EN&MH: What I Wish My Loved Ones Knew About PTSD

*Out of respect to the kind humans who willingly shared their stories and words, some quotes are anonymous. I am very thankful for the people who shared their thoughts on PTSD*

Last week I shared an informational post on PTSD. This week I wanted to share it on a little more personal level. PTSD is something I live with daily, both for myself and a child. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a battle. If you’re not in it, you do not understand it.

I’ve found this lack of understanding isn’t about not caring. It exists because trauma and it’s continuous affect on your life do not exist for everyone. Our loved ones are not purposefully unaware, but in fact living in a current state where they simply do not understand. It’s hard for me as a person to know so many of my loved ones can’t understand-but it’s even harder when I know some do.

I’m putting together this post in hopes you can share it with anyone who is struggling with your post-traumatic stress disorder. We put a lot of focus on those living with mental illnesses, but it’s clear we do not live in bubbles as mentally ill individuals. Our health directly impacts those around us.

I hope this gives those of you out there loving others with PTSD a little insight for what they wish you knew.

 

Dear loved ones,

We wish you understood more about PTSD.

I wish you knew it wasn’t going away.

This is my forever. I don’t want it to be…my gosh I really wish it wasn’t. I don’t doubt the full healing power of God, but I’m also aware the jumping, the nightmares, the survival mode may be my forever. I’m not going to get over it.

I wish people would recognize my symptoms more often as symptoms.

I wish my loved ones knew that laughing when I jump at little sounds only makes me withdraw more.”

“That bad dreams aren’t just bad dreams–they’re memory traps you can’t get out of. Mine rarely flare up but when they do… I’ve punched and kicked at my sweet husband unknowingly more times than I care to admit.”

My husband is so supportive, but I wish this wasn’t his reality as well. I wish this wasn’t my kids reality.

But it is. And I am a lucky one. My husband acknowledges all the hard work and persistence I put into my day to day life.  That’s not the case for everyone.

“I wish my loved ones knew that some days I’m up for doing all the things and others I just want to lock myself in my room till my feelings pass”

Most days I have to battle through memories. It’s not always a simple healing.

As a professional counselor, I have spent 20 years working with clients diagnosed with PTSD. Many of them are some of the strongest people I know. They have survived the traumatic deaths of loved ones, horrific crimes, and betrayal often by those who were supposed to love and protect. Many times I wish I could meet their family members and encourage them to continue their journey beside them with patience and understanding. My clients have good days and bad days. Most in no way contributed to the trauma they are striving to overcome and daily fight a battle of the mind and sometimes the body. I would also encourage their friends and family to hold on to hope because there is a God that heals. They are not their trauma or the symptoms of it. They are beloved children of God often faithfully learning to love and trust again.” –Michelle Nietert

I really wish people understood it’s not just combat survivors who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder.

There are people out there dealing with it even though you don’t know the specific reason or trauma behind it.

“I wish that more people knew that almost all partners of sex/porn addicts who know about the addiction and have had to deal with the trauma of constant betrayals suffer from PTSD.”- http://www.hisdearlyloveddaughter.com/

Often, I find myself wishing people would accept that they may never know exactly what caused my trauma or the details of what I’m dealing with. As a person who kept this mostly secret for years, I still struggle with even saying the words, “I have post-traumatic stress disorder.”

There’s huge parts of me that feel more guilt ad shame for what I’ve put others through than depression surrounding the actual event. 

Who I was dealing with my trauma was never who I wanted to be.

I was diagnosed with PTSD 10 years ago. Back then, I was basically a shell of a person. Zombielike, going through the motions with over the top emotional outbursts. There were many times where I lashed out at my boyfriend at the time or parents. I wish they knew that I needed space. I wasn’t looking to be “fixed” – I was doing all the things I was supposed to do, medication, therapy, etc, but I needed time and space. I know, especially for my mom, she felt like she was going through everything I as going through, but her assuming my feelings or making it seem like we were going through the same thing just frustrated me more. I wish she had her own support at the time rather than talking to me.

I needed people to listen to what I was saying and asking for.

In fact, we haven’t had much of a relationship these last 5 years and I think a large part of that is because she didn’t get help also. Secondary PTSD is real, and to this day she throws her experience of that time into my face, which doesn’t help.
 
Today, it’s been 10 years, and while I definitely don’t struggle with PTSD in the same way, it’s definitely hard for my husband and his family to understand the person I was back then and how the aftershocks still effect my life today. Particularly how certain things can still re-trigger flash backs and how certain social exchanges can retrigger my mood swings or disinterest in things. My husband is actually really good with it responding to that part of me. But I wish his family would ask me what’s going on rather than assuming my feelings/thoughts or trying to fix me. I also wish they would just talk to me about that time in my life. I’ve brought it up at times (because it’s therapeutic for me to talk about it), but almost always the response is a bandaid, “well you’ve come so far and your so strong” followed by an immediate change in conversation. That hurts, it feels so rejecting. At this point, I welcome the questions and am vocal about welcoming the questions. If someone is nervous to ask questions, I would recommend they simply ask the person, “Are you comfortable talking about it? Is it okay if I ask questions?” -Rachel, (www.theconfusedmillennial.com )

Ask those questions.

You may be uncomfortable with our answers. There’s a real possibility you will not understand.

Offer to be a safe space anyway.

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