I’ve been through a lot this year, but I feel like I’m slowly moving a long. Anxiety and wanting to isolate are still a battle. It’s so much easier, calmer, and more peaceful to just stay on my little island. I know it won’t always be this way, but there is a certain amount of guilt, a little shame at not being able to reach out or check in with everyone of you. My anxiety levels choke my voice most days. I get so anxious over posting little messages on Facebook/Tumblr/Reddit, like I’ll log in to find all hell has broken loose or something when there’s really no reason to expect that. None of you are going to grab your pitch forks and chase me down over something I say. Still…it’s so hard to actually speak up when I have an opinion. (It’s exhausting, I feel drained after even if it wasn’t even an argument.)
I’ve been focusing on going through treatment for my PTSD almost a full year now. A year ago I broke down and realized things were beyond my strength to fix. I met an amazing therapist. I spent a year studying myself, healing, trying to grow and find new ways to live with my disorder. I’ve learned so much about myself. I’ve learned so much about the people who love me. A year ago all I knew was that I couldn’t make it better, but I was so wrong:
Last year I began the long process of treating my illness and kept at it with dedication. I got married to the man I’m completely in love with in October. I got rid of old, unhealthy, ties. I strengthened relationships with people who mattered. I met an amazing writing partner (who as soon as we’ve known each other a few more months will totally be in the running for my BFF spot.) I wrote over 300,000 words trying to finish even one of the stories that help make up that figure. Compared to last year I know I’m happier than I was, I know I’m more optimistic. Last year was my rock bottom and I was so wrong about not being able to make it better. (Couldn’t do this without my amazing support system. The biggest nod to my husband Louie, who helps me work through things every day.) I took thousands of photos and hundreds of videos of everyone and everything around me. I experimented with my dreams and I tried to figure out who I am now, instead of some image of who I think I should be. Then I learned to love the person I found. I’m still learning to care for that person like I would anyone else. I’m sure I did lots of other things too, but it’s so difficult to remember what you’ve done that’s worthwhile. I tried to speak up more this year and I think it’s been good for me. But how do you place a value on any of that when people are asking you what you’re up to?
I managed to do those things while suffering regularly from night terrors, flashbacks, high anxiety and panic attacks. My longest period without sleep was from Monday-Friday a few months ago. I can’t count the number of 48 hour days I had because even though I was exhausted my mind was too stimulated by fear and memory that it would not shut down for sleep. I lost about 30 pounds this year from pacing in a hallway to relieve my anxiety levels. The longest stretch of time I lost to that without a break was six hours. There were times when my feet were covered in blisters and my skin was eventually stripped from the bottom of my heels and the ball of my foot and under my toes from the hours doing this through out the day, everyday. I did that with people thinking my problem is I’m too lazy, or I sleep too late, or I’m not trying hard enough to be happy and I’m just sensitive or over emotional. Or that there was nothing wrong with me at all.
I’ve learned that this kind of mental/emotional damage is so pernicious because it subtly effects so many behaviors that we don’t necessarily associate with the trauma itself. Because of that it’s really fucking hard to identify what the problem is and what will make you feel safer/better or promote healthier states of mind. The most bitter sweet lesson I’ve learned is that I can be happy again, but with that lesson I learned that this isn’tsomething I can just fix. PTSD won’t just go away because I have the perfect husband or I’m really excited about certain aspects of my life. No, I’ve learned to be happy about what I can be happy about while I’m still suffering with the affects of PTSD. This won’t go away. It’s something that can be triggered by things I will never have control over. I can only learn to live with it as a part of who I am.
And it’s because of that I’m sharing this. I want you to know and I want you to know how I measure my day so we can understand each other a little better.
I got properly diagnosed with PTSD at 19. It’s not something I’ve shared with a lot of people and I’m 26 now. This is not something that I’m going to be getting over any time soon though and it’s not something I want to be ashamed of. I have gone through treatment before and was living just fine until a year and a half ago when I went through a very triggering situation that kinda fucked my world up. Things will never be the same again. I will never be the same again. But I will get better, stronger, more relaxed, and more refined at coping. This might be a bit of a plot twist for some of you, but that’s okay. I’m still who you knew ten minutes before you read this. (Just maybe some of my quirks make a bit more sense now?)
TL;DR A (not so) secret revealed- I have PTSD, I’ve had it for around 15 years. I’m going through treatment. I’m still in a slump where every day is a fight. Things will get easier.
P.S. I want to give a shout out to all of you who struggle with mental illness or emotional disorders and keep quiet because of stigma, lack of support or worrying that you’ll be a burden to someone. We feel like we’re broken and failing all that damn time. Lots of people feel that way, but we feel it with a pureness and regularity that is truly disheartening, that drains away bits and pieces of us we need to function. I hope you are met with all the love and support that you need to find and maintain happiness and balance. The world isn’t perfect and it really can be terrible, but it is still never as dark as we see it. We’ve just got to keep searching for the brightly lit paths and hope for good company to cheer us on in the night. And don’t ever stop looking for the starlight inside of yourself. It’s there even if you can’t see it at the moment.