So, something happened. After almost two years of being involved with mental health services, I was recently diagnosed with PTSD.
After two suicide attempts, self-harm and three months’ hospitalisation, I was diagnosed with PTSD.
After almost a year and a half of weekly meetings with my care-coordinator I was diagnosed with PTSD.
But only after I suggested it myself.
Since the diagnosis I’ve spent a lot of time studying it in order to understand myself better and the more I find out the more puzzled I am as to why nobody thought about it before me. I’m a textbook case of PTSD. All that is missing is a bloody neon sign. I mean, how many doctors have I seen? How many evaluations I’ve had?
And at the end all it took was one meeting to determine that my symptoms are consistent with PTSD.
I didn’t attend that meeting. My care-coordinator went in on my behalf. He called me straight after and I couldn’t stop the tears from coming.
Thank god. Finally it has a name.
In PTSD something has gone wrong with your nervous system. When something bad happens, our most primal instincts kick in. With PTSD, instead of one sudden activation of your fight or flight response, the alarm is sounding constantly. It’s always an emergency. Anything can push you over the edge, something completely innocent that reminds you of the trauma.
I had something really bad happen to me on a Valentine’s Day. At work someone had been trying to be cute by putting hearts on that week’s rota on Valentine’s Day. I had to go throw up.
It’s a funny thing. When I’m in distress, my first reaction is to vomit. It’s like my body wants to empty itself from all the excess weight that might drag me down as I make my escape. It overdoes it though, just like I always overdo everything in my life. I may have to go be sick five, six, nine times, until there’s nothing else coming up except bile but my body is still trying to get rid of it. It wants to be empty. Hollow.
I feel hollow most of the time. I can’t remember the last time I felt a positive emotion. My emotional palette has gained more colours but they’re all dark ones.
Like anger. Apparently angry outbursts are normal when it comes to PTSD. Despite being a grumpy person I’m not someone who gets proper angry. I get annoyed but it’s not the same. When someone is being horrible my first reaction is to be upset, not angry. There are people my friends are angry with on my behalf but who I’ve never been angry with myself. I’ve just not reached that point yet. Maybe I will one day.
I’m not angry about things I’d be well within my right to be. I’ve had people do some pretty disgusting things to me but none of those get my anger. Instead it’s the small, insignificant things nobody gets angry about.
Someone at work does some task differently than I would do it. I ask someone to do something for me and they don’t drop everything immediately to help. Someone uses an expression I don’t like. Someone hums a song that has just been on. Honestly it’s nothing but for a few minutes I’m absolutely fucking fuming.
I’m so full of rage that I start speaking in short, harsh sentences and avoiding eye contact so that I wouldn’t start having a go at the person speaking to me. It goes away as soon as it came but for that one moment I’m so angry I could’ve made a garrote wire out of a teabag string.
Apparently it’s a symptom, a response to a trauma. A bit late there m8. Anger in itself isn’t bad. It gives us strength to push through whatever is in front of us. It’s not very useful though to have copious amounts of anger directed at useless little things you’re not even really angry about.
I try not to give myself a hard time on top of everything else but it’s so hard. When I get overwhelmed it’s like a tsunami made of white sound but there’s no sound, even when I scream.
I’m so glad that there’s finally a word for it now. Even though a lot of people don’t like the fact that PTSD is often associated with war veterans, I find it helpful. People don’t tend to ask why you have it. They know that something really bad has happened, equivalent to a war. Something so big that it goes beyond what you could’ve ever imagined.
Sometimes it overcomes me.
Then after the anger fades away, I’m back with other people’s reality. A dog owner lets the lead go and the dog immediately comes to me for pets, properly sitting down and resting her head on my hand.
“She likes you”, the owner says.
I’m taking wine orders from a family and I wait as the grandmother goes over the list. Her grandchild, just a baby, is in a highchair opposite to us. I don’t know old the baby is, I’m not very savvy with these things.
The baby starts covering his eyes with his arm, then taking his arm down. I realise that he’s doing a peekaboo. I cover my eyes and follow suit. Whenever he lowers is arm, I uncover my eyes and tell him I can see him. The baby smiles and laughs. The family smiles and laughs.
Moments like that. They are mercy.