This is an extremely hard post for me to write because this isn’t a part of my anxiety that I like to think about. It’s a part of my anxiety that I like to sweep under the rug and forget about. But, PTSD isn’t something I can forget about because, in some shape or form, if I get extremely triggered, it’s there just waiting to kick-in and take over. And because I believe in discussing mental health issues, and being open and honest, and removing the stigma from them, no matter how hard this is for me to write, I think it’s important to share my experiences so maybe I can help someone else struggling.
As you know, the past two days I have been struggling a lot. On Thursday, I wrote the poem Time Will Tell. I was still functioning and ok by that point. I was able to go to work and laugh and feel mostly like myself. That night though got very bad. And because of things that happened, I got triggered the worst that I have been in a long time. By last night I was starting to feel a little better, but not well enough to really do an entry which is why I shared a quote that spoke to how I was feeling. Sometimes before you can do anything else you need to take care of yourself.
You see, the thing is, I suffer from anxiety and depression. I’ve talked about both of those on my blog very openly. I’ve talked about my various struggles. But, I also suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Usually people associate PTSD with soldiers returning from war, but they aren’t the only ones who suffer from PTSD. Regular everyday people can develop it too whether because of abuse they have lived through, extremely stress situations, etc… The truth is anyone can develop PTSD.
I developed it because of my childhood and the abuse I experienced as kid. I’m not going to go into details except to say that I didn’t have a very easy childhood. And although all that is in the past, nothing really ever goes away. You learn to adapt as a child to situations. And just like clay, you get shaped by experiences and you learn to survive. You build walls, you develop armor and you somehow make it through.
But, even as an adult, all you went through leaves you with invisible scars. Anxiety, depression, eating disorders. They are all invisible scars of experiences. As is PTSD. It’s like a silent movie that only you yourself are starring in. No one else can see, experience, feel, or hear what you are feeling in the moment that you triggered. No one knows what’s going on internally and the war that you are fighting.
I was first diagnosed with PTSD when I was around 18, shortly after I finally got diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression. And like I’ve said, my anxiety now-a-days is a million times better than it ever has been because of lifestyle changes. But, still, if something triggers me, I can go downhill pretty fast and there’s really no way to stop it once I’m triggered.
Triggers. They can be anything from sounds and smells to even a look or a tone of voice. For me it can even be a strong feeling that triggers me. Whatever it is, it’s like mentally I’m back in a different time and place, even though I know physically I’m not. But, it’s like something just snaps in me and usually, when I get triggered, I get extremely anxious, I feel like I can’t breathe, and that I need to get out of whatever situation I’m in. It’s like I’m re-experiencing a past situation in the present. All the feelings are there. All the fear. It can take me awhile to calm down and it leaves me very shaken up. I know when I get triggered it’s important to reach out to my loved ones, usually my husband, to help me calm down. Luckily, most times, the episodes are mild, but sometimes, it can get really bad.
I haven’t had a really bad PTSD episode in an extremely long time. But Thursday night I did. The situation that I had been dealing with all day eventually caused me to get so upset that I went into what I call “shut-down mode”. Think of a computer when it shuts down. It turns off. That’s what happens to me when I get really bad. It’s not something I can control. I guess it’s a coping mechanism I developed somewhere along the way. I just shut down. I’m here physically, but mentally I’m not. I don’t know where I am. My eyes usually close and a calmness washes over me. It’s like I’m safe and protected somewhere where no one can hurt me, no one can touch me. I feel nothing. I don’t know what’s going on. I just mentally shut down on every level. As scary as that sounds writing it down, it feels safe in the moment. Nothing can hurt me.
The scary part that happened this time was eventually went I came out of “shut-down mode” I couldn’t talk. I only ended up coming out of wherever I was because Roxie, my English Bulldog, sat on me and started kissing me nonstop very vigorously. But, when I came to, I felt like something was stopping me from speaking. I felt like if I started to speak I would start screaming and never be able to stop. I physically and mentally could not make myself speak. Every time my husband would ask me to try, I would just start crying.
It wasn’t until yesterday morning that my husband eventually got me to speak a little and that took a lot of effort. And I ended up sleeping most of yesterday. Today I’m a little better, but still it’s hard and I’m struggling. But, I thought it’s important to share about PTSD because it’s so often misunderstood.
And now I’m worried that I sound completely crazy even discussing this and what happened. But, I know there are others out there too who struggle and every time a conversation is started about mental illness, the stigma is slowly broken.
People have said to me in the past that I shouldn’t share my struggles, that it’s no one’s business, but my own. But, I disagree. By not talking you feed the stigma. But when you open up the conversation and share, you help to break the stigma. No matter what anyone says, talk about how you’re feeling, what you’re experiencing. Share your experiences. They might just help someone else.
You can’t put blinders on and pretend that problems don’t exist. All my issues, they are part of what led me to living M.U.D. I have more good days than bad, and I love sharing those good days with you. But, I believe in sharing the bad too. I don’t believe in painting over things with rose-colored glasses. Living M.U.D. is all about being real. And that’s what I strive to do here on my blog.