I have struggled for the last month with a potential post. It has bounced around in my head repeatedly, sometimes angrily, others sorrowfully. I have continually talked myself out of posting it because I have this horrible habit of not wanting to offend others. Today, I have come to the conclusion that I am done renting space to this situation in my head.
I realize that everyone reacts to their stressors in different ways. Some people internalize, some people actually ask for help and I had the unfortunate opportunity to experience others lashing out in response to their stressors. While I will freely admit that I did have SOME part in what transpired, I am by no means the villain in the situation.
Anytime you get multiple people with PTSD together, there is always the possibility of volatility. When it’s a group of women, you also have the possibility of cattiness, cliques, and more drama than a prime-time soap opera. When one member of that group arbitrarily decides to play the mother roll and then step-child another member, well, things are bound to get ugly eventually.
I will admit this…I had some problems adjusting to this group dynamic. I know I have issues with isolation, I have different cleaning habits than others. For example, I eat a meal, step outside for a cigarette while others finish eating, THEN I go back inside to clean up. It is not my fault if you have differing habits.
I also have a HUGE problem waking up in the morning. At home, I have a couple alarms, a husband and several children who make sure I’m up on time. I mentioned this issue repeatedly and was repeatedly told no one would (not could, would) help me with that issue. Not only did they refuse to help, they (I’m using ‘they’ generically, in reality, it was one single member of the group) proceeded to cuss me out and verbally abuse me when I overslept. I am a grown adult. I also have PTSD (as do the other ladies in the discussed group) but it effects everyone differently.
I was, on more than one occasion, cussed out, made to feel inferior and ultimately called a hypocrite because I was “acting like a victim”. I’m sorry if my honesty as to what was going on with me (at YOUR inquisition), my inability to overcome some of my shortcomings, and your obvious problems with people who don’t measure up to YOUR predetermined stereotypes makes me a hypocrite. If you ask me what is wrong and I tell you, that does not make me a victim. If I ask you for help with a problem (again, at YOUR inquisition) and you refuse to help me and I can’t overcome that problem, that also does not make me a victim. It makes you a bully and honestly, I should have told you that to your face, especially after you lashed out at me while I was trying to do a nice thing for you.
During this whole experience (regardless of the above discussed issues, the intended purpose of the group was exceedingly and overwhelmingly positive, especially in the long run), and in the month since, I have allowed this situation to fester in my head. In doing so, I had forgotten something that I was taught while I was there…I can’t let the problems of other people rent space in my head. I can only control my own actions, not others reactions. In this situation, I can only control my reactions, not another person’s actions. I can honestly say I left knowing that I did not levy a single ounce of the abuse I received.
Considering all I gained from this very short period of my life and since, I am hereby serving a notice of eviction. No longer will I allow your abuse, your dual-faced friendship and your holier-than-thou attitude to continue to bother me. From this day forward, I will strive to remind myself that I did everything I needed to do, that I set out to do and I have improved because of and since that experience. You have only served to show me how to be grateful for those who have left my life, and to finally get me to stand up for myself. I know I was not fully innocent in the entirety of the situation, but I also know that enough other people saw the real you to know that they don’t believe I was the bad guy either. For that, I thank you. I wish you well in your life and hope you find some peace so no one else ever has to receive the abuse that I had to endure in your presence.
For those who have read this, thank you. I do apologize that this is not the typical post that I intended for this blog, however, for me it is something that I need to do to be able to move on. Sometimes we just need to get something out of our heads in order to view it for what it is and move on. That is what this post is about, nothing more…nothing less.
As I discussed earlier, I am at a sort of cross road in my life. I know the path before me and I can clearly identify the forks in the road. One path leads down the path I’ve been traveling all these years. The path of denial, depression, and isolation associated with my PTSD. Then, there is a second path. A path unknown to me. A path that, from all reports, leads toward recovery. Its not a path to a cure, I have long ago conceded that there is not cure for PTSD; I have suffered too many traumas for there to be a cure. But…and there is always a but… this path will lead toward a better future.
I have always been terrible with change. I’m not talking about change as in rearranging the living room. I’m talking about bigger changes. Adding a member to your family, moving to a new base, my husband deploying as well as when he returns. Those major life changes that require you to rethink your entire daily routines. I know the path I am choosing to take won’t be all rainbows and lollipops. I know it will require hard work and determination. It will require me to come outside of myself to care for this dog. It will require me to get out of this house and actually get some fresh air and potentially some exercise. It will cause me to interact more with my children as they get to know Chaunsey. It will change virtually everything about my daily life. That alone terrifies me. My stomach is in knots, my nerves are frazzled and my head is swimming. Just the thought of leaving my family for three weeks is enough to send me into a panic attack, even though when I’m here at home, I tend to isolate myself away from everyone.
I know I am not alone in these feelings. I have already talked with one of my classmates and she has described feeling very much the same way. I’m sure all of the graduates of K9s have also felt some level of what I am feeling. They are the ones who have kept me moving forward to the place I am now.
I am looking at these two paths. One is familiar and comfortable to me, even though my PTSD is anything but controlled. The other, the path that I am actively choosing to follow is the new one. I am choosing to step outside my comfort zone with the hope and determination to fight back against my PTSD. After all THIS is what this blog is supposed to be all about…fighting back. Realizing we are not alone and that there is always hope. Learning that there are ways to find some level of peace with our inner demons, deciding that we are no longer going to be the victims of our trauma’s but survivors.
We can fight PTSD. I choose to do so. You can also choose to fight, or you can choose to take the familiar path. Ultimately, its entirely up to you. Which path will you take?
Commonly associated with soldiers who’ve experienced unthinkable tragedies while at war, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can disrupt the lives of various people from various backgrounds. According to America’s Heroes at Work, a site from the U.S. Department of Labor, it afflicts 24 million people nationwide, eight percent of the population. PTSD can be acquired after enduring any kind of traumatic event, including war, physical abuse, a natural disaster or bad accident, and can result in symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, angry outbursts and depression. Because it’s a mental health disorder, PTSD isn’t fully understood by people with little experience dealing with it. The following common misconceptions have been disproven by mental health professionals and those who live with the disorder.
- PTSD sufferers are mentally weak: Like other mental illnesses, PTSD is considered by the uninformed to be characteristic of mental weakness. In reality, the effects of the disorder can be traced to specific traumatic events that are incomprehensible to people who haven’t experienced them. The period of recovery isn’t comparable to what people endure after stressful events such as divorce or losing a job, and how they psychologically handle the trauma varies from person to person. PTSD is recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA), American Psychiatric Association (APA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
- Everyone has some sort of PTSD: Again, PTSD is caused by a specific traumatic event not typically experienced by the average person. PTSD sufferers undergo changes in their brains resulting in symptoms worse than just depression. People who develop PTSD were inherently more susceptible to the disorder than others, often exhibiting prior signs of mental illness. After a traumatic event, the possible onset of PTSD can be exacerbated by receiving little or no help or coping with it inappropriately.
- PTSD sufferers aren’t victims: Without question, PTSD sufferers are victims. They’ve encountered events that, in most cases, were beyond their control and very few people experience during their lifetimes. They lack the psychological capabilities to recover from such traumas and thus need help in order to cope. PTSD is not something that should be taken lightly. It’s not something that can be ignored and forgotten. Individuals with the disorder need professional help to endure the symptoms that inhibit them from functioning normally day to day.
- PTSD symptoms manifest immediately after a traumatic event: In many cases, it takes a month or two before symptoms are noticeable, and they can be brought forth by stress and old memories. According to the NIH, a psychiatrist or psychologist evaluates a patient and determines whether or not they have the disorder depending on if they’ve shown at least one re-experiencing symptom, at least three avoidance symptoms and at least two hyperarousal symptoms (see link for more comprehensive explanations), all of which need to occur during at least a month in a PTSD diagnosis.
- PTSD sufferers are always unstable and violent: Symptoms of PTSD vary depending on the person with the disorder. Angry outbursts and violence don’t always occur, even if the illness was brought forth by events involving violent crime and torture. Ultimately, how a person reacts to a traumatic event is dependent on their individual attributes and sensibilities. For example, additional symptoms may include memory disturbances and the inability to connect and reconnect with others. The severity of each symptom increases and decreases and almost never remains constant.
- PTSD is limited to a specific age group: Children are vulnerable to PTSD too despite their apparent resilience to mental stress. In fact, a recent study undertaken by University of Miami psychologist Dr. Annette La Greca showed that children exhibit signs of PTSD two years after a natural disaster. Twenty-one months after the event, 29 percent reported moderate to severe PTSD symptoms. During a family’s recovery from a catastrophic hurricane, for example, a child may struggle with adjusting to a new environment, where they may be without their friends and some of their family, making the recovery even more difficult.
- Only one treatment is needed: The simplicity or complexity of treatment is wholly dependent on the person with PTSD. If symptoms are severe, then it’s reasonable to assume several methods may be used to control the illness. Psychotherapy and medication may be combined in order to produce a desired result for a patient. Doctors typically prescribe antidepressants such as sertraline (Zoloft) or paroxetine (Paxil), both of which are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat PTSD. Each combats feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anger and worry. Patients may also use benzodiazepines to relax and sleep and antipsychotics to combat other mental disorders.
- Therapy doesn’t work: Therapy does work. It educates the PTSD sufferer about the trauma and its psychological effects, and enables a mental health professional to find ways to neutralize the symptoms to the best of their abilities. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is often used, including exposure therapy, cognitive restructuring and stress inoculation training. Exposure therapy enables the patient to face and control their fear. Cognitive restructuring helps the patient realistically evaluate bad memories and deal with them in a healthy manner. Stress inoculation training teaches the patient to reduce anxiety and thus the PTSD symptoms.
- PTSD sufferers are unable to function in the real world: By taking the aforementioned measures and remaining committed to treating the problem, PTSD sufferers can fulfill their duties as employees. As previously mentioned, medication and therapy can help them make it through the day. If symptoms persist and noticeably affect their productivity, they should notify their employer of the problem if they aren’t already aware. Remember, people with mental health problems are afforded the same rights as everyone else.
- Recovery is impossible: Dealing with PTSD may seem like an unwinnable battle, but with the proper commitment, it can be defeated. Note that recovery is a subjective term depending on the patient. While symptoms of PTSD can be eradicated, some may define recovery as simply functioning effectively with the disorder. There are numerous PTSD support groups in existence with members willing to share their success stories. It’s a great way to build hope when the illness is adamantly against it.