Someone once asked me why I waited so long to get help for PTSD. I'll be honest. I just walked away and pretended I hadn't heard. At that time, I felt it was too personal for me to answer, and I was sort of aggravated that anyone who hadn't experienced PTSD felt they had the right to question me. But the question is valid, I suppose.
I waited because:
1. I didn't know I had PTSD and wasn't diagnosed until I was hospitalized with suicidal depression about 10 years ago.
2. But even if I had known, I might have waited. Learning about and dealing with PTSD requires a lot of emotional stamina, at least for me.
3. After I was diagnosed, I still waited until I had done a great deal of research and had some idea of what post-traumatic stress disorder actually was.
About four years ago, my emotional reserves became depleted for a number of reasons. Since that time, my attempts to manage PTSD have been largely ineffective. That doesn't mean I haven't been trying. It just means I've not been successful.
I'm guessing that most PTSD symptoms follow similar trends, but also manifest themselves uniquely for each person. I can only speak for myself, of course. And I've tried to describe what happens to me when I'm overwhelmed by symptoms. But if I'm honest, I would have to say that, even here, I don't tell the truth. It's embarrassing. It feels foreign. And I feel crazy.
But I can't get better if I keep hiding what's happening. So I'm going to try, regardless of my mortification, to talk about exactly what is happening. Starting now.
I don't feel like me. The emotions and impulses are so far from what I would normally experience that they feel as if they are coming from another source. That's scary.
Always, the negative ramifications of the symptoms center around people.
I remember feeling resentful toward my mother until the age of 9. After that, I just hated her. I despised everything about her and wanted nothing from her, ever. That spilled into nearly all my interactions with people. I had become numb. I had become convinced that no one in the world would ever want me and I didn't want them, either. People made me nervous. When friendships ended, it felt like a matter of course. If they didn't end naturally, after a certain period of time, I took steps to terminate the relationships.This was my mode of social interaction for more than 25 years.
And I felt nothing about it. It just was.
When I left my roommates after a really lovely year of bonding and spending time together and falling in love with each other, I made no attempt to contact them again. When a few of them contacted me, asking if I'd like to share an apartment the next year, I felt nothing but mild surprise-- no anticipation, no delight, nothing.
Everything felt like a matter of course. I had no desire nor motivation to form or maintain permanent relationships. Darrin ended that. He was incredibly persistent. And he told me he loved me while we were just being friends and I was borrowing his car frequently. Having a friend with a car is very convenient. But my subsequent marriage to him did not end my feeling that he would leave. It was a very long time before I realized he wasn't going anywhere.
So now. What happens to me now?
It's as if every adolescent fear, anticipation, and feeling has been amplified. When PTSD hits and I'm alone, I'm angry that someone I love isn't with me. And that feeling progresses to the very mature, "If they loved me, they'd help me. I'm sad and lonely and miserable. They obviously don't care." Never mind that everyone is at work (or at 3 a.m., asleep). Never mind that they have lives and families. In that moment, clearly I am the only one who matters. And they just don't care.
Imagine for a moment how that sits in the brain of adult Samantha who studies and researches and follows lines of logic for nearly every aspect of her life.
In those moment, I am completely lost. This feels so far from what I know to be true, and yet, in that moment, it is the only thing in the world that is true. I'm in need and no one cares. People lie when they say they love me. They think I'm an inconvenience. They said they would help me, but they won't. They hug me, but they really don't want to touch me. They find me annoying. They despise me.
When I am emotionally weak, I cannot fight what is happening inside me. I try. I do everything I can think of. Even when it takes every bit of stamina, I've reached out to people. I've asked them to negate what is happening inside me. I've begged for reassurance.
Yeah. That feels horrible, too. No one likes to beg for love. But that is exactly what it feels that I'm doing. And I know when I'm reassured that I won't believe the person. Which makes me feel guilty and frustrated.
And what shall I do?
Tolkien Boy persists in reminding me that I need to be kinder to myself, more accepting, more loving.
But this THING that is happening-- this is not me. It's not. It's a cancerous beast devouring me from within. It springs from my own brain. It is fed by my past experiences and by past trauma. Who can love this?
Therapist suggests that I need to do more things to center myself and my life. He encourages me to work on relationships when I'm not overwhelmed by symptoms. And he says I need to continue to talk to people, ask for reassurance, and whenever possible, invite touch, especially when the symptoms are rampant.
But I don't know how to be not-stupid when the symptoms are present. I want to hurt people. I want to be sarcastic and vitriolic. I want to push everyone away, not pull them close. And I know it's stupid. I just don't know what to do about it.
Darrin suggests that I tell people what I'm feeling.
Ummmm... nope. I'm pretty sure no one wants to know what's happening in this head of mine during the times when I'm battling PTSD. Not only is it irrational and insane, it's ugly. It's bound to become personal. I'm trying to build my relationships with people, not destroy them.
Okay. I've said enough for now. It's out there. And it's good that most people don't read my blog. They don't need more reasons to avoid me. I need them to NOT avoid me. I need them to see all the crap coursing through me and love me anyway.
Therapist once asked me what I wanted in the most ugly moments. I said I didn't know. But I do. I want someone to pull me close, kiss me on the cheek, and tell me I am loved. I want them to acknowledge that I won't believe them, and it's okay. They'll keep saying it until I'm convinced. I want them to forgive all the horrible thoughts I have about them. I want them to hold me until the monster leaves and I can think clearly again. I want them to remember who I am when I cannot remember, myself.
Too much to ask. I know. But he asked. Maybe someday I'll tell him the truth.