This week, we are sharing a passage that a survivor has submitted to our blog. Here is her take on what it’s like living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD):
“It’s like having a gut feeling that something terrible is going to happen, all day, every day. You go to bed with that feeling of dread, and if you’re lucky enough to sleep, you wake up with the same feeling.
“But sometimes, even when you have convinced yourself that nothing bad is going to happen and it’s actually going to be quite a boring day, you have had that panic feeling for so long that all your muscles are fatigued and you’ve made yourself physically ill, sick to your stomach. That stomach ache can last for days. I’ve had it last for weeks.
“On a good day, you have some minor anxieties and you push through them. Medication and therapy can help, although neither is a magic off-button for your trauma symptoms.
“On a bad day, everything reminds you of the horrific things you survived. You don’t feel safe anywhere you go. You get edgy around every person you come into contact with and lash out at people who probably don’t deserve it. Or you don’t talk to anyone at all. You can’t get out of bed. You might even pretend you don’t exist. Because not existing is better than something terrible happening again.
“If something terrible does actually happen, you go into shock. The fear goes away, and you go through the motions without feeling anything. This can be helpful though. Years after my trauma, I got into a car accident. No one was harmed, but the person driving me was a new driver and we were in a bad part of town. The driver was freaking out, saying, “Oh my god, what are we going to do?!” over and over. He went through every scenario, that the other driver would call the cops and we would all be arrested, that the other driver would be aggressive and violent and try to mess with us, but I was calm. I decided that we would drive to an area where we knew there would be security cameras, try to talk to the other driver, and be very apologetic.
“It worked out. In the past, I’ve had guns pointed at my face. I’ve been held captive and assaulted repeatedly. I’ve had police threaten me instead of help me when I really needed their help. I’ve wandered the streets all night because I didn’t have a place to sleep and couldn’t find one. At that point, a car accident was something I could handle.
“The constant fear goes away, or at least diminishes, and sometimes it’s worse than other times, but I’m always working at it. I’ve been to long-term recovery for trauma. I surround myself with people who understand and support me. I write positive affirmations to remind myself how far I’ve come. And I laugh a lot. Laughing with the people I love has been my firmest anchor.
“There is no cure for PTSD, but I have learned to cope. And the more we all understand it, the easier it will be for Survivors to grow beyond their trauma.”
Written by Amanda Moon Ellevis, a San Diego writer specializing in journalism and marketing. She is the resident blogger for Alabaster Jar Project, a Non Profit Organization that rehabilitates human trafficking survivors, and is always at work on her next novel.