What is PTSD like?
That is a question with an answer as broad as the ocean.
But that’s where I’ll start – with the ocean.
You see, PTSD isn’t something that always occupies your mind. It comes in waves. The sea can be completely calm and then suddenly you look up to see this massive wall of water coming at you. You can try to swim in the other direction, but it is going to catch you. So, you hold your breath and pray. The wave hits you, drags you beneath the surface, and turns you every which way until up is down and east is south and you literally can see nothing but water in every direction.
The panic that sets in is what makes PTSD the beast that it is. It is all consuming. It is physical pain as well as mental – your chest can feel like it is splitting open, it can be difficult to breathe, you can see spots. Everything begins to feel too real and not real at all. You can keep telling yourself over and over again that you are safe, but there is the deep-rooted belief inside you that just screams you are not. You fight – you kick toward the surface and sometimes you get your head above water, but there is always another wave rolling in. No matter how many times you may surface during an attack, you just keep getting slammed by the water. It beats you senseless.
I suffered two separate traumas in my life. The first being four years ago when I witnessed my mother’s death. The second followed two years later when I was sexually assaulted by someone I considered a friend. These two events have caused me to develop triggers. The only way I can think to describe triggers is again using the ocean. Think of what an earthquake does to the sea – it creates tsunamis. The trigger, being the earthquake, sends the waves.
I have a few triggers. Some have formed more recently, others are more deeply embedded. Living with PTSD is a struggle unlike any other because you cannot predict when one of these triggers may be activated. You may be perfectly content one minute, and then in the next you are spiraling beneath the waves. The sad fact is, unless someone with you is aware of your condition, you look crazy.
But – you are not crazy.
The trauma was and is real. It’s just a matter of how it manifests itself. It has taken me a very long time to understand that it is like breaking a bone – whatever has broken inside of you and me needs time to heal. Injuries take time and treatment.
This is not something I have ever shared with friends or family. There are a few people in my life that know the uphill battle I face every day. It has been a private matter up until now. In an attempt to regain control of my condition, I have chosen to share my story with whoever cares to read it. If you want to talk about it, I will be here. I will listen or talk or just be. This is where I will share my story. I may never be capable of verbalizing the entirety of why, but I can at least share the what and the how of where I go from here. Feel free to listen in. In the words of my friend Kate, “Quiet is violent.” This is where my silence ends and my recovery truly begins.