Friday, June 12, 2015

What does PTSD look like?

The month of June is PTSD Awareness Month.  PTSD is something most are aware of, on some level, but really don't know what it looks like, fleshed-out, aside from what they seen on TV or in the movies.  I am here to help with a little more personal level of awareness.

This will probably come as a surprise to some people.

I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder a few years ago.

What?  I don't LOOK like I have PTSD?  This begs the question, "What does PTSD ACTUALLY look like?"

I could give you the book-definition (from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision, pg. 463). You can read the actual entry HERE.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is:
"the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one's physical integrity; or witnessing an event that involves death, injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of another person; or learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate." 
The "characteristic symptoms" are what people usually identify as PTSD, though there are symptoms that are invisible, and relatively hidden to most people.

The symptoms listed in the DSM-IV-TR include:
1. Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event
2. Recurrent distressing dreams of the event (aka, nightmares)
3. Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring.
4. Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event
5. Physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues.

Also, there can be two or more of each of the following:
1. difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
2. irritability or outbursts of anger
3. difficulty concentrating
4. hypervigilence
5. exaggerated startle response

There is more...but we'll stop here for now.  When people think of what PTSD "looks like", they often think in terms of #5 under the symptoms - physiological reactivity - the automatic response to stimuli, learned by our bodies over the course of the trauma.

In reality, my diagnosis falls more along the lines of what is commonly known as "Complicated PTSD", mainly because my "traumatic event" took place over the course of at least 18 years, and affects everything I know about myself, and how I view my life, and others.

So, all of the official stuff aside....

Not funny. Created by my mind trying
to make sense of my pain. 
I have nightmares.  Recurring ones.

I have trouble getting to sleep...yes, I am very much a night owl.

For a LONG time, I flinched every time anyone close to me moved fast.

I don't trust.  Anyone.  You're not singled-out for my lack of trust...believe me.  (this makes life SUPER-difficult.) I trust Jason the most...and my lack of trust drives him bonkers some days.

I have a VERY hard time releasing things.  Things are safe.  People are not.

I have a VERY hard time not over-thinking.  Really, I over-think EVERYTHING.

I have a pretty high wall.  Several of them.  If you think you are close to me, chances are that there is another wall you haven't even seen yet.  I don't think my counselor has seen all of them yet.

I am anxious about most things.  I TRY not to be, but the anxiety is there, whether I want it to be, or not.

I have difficulty concentrating...if there is too much noise, if there are too many people, if there is chaos.

I have issues with irritability and anger and can be a BEAR.  I'm sorry.  I don't like it, either.

People and events that remind me of some of my past experiences tend to trigger more anxiety, anger, depression, hypervigilence, and nightmares.

Again, there is more...but I don't want this to all be negative.

I have lived with this diagnosis for a long time before actually knowing what to call it.
It has been my reality as long as I can remember.
It is how I function.
I don't know life apart from this set of symptoms.

Since the point in time when I began to recognize that my reactions were not normal, I have wanted to change them, and have prayed and worked towards that end.  Thankfully, I am not the person I used to be...God has changed a LOT about me...and He is still in that process of growing and changing me.

Several verses have been a comfort to me as I have worked through the repercussions of my PTSD.

2 Timothy 1:7 YLT
"for God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind;" 

Romans 12:2 YLT
"and be not conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, for your proving what is the will of God -- the good, and acceptable, and perfect."

There is HOPE.  God IS transforming my mind with His love, and His Word...I don't have to be stuck in this former way of thinking...I definitely look forward to the transformation being complete!!

*PSA: If you have PTSD, DO NOT google images of nightmares.  DO NOT.

No comments: