I developed PTSD when I was 22 years old and found my 49 year old father dead of a heart attack. I was the one who had to call 911, and attempt CPR on him, even though it was evident he was gone. That memory has haunted me the past five years, and while I rarely go back to that place, sometimes flashbacks still happen and they’re terrifying.
PTSD often occurs after a traumatic event, and symptoms include involuntary flashbacks, distressing dreams, being easily startled, and having trouble sleeping. I hardly slept for six months after finding my dad. I remember the day after finding him, sitting at a restaurant with friends and family. I had to walk out because I kept picturing my dad sitting there on the couch, dead. I kept thinking back to walking in that empty, dark house. My family members told me that I would forget it, and that a memory like that wouldn’t stick with me. I knew they were wrong then.
The truth is something like that you’ll never forget. It’s devastating, and I still feel sick thinking about it. Something like that you don’t just “get over.” It’s been five years though, and that memory has certainly faded with time. While I used to stay up at night, for months, reflecting back on that, now it happens once in a while. Most of the time that memory is pretty far back in my mind. Occasionally it’ll pop up, and it’s just as traumatizing now as it was then.
PTSD is serious. Anyone who has experienced a traumatic event, and PTSD knows how much it can impact your life. It’s crazy how such an awful, terrible thing can consume your thoughts and mind. What I’ve learned is to focus on the good. I think less about the bad. But that certainly comes with time. After a while, those bad memories no longer have to consume you.
I would be lying if I said I don’t ever have flashbacks, because I certainly do. After the traumatic event, I also developed some very OCD- like symptoms that I never had before. I don’t leave the house without checking the garage, the locks, making sure my iron is off multiple times. With PTSD and OCD, control is huge. People who suffer from PTSD like to be in control, often developing OCD or OCD-like symptoms.
Not many people know about my PTSD. It’s not something I like to advertise. Those who know me, and were there for me through my dads death know how hard it was for me. And while I’m perfectly happy and normal now, I still have my moments. Sometimes I’ll zone out. Sometimes it’ll just hit me. And sometimes I go back. You’ll never know it, but I do. When you go through trauma, it can hit at anytime. Most people don’t get it. Or don’t want to. Because it’s not something we often talk about, it’s hard.
Coping with PTSD is something I never wanted to take on, but I have. Just like anything, you cope. You learn, you move forward. Surrounding myself with positive people has been the most important thing. If someone you know is suffering, or could be suffering from PTSD, please be kind. We all go through things, some of us keep them more private than others.