I suffer from PTSD. It’s a horrible, invisible illness and some days suffer is exactly the right adjective. Over the years I have employed strategies to minimise the triggers and resulting symptoms. Most people I know have no idea that it’s a constant struggle for me just to make it through each day because I have become so good at it.
Recently, though, I have been less able to contain it. I started having panic attacks and could not predict when one might occur. My usual ways of coping, largely through avoidance, were no longer working. Some days I just feel like I’m drowning! I am tired and weak and don’t have the strength to fight. On these days I don’t even notice the sunrise because I am just pouring all my energy into taking the next breath, the next step.
I realised late last year that I was in crisis so sought help. I made use of the Employee Assistance Program at work and from the very first appointment, knew I had made the right decision. It really is the luck of the draw who you get when you make that first appointment but I happened to get the perfect person for me and am really thankful. From day one I started to understand that I could not reason my way out of this. I have been so fortunate in the people that I have met in this endeavour and am so grateful for their expertise and strategies that work.
I have been living, or rather existing, with the impact of trauma most of my life thinking that I will never be free from it, thinking that this was just how my life was. I want to quote a friend here because what she says makes sense to me and gives me a spark of hope that this is not how it has to be.
‘”I now believe that we cannot truly deal with traumatic events just by ” soldiering on, coping, trying to ignore or get over them” nor can we thrive if we simply dive into the pain and stay there. I also don’t believe that it is time that heals all wounds.”
This is what I have been attempting to do for years – cope, keep going, ignore it – but it’s no longer working. Another quote from my friend;
“healing is the by product of a process of moving through a traumatic experience, going from survival mode to thriving mode, that it can happen when we gently and respectfully make space for traumatic events, weaving them into the overall fabric of our unique life experience, honouring them by acknowledging the impact they have on us as part of a complex tapestry without allowing those events to wholly define us”
I like that – going from survival mode to thriving mode. I no longer want to be defined by these traumatic events. I no longer want to trapped in a cycle of fear and anxiety never knowing when the next panic attack will hit. And I think that is a good starting point – wanting to be whole.
I am learning that this is not just a mental disease so cannot only be treated as such – it takes all of me, physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally to get through this.
I was asked this week what I would be doing if I wasn’t being held back all the fear and dread this condition entails. Such a hard question for me to answer! I’m thinking on it though. How would I be different if I was thriving, not surviving? What would my relationships be like? Would I take the risk of quitting my job to study or travel or to find that little corner of the world that I can make a difference? I don’t know the answer right now but I want to be free enough to find out…