Walking through a store in the mall, a smell assaulted my senses. That cologne! Suddenly, I was back there. My mind replayed the tape in slow-motion DVD clarity. I saw his eyes, so piercing and unemotional. My heart raced.
The shame clogged my nose and my mind. Badly shaken, I looked around, relieved no one seemed to notice me leaning awkwardly against the display counter. Swiping at the tears running down my cheeks, I bolted for the exit, my errand long forgotten. How could he?
Victims of PTSD come in all ages, shapes, sizes, and gender.
They are from all walks of life, spheres of influence, cities, and countries. The sudden death of a family member, a natural disaster, combat, or some other dangerous event triggers a “fight or flight” response as well as a wide range of emotions that aren’t necessarily PTSD. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict who will recover from their traumatic experience in a few weeks and who will suffer the symptoms for a greater length of time resulting in PTSD.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD affects approximately 3.5 percent of U.S. adults, and an estimated one in 11 people will experience PTSD in their lifetime.
They experience an abnormal reaction to a difficult situation.
As a PTSD survivor, I didn’t know that my anxiety and panic attacks were symptoms of PTSD. I just knew I wanted them to stop. But I didn’t know how to make that happen. For years I struggled without a diagnosis. My response to normal situations was not normal.
I knew my accelerated anger wasn’t appropriate, but I couldn’t seem to control it. Most nights I struggled to sleep through the bombarding fear-laced thoughts. Each pregnancy seemed to escalate my anxiety levels.
As a wife, mom, and a Christian, I felt that if I had enough faith, I would conquer these traumas and the pain would go away. It didn’t. And because it didn’t, I felt like an even bigger loser.
The woman at the perfume counter is me. That happened to me several years after a couple of traumatic incidents. After each one, I fully believed I had processed through the emotions and was doing fine (But my “fine” looked more like Freaked Out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional). Life had dealt some tough blows that I’d never fully acknowledged. I’d simply pulled up on my bootstraps and kept going.
I came face-to-face with PTSD during our intensive marriage counseling. I had three separate neurological disorders, one of which was PTSD.
Finally, I had some answers. It turns out I wasn’t crazy like I thought. However, I needed more counseling, medical assistance, my Lord as my strong tower, and years of hard work.
During this time, I learned the list of other symptoms includes:
- substance abuse
- memory problems
- quick-flaring anger
- avoidance of certain places or situations
- ongoing fear
Looking at this list, I had eight of the nine symptoms.
Is PTSD a fad diagnosis?
No. It’s been around for a very long time under other names such as shell shock or combat fatigue. A person suffering from PTSD has a real neurological, psychiatric disorder that needs treatment. You cannot self-diagnose or treat it.
The good news is there are several treatment options. While there is no known cure for PTSD at this time, you can learn to manage your symptoms and discover strategies to help you live more normally.
As Matthew Tull, Ph.D., says
“Treatments for PTSD will never take away the fact that a traumatic event occurred. Treatments for PTSD cannot erase memories of those events. Consequently, although you may no longer experience frequent intrusive thoughts or memories of a traumatic event, there may be times in which certain places, situations, or people trigger memories or thoughts of the traumatic event.
Although memories cannot be eliminated, what treatment can do is take away or reduce the extent to which those memories bring about tremendous distress and anxiety, as well as unhealthy behaviors focused on avoiding or preventing those memories. In doing so, treatment can help you regain control over your life from the symptoms of PTSD. It can help reduce the extent to which symptoms of PTSD interfere with a number of different areas in your life, such as work, school, or relationships.”
While healing from PTSD, it’s important to surround yourself with safe people.
These are people you can trust to encourage you, provide emotional support and safety, provide physical safety, and practice your coping skills with you. It is a small group of people; in my case, it was our restoration team and my husband.
My recovery process is ongoing. Triggers happen. But now, through counseling, I have the tools to respond well most of the time. As the Anxiety and Depression Association of America encourages, it’s important to be gentle with yourself. Your uniquely designed nervous system is responding normally.
You can recover. I have.
You can experience normal interactions with friend and family again. I am.
You will have to work hard. I did.
If you suspect you or someone you love may be suffering from PTSD, there is help available. Seek out a health professional in your area.
This resource provides a few places to start.
If you need help, please reach out. I promise to listen without judgment and help you take the next step.