Five Things People with PTSD Want You to Know
I had spent a lifetime keeping memories behind closed doors. I thought I had frozen them all in my heart to keep them contained.
But trauma thaws.
I felt like I betrayed my family code. I felt weak. I coped in so many different ways to stay numb and avoid the feelings that are stored in the marrow of your bones. I just wanted to be normal.
The problem was that God isn’t into the freezer business. He is faithful to unthaw your heart and it gets messy. I think God sees the slushy part as hopeful. Lucky me.
I found an incredibly intuitive counselor and a psychiatrist who helped me navigate the ways I needed help. I knew I needed to be on medicine. I knew I was not doing well though I tried really hard to look like I was fine.
A gifted psychiatrist did an inventory and personal history and trauma assessment. She talked to me, one human being to another. She discussed my chronic depression from childhood and anxiety and medication that would help with the symptoms so I wouldn’t just function but thrive.
And then she talked to me with waves of strength and gentleness about my PTSD.
How long will I have it? What do I need to do to get over it?
It was embarrassing and I felt ashamed. Like I didn’t try hard enough to keep all the trauma-rama away from me. The problem with PTSD is the “T”. And all that it stands for that was beyond our control.
I read about PTSD. I identified with constant hypervigilance. I enter a room and scan for the exit signs. I sit in a restaurant and scenarios of someone entering with a gun soon enter my mind. What would I do? How would I protect my children? If someone locked me in this room, how would I get out? I tell you what, it’s just a real party in my brain. I thought everyone thought this way. They don’t.
Five Things People with PTSD Want You to Know
- We are triggered by sounds, smells, words, tones or circumstances. The intensity of our reaction may not match the degree to which you experience it. By saying may not, I mean it won’t at all. It’s a physiological trigger in our brain that is greater than our logic. It is beyond the capacity of your reasoning and my reasoning combined. It makes us feel crazy. It frustrates us that we can’t talk our way out of a reaction in our own brain. We try talking ourselves out of it but to no avail.
- We know you may hear the sound of a car stopping abruptly in gravel, pinging rocks under its metal belly, for example, just like we do. For some with PTSD we hear the same thing. Red warning lights are flashing in our brains and our heart rate escalates before our next breath. A fight or flight response races before you can turn your head to us. Wow. If we could only get paid for how quickly our neurotransmitters work.
- We may pull away, leave the room or step outside after our neurological responses are set in motion. You see us pull away and may think we are disconnecting from you personally. We are trying to disconnect from the trigger. I can see how it feels like we are abandoning you. We need the distance to exercise deep breathing, say a prayer, listen to a song, go for a run, or take some anxiety medicine. It helps us to come back and be present again.
- We don’t like leaving and breaking up the flow of the conversation, the meal or whatever situation brings a trigger. But to come back and be present and listen well, we sometimes have to step aside. We would give almost anything for it to be different. What we would like is an open conversation about it. Honest discussions later in the day or the next day would help us to feel less alone. It would alleviate the lie that we are alone.
- Our triggers cannot be diminished by your love. Don’t get me wrong, your support and love are absolutely welcome and essential for healing and growth. Let me share a personal example. Our table is a place I have old grooves of deep pain. I know it is an area where certain noises send speeding messages down the expressway to my fight or flight area in my brain. It bypasses the exit of good table memories, like the many meals where we laughed, played cards and board games.
I can see why you might feel your love is powerless and doesn’t matter. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Your love reflects the good and the beautiful to our hearts. It just can’t change the pathways in our brain.
It has been many years since the diagnosis. I still have triggers but they are not as intense as they used to be. I am still a bit hypervigilant, especially in new places and situations. I was informed that it would probably be like this for the rest of my life. The wiring in my brain is just super alert. Good job, neurological pathways. You are my “Stranger Danger Ranger.” Click To Tweet
For great resources on PTSD, visit http://www.sidran.org/resources/for-survivors-and-loved-ones/what-is-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/
Terri is a wife, empty nest mom and mentor. She writes about faith, family, hiking, and mental health. She loves stories of redemption and things that are funny. She longs to encourage others to find hope and freedom. She is currently working on her first book. She is a contributing writer at Http://theglorioustable.com
You can read more of her writing at Conversations at the Table at http://terrifullerton.com
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