What do you mean I have PTSD?
“Huh? I’ve never...you know...been in a war or anything like that”, I said out loud.
The therapist smiled a little and asked…”you haven’t?”
I thought I hadn’t...until that moment.
She went on to explain to me that trauma can be experienced in many different ways. Although it’s common to automatically associate a war veteran with the acronym PTSD...the truth is, a lot of us have it and may not know it. Trauma happens… a lot more than we pause and realize it does.
In my case hearing those words forced me to take that pause. Did I go through a traumatic event? Did I?
Did I realize it was a traumatic event at the time?
So what happened to me?
I lost a parent.
A lot of people do.
The parent had cancer...and fought for many years.
A lot of people experience that.
I lost my parent when I was pretty young, a teenager in fact.
This also may happen to a lot of people.
However, what no one talks about is...the fact that...ALL OF THIS...is a traumatic or chain of traumatic events that will affect you for the rest of your life.
Finding out you are losing a loved one to an incurable disease. Trauma.
Watching that person try to “be strong” for you and everyone else around them. Trauma.
Waking up in the middle of the night...every night...just to make sure your parent is still breathing. Trauma.
Hearing the words…”she won’t make it til morning”. Trauma.
Walking away from a hospital, with a bag of belongings...but without your parent. Trauma.
Planning a funeral for your parent. Trauma.
The list goes on…
In my particular case...phase after phase...I was so focused on survival and moving on... that identifying the circumstances as trauma could not have been further from my mind. The idea of it all being a traumatic event that needed treatment was even FURTHER from my mind. I was just trying to simply...exist.
My mother died when I was 17. I was a high school senior as a matter of fact. I didn’t find myself sitting across from a professional to get some help until I was nearly 27. I had lived a decade in the dark. In pain, anxious, sad, stressed, afraid of dying, feeling “crazy”, simply because I didn’t realize that what I was feeling was actually normal based on my circumstances. I wish I could go back in time and let 17 year old me know there were things I could have done to feel better sooner. I just didn’t know.
I was shocked to hear that I had PTSD coupled with an anxiety disorder. Mainly because at the time I didn’t fully know what that meant. I just took it as there being something wrong with me. Now...I am so glad I know. And honestly shortly after coming to terms with the diagnosis I was relieved. It was nice to know there was a valid reason I had been feeling that way. My mental health does not define me...it just lets me learn more about who I am. Knowing, actually gives me to the tools to be a BETTER version of myself.
Today I urge you...if you’re feeling...I don’t know...like you need something or someone...reach out. That’s step one. Talk to someone about how you feel. They may not know what to say or do, but it will help to get it off your chest. Not feeling “normal” is actually normal. Too many people are just afraid to sat it out loud. Find a professional to help you objectively learn more about who you are and what tools you’ll need to be the BEST you.
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This is me: PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome), GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder)