What Living With PTSD Looks Like On The Inside

I wish I could tell you that life with PTSD is manageable, or even doable, but it’s not always that way, and so I can’t tell you that. I’m not here to make this easy for you to read. I’m here to vent and to spill my heart out because I’m tired of suffering in silence and I know that so many other PTSD survivors are tired of it too.

In this article,  I am going to present you with the real-life effects and symptoms of someone struggling with PTSD, and all the feelings that go along with it too.

Photo credit: Kayla Graphic credit: Lex

The Remembering

The remembering. If we could just stop with the reminiscing, it would be much appreciated.  I don’t want to know any more than I already do because it’s already painful enough.

My PTSD stems from events in my childhood, numerous events that left me so traumatized that certain years of my life are just black in my memory– nothing there at all. It was all black until one day. It all came flooding back until I couldn’t even breathe or sleep or really even function at all.

There are two sides to this terrible evil as if one is not enough. One is the fact that once you start remembering pieces, you realize that there is more there in the blackness, lying in wait until it can devour you. To me, not remembering years of my life made me feel like I didn’t completely know who I was. This led to me having a desire to know everything– I wanted to know who I really was.

The other is that the memories are so terrifying you don’t want or can’t stand to know more. It’s debilitating, honestly. I feel like I’d rather behalf of a person than know all the things that my brain is trying to protect me from.

The Silence

The craziest part of all is that I was dying inside and I kept silent.  No one around me knew about my pain. No one would hear me when I woke up screaming into my pillow at night, begging for it to stop. And the reason they never understood was that I tried my hardest not to show it.

When I was growing up, it was kind of explained to me that ‘hearing things’ and ‘seeing things’ got you put in a facility where everyone wore white coats, and you’d be doped up until you didn’t even know your own name. I figured I had better pass on that lovely experience and suffered in silence instead.

Sometimes I feel like this helped me, yet at other times I feel like I made the wrong choice in keeping it a secret for so long. There were so many times that I felt comfort in the silence– like my mind was screaming enough, right? Other times, though, I felt a type of loneliness that I didn’t even know existed.

There wasn’t one person in my life who could say that they understood or that even had the first idea of how to help me and that was really hard for me to deal with. But I don’t blame them. How could they possibly know what I needed when I didn’t tell them I was suffering.  How could I expect them to understand how I was feeling? They just can’t unless they struggle with it themselves.

The Triggers

This may be the most frustrating part of having PostTraumatic Stress Disorder. I can get triggered just being somewhere that’s too loud. Now, I’m not a war veteran, and I have absolutely no idea at all why that triggers me, but for some reason, my brain treats those scenarios as if they’re trauma situations.

There are also triggers that I know about and so I try to avoid those as much as I can, or if I’m in a situation where the trigger is unavoidable then I try to reason with myself by trying to normalize the situation. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s just how it goes, I guess.

The Overreactions

The trouble with PTSD is that it makes you feel like every situation is life or death.

EMINENT DANGER. EMINENT DANGER. EMINENT DANGER, EVERYWHERE!!

All of that stress and torment comes from something as trivial as having a healthy disagreement with someone or even just getting a cold. PTSD makes everything feel out of proportion, and the worst part is that you know you’re overreacting at the moment and you feel powerless to stop it. Even worse, sometimes you are powerless to stop it.

The Need for Control

For me, specifically, this is something that’s really important. The good thing is that I can, at least, acknowledge when things are out of my control– like when my car gets a flat tire, for example. On the other hand, though, I go to extreme measures to live in an as controlled an environment as possible.

I place an incredible amount of importance on my routines because they help me feel like things are okay– like it’s just another day. However, when I am forced to break those routines without any real notice, that results in a breakdown. Things that are as simple and as small as a schedule change can send me into a sobbing fit.

The Sadness

Tears, tears, and more tears come when you finally get a moment to catch your breath and really grieve about what happened to you. The thing that makes me the saddest is knowing that I didn’t do this to myself, yet I’m stuck here with the painful after-effects.

I often get waves of sadness that hit me at random times when I see or hear something that kind of ‘rings a bell,’ if you will because at that moment I know that some painful memories are tugging at me, yet I don’t know what they are. It’s just another reminder of my past, and it makes me really sad.

It’s also unfortunate because all I want is to move on and be better, and I’m trying, but it seems like things just sneak up on me at every corner.

The Recovery

To wrap it up with a cute bow, I want to talk about the recovery– the seemingly never-ending recovery.

I want to be clear here that therapy helps. It helps a lot. But it doesn’t change the reality of your life. You have to come to accept your life for what it is on your own terms, and I feel like people who suffer from PTSD have a harder time doing that than people who don’t. Our reality just doesn’t feel acceptable sometimes.

Therapy for PTSD can be extensive. I go to 6 therapy sessions a month- that’s more than once a week sometimes- and that’s after having struggled with PTSD for four years already. It can get discouraging when you put in so much effort for what can sometimes feel like no reward.

The therapy I’m currently in is EMDR– Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Essentially, you try to recall traumatic events while you follow your therapist’s fingers from side to side with your eyes. The goal is to take that memory and reprocess it in a way that makes you feel like all of your needs at that moment were met.

Sometimes I get asked if there are current people in my life who can fill my need for comfort, protection, wisdom, etc., and I have to try to incorporate them into that memory to fill that need for me so I can feel enough resolve to move past it.

I get it, it definitely sounds strange, but it’s been helping me more than anything else has. It’s definitely hard at times because my memories usually try to send me into an anxiety attack or PTSD episode because I’ve never really talked about my trauma, but once I get used to talking about it, then things should settle down a bit.

I’ve had to have some severe mind adjustments as far as what the rest of my life is going to look like. Is it going to be better ten years from now? Probably. But will I still struggle more than most in some ways? For sure. That’s just the way it is.

In ten years, though, I hope I’ll have had enough practice with my calming techniques, and I’ll have gone through enough therapy that the things that are tearing me apart now won’t hold nearly as much weight.

And now, for the biggest, most important question of the hour: has had PTSD made me a stronger person? Absolutely.

But would I trade this life for a healthy life? Any day of the week.

I hope this helped you better understand PTSD if you don’t know much about it, but most importantly, I hope that someone else out there with PTSD found comfort in this post and felt understood.

xx

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