“What’s with her?” they ask. Even if I can’t hear them I know they think it. Better yet…“Why can’t she just get over it?” Who do I speak of? Mostly my family members. I know, the very people who should try to understand don’t. The people closest to you sometimes feel the farthest away. I guess that there are some things that we experience that others can never fully understand unless they have experienced it themselves. It’s true of my debilitating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the accompanying anxiety. You can try to understand, but if you haven’t experienced it then you can never really know.
I have many scars left from wounds that have been inflicted upon me over the years. Most of them came during my 11 year marriage. They varied day-to-day, but rarely did I find sleep at night without having added another to my already war-torn body. The most hideous of them are invisible to the eye. The are carved deep into my psyche and they attempt to torment me all the time. If you were to see me in the market you would never know how nervous I was or notice that my eyes are darting around the room. In case you didn’t know…I am casing the joint at high-speed for a quick exit if needed. Same goes for when I walk out of my house…I always look in the bushes to make sure that no one is going to jump out.
Sometimes I will be talking to you, but my mind is elsewhere. It may have been something that you innocently said that ripped me back to that horrible night. One of many horrible nights. You will have no idea that as you sit and gingerly talk to me about the new color of your living room that I am reliving an event I only wish I couldn’t remember. Why is it that at the most benign of moments the littlest things can tear me away from the present and hurl me at light speed back into the past?
Ironically, much of what I have forgotten can come back in a flash without warning. Imagine that? This is the exciting world of a trauma survivor. I know I am not alone and I hope that my words here resonate with someone. Quick or I might forget what I am writing about. It’s that bad some days. My memory is shot. I feel like my brain is full of clouds that prevent thoughts from connecting and allowing a continuance of thoughts. Don’t ever argue with me…you will win. I will forget what we are arguing about somewhere in the middle.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects many survivors of trauma. Victims of violent crimes, car accidents, and injuries can cause you emotional pain when you think back to the moment of impact. 1 out of 5 veterans coming back from Afghanistan suffer from PTSD. Then there are the victims of domestic abuse; women and children who live nightmares for years at the hands of the very people who are meant to love them. I have never been in war, but I have been in an accident, been injured, and a victim of a violent crime. The worst for me was being abused physically, mentally, and emotionally by the man I thought was there to protect me. I struggle to this day, years after my divorce, to overcome the flashbacks of my past.
Remember that not all wounds are visible. Since this is something that afflicts so many I thought I might share a little knowledge to those of you who don’t know much about this. To those of you who do, I can already hear you saying “check”. The following is an informative overview of the symptoms of PTSD. You may have it or know someone who does. Everyday is different for us and we have to handle each situation as they come. For me personally, memory issues, flashbacks, feelings of detachment, difficulty concentrating, hyper vigilance, and being easily started are always present. It’s only normal that I would want to avoid people or situations connected to that part of my life. So when I say I can’t do something it means I really can’t do it. XO Ella
These symptoms envelope ways that someone re-experiences the event. This could look like:
- Intrusive thoughts or memories
- Nightmares related to the traumatic event
- Flashbacks, feeling like the event is happening again
- Psychological and physical reactivity to reminders of the traumatic event, such as an anniversary
Avoidant symptoms describe ways that someone may try to avoid any memory of the event, and must include one of the following:
- Avoiding thoughts or feelings connected to the traumatic event
- Avoiding people or situations connected to the traumatic event
Negative alterations in mood or cognitions
Basically, there is a decline in someone’s mood or though patterns, which can include:
- Memory problems that are exclusive to the event
- Negative thoughts or beliefs about one’s self or the world
- Distorted sense of blame for one’s self or others, related to the event
- Being stuck in severe emotions related to the trauma (e.g. horror, shame, sadness)
- Severely reduced interest in pre-trauma activities
- Feeling detached, isolated or disconnected from other people
Increased arousal symptoms
Increased arousal symptoms are used to describe the ways that the brain remains “on edge,” wary and watchful of further threats. Symptoms include the following:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Irritability, increased temper or anger
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Being easily startled