During my struggle with PTSD, I’ve learned a few things. Most of all, I’ve learned that unless you have the illness, you don’t know much about it. Nothing you see on movies or TV will be anywhere near accurate to actually living with it. There are a few things that I think everyone should know about life with PTSD.
1. Time does not heal all wounds
As much as this phrase is engraved into our minds, it could not be less true for anyone struggling with PTSD. It doesn’t matter if it’s been one or 10 years, the trauma that put you here will be with you until the day you die. As hard as you try, the flashbacks and panic attacks will keep the event engraved in your mind. Which brings me to my next point.
2. All panic attacks are not created equal
As convenient as it would be, unfortunately every panic attack is different from the last. That would make it too easy to find the go-to solution to calm every attack. But no, since every episode differs, you’ll have to find a million different coping methods. They can change in intensity, length, how often they happen, even how long the aftershock lasts.
For example, I’ve had a panic attack and been able to compose myself in 10 minutes, then didn’t have another for more than a month. But then, I had one every day for a week, and couldn’t check my email or texts for another two weeks. Sometimes, a close friend can calm me down by holding me. Other times, if they come near me, it will only get worse. Trust me, it exhausts us more than it ever will you.
3. I’m constantly avoiding triggers
Even when it looks like I’m going day to day as normal, my eyes are always open to see a trigger before it turns into an attack. I check behind me in public every few minutes, because so much as a jump scare can end with me on the floor shaking uncontrollably. It feels like we haven’t known peace since the day we were cursed with this illness.
4. Even if I trust you, I don’t.
It’s nothing personal to you. Even when you’re the person I trust most in the world, my brain is wired to be on defense mode 24/7. Sometimes I can fight the urge to isolate myself and shut you out, but other days, when my brain is too loud, I’ll see you as the enemy. It’s involuntary, and I’ll always love you the same.
5. I can, and will, isolate myself
After a bad panic attack, I tend to isolate myself. When my brain gets overwhelmed like that, I need time to recuperate. This can be done with five to 10 minutes of quiet, but if I’m given the opportunity, I won’t come back out of my shell for weeks. I’ll isolate as long as you’ll let me. Without someone to pull me out of it, gently, I’ll guard myself like the Mona Lisa.
6. My disorder will create its own triggers
This one people usually don’t know about, or it just never occurs to them, but my disorder will in fact create new triggers. All the time, actually. Anytime I have an attack or think about my trauma while I’m aware of my setting, it’ll make a trigger out of it. The street I’m driving down, the song I’m listening to, or even the person I’m with have all become triggers. Things that had nothing to do with my trauma can send me back, make me feel weak. It’s a never-ending cycle.
7. I feel guilty for telling you any of this
Guilt may be one of the most overlooked yet most active symptoms of PTSD there is. This illness makes us feel like a burden to all our friends and family. We never asked for any of this, but neither did our loved ones. If you ever wonder why we don’t ask for help when we need it, it’s because we feel guilty for even existing, we just can’t justify putting that on you.
1 in 13 adults will get PTSD in their lifetime, if you love someone with PTSD, take the time to research. Learn their symptoms, learn their triggers, and adapt. And always make sure they know they’re loved and safe.