I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have to remember to breathe every time those words come, I dont want to believe it. I still cant believe it. I remember the first time my counselor looked at me and told me that my depression and anxiety might be something more. Great, I thought, What could possibly be worse than this?
Firstly, PTSD is not a disorder that only affects our war heroes, though that is what its commonly associated with. My own first thoughts were: isnt that a disorder for war veterans or someone who witnessed war first-hand? The truth is there are many causes for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, for example: witnessing or experiencing incidents, such as mugging, rape, child abuse, drug abuse, illnesses, car accidents, plane crashes, or natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes can all trigger PTSD.
However, not every person who survives a traumatic event develops PTSD, as we all cope differently to terrifying situations. Sometimes it can take a few months for symptoms to begin to show up or occasionally it can take years before signs of the disorder are apparent. Some people can recover within months, while others experience the symptoms for much longer.
The hardest part for me is accepting the fact that I was traumatized because I had banished any memories to the deepest parts of my mind. I do not want to remember. This was my coping mechanism, I simply pretended it didnt exist and that it never happened. I remember repeatedly telling myself that it was just a nightmare and that I was being silly for thinking it even occurred.
This is not a good coping technique as I spent most of my time obsessing and telling myself that it was all in my head. That I was just overreacting to those constant nightmares and emotions that swirled around like leftover pudding. I felt as if I was floating all the time and in fact I was--I was floating on all the lies I had told myself. Even this very minute, as I write this, Im pushing back those memories that resurface and stay on the edge of my mind like an oil spill.
I am constantly afraid for my life.
Daytime consists of me never being left alone, it doesnt matter to if someone is a room away, I can not stand be alone. I need to have someone I trust close by and in the same room as me. Going out into public is one of my biggest fears, its where I relive what happened the most. Basically, Im afraid of people. I also have a constant, nagging fear that something terrible will happen and so I mentally prepare for the worst possible scenario.
I trust everyone and I trust no one.
At night my symptoms become worse, I can not go anywhere without making sure there is light illuminating my path. I need to be able to see everything in front of me, I wake up groggy and as soon as I flip the light switch I become hyper-vigilante of every noise and movement. I become jumpy and literally sprint towards my destination, always making sure I can reach a weapon if necessary.
There are times when I hear a noise that I become deathly silent, straining to hear every possible movement, and will remain in the same spot for upwards of twenty minutes. Then I have to pick up the nearest object and hold it in a defensive stance, Ill then carefully walk over to the door and open it all the way. I always look three times to make sure no one is hiding behind the door or around the corner.
I suffer from mild flashbacks and body memories of the events. In other words I can re-live the moment to the extreme; I can remember every tiny detail. I remember how hard my heart would pound, the subtle smells, the noises. Everything. Just thinking about it increases my heart rate and I start to shake, it's hard to discuss because it feels like a fresh wound.
High school was the worst for me and I am not talking about the cliques, mean girls and things like that. Those types of things did not bother me in the least bit, I could take a insult from someone and whisk it away faster than their mouth could move. On the outside I was strong but on the inside I was rotting into nothing. Though, at some point in ninth grade something in me snapped.
I became nervous and anxious all the time; I couldnt enjoy anything I used to with out racing thoughts of all the horrible things that could happen. School became a burden because all my thoughts went to everything that could go wrong. When I say everything I mean everything. In school I used to worry about getting kidnapped as I waited for the bus or that if an intruder came into the school his target would be me because I always felt so helpless.
I almost didnt graduate because of my PTSD (though I didnt know I had it at that time), from tenth grade to twelfth grade I pretty much didnt attend school. My school guidance counselor was my savior, she arranged everything so that I could still pass all my classes and graduate. At one point I had a tutor because I plain refused to leave my house except for the mandatory once a week trip to my counselor.
I lived a nightmare. I survived it and Im still here but it wont let go. However, it is easier. Easier to cope, to tell myself that I am not alone and to make myself believe that someday Ill be all right. Because, one day, it will be all right.