Day to day life with PTSD is sometimes torture.
It affects me in many ways, sometimes I will wake up and I want to do something useful and I feel ready to face my fears and the world, I feel as if I want to confront my disorder and the motivation drives me to put on a lovely outfit, style my hair and slap on some makeup. I feel great until I step outside into the big, bad world. Then I suddenly feel extremely inadequate.
I feel as if people are looking at me, staring at me, talking about me and I convince myself that they are thinking things like “Look how fat she is” and “I would hate to look that ugly” yet my disorder has nothing to do with my looks. That is just anxiety. I find myself fidgeting and looking uncomfortable, thinking about how I am coming across, how I look, and actually recently I have only just stopped asking my boyfriend or best friend to go to the checkout for me when I am in the shops. I didn’t even like talking to people at the till points and I HATED going to the bank. I got so nervous; I always needed someone with me.
Other days, I won’t want to leave my pit. I would want to sleep all day or not open the curtains. I don’t do this anymore as I got into that habit for too long and became nocturnal. Being awake all night made me feel absolutely knackered, I felt ill all of the time and it put a strain on all of my relationships because it was impossible to maintain relationships with people at 3am. Not to mention the bills were ridiculous!
I now have a very stable job; I work in the middle of the country side in a small care home for disabled adults. All of the carers are lovely and working in this sort of career has been something I have always wanted, I feel it has helped me with my anxiety. Especially working with people who do not judge you, they only see you as someone who takes care of them. For once it is nice to be needed, rather than myself needing help.
“You wouldn’t expect someone with a broken leg to walk on it for it to heal. So why would you ignore a mental health disorder?”
What a Mental Health illness means to me is an individual who is suffering long term from a form of depression. It is a sickness of the brain and takes time to heal. Many people do not understand mental health issues, therefore they put it down to “attention seeking” or they just don’t believe it at all. I agree that it must be difficult to understand, but what does one get out of pretending to be mentally sick? You’d either have to be a very good actor, or extremely bored.
Somebody told me that “You wouldn’t expect someone with a broken leg to walk on it for it to heal. So why would you ignore a mental health disorder?” It is the same thing. Having an illness to the mind is not something you can self-medicate and it takes a lot of time, effort and patience. I believe that someone to come out the other side will come out of it being stronger than when they went into it. You do have to find the motivation and often you’ll find that it has to get worse before it gets better, but in the long run it is worth it and becomes rewarding. For the first time in my life, I have started to like the person I have wanted to become and I think that it has come from having PTSD. If I could change what happened to me in order for me to unfortunately suffer from my disorder, of course I would. But it also changed me into a better person. It taught me to confront my problems and to trust people! Not everyone is going to hurt you.
People should be more open and honest about their illness because although at first it may be awkward and some people will not know how to react to knowing, society would slowly accept that everyone knows at least one person to suffer from depression or a mental sickness, yet they would never know. Surely that goes to show that people who live with disorders are just as “normal” as the rest of the world? Sometimes I think we are friendlier than the rest of the world.
“I told people that I was fine when all I needed was a friendly hug or a chat…”
It is up to us, as individuals and as a group, to teach the ignorant and the unknown that there is nothing to be afraid of.
I personally dealt with PTSD and depression in many ways, I had to suffer in silence before figuring out that I couldn’t do it alone, I know that is often the case with most of us. First I have tried dealing with it in the wrong manner, I turned to drink. It didn’t help and I was ridiculous to think it would! I would wake up around 11am drink until I fell asleep again, woke up in the evening, had a shower and something to eat and then go out drinking all night again with friends. Or I stayed in with friends and drank until I passed out. Did it make me forget? I think I made myself think it did. Obviously I felt disgusting and I wasn’t physically healthy as well as my mental health being under a lot of stress. I slowly gave up and was encouraged by my partner to stop using substance abuse as a way out. I’m glad that I listened to his advice.
I also chose to never talk to anybody; this even involved my boyfriend for a long time. I couldn’t bear the thought of putting my trust into someone that could destroy the trust even more, so I pretended to feel nothing. I told people that I was fine when all I needed was a friendly hug or a chat, it took me years of training to hold back words from other humans. It took its toll on me because now I cannot talk to anybody in my personal life about anything serious when I wish that I could. But I am slowly learning to change this, another reason why Minds Like Ours instantly became close to my heart.
I also self-harmed, there isn’t much to say about that. I self-harmed for eight years and sometimes I have to stop myself from picking the object up when someone has emotionally hurt me. All I can try to do is explain why I did it, and that is because I felt like the physical pain would over-power the emotional pain and it would release the emotional pain from my system. Did it work? Yes. For about five minutes. I then felt worse weeks afterwards and now I have to live with scars on the top of my arms which some people have noticed, and it is not worth it when you live a happier life. It drags you down and I wouldn’t ever want anybody to turn to that stupid decision.
“I have almost lost people because I just didn’t want to talk to them about my problems…”
I pushed people away, I was best friends with my boyfriend before we started dating and although I trusted him, as well as my other best friend, I just couldn’t allow them to be part of my personal life. They would know I was struggling, it didn’t take a genius. Someone who has self-harm scars, who hadn’t lived with their parents since they were sixteen and drinking every day… come on, that is a person who has problems. Yet I acted like I was the happiest person on the planet, they could sometimes see that I was close to tears but I would walk out of that situation, go for a long walk and come back happy (even more drunk) and without a care in the world. They could see through it.
I have almost lost people because I just didn’t want to talk to them about my problems, I couldn’t understand why people minded that I was so “mysterious”, a word that has been used to describe me by many people. Why couldn’t they just accept me as this fun, party animal? I guess because they cared and they knew it was an act.
Since confiding in my boyfriend of two years, he now knows many things about me and of course it is nice that I have finally been able to let someone in (although I wrote it all down to him, was a start!) I still feel terrified that if one day, God forbid, we didn’t work out… I have put my trust into someone who would no longer be a permanent fixture of my life. I don’t think I could trust anyone again and that scares me, it took all my life to trust one person.
But anyway, the correct way of dealing with things was to not put pressure on myself. I let the process take time, I didn’t jump straight into therapy, talking to people, etc.. I needed to accept that I was depressed and that I was suffering from PTSD before my journey begun. So after visiting my doctor, who first of all told me to change my lifestyle and diet I thought to myself that there was no point even trying to talk to anybody again because it took all of my courage to confront my mental health disorder, yet the first professional I had spoken to, seemed to not believe me. This is why MLO is important, one word: Stigma.
We have all been there. Every person I have spoken to with a mental health sickness, has had at least ONE person tell you that you are fine, or there are simple solutions such as exercise and diets to help you recover. I know how much that hurts; because it could take someone years to ask for help, yet such crap feedback from a so-called professional or loved one could push us all the way back to the start. Thanks a bunch.
“We need mental-help such as therapy and even medication. This is nothing to be ashamed of…”
I decided to get a routine, eat healthily and join a gym. Did I feel better? Physically yes. But mentally? Of course not. There is nothing you could do physically that will cure your mental state. We need mental-help such as therapy and even medication. This is nothing to be ashamed of; at least we are confronting our problems by taking these measures! I am sure that if we could all take a happy pill that would work in one go, we would all give it a shot! Sadly not realistic is it?
So I went back to the doctors, this time with another GP and thank goodness, she was caring and helpful. She was informative and actually diagnosed me there and then with PTSD (I already knew but was happy to have the confirmation) and she helped me receive Therapy within a couple of months. I had slip ups here and there, I self-harmed still on occasion but I am happy to say that I have not done that now for around nine months, I don’t even want to anymore!
Therapy was amazing and instead of constantly talking about events that have occurred in my life, or problems that cause me to become distressed, we learnt about the brain and how it works and how to control parts of it to begin getting better. Of course, I did have to talk about why I had PTSD and depression but I strangely felt ready by my third session, which is amazing considering I had only ever told one person and that took me years.
Unfortunately I have not been able to attend for a couple of months now due to a busy work schedule and studying for my senior diploma but it has not made me lose hope, I haven’t given up all together with therapy. But it did help me to overcome certain fears and to control my anger. I don’t remember the last time I felt properly angry. When I start to feel impatient I simply take myself out of a situation for a couple of minutes and “review” how I am feeling and how to come out of it in a positive manner. Sure it sounds like hard work, but after a while it becomes normal and you forget to even feel anger if you know what I mean? It is working for me.
So what is PTSD?
Perhaps I should have started with this but I think It was important to forget the main facts of my disorder for a few moments and focus on how I am living with it.
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is an anxiety disorder that some people get after seeing or living through a dangerous, life-changing event.
When in danger, it’s natural to feel scared. This fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to prepare to defend against the danger or to avoid it. But in PTSD, this reaction is changed or damaged. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they’re no longer in danger. Which is why I actually suffer from flash backs occasionally, a very scary experience which I don’t think anybody could quite imagine unless they have been through it themselves.
Who gets PTSD?
Anyone can get PTSD at any age. This includes war veterans and survivors of physical and sexual assault, abuse, accidents, disasters, and many other serious events.
Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some people get PTSD after a friend or family member experiences danger or is harmed. The sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can also cause PTSD.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD can cause many symptoms. These symptoms can be grouped into three categories:
1. Re-experiencing symptoms:
- Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
- Bad dreams
- Frightening thoughts.
Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. They can start from the person’s own thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing.
2. Avoidance symptoms:
- Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
- Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
- Having trouble remembering the dangerous event.
Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine. For example, after a bad car accident, a person who usually drives may avoid driving or riding in a car.
3. Hyperarousal symptoms:
- Being easily startled
- Feeling tense or “on edge”
- Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts.
Hyperarousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic event. They can make the person feel stressed and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.
It’s natural to have some of these symptoms after a dangerous event. Sometimes people have very serious symptoms that go away after a few weeks. This is called acute stress disorder, or ASD. When the symptoms last more than a few weeks and become an ongoing problem, they might be PTSD. Some people with PTSD don’t show any symptoms for weeks or months.
I have taken the above information from the website http://www.nimh.nih.gov for a more informative and open selection of symptoms because obviously I may miss some of them out because every person with PTSD has different symptoms. This website is very informative and I would recommend to anybody who would like to learn more about PTSD or any other mental health disorder.
So there it is, I am far from being “better” but at the moment I am taking baby steps and although I may come across quiet on MLO, this is not only because I am rather busy but it is difficult for me to engage with strangers especially about such a sensitive subject. So please be patient with me, because I am overcoming my own fears and obstacles at the moment, but I am learning to be the person I know I can be and just taking one step at the time, not putting pressure on myself and generally trying to be a happier person. Thanks for taking the time to read this long blog and I look forward to writing more in the future.
Blog by Coco – (Minds Like Ours Team Member)