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Monday, June 9, 2008

What is it?

Someone asked me what happens when I start feeling the effects of PTSD. I had never really tried to explain it before, so it was difficult. I believe I said, "Take every negative emotion you've ever felt, roll them into a ball, and stuff it in your stomach. That's what it feels like."

Actually, it's more a shifting of reality. Things I'm absolutely sure of, things I know are real, suddenly become questionable. There are no absolutes. My reaction to this is an irrational testing of limits. My behavior is out of character. I'm deeply unhappy because I feel there is nothing--no one--I can trust. I become paranoid that people I love will not love me back. I look for ulterior motives when people try to get to know me or offer help and support. I'm certain that the only person in the world who truly cares about me--is me.

And through this horrifying mass of feeling I hear my head telling me I'm nuts.

So this time when I started feeling the loss of control, the loneliness, the overwhelming sadness and frustration, I actually did what my stupid how-to-cope list told me to and I contacted people. I asked if I could call when I felt that I was losing my sanity. I prayed more--instead of less, which is my norm. Yeah, I even feel distrust for God when this happens. And even though it didn't make the feelings go away, I felt better. Friends who have told me repeatedly that they love me, reiterated their words. I needed to hear that.

When I'm reassured that my world isn't spinning the wrong direction, when I'm reminded that no one wishes to hurt me, when love is expressed to me by those closest to me, I don't feel as alone. They're just words--but they're coming from other people. It feels like maybe I matter.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder...what was the real trauma? There were certainly frightening and physically painful moments presented to me, but I don't believe those are causing the episodes I now experience. As I think about the things which ease my stress and help me keep fighting, I believe the trauma comes from the residual feelings caused by the abuse.

As a child, people close to me created an environment in which I felt afraid, devalued, and unloved. Those three feelings interfere with my ability to trust. I go through the motions of normal life while feeling that at any moment the things I cherish will be taken from me in some way.

When my feelings spiral out of control, my reaction is to run. I want to isolate myself somehow. I don't want people in my life in any way. But each time someone close to me treats me with respect and love, a huge surge of hope twists my guts. Hope that maybe I'm wrong and some people really do know me and love the person I am. Hope that someone I love cares that I was mistreated and wishes to help me heal. Hope that I'm okay, that I'm important, that someone needs me and would miss me if I was gone.

It still hurts when the feelings intensify, but if I don't have to work through it alone, I won't give up. And I'm beginning to understand the need for repetition. Each time I'm reassured by a close friend or family member that they love me and I have a place in their lives, I find it more difficult to discount their words or to doubt their sincerity. Each time one responds to my needs, I feel a tiny bit of trust forming. It doesn't usually stay--but it's enough to keep me coming back, and sometimes I'll even voice my needs to people I'm pretty certain will respond.

It's funny. If the tables were turned and I knew I was in a position to help someone I loved, I'd be honored to give whatever I could. But as one who needs support from others, I feel sometimes that I'm taking what I have no right to ask. I don't know how to get around that feeling. Perhaps that's the next step. There always seems to be one more thing...


  1. I hope your doing o.k. if you need anything at all email me or call if you still have my number.

  2. Your PTSD sounds similar to bipolar and it's so healthy and brave to reach out to others. It takes such strength to do that, even when it would be easier to not.