Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I was stunned when I heard the diagnosis spoken in such a casual, matter-of-fact manner. Surely, there was a mistake. Wasn’t that something only war veterans dealt with? PTSD wasn’t something I, a young mother who seemed to have a perfect life, could have, was it? The diagnosis of anxiety and depression were easy to understand—as I had faced and managed those since my teenage years—but PTSD? That felt like a whole other ballgame in the league of mental health.
In retrospect, I had fallen into the comparison trap. I had made assumptions about my trauma and abuse, deciding ultimately that they weren’t “as bad” as what others experienced. Which meant I didn’t deserve or need help healing or treating them. This, of course, was not true, but my diagnosis of PTSD came with a steep learning curve.
Here’s what I learned:
PTSD affects people beyond war veterans.
My experience with trauma is both valid and real.
There are words for what I was experiencing and it was not just “all in my head.”
There are coping skills to manage flashbacks and episodes of dissociation.
I am worthy of the time it took to receive the help I needed.
And lastly, one of the biggest lessons I learned is that PTSD is not a personal failure.
I assumed I was weaker somehow and that was why I developed PTSD. On the hard days, when flashbacks consumed my energy, I felt like a failure. But having PTSD does not mean I have failed or that I am weak. I am, in fact, strong because I wake up every day choosing to stay. I am strong for educating myself and engaging in coping skills to manage my symptoms. And despite having PTSD, I have value.
“All human beings have value. I am a human being. Therefore, I have value.” This is a mantra I created with the help of my therapist. These words have allowed me to challenge feelings of worthlessness as they arise when I find myself drowning in depression, anxiety, or PTSD. They are a life raft, a beacon of hope when I am fooled into believing ending my life is the only way out of the suffering, the endless nightmares, and the terrifying flashbacks.
There are steps, sometimes scary and huge, to take. There is hope that is worth believing in. There is power in choosing to stay.
You are not a burden. The heavy you carry deserves to be shared, to be seen, to be known. We encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at [email protected].