Baby Elephant (baaabyelephant) wrote,
Baby Elephant

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a note on PTSD

I've been debating about whether or not to write this and actually put it up somewhere, and I'm still not sure if I'll post it. If you're reading this, then I guess I decided to post it after all. Basically, what I want to do is... well, let me just dive right in.

I have PTSD. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Most people know it as "shell shock", and it's that disorder that people get after returning from Vietnam. Now, of course mine isn't of that same severity. I was never in any war, I was never brutally raped and beaten by a gang, but what DID happen to me was five months of emotional, sexual, and physical abuse when I was fourteen years old. I will not go into details here, mostly because I want to remain calm while I write this, but suffice it to say... it was hell. It was hell then and it's hell now. That's not what this entry is about, though. This entry is about the disorder that arose from it, the problems it causes me, the symptoms I show, and how they affect me. This entry is an explanation of my disorder, and a few of the frustrations it's causing me.

PTSD, in my case, causes a lot of panic attacks. These have certain triggers, mostly things that are reminders of the traumatic incident (abuse, in this case). It's hard to pinpoint my exact triggers, but most of my attacks come on at school, in the afternoon. See, I have two classes with this asshole. I get to look at him aaaall afternoon. Lucky me, right? So yeah, a lot of my panic attacks come from hearing his voice, or looking at him, or something like that. Generally speaking, my panic attacks lead me to huddle in the bathroom, pressed up against a wall, silently screaming, while I endure uncontrollable shaking and sobbing. Not enjoyable.

The flashbacks, frightening thoughts, and re-experiencing are also really, really bad. Sometimes I get a memory of being around him, and it could be as easy as the way I'm lying on a bed, or the way something feels on my skin. Again, most often it's hearing and seeing him, but it comes on when I'm at home completely alone, like I am right now. The pain in my wrist that never goes away -- an injury he gave me that never really healed -- also has a habit of reminding me of that time and leading to some horrible moments. I've had one as I was typing this paragraph. They're short, but that doesn't stop them from having a dramatic effect. There's this jolt of raw fear and anxiety that goes through my body, and everything gets tense.

The same thing happens due to hypervigilance, and that is a real bastard of a symptom. Hypervigilance essentially means that I never quite feel safe. Unexpected sounds or movements inspire real fear in me, and make me jump and tense up entirely. This is an exaggerated startle response, and for those who don't know what causes it... it is freaking hilarious. I can understand that; when I'm startled I make some interesting noises and jump rather entertainingly. However, to me, it's awful. Because to me, every sound is his footstep, every sudden movement is him going to grab me, and every unexpected touch is him... well, needless to say, I'm always on alert for him. This doesn't mean that you can't sneak up on me because I've got all the bases covered. Far from it! I am very easy to sneak up on, and that just makes things worse.

I also have trouble controlling my anger due to PTSD, and a lot of my reactions are angry and sometimes violent. I fully admit that I hit my best friend, Justin, far more than I have reason to, and I hate that about myself. I know that it's barely justifiable, but the fact is that PTSD makes it difficult to control rage, and a lot of my emotional responses are angry. I also spend a lot of time thinking that I need to seek vengeance. This causes a lot of problems in itself, because I'm sort of torn. On the one hand, I can't look at him without breaking down. On the other hand, I need to look at him in order to stab his eyes out. On the one hand, he made me feel insecure and weak and stupid. On the other hand, I can't let myself feel insecure and weak and stupid if I want to break his face with my bare hands.

One of the main problems with PTSD (aside from, you know, having it) is that people don't understand the symptoms, and the symptom I get this with the most is hypervigilance. Oh, hypervigilance. You are the bane of my existence, you really are. I know that everyone means well, but... rrgh, seriously, practically no one understands what it's like. I had one friend (again, meant well), tell me that if I had hypervigilance, he "wouldn't be able to sneak up on [me]". Another friend asked, "Can't you just stop looking at the door? It looks to me like you're not really trying." Hypervigilance means that I always have to be on the lookout for threats, not that I can sleep easy because I know there are none. I see threats everywhere. I watch the door because if I don't, he can come in when I'm not looking and sneak up on me. I'm frightened when someone sneaks up on me because it could be him. I can't see everything, as much as I'd like to.

But by far the biggest problem is when I say PTSD and people think "natural disaster", "war veteran" or "gang rape". When the truth comes out, a lot of people have this idea that I'm just overreacting, and that I'm just not trying hard enough to get over it. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. PTSD is something that I cannot get over by myself. Right now, I'm waiting on a call from my doctor to get a referral to a therapist, but it's taking a while. Until such a time as she calls me back, I am effectively stuck. I don't have the skills to deal with this on my own, so I'm sort of stuck. I wish people understood that I'm not faking it, I'm not being overdramatic, and I'm TRYING. It's just... impossible for me, right now. I know I *will* get over it, with therapy and time, but right now.. right now I just can't. I'm not faking it, I'm not being dramatic, I just physically cannot do it.

So, that was my long rant about my mental disorder. I hope you enjoyed it. I want to make it clear, though, that even though PTSD is consuming my life, I'm still able to function somewhat normally at times. Yeah, I have my moments of awfulness, but I can also laugh at a joke and write happy blog posts. These moments have been few and far between for the past little while, but they're there. I don't remember the last "good day" I had, but I do remember that there have been moments of happiness.

Right now, that's all I can hope for. And I'm going to squeeze every last drop out of it.

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