This post will be very difficult for everyone. Even those who do not suffer from PTSD. The stories from my interviewees are very hard to read. This one was also a very hard one for me to write, but I feel better knowing I have you all who will appreciate it and its rawness.
In my beautiful cocktail of disorders, PTSD is one of them. I will of course make sure that the people I have interviewed get their voice, but I will share my experience as well.
Re-cap: PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is an anxiety disorder in which terror is triggered by terrifying events. These can be either experiencing them or witnessing them.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is also known as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue syndrome” because of our brave soldiers and their experiences overseas. Though that is what you think of when you hear of PTSD, that isn’t just what causes it.
Causes for PTSD are: going through, seeing or learning about an event involving actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation.
- stressful experience
- inherited mental health risks
- inherited features of your personality
- the way your brain regulates the chemicals and hormones your body releases in response to stress.
There are different varieties of treatment options of PTSD. These can teach you skills to address your symptoms. Help you think better about yourself, others, and the world. Help you learn ways to cope if any symptoms start to surface again. And they can treat other problems that often relate to traumatic experiences such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. Some of those treatment options are:
Psychotherapy or “talk therapy”
- Cognitive therapy: helps you recognize the ways of thinking that are keeping you stuck.
- Exposure therapy: helps you safely face both situations and memories that you find frightening so that you can learn to cope with them effectively. – this can help flashbacks and nightmares
- Eye movement desensitization & reprocessing (EMDR): combines exposure therapy with a series of guided eye movements that help you process traumatic memories and change how you react to them.
One of my interviewees has done EMDR and I wanted to get their take on it and see just what they thought about the treatment. They made the statement that even thought she also did talk therapy that EMDR was what really helped her process through everything. She a statement that I’d love to share with you, and especially for those thinking about EMDR:
“So I was super skeptical about EMDR at first. The first time I had an EMDR session with my therapist I didn’t really feel any different. As the sessions went on though I noticed a big difference. I was typically more distressed immediately after the session and would sometimes feel exhausted. My therapist was great about making sure I was in a good emotional state before leaving the sessions. As I encountered things that would typically trigger me though I was able to redirect my thoughts. I even remember saying in my head “This used to ruin your day if it happened but now you just acknowledge it and move on.” For me it wasn’t about blocking out the trauma it was about being able to think about it or experience a trigger and not have a panic attack or let it completely ruin my mood. It’s very empowering to be able to recognize something for what it is and get on with your day.”
Medications are another type of treatment used for people with PTSD. Some of those include:
- Antidepressants: helps with symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Anti-anxiety medication: can relieve severe anxiety.
- Prazosin: may reduce or suppress nightmares in some people with PTSD.
So before getting into this, I want to let you know that I am going to answer some of my questions. There are many different types of trauma, and I know there are people who have suffered as I have. I put my answers in black bold.
The 1st question was a really hard one to ask. I wanted everyone to be able to share their stories. It was very difficult for some to talk about.
“Growing up with an extremely narcissistic parent had alot to do with it. As a young child my dad trained me to believe I was never safe and that at any time someone from the past would come to kill us. He was a very paranoid person too. He would pretend to kick in the door at any time to make sure i was ready to shoot whoever could be coming in. That left me with a sense of constant fear and untrusted in my own home that got worse as I got older. When I was about 17 my parents went to a concert in tulsa and while I was home alone someone broke in the house. I grabbed my gun and was prepared to defend myself but I knew no one would be there to help me. A few years later near the end of 2018 I had a very bad break up. My ex was abusive and controlling and most likely on hard drugs. I ran away in the middle of the night after I heard him grab and rack a gun in the next room. He went on to stalk me for a few months and in that time he vandalized property and we ended up going to court. He had a large impact on me and the PTSD got worse as time went on. I’m in therapy now and its helps but its also hard to recognize the trauma.”
“My PTSD was triggered when I was at an event where there was a large crowd of people. This was roughly two years after the initial incident of my sexual assault. There were a lot of people in a small area and among those people 75% of the population were of African American race. My abusers were also of the African American race. I began to play the incident over in my head and this made me start to hyperventilate even though nobody was talking to me or even within 5 feet of me at the time. But, it triggered me. I felt like I couldn’t escape, which was exactly how I felt during my assault. I froze. I suddenly became non social and wanted to go home even though that was the first stop of our night out. It then took me several weeks to even want to go out after this occurred.”
“There are really multiple situations that resulted in symptoms of PTSD for me. The main one happened when I was a Senior in high school though. I was at a party with people that I thought I could trust. I drank too much and blacked out. While I was blacked out I was raped by two of the guys at the party. I woke up while it was going on. The next Monday at school they were bragging about it. I was labeled a slut and bullied for it. It took years for me to realize what had actually happened to me and that it wasn’t my fault.”
“I actually had two situations that cause PTSD. One was long and drawn out and it took a while to develop, while the other was a near death experience. As for the long and drawn out cause of PTSD, I had a mentally and verbally abusive biological father. He would yell, he would be mean, and then he’d just be silent. He wouldn’t talk for hours, for days, for weeks even. The old silent treatment. Then when my mom divorced him, he would play country divorce songs the entire time I was with him. He’d also ask me what my mom was doing, very detailed. It wasn’t until later that I found legal pads with detailed accounts of every interaction we had. With the conversations and everything. It was very unsettling. He was just kind of awful. Haven’t talked to him in probably 6 years. I mean everyone knows how to hurt other people, how to say things that cut to the core. He just didn’t stop himself from actually saying any of those things. As for the near death experience, I slipped and hit my head on a pond that was iced over in high school. Caused a lot of problems and I’m still dealing with some. The PTSD really just presents with me being unable to handle things near my face/head.”
“So when I was 13 years old, back in 2006, we had a family that lived a few houses down from us that we were really good friends with. The only kids in the home were 2 boys. one 16 and, one 18. I was really good friends with the 16 year old and the 18 year old came over to hang out with my parents. What started was subtle flirting, then telling me he wanted things I was obviously too young for. Well one night, he made up a lie saying he needed help with his AOL (I’m that old), and I know I had fear in my eyes, but it wasn’t noticeable. So we went to his house, snuck in his window and he raped me. This happened 2 more times. After he was done he would climb out the window, smoke a cigarette, and walk me home. Such a gentleman. So that was how I lost my virginity. And I was 13, missed a period, and freaked out that I was pregnant. He refused to talk to me and brushed me off like he didn’t see me. Mind you, he had a 16 year old soon-to-be wife with their baby on the way. I hated myself and still struggle with hating myself. I felt and still feel all alone. 7th grade was the first time I tried cutting.”
Some people do not seek help for some time after an event because it can be years until symptoms can start up. I wanted to see who knew that they needed treatment right away and if they received it.
“Id always felt like I didn’t have it hard enough to deserve help and sometimes thought I was crazy and nothing was wrong in the first place. For so long I just tried pushing past it and focusing on just getting by but it kept getting worse as time went on. It went from nightmares all the way to actually passing out from the stress of a flashback. I finally asked for help from my current boyfriend and he helped me talk to my mom and also start seeing a therapist. I’ve made progress and although I still have a long way to go im far better then I was.”
“I called my therapist that was back in California but she said there wasn’t anything more she could do for me and that I needed to find a therapist in Oklahoma. I reached out to friends that knew of the incident and talked it out through them, but didn’t seek more medical help.”
“Immediately after, no. I didn’t know I could get help. I thought this kinda stuff just happens. It wasn’t until years later that my symptoms got bad enough that I reached out. I was having active suicidal thoughts and realized that if I didn’t do something I wasn’t going to make it. That’s when I started seeing a therapist at my university and got on medication to help manage my main symptoms, depression and anxiety.”
“First incident, yes. It was court ordered. Second, just medical treatment not mental health”
“I never told my parents. Never reported it. I only told two friends if that counts as seeking help. They were as helpful as two best friends could be but we weren’t sure what to do. One friend threatened to call the cops, but of course I didn’t want to mess with that and get my parents involved. That same friend also told our high school that I was a home wrecker due to his soon-to-be wife and kid. I was embarrassed and blamed myself and thought I didn’t need help because it was my fault.”
Because of the traumatic events, people’s lives can change drastically. I wanted to know if it had made any sort of impact on their lives.
“Id say yes. I dont think ill ever feel fully safe. There are barriers in life that once crossed cant be forgotten. After the home invasion all security of home and how that is personal space was shattered for me and I’ve never experienced feeling safe at home since.”
“Recently, no just because I don’t typically think about it. A few years ago, yes. It affected me whenever I’d be out with friends in a social atmosphere. It would make it to where I wouldn’t want to go places or be around certain types of people or large crowds.”
“The experience itself caused a lot of thoughts and feelings that I didn’t realize were developing until later. I thought it was normal to feel insecure or to feel like life didn’t matter. When in reality it wasn’t and I was struggling in ways that I didn’t know I could change. It was difficult to address those feelings of worthlessness and insecurity but ultimately I feel like I came out a stronger person because I had to.”
“Well not wanting anything near my face is surprisingly difficult. I’ve had to adjust to my wife kissing me when I’m not ready. The other I just can’t handle the silent treatment anymore, it’s like torture and I feel like I’m in a lake and I’m swimming, but I just keep drowning every time I get close to the top. Also seeing people who look like my bio father trigger anger and resentment. The PTSD really developed into anxiety of doing things wrong too. I used to get in so much trouble for not being perfect. It’s something I still have to cope with.”
“It has made life very difficult, but I’d rather not discuss the nitty gritty.”
Triggers are a really big deal. They can happen when you least expect them to. I wanted to add this to show you the different types of triggers people have
“A few of my triggers are the make and model my exs black shitty muscle car. When I see one I freeze and disassociate and more often then not go into a panic attack. The smell of cigarettes and curve cologne or seeing any of his family members set off a flight response that I have trouble recovering from as well. Thats to name a few that take hold of me more often”
“Crowds of large capacity, aggressive African American men and men who catcall women.”
“The biggest trigger for me was being judged. If I felt like people were looking at me weird or like someone was judging me for how I dressed or something I said or did it would send me into a panic attack. Walking into a crowded room or interrupting a meeting or movie was a big one. Also, when people would look at me or try and interact with me while I was driving. It’s like I was trapped in my car and couldn’t escape their gaze and I would start escalating immediately. Drinking was and still is a big trigger. I do not like the feeling of not being in control of a situation so when I would drink to the point that I got drunk I would often start crying or having a panic attack because of the lack of control I had over myself. Also, seeing the guys come across my Facebook or Instagram because we have mutual friends was and still is a trigger. It’s definitely gotten better though.”
“The silent treatment and things near my face. Also seeing men who look like him make me feel angry. Which is sad because he looks like about 50% of older men in Oklahoma haha”
“Men. It’s hard to be anywhere alone with one. Doesn’t matter who it is. Even a male that is part of my family, I feel like I need to leave. Halloween because I see him every year in our old neighborhood (It’s a family tradition and I’m not going to deny my kids candy and have to explain why). That may be why I have an overexaggerated problem with cigarettes. And his car. Anytime I see anything resembling a red 1967 Chevy el Camino with a white strip down the middle, it suddenly feels hard to breath.”
Coping skills are a very important way to calm your symptoms after a trigger. There are so many and it’s wonderful to learn about all of the different ones. You can try some yourself!
“I use the Wim Hoff breathing method to meditate and calm myself in an attack but I try to incorporate positive affirmations through the day to stay positive”
“Try to avoid large crowds, when out with friends, have a safe word for uncomfortable situations, when in a situation that draws out my ptsd, discuss with close friend who almost always knows how to calm me.”
“Coping skills that work for me are breathing. Focusing on my breaths, counting them, and really trying to ground myself. Mindfulness techniques also work, or listening to music. Typically music that’s sad that’s relatable so I can feel what I’m experiencing but still manage it. When I’m having an overall hard day though just watching tv with my cat and cuddling with her is what really helps the most.”
“Well for stress and anxiety I practice self care by exercising and doing meditations daily. The people who look like my bio father don’t really bother me anymore, or at least for long. As soon as I realize it’s not him, I’m pretty much good.”
“I notice I joke a lot. especially during times I should be serious. I wrote down my own interview and I actually had to tell myself not to write a joke and be serious more than once. I will say something, and quickly come back with a joke because the tension is so horrible. I really enjoy writing. Whatever it is, writing makes me feel better. I unfortunately use sleep to cope as well.”
As always, my favorite question. What would you like to tell people about PTSD?
“Id like them to know not only vets have ptsd and anything can be a trigger. I also think having a partner who understands it and knows how to ground me to get me back to reality is extremely helpful”
“Honestly, more people go through it or suffer from ptsd than is talked about. So don’t feel like you are alone. It’s okay to ask for help when you feel you need it. Don’t blame yourself! Know that things will get better.”
“PTSD doesn’t not have to be the result of a huge accident or tragedy. PTSD is often associated with war or horrible car accidents and it is commonly a result from those things. It can also result from any life experience that caused trauma or uncertainty, divorce, arguments, witnessing something terrible, experiencing a tornado, or even having to quarantine for weeks because of the fear associated with a pandemic. Do not think that because what you experienced was not a huge movie scene type tragedy that it is any less valid. Your feelings resulting from it matter. PTSD isn’t visible and many people do not realize they even have it. So be kind and patient with anyone who may be struggling, or just in general.”
“Anyone can have PTSD, it’s not just soldiers.”
“Report it. Always report it. Talk to someone you trust. You are NOT alone and eventually our voices will be heard.”
Thanks for sticking around if you’ve made it this far. I know these were so hard to read, but it was especially important that my interviewees got their voice and got to get out their story to help someone else who feels alone.
PTSD is a very serious mental illness and is one of the highest reasons for suicide. If you know someone is crisis, “Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1–800–273–TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to everyone. The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1–800–799–4889. All calls are confidential. Contact social media outlets directly if you are concerned about a friend’s social media updates or dial 911 in an emergency. Learn more on the NSPL’s website. The Crisis Text Line is another resource available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Text “HOME” to 741741.”
As always, I am here to talk if you ever need anything. Love you all!
Bipolar Weirdo ❤
Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional. If you have mental health related questions, I highly recommend you seek a healthcare professional.