How would you describe PTSD? What has it been like to live with your nerves on edge, your body exhausted, your spirit shattered?
I found this site healmyptsd.com where survivors define it in their own words. Although the descriptions are hauntingly similar with tones of pain and despair, I am amazed at how unique each description is as well.
I understand. I was nodding my head at so many of these, thinking, yes that’s how I feel, I get it, no wait, that one is closer, no that one. Actually I see my truth in so many of these, it would be difficult to choose.
This one was close…
PTSD, to me, is like running away from a bad guy in a dark forest and jumping into the bushes to hide. After the man is gone and you are ready to get out of the bushes, you realize that the bush is full of thorns and is stuck in your clothes and hair and you just can’t escape.
Except thorns aren’t so bad, but I get the idea here. For me, it has been more like lying down on the beach, chained and heavily weighted. You can only breathe when the tide is low. At high tide, you are swallowed up. You can see the surface, the sun or moon high above you from your prison, but all you can do is hold your breath and wait for the tide to recede again. When you are nearly drowning, no one knows. they only see the beautiful beach and water above you and know nothing about the prisoner chained below. You see happy dolphins and peaceful turtles all around you, but there’s no joy for you, you have to focus on your breathing for the next wave. While you wait, crabs pinch and bite at you, you get nearly strangled by seaweed, the salt stings your eyes, the sun burns your skin. But you cannot break free, you are too tired, focusing on your next breath. If you fall asleep or even lighten your guard, you know you will drown. Each breath must be precisely timed. Rest is never deep, and comes at its own cost. You lose sight of friends, family, dreams, jobs. Nothing matters except staying alive. Its all you can do. You fantasize about giving up, drinking in that ocean, putting an end to your suffering, but those thoughts only add to your suffering and tighten the chains holding you there. Because you are not free to go. Your kids need you. You know they are there, waiting. That adds to your suffering and weight on top of you. You ask for help, in between gasps, but no one understands. They show you the sun, the beautiful beach, and walk away from you, if they heard your call at all, that is. You stop calling out, it only uses up your much needed energy. You resolve to be alone.
I lasted for decades like that. I would get close to living only to be knocked under by another wave.
I was battling ptsd by sheer force of will, and I didn’t know I was actually losing the battle until last year. After a year with trauma focused therapists, I am getting stronger and breathing easier. I still feel chained, but some of the weight has been lifted so I spend more time above water.