Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt.
With more and more people opening up about mental health and trying to break the stigma, I thought I’d try and put my own experience with mental health on here. It’s a really difficult thing to put into words and I’m not a doctor so don’t use this to self-diagnose yourself. I think everybody experiences mental health uniquely and no 2 people are the same so I don’t expect everybody with PTSD to have the exact same experience as I have too. I just think if some people can relate to this, they may find that comforting. Or maybe if you have a relative or a friend that has PTSD and you want to understand a bit more about it, then it might help.
It took me a long time to understand my own PTSD and in in all honesty, I still don’t understand it completely. At first, I really didn’t believe I had it. I had this wrong idea in my head that PTSD is when you hear a door bang and you go into a panic attack. I think a lot of that comes from how it is portrayed in films. As well, when I went to look things up on the internet, most of it was relating to soldier’s experiences which made me even more confused about how I could have it.
The main thing that I experience with PTSD is that the trauma I experienced doesn’t feel real most of the time. When memories are played back in my head it feels like I’m watching myself act in a film. It’s the strangest thing to explain. Logically, I know that it all happened and it is real but it’s very difficult to feel any emotion towards it. Just complete numbness for the most part. It’s like emotionally, I am just switched off most of the time. There are also a lot of things that have been completely blacked out and forgotten. There have been times when somebody has said “Remember when… happened” and I have absolutely no recollection. And I mean things that you would remember. Not small things, very big things.
The contradiction with this is that some of the time, everything also feels too real. I can be sitting around doing nothing and then out of the blue I feel in shock, as if I’ve just found out for the first time that these memories are real. I can’t pin point a trigger or anything. It just hits totally out of the blue. It looks silly to other people when I can be completely fine and happy one minute and then all of a sudden I’m in tears, but in my head it feels like I’ve just realised the truth. It’s like I’ve been stuck in a bubble or pretending to be a different person and then all of a sudden that bubble gets burst and I’m finding out things I didn’t know about myself for the first time. All the emotions that had been switched off, are switched on at once and it’s very overwhelming. It sounds completely insane but that’s the best way I can describe it.
Instead of visual flashbacks, for the most part I experience emotional flashbacks. Again, for no reason most of the time, I can get a surge of guilt out of the blue and feel like I’ve done something horrendously wrong. I can’t even tell anybody what I’ve done wrong but I just have a feeling that I have. This makes me scared to be around people or talk to people because I convince myself that I’m upsetting everyone even though I can’t explain the reason. The same thing happens with being terrified. All of a sudden I can feel on edge and be certain something awful is about to happen. I can’t leave the house in this state or go to the shop or go to work because I feel in danger and I can’t even explain what it is that is scaring me. There was a day last week where I didn’t have any food to eat for dinner and was too scared to go out the house so I ended up tucking into an entire box of Christmas chocolates for dinner to avoid having to go outside. It happens with various emotions, such as loneliness, hopelessness, feeling totally useless. It’s like a lucky dip, you don’t know which emotion it’s going to be and it can be a different one each time and it’s completely unpredictable when it is going to happen.
It’s a very complicated thing to understand and like I said, there are still parts I struggle to understand myself. There are more symptoms of course but I feel like the ones I’ve discussed are the ones that are most frequent for myself and effect my life on a day to day basis the most. I will include a link below to the NHS website for more information on symptoms and the disorder itself and how it can be treated. The goal of this was to be eye-opening for people that don’t really know much about PTSD as until I had it myself, I really didn’t have a clue and struggled to find a lot of in-depth information on the internet that I could relate to. I’m still learning about it everyday and like I said at the start, I’m not a doctor and your experience could be totally different to mine.
I’m still in early doors with treatment so I feel like I’d be a hypocrite if I came on here to tell you all how I’ve learnt to make it better and stop it from affecting my life. However, I would say that after going to the doctors and starting therapy and also beginning anti-depressants, it has become more manageable. I have still been off work a lot lately. I have good days and bad days but I am hoping the good days are going to out-weigh the bad soon and with time I will learn more and more ways to manage it. So, if you’re concerned yourself, although it does take time and nothing is going to be healed overnight, definitely go to the doctors and start the process to getting better.