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Thursday 25 October 2018

How My PTSD Works

No one person is exactly the same as another. Mental illness affects everyone differently. This is my experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

PTSD is defined as a condition that occurs in some people who have suffered through traumatic experiences. These feelings of anxiety, discomfort, and being scared can happen to people in their normal everyday lives. With PTSD this doesn't go away. We suffer from many different symptoms on a regular basis. Medical professionals feel PSTD is when someone has these lingering feelings for "at least a month or so". With me, I can't remember a time in my life that was "before PTSD".

I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when I was in my early 20's. I didn't really think too much of it, and I didn't look for any information on it. I was diagnosed with some other issues at the same time that I was consumed with at the time and it just took the back burner. Looking back on my life, I realize how much it has affected me in the past when I had no idea it was that apparent.

Some of my friends can (and probably do) describe me as a negative person. I like to describe myself as realistic. I try to see all sides of a situation, good and bad. People can be very optimistic and point out good things, whereas I will point out all things. Because I also point out the bad things, is why I often get told I'm pessimistic. I honestly try not to, but I live with a feeling of fear, worry, and anxiety so it can be difficult for me to feel like things are going my way. I try to not express many things and bite my tongue but sometimes it still slips out. Persistent instability to experience positive emotions is described as a sign or symptom of PTSD.

I don't watch horror movies. I have been made fun of in the past. Called names like "wuss" or "baby". I just brush it off, because they don't know what it's like to wake up in the middle of the night to a flashback. It's not a dream, it's not a nightmare, it's everything you're afraid of. There are things in the back of your mind that you don't know about. Dark closets and corners hiding things that you forgot about or didn't really think was a problem. Well, today is day where it is a problem, and you're going to remember it in the most traumatic way (even if it didn't happen that way). It's going to scare the living shit out of you, and linger with you creating a feeling that is like a cloud following you around ready to suck you up at any moment.

Every time your mind starts to wander throughout the following days or weeks, it will go back there and BOOM. Sweating, anxiety, heart is racing, your body is shaking. You calm yourself down and after a while you feel back to normal again. Just when you think it might have gone away and left you alone, you walk around the corner and see something, hear something or smell something that reminds you of it and BOOM. Back into high adrenaline mode. You take some time to calm yourself down. You go back to work, or whatever you were doing. You go on with your day. You're cleaning up dinner, the kids are in bed and you think "I'm tried, it's been a long day, I'll head off to bed now too". You crawl into bed and drift off to sleep. Then when your guard is down and its the middle of the night. BOOM. You wake up crying and shaking and sweating and scared. I did not know that these feelings were part of my disorder until recently. Flash backs and re-experiencing the trauma including through nightmares is a common characteristic of PTSD.

Most of my early life is not easily recalled by me. I have relied on others to tell me what happened, even though I was there. I generally tell people that I have a bad memory and can't remember much from before I was 17 years old. I can sometimes be reminded of something from that time in my life and recall a memory but I often can't remember much. I had no idea that repression and "lost memory" was my brain trying to protect me from my traumatic events.

It is very well known in my circle of friends that I'm easily startled. Most of them find it quite hilarious. I often find myself at work and round a corner or open a door that has no window to find someone on the other side. I will jump out of my skin and usually let out a high pitched shriek which will usually get a reaction from the other person (either startle them or they laugh or both). This is a characteristic related to the hyper vigilance aspect of PTSD because I'm often on edge or on alert. It is also common for PTSD sufferers to have an exaggerated response when startled.

When something traumatic happens in my life I've mentioned above that I can have flashbacks or re-experience the trauma, or sometimes my brain will play out "what if" scenarios. This usually occurs with the newest trauma but sometimes can go back to something that happened many years ago. If the trauma is fresh, I can't get to sleep. Every time I try to close my eyes the event will replay itself and I'm in a state of panic.This will continue all night and when I finally feel like I've fallen asleep I'll have to get up and go to work, which leaves me feeling exhausted and unable to cope with getting through the day. They relate this as PTSD induced insomnia. 

I hope that wasn't too boring. There are other things that are on the "common list of  PTSD symptoms" that I have not listed. Some I didn't want to talk about, and some I don't normally experience. I know that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can affect people differently so I decided to write how it affects me.

Another characteristic of PTSD is self blame, feeling hopeless and may including having negative thoughts about yourself. I'd like to let you know, if you're reading this PTSD is not your fault. If you are feeling this way, I encourage you to seek medical attention and if you need someone to talk to, I can be reached easily on facebook or twitter.

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