nights for you waking up to me screaming in my sleep, fighting the memories of my past, only to quietly whisper me back to sleep, or gently sing me “Little Moments” when I start to cry after snapping back to my senses. While I can’t guarantee your caffeine consumption will decrease, I promise to always thank you for dragging me out of those night terrors. I promise I’ll always be the good guy, even on the days my PTSD makes me out to be the villain. I promise you are all I think about, even in the moments my illness forces me to snap, when I’m temporarily blinded by vicious anger and painful memories. I vow to never let the burden of my pain ever leave scars on you. I know there will be days when I can’t control my illness, or be 100 percent accountable for my actions, but I promise to work through those moments, to apologize and make it up to you. Just please promise to wrap me in your arms during these times when I’m left feeling embarrassed, ashamed and anxious. I promise to always try harder, even during the times my anxiety is raising all sorts of red flags and setting off warning bells. Despite my social anxiety, I vow to keep working on trying to work through my irrational fear of the telephone and answering phone calls from numbers I don’t recognize. I promise to let you keep embarrassing me in large public places so you can distract me from the little army man inside my head who is plotting every escape route and running disaster drills, over and over. And even when it makes me crooked as sin, I give you permission to keep pushing me to try things out of my comfort zone. It may have taken some time, but I know now you would never let me do anything that would cause more harm, so please keep pushing me, even when my anxiety says, “no.” I vow to always have open arms for you to run into, and a shoulder to lie your weary head on after a hard day, even when my illness is screaming at me to build up walls. While the scars of my past have forced me to be weary of human touch, I promise to always kiss you, and hug you, and cuddle you; to always offer you love and affection even if sometimes it has to be on my terms. Sometimes these things are harder for me to express, but know I mean them, even if I offer it in a silent way. I promise to “bring it back down to a level five” on the days my obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) tendencies are reeking havoc both on you and our home. There will be times when the urges will be unforgiving, and there will times when they set me into blind panics or ruthless anger spells. Know I will vow to try my best to be understanding, even when the chemicals in my brain don’t quite agree. Just please promise to stop making fun of me when I start freaking out over things in the fridge being put back in the wrong spot or having to get up and put garbage in the trash can cause you missed with your less-than-perfect Shaquille O’Neil throws. I vow to give you every piece of my heart because I never want you to experience the unforgiving darkness I live with on a daily basis. I will give you everything I am so you never feel the intense loneliness I have felt, or have to bear the burden of carrying around the insurmountable pain of having invisible wounds. And if you ever face a time in your life when you too come face-to-face with these vicious demons, I vow I will always be by your side. I will take up arms for you, just as you have done so many times for me. It’s a queen’s duty to protect her king, and I will always protect you, even though you’re a “tough guy” and say you don’t need it. And above all else, I vow to love you endlessly, for all the time we are granted. Through the good and the bad, through the pain and the tears, I will always love you, because you are my everything. And I will cherish you forever because you brought me back to life. Despite my illness, you reminded me I could be that spunky 19-year-old who could call you an “idiot” to your face without remorse, but then also demand a piggyback ride home ’cause she drank one too many Pink Popsicles. Despite my invisible pain, you have reminded me, and continue to remind me, that I am unstoppable; I can raise my sword and keep fighting because I know you are stood right beside me, ready to be my shield. All I am and all I have accomplished over these last six years is because you reminded me that my illness does not define me, and while there are times I know my illness has affected our relationship – because how can my pain not affect you, too? – I know we can get through it, because you believe in me. Because you’ve shown me I don’t need to go through this alone. You’ll always be my Tuxedo Mask, my Jake Peralta, my Han Solo. So handsome, while I don’t have the courage to say these words out loud on our wedding day, I still make these vows to you, because I want you to know I mean them, every single word, even on the days my illness makes me hesitate to say those three most precious words. I love you, handsome. I’ll see you at the end of the aisle. With endless love, Your future wife. A version of this article was originally published on the author’s blog.

Amanda Wilson

Why Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Dulls My Holiday Cheer

Ah, December. The one month of the year when suddenly everything turns from calm and relaxed into chaos and confusion. When even the most organized and put together person somehow manages to fall off the rails and suddenly gifts haven’t been bought, decorations haven’t been put up and within the first week of December, you’re probably already sick of hearing Michael Buble’s rendition of our favorite Christmas carols. (Sorry Michael Buble.) In Canada, you barely have the poppies off before Christmas is shoved in your face. And while I sound like I’m complaining — which a small part of me is — there is a quiet peacefulness in the chaos and confusion. There’s a calmness to coming home after a frenzied trip to Walmart and sitting on the couch and staring at the Christmas tree that brings a sudden serenity — a quiet appreciation for the brief moments of anarchy. Christmas is more than just about who gets the most expensive gifts and has the fanciest display of lights on their lawn. For me, Christmas is the under appreciated aspects of the holiday — visits with friends, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate while listening to Christmas tunes, enjoying time spent with loved ones. Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. But sometimes I can’t even get into the holiday spirit. Sure, I go all-out with decorating our little bungalow, I love wrapping gifts and dancing around the kitchen to music. But no matter how much I love the Christmas lights, the music, or even Christmas baking, sometimes I can’t find my love for Christmas. Sometimes I’m not filled with holiday cheer. Sometimes my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the Ebenezer Scrooge to my “Christmas Carol.” Now that goes without saying, my PTSD doesn’t completely ruin Christmas for me. Unless I’m experiencing a depressive episode and I can barely get out of bed, my mental illness doesn’t 100 percent ruin my cheer. But my PTSD does affect my view of the holidays. Sometimes it brings about moments of profound sadness; it recalls heartbreaking memories that are seared into my brain for the rest of my life. This time of the year, no matter how much Christmas cheer I try to shove down my throat, my holiday cheer comes at a price. Filling out Christmas cards for family members reminds me of the relatives who burned bridges with me, who chose to disown me instead of believing the abuse I was going through. When my fiancé asks me what I want for Christmas, a small part of me feels guilty because a sinister voice in the back of my head taunts me; his voice echoes words like “worthless” and “disgraceful,” a still-bruised part of me believing I’m not worthy of gifts or receiving that show of affection. Or when I participate in Christmas traditions, I’m reminded of all the traditions I had to stop and forget about because they come with devastating sadness. Because even through all the abuse and torment, there were rare moments of happiness. There were moments where for one small glimpse, one small moment, there was a little bit of peace; and it is those moments I weep for the most. There are no words to describe that insurmountable hurt, because I lost something too. I escaped and got free, but I also lost parts of me in the process. I had to sacrifice for my freedom and that came at a cost. Even happy Christmas memories of my past are covered in a blanket of ash. But even in those terrible moments of grief, I have to brush away the thoughts and focus on my “new” traditions; leave the broken memories of my past in a discarded pile like torn up wrapping paper and move forward. Because the most wonderful time of the year also brings me pain. But with each passing year, with each new battle, I overcome with my mental illness — the pain is slowly subsiding. It might never go away, but it hurts less every year. And in the moments where the pain is unbearable, I know it is still OK to cry while I listen to my favorite Christmas CD — to remind myself that it’s OK to take care of myself first, to take a moment to acknowledge the pain and then move forward. So while I can disguise my pain with ugly Christmas sweaters, it’s also important to remember that sometimes people like me — people living with mental health issues — have a hard time during the holidays. That sometimes the most wonderful time of the year isn’t the best part of our year. I think it’s important to take time to understand that others silently struggle during this time of the year, because believe me, it’s so hard to admit feeling sad when there are so many reasons to be gleeful. It’s hard to admit that the girl under the Santa hat, wearing the Christmas socks, who’s dancing around her kitchen to music, is really struggling underneath all that Christmas cheer. That sometimes the cheer is a facade. It’s hard to admit this time of the year also brings me pain — because it hurts to not feel the Christmas spirit and it’s unbearable to think I might be ruining someone else’s cheer too. But the pain is slowly subsiding and even though it might not feel like it now, I know things will get better. It will take time, but eventually the dark cloud will pass and I’ll be sitting on my couch, drinking hot chocolate while staring at the lights on the tree. And in that moment, it will all feel right. I know I’ll find my Christmas spirit again. And I hope you can find your holiday cheer too. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty image via stevanovicigor

Amanda Wilson

I Woke Up Happy Today

I woke up happy today. And to you that may seem strange. You woke up happy? Why wouldn’t you wake up happy? Sure, everyone has their complaints in the morning – “it’s raining, again?” – the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet, you’re still trying to wipe the fog from your brain in the shower. Sure, not everyone wakes up happy as soon as they pop their eyelids open, but why wouldn’t you be happy? Because the truth of the matter is I don’t wake up happy every day. It’s not because I haven’t accepted the normality of my life and I sometimes take for granted how precious each and every day is. It’s not because I sometimes just don’t see the beauty in the small things – a sunny day, a good morning kiss from my fiancé, a nightmare-free sleep, because I do appreciate all of those things. It’s just that sometimes, despite the weather, despite how long it takes my morning latte to kick in, despite the affection I get from my fur babies as I untangle myself from my bed sheets – sometimes I just don’t wake up happy. Because sometimes my  mental illness  doesn’t let me wake up happy. I live a fairly simple life. My days aren’t filled with great wonder, or awe-inspiring moments, or spectacular opportunities. I live as most people do, uncomplicated for the most part – and a bit mundane for the most part. Sure, I get to spend my days creating vivid universes and inspiring characters to share with the world (hopefully some day soon), but for the most part, I live just like everybody else. I have set routines in place. I follow schedules. I spend time with my pets. I cuddle with my fiancé in the evening. Yes, these things are precious to me, but they’re nothing that would make your jaw drop. I live a fairly simple life and I’m OK with that. But sometimes my mental illness doesn’t let me appreciate this. Sometimes my mental illness takes away those precious moments. Sometimes my illness doesn’t let me value life’s greatest gift – simply just being alive. Not every day, because I have come a long way, but sometimes my illness likes to slap me across the face, reminding me I’m not always in control. My illness likes to creep in the shadows while plotting against me, and every now and then — just when I think I feel secure — my illness likes to strike back. Today I woke up happy, but yesterday I didn’t. The looming dark cloud draped over me as soon as I opened my eyelids. That bottomless sense of doom made me feel so empty my chest ached. Regardless of the weather peeping through the blinds, I didn’t wake up happy – and it wasn’t because I didn’t have my morning dose of caffeine. I retreated into myself and pulled the comforter over my head, blocking out everything around me. I didn’t wake up happy. But today I did. And waking up happy doesn’t mean I have some great “Ah ha!” moment. Waking up happy doesn’t mean I have these wondrous epiphanies that give me some meta-philosophical perspective that makes me value the world around me. Do I get excited when I wake up and have a killer idea for my novel or a mind-blowing plot twist? Hell yes, but for me, I don’t want these grand moments. I just want to be able to wake up and simply say, “I’m happy.” Because to wake up and be able to pull myself out of bed – that’s an accomplishment. To be able to shower and take pride in my appearance – that’s a total win. To go about my day and not have that lurking sense of doom, that one fleeting moment of anxiety – that’s the ultimate prize! And yes, most days my illness does linger in the back of my mind. My illness is always there whether I’m consciously aware of it or not, but most days are better than others. Most days I can tell my illness to piss off, but other days it’s persistent – like a devil whispering in my ear, filling my head with terrible thoughts. And most days, sometimes the best thing I can do is hold the line. Sometimes I reach a stalemate with my illness, so unsure whether I’m losing the battle or winning the war. Some days I’m unclear as to what I am feeling, but I do my best to trudge forward. It’s like holding a dam together with chewing gum. If I have to stick my fingers in the holes to prevent the water from escaping, then I’ll do whatever it takes to keep the flood gates from bursting open. Every day doesn’t have to be a win. Do I get a smug sense of pride being able to whisper a quiet “F**k you!” to my illness? Of course I do, but there are days my stalemates are small victories too. So it’s not about the weather, or the amount of caffeine I consume before noon, or foregoing showering to spend the day in my sweats. It’s not a question of whether I went for a morning run or if I write ten pages – or just one. It’s not a matter of taming the dark thoughts or ignoring the devil on my shoulder by drowning him out with the music score from the new Power Rangers movie. While all of those things play important roles in setting the pace for my day, sometimes the best I can do is just take it one moment at a time, hour by hour, minute by minute. Because I woke up happy today. And that’s all that matters. Follow this journey on the author’s blog. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via ArthurHidden

Amanda Wilson

How Coming Out as Bisexual Helped Me Heal From My PTSD

It’s hard to believe we are already two weeks into the month of June! The weather is getting sunnier, the days are getting longer, BBQ season is back (Hurray!) and the leaves are starting to bud on my Crabtree! I love this time of the year, especially after six months of grey skies and 12-foot snowbanks. I’m born to love the cold, but I can’t help but appreciate the summer as well. But June is also an amazing month for another reason: it’s Pride Month! It’s a beautiful time of the year where local businesses hang rainbow flags, city hall has painted the rainbow crosswalks again, friends decorate their social medias with their own coming out stories and we can now use Facebook’s new “Pride” reaction button to spread a little more color — and a lot more love — throughout the world. Love is love is love, and it is so inspiring to see so many of my own friends spreading the love and supporting equal rights. And for me? It’s the perfect time to reflect on how owning my sexuality helped me battle — and eventually heal — from my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That’s right, everyone. My name is Amanda Wilson and I am a bisexual woman. For me, there was no big coming out story. There were big shows of support and compassion or celebrations either. In my experience, my world didn’t crash and burn, but I didn’t really make a big deal of it either. I didn’t come out of the closet so much as I fell out and just kinda laid there, neither terrified or excited. I knew who I was so why did I care? (Even though at the time I cared a lot more than I let on.) I came out to my fiancé (then boyfriend) one lazy weekend a few years back. I was standing in front of my mirror doing my makeup as he read UFO stuff on his laptop. (Yes, the love of my life loves aliens and big foot news!). I had dropped hints forever, but I finally decided it was time to lay it all out on the table. The conversation went simply like this: “You know I like girls too, right?” I said. “Yeah, I figured that out already,” he replied. “Oh.” “Yeah.” “…Is that OK?” I asked. “You love me right?” He asked. “Of course!” “Then what do I care?” He said. And that was it. No big epiphanies, no hurt feelings, no fights — just simple, pure acceptance. Sure, over the years, we have both made inappropriate jokes about my bisexuality at my expense, but it was never meant in a negative way. I can fangirl over how dreamy Tom Hiddleston is but also agree with my fiancé with how freaking beautiful Jennifer Lawrence is, and he never gets offended. Has the “threesome joke” been made maybe one too many times? Yes, but to me, it seems like that is something most bisexual people have experienced. And maybe part of the reason my coming out experience was never made a big deal was because it was simply brushed under the rug by most of my family and friends. It was a fact that many didn’t know what to do with so they simply said, “OK” and moved on. I am a bisexual woman in a heterosexual relationship. I have been with my fiancé for almost seven years, and maybe that’s why many of the people close to me have just called it a “phase” when I was secretly exploring my sexuality. No one really has accepted this part of my life (or at least no one has ever told me they have), but I expected this long before I came out, so I tried to not let it bother me. Yet most bisexuals have these similar experiences, so I take some comfort in knowing I’m not alone. But that’s a whole other topic for another day. Finally admitting out loud and on social media that I am a bisexual woman has been more than just taking a stand with my fellow LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. It’s been more than fighting “the man” and working for the equal rights for everyone. Love is love is love is love — you can’t convince me otherwise. But for me, coming to accept my sexuality has played a big role with helping me accept and heal with regards to my PTSD. When I finally admitted out loud that I was bisexual, I was in the worst year of battling my PTSD. I was suicidal, I was attending weekly therapy sessions, I was taking antidepressants and anxiety medication. I hated every little detail about myself — my looks, my figure, my brain — and yes, my undisclosed sexuality. I was so twisted by my demons that I felt numb — lifeless. I felt I was merely a physical body existing enough to survive. I had dubbed 2013 a total “write off” year because it had definitely been one of the worst years with living with PTSD. I only had a handful of good days during that year, spending months and months in deep, depressive episodes plagued with PTSD episodes and flashbacks. For me, 2013 was a total nightmare. But creeping into 2014, I was making a lot of headway with my healing. I was slowly coming to accept the fact that my PTSD was something that wouldn’t go away after a few months of treatment. My PTSD was something that was going to be with me for the rest of my life — for me, this was a large figurative pill to swallow. But learning to accept my PTSD has helped me move mountains. Yes, I had serious self-esteem issues and had virtually no confidence in myself — things I still work on to this day — but learning to accept myself wholly and completely has been my greatest struggle. Therapy taught me I had to accept myself for who I was; mental illness or not, I was still the same person I was before my diagnosis. Yes, I was going through some huge mental battles, but I was still me. And no matter how painful and bad my PTSD was, there were parts of me my mental illness couldn’t change — things the demons couldn’t hold against me. That included my sexuality. I was a very in-tune kid with my body and I knew I was bisexual before I even knew there was a word for it. I was attracted to both boys and girls since I was in junior high. I had crushes on just as many girls as I did boys. I fantasized about both sexes. This was nothing new to me, but coming to accept it out in the open — to let that private part of my life be exposed — was hard to accept. I remember during one therapy session being physically ill at the thought of coming out. We had been talking about the debilitating doubt I had with my PTSD. At the time, I believed that eventually everyone in my life, including my fiancé, would walk away. In the first two years of fighting my PTSD, I lost a lot of friends, so it was only easy to assume that eventually he would leave, too. My mental illness had me convinced I was a waste of space, and I thought no one would accept my illness entirely. And then the discussion moved to my bisexuality and she asked me why I had never told anyone, ever, that I was bisexual. And I had my reasons. But in the midst of battling a mental illness, I was virtually broken over this fact. I was ashamed that I had lied about being bisexual. I remember telling her I was afraid of losing more friends. I was afraid my family would disown me — when my father’s side of the family had already cut all ties — I was not prepared to lose the last few people who cared about it. And part of me was afraid of their reactions, a family that was conservative with certain religious beliefs — and I was the oddball out. I knew I would blindside them. Can you imagine how terrifying that was? “Hey. I have PTSD and I’m bisexual. Surprise.” I was not ready to see or hear the reactions that would come from that loaded sentence. And then there was my fiancé (then boyfriend). I was afraid that admitting it to him would destroy our relationship. I was afraid he would never trust me again because I believe bisexuality has just as much stigma as living with a mental health issues does. I was afraid he would leave me, or always doubt my love for him. I already doubted myself, so I couldn’t handle his doubts either. And to this day, I couldn’t tell you which fact was harder to accept. My PTSD or my bisexuality. Both two important factors in my life that could either make me or break me. I struggled for a long time. But fast forward a year later, and a few months after my “lackluster” coming out story, I was finally learning to love myself again. I wasn’t suicidal anymore. I was liking the girl I saw in the mirror again. I was proud of how far I was coming. I had moved mountains to find the good days again. I was finally winning the war. And in fighting through my PTSD, I had also learned to accept everything about myself, including my sexuality. Creating normalcy was a priority when I started healing and I realized to be completely and entirely true to myself, I had to have all my cards out on the table. I didn’t want to hide anything about myself anymore. I am who I am, and over six long years, I learned the ones who truly cared, the ones who truly mattered, wouldn’t care if I found Jennifer Lawrence sexy. I didn’t need a big celebration for finally admitting to my sexuality, so over the years I just slowly started telling people in subtle ways and dropping hints. People eventually caught on. And as time wore on, I eventually starting stating it blatantly as I did my mental illness. “I have PTSD.” I would say. “Oh wow.” “And I’m bisexual.” “Really?” “Yes.” “Damn…That’s awesome!” And then a year ago, on June 12th 2016, the Orlando nightclub shooting took place. And I was devastated. I cried for days and spent so much time looking up the victims and learning their stories and reading about their lives. It was a tragedy too hard for words. A senseless act of violence against the LGBTQ+ community — against people like me. So I decided to finally be more vocal about my bisexuality. Much like sharing my story living with mental illness, I became more open about my sexuality, becoming more firm with standing up for equal rights. Like most people from my generation, I used my social media to express my outrage and hurt. Because I had a voice and I was damn well gonna use it. But despite all this, I realize I have come a long way. To be able to sit here and write this blog post, to simply say “I have PTSD and I’m bisexual” has been some of the proudest moments in my life. Accepting these simple, but huge, parts of my life have been the biggest steps to getting better. Accepting my PTSD had helped me become brave enough to admit out loud that I am bisexual. And in turn, owning my bisexuality and using it as a positive in my life has helped me fight the demons of my PTSD. Yes, my PTSD has changed me but it did not take everything away from me either. It has made me strong, it helped me be brave and despite all the lies it convinced me were true, it has helped me bloom into a better person — a person who is more grateful for this beautiful life, for every aspect of my life. Because love is love is love is — and I finally love me again, every part of me. And there isn’t enough hate in the world that could ever take that away from me. So let me say it again. My name is Amanda Wilson and I’m a bisexual woman in a heterosexual relationship living with PTSD. If you’re feeling suicidal, or just needs a safe place to talk, you can call the Trevor Lifeline at 866-488-7386 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via nito100.

Amanda Wilson

Why Lady Gaga's Halftime Show Performance Matters (to Me)

Despite all the mixed reviews about Lady Gaga performing for the Super Bowl halftime show, I have to admit, I was pretty stoked when the blonde beauty posted on Instagram a few months ago that she was going to be performing. Lady Gaga is popular (and sometimes criticized) for many things. Is she eccentric? Maybe a little. Is she unique? Definitely. Is she beautiful? She’s absolutely ga-ga-gorgous (or I think so). Is she a great performer? Absolutely. Am I a fan? Hell yes! But not just for her music. Just like me, Lady Gaga has opened up about her experiences living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how her mental health issue has affected her life. And over the last couple of years, through her activism and her music, Lady Gaga has renewed a fire in me has helped me accept my PTSD, and her fight for the LBGTQ2S (the Canaidan accronym) has helped me come to terms with my bisexuality. Because while my own experiences are different from Lady Gaga’s, we are both fighting the same battle. We are both trying to make a difference for someone, for that one person who listens to her music (or reads my blog) to help remind them, “Everything will be OK.” And for me, whether you liked her Halftime performance or not, I believe she sent a powerful messages to many people around the globe reminding them to have faith. Reminding them they matter. Reminding them they are not alone. So when she sat down at her piano and said, “We want to make you feel good!” there was no stopping the tears from streaming down my face. I cried because I knew how bad the pain could be. I cried because, once, not too long ago, I had “a million reasons to quit the show.” But I also cried because I am so proud of myself to see how far I have come. I aspire to be a lot of things in life, maybe not a halftime show performer, but I aspire to help make a difference. Whether it’s through my blog or my writing, I want to help someone who once felt like me or who still feels like me. Like Lady Gaga, I have overcome hardships that I have been both mocked and criticized for, and I have felt a pain so hurtful. I tried to end my life, and I felt a loneliness so deep I thought I would never feel happy again. Our stories are different, but we both fought the same war, and while I’m still coming to terms with both my mental illness and my sexuality, I have hope that one day, like her, I can continue to be brave and help make my mark on the world. I may not be a singer, though I know how powerful music can be, but I am a writer. And the written word can bring a lot of hope and inspiration. And while many of you may not have liked or appreciated her performance, I can respect those opinions. But for me, I didn’t see an eccentric individual swinging around on ropes wearing a glitter shoulder-pad outfit. I saw one of my favorite idols, a woman whom I greatly admire. I saw a message of hope, inspiration, and love. And since we live in a world that seems more divided than ever, a message of love is what we need right now. I saw love. And I saw a woman who is struggling with her own battles continuing to smile. And if Lady Gaga can remain brave, then so can I. That’s why Lady Gaga’s halftime performance matters to me. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 o r text “START” to 741-741 . Photo by Brian Allen/Voice of America

Amanda Wilson

PTSD: When You Don't Trust Your Good Days

If there has been something I have been grateful for lately, it has been the beautiful days I have experienced over these last several months. And no, I am not referring to all the fun and joy that came with the Christmas season, or all the family gatherings and endless amounts of food (and chocolates) that were shared. Nor am I referring to the end of a long December, where we all took a few moments to reflect on the past 12 months while bright lights boomed across the dark skyline, signaling the start of a new year. As much as I do love this time of the year, this is not what I am grateful for. I am grateful for the good days. Not just any ordinary good day where Tim Hortons manages to get my tea just the way I like it, or my boss, who is severely strict and overbearing, gives me a compliment about my impressive work ethic. Or when I’m scrubbing dishes clean in the evening and my boyfriend turns on “our songs” and grabs my dripping wet hands and pulls me to dance with him around the kitchen. (Though I will admit, those moments don’t just make my day, they make my week!) While these can make any grey sky seem bluer, I am not referring to the little things that turn an ordinary day into a good day. I am talking about the “good days.” The days in which my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) doesn’t win another battle, my depression doesn’t weaken my resolve, or my anxiety doesn’t add another chink in my already damaged armor. The days when I look out the window, and despite the snow, drizzle or fog, I feel that feeling that has become so rare it seems unnatural. That flutter that ignites my soul and warms my bones. I’m talking about the days when the darkness that casts over me, the ghastly hands that grip my shoulders and the voice that whispers those lies into my ears, retreats back into the shadows from which it came. I’m talking about the days when I feel hope. I feel that lingering sense of purpose, a sense that I am worth more than my mental illness convinces me I am. When I can manage to go to work or sit to write at my computer, or binge-watch Netflix, or when I just relax on the couch, putting in my earbuds and blaring my Linkin Park playlist on repeat and just lose myself in the lyrics. Suddenly, I have the dawning realization that, for the rarest of moments, I forget I have a mental illness. I become so caught up in just “living,” even I forget that I am sick, that I can be plagued by flashbacks and night terrors. For those few moments of solace, I remember what it feels like to just be “me,” the girl I was before I was diagnosed with PTSD. I just go about my business, take it each hour at a time and do the things I enjoy, like writing. I simply live my life. It’s a unique experience to have these epiphanies over the simple things — to immerse myself in the ordinary routine that is daily life, to go about my business as the rest of the world whips by in a flash. To simply be. When you’re consumed in darkness, it can be so easy to forget how easy life can be. Living in a vicious cycle in which every thought, every action, every move requires thorough planning and details, so much so that all you are filled with is dread and self-doubt about every word, every action you take — life can become tremendously difficult when your illness leaves you feeling both mentally and physically debilitated. So when you wake up one morning after you had a sound night’s sleep, not filled with horrific flashbacks but peaceful, hopeful dreams, you open the blinds, and regardless of what is pouring out of the heavens, you take a deep breath and savor the moment. Maybe send a small prayer to the sky or whisper a simple “thank you” to no one; you just take a pause to revel in the moment. You’re going to have a good day. And your heart flutters at those words. But the good days come at a cost. Unfortunately, for someone like me, the good days don’t always last. Many of us approach these good days with caution because they have become so rare over the years, like a solar eclipse or the beautiful sighting of a meteor shower. No, for me, back then, a good day was not necessarily a good sign. Rather it was an omen, the calm before the storm that forewarned the darker days to come. Back then, I questioned the good days. When something so beautiful and rare reveals itself, sometimes you can’t help but question its intent. Was I strung out on my antidepressants and simply so overtired that I was too numb to feel anything? Did I lose track of my pill count and accidentally take one too many Prozac pills? Was I calm because my heart medication was keeping my anxiety under control? Did my session with my therapist the day before actually help improve my mood? Or was my journal writing helping keep the demons at bay? When the good days are so rare, it’s easy to question their existence. And for a long time, a very long time, there were months I didn’t see a single good day. In 2013, when I relapsed into a severe depressive episode, I can count on two hands how many good days I had in 12 months. Eight. I had eight good days out of 365. Eight days. I merely had a good week. And although I remain optimistically cautious when I do have good days, I will never attempt to demean them in any way. The good days are sometimes the only thing I have left to hold onto: the hope for a better day, a better tomorrow. Even if it’s raining, sometimes all I have to offer me comfort is the thought of a good day, like the days my boyfriend takes me by the hand and twirls me around our kitchen. If anything, I have been taking the good days for granted. For months now, I have crawled out of the dark place and let the warmth of the sun cast over my face. Compared to 2013, I would need a lot more fingers and toes to be able to tally the number of good days I’ve had. Is the number greater than the number of bad days I’ve had? No. My bad days do still own the scoreboard, but they’re not leading by much. And even though there are days I do take for granted how unbelievably blessed I am to have a winning streak of good days, I have also become humbled by them. If there is one thing living with a mental illness has taught me, it’s not to keep track of the bad days or the good days. It’s not a competition; there’s no grand prize for finally beating the odds against the bad days. In the last five years I have been living with PTSD, I wouldn’t even want to know the number of bad days or good days I’ve had. It’s not something I like to think about, so I refuse to let myself dwell on them. Rather, I approach my good days with optimism and immense gratitude. Compared to five years ago, I have come a long way. Five years ago, I was swallowing, on average, 10 pills a day and simply eating and sleeping enough to keep myself alive. Now? I take one pill at night and my anxiety medication when I have a panic attack, and even then it is only when I can’t control my anxiety using the strategies my therapist has taught me. I have come a long, long way. So when I do reflect on the good days and have that slight, fleeting moment of panic questioning their existence, I no longer fret over when the bad days will reveal their ugly head again. This is something I’m not afraid of anymore. I don’t fear the bad days anymore. Why? Because I’ve seen the darkest of days. I’ve felt hopeless. I’ve experienced desperation. I’ve put myself through extreme measures to rid myself of the consuming pain that filled my empty void. I’ve convinced myself there was nothing left, convinced myself I was not a good person. My mental illness has won many battles and manipulated me to believe there was no hope. I was blinded by my pain for a long time. I’ve seen worse. I’ve felt worse. But I have come a long, long way. So while I do write this with a slight twang of weariness (because I have been on a winning streak of good days for some time now), I write this more as advice rather than a warning of caution. You’re allowed to take the good days for granted. You’re allowed to revel in the marvelous feelings that fill your heart when you wake up and you feel unstoppable. You’re allowed to let that fire burn deep in your soul and heal the brokenness in your heart and sweeten the bitter venom that lingers in the back of your throat. You’re allowed to enjoy the good days, but you don’t have to fear them either. They’re not meant to be a warning of unspeakable pain. They’re a reminder to live. They’re a reminder that there is more than the hurt, deceit and lies your mental illness convinces you are true. They’re a reminder that life is so much more than the torment of living with an invisible illness. They’re a reminder that we need to take time to heal, to be selfish even when our low self-esteem threatens us, to take all the time you need to do what you love and heal. Even if it’s as simple as snuggling on the couch with your giant English mastiff and watching Gord Downie say his final goodbye. They’re a reminder we are constantly healing, even when we may feel like we’re making no progress. They’re a reminder that we are winning the war. The good days are to remind us that we matter. And while the good days don’t always last… Neither do the bad days. Image via Contributor. Follow this journey on Fighting the Good Fight. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Amanda Wilson

To the Cashier Who Realized I Was Having a Panic Attack

To the cashier who realized I was having a panic attack, First off, let me say this. Bravo! While I understand working retail can be a hectic and fast-paced job (because I have worked retail before, too), I can only image the obscene things people say to you, or the jaw-dropping scenes you must witness from time to time. Nobody is perfect, but sometimes, shopping, especially Christmas shopping, can bring out the worst in us. It’s hard enough for anyone shopping in big box realtor stores with cramped aisles and crowds of people, it’s even worse when you have social anxiety that stems from your post-traumatic stress disorder. Loud noises, screaming, booming chatter and buzzing P.A. systems are overwhelming to the senses. They’re even more overwhelming when they set off triggers. But as much as I try to avoid these uncomfortable, cramped and packed places, I still need to venture to them every once and awhile. Especially during Christmas time. On this fateful day, sitting in the parking lot, watching the waves of people coming and going, car horns beeping with people all over the place, I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy trip. So, I meditated in my car for five minutes and finally took a deep breath as I headed inside. I was immediately triggered two minutes later when some lady screamed at one of your sales associates because you were sold out of some mundane item. But I kept a brave face, trying to stay focused on the list I made, as I quietly made my way through the store. Toothpaste? Check. New black socks? Check. Cat food? Check. What should have taken 15 minutes of shopping on a regular day ended up being an hour and a half of wading through large crowds and trying to avoid packed aisles. But I kept taking deep breaths, trying to stay focused on the task at hand. Yet, it was too hard. The upset customers, the loud chatter, the constant buzzing of announcements over the radio, the loud Christmas music playing in the background — it was all too much. So by the time I placed my five measly items down on your line, my hands were trembling and my lungs were restricting. The lady in front of me was complaining to her husband about how wild the crowds were and the devil on my shoulder couldn’t help but be smug. Lady, you have no idea! I was barely able to comprehend your words when you finally greeted me as my items scrolled up to you on the line. “Hi there! How are you today?” By this point, the fear was all-consuming. Sweat was rolling down my spine, my lungs were burning, tears were threatening to fall down my face and I was gritting my teeth hard to keep myself from either screaming or crying, trying to quell the nerves that were screaming at me, run! “Fine, thanks.” I mumbled quietly, keeping my eyes averted and digging around in my purse aimlessly while you checked in my items. In those two minutes it took you to scan them, I was already fighting feelings of guilt, terror and embarrassment. I hated that I was having a panic attack in public. I was embarrassed I couldn’t greet you or talk to you like a “normal” person. And I felt defeated that after three straight weeks of “good days,” I was having another panic attack. I can’t exactly remember how much the total came to, but I remember hauling out the 20 dollar bills and handing them to you. But what happened next changed everything. As you placed the receipt and my change in my palm, you gently gripped my fingers and leaned over the cash to come face to face with me. At first I was terrified, half-expecting you to yell at me, but then you’re soft eyes and gentle smile stilled my racing heart. “It’s OK,” you whispered, “I know what you’re going through. You’re going to be OK.” The interaction was so brief I thought I even imaged it. But you offered me the slightest of a nod before bouncing back to stand up straight, plastering on your customer-perfected smile. “Thanks! Have a great day now!” Your words didn’t settle in until I was sat in my car again, staring at the cash and receipt I still held in my hand. My heart was still pounding, my head was still spinning and my eyes were still threatening pools of tears, but for a slight moment, just as fleeting as your words, I felt a small ray of hope. Your words may have stunned me, but they also offered something greater. You offered me hope because you showed me compassion. And for the first time in five years, even though I was still slightly embarrassed, I felt understood. As much as I try to hide my struggles with my illness from people, especially strangers, for the first time ever, I felt a small victory. You didn’t brush me off or look at me like I was another “crazy” customer about to cause a scene. You saw something different. You saw someone struggling and in that moment, you were brave enough to offer a helping hand rather than to turn a blind eye. Maybe you think your actions were nothing of importance, but they were greater than that. For a moment, you helped break the stigma of mental illness. You made a difference. One small step for an upset customer, one giant leap for mental health rights. So to the cashier who realized I was having a panic attack: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I don’t know your name and I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again (and really, I was so out of focus I don’t really remember your face), but I am sure glad we crossed paths that day. I’m so thankful you offered compassion when I felt like I was falling off the edge. For a brief moment, you changed my world and I hope you continue your quiet championship in helping others like me, like you. So once again, I say thank you! Sincerely, A girl just like you. Follow this journey on Fighting the Good Fight. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor  here . Image via Thinkstock