Five Things Nobody Tells You About PTSD

When I was 16-years-old I was diagnosed with PTSD. I have spent years working through my traumatic experiences in many ways. I’ve tried countless medications to help with different symptoms. I even spent two years in an intensive treatment program out of state. After all of the work I’ve done, there is more to do.

 

Years into this healing process I still see my therapist weekly. It’s frustrating how to learn first hand that the effects of traumatic experiences can take a long time to overcome. I remind myself constantly that even though this is still hard every day, I have made it through the worst part. In my own recovery I have received a mixed bag of advice, most of which was unsolicited.

 

Here are several things I wish someone would have share shared with me:

 

  • It changes you.

People will remind you after trauma that you’re the same person you’ve always been. While at the core, this is true, it neglects to highlight all the new and terrifying symptoms you’ll experience. You are different now. Your experience has probably changed your world-view and sense of safety. Trauma does this! While it’s uncomfortable and painful, these changes and new obstacles are part of life after trauma. This doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of living a full and meaningful life.

 

  • You may lose friends.

You probably will find it hard to be open about your experience. It’s common for individuals to avoid triggers that remind us of the events we endured. People in general often avoid topics such as trauma, abuse, and neglect. You may have friends and family in your life unwilling to confront these harsh realities or just plain uncomfortable with the topics. You may be invalidated, told you’re overreacting, or left out of group events. Do not let this define your experience. There is a learning curve for everyone, even your closest support people are trying to understand how to help you. The friends that continue to support and love you will show themselves during this time. Invest in those friendships, you need them. Be gentle with yourself and be as open to support from your friends. Afterall, they can only show up for us as much as we let them.

 

  • You might be afraid of new things.

Sometimes our new fears don’t make sense to us. My triggers showed up randomly; specific soap smells, the color yellow, certain songs. Be curious as you try to recover. Things can feel foreign and disinteresting, especially in the beginning stages of healing. Over time you might come to understand why different things can set off difficult emotions and memories. With the help of therapists, you can pack an emotional tool-box full of new skills to help you move forward.

 

  • You CAN talk about it.

When we avoid vulnerability and connection to safe people, we continue to reinforce harmful beliefs. For me, I felt like nobody was safe. This led to feelings of loneliness and isolation. It’s hard to be social when our minds are looping our trauma. If you find you’re with friends and thinking about painful experiences you have every right to share that. Sometimes I will say to my friends, “I’m really not present right now. I’m thinking about ____.” Just saying it out loud can help me focus back in on the present moment. Acknowledging our pain helps others understand and support us more. If you aren’t ready to talk about it, that is perfectly fine as well. Recovering is a long haul.

 

  • It gets easier.

This is the most important lesson I’ve learned. You will still have hard days. I know I still have days where the fear and memories feel like too much to hold. The things we’ve been through never seem easy or painless. It wouldn’t be healthy if they did. For me knowing that people can relate and empathize has been one of my biggest comforts through this all. It’s normal to struggle with the mixed emotions that come with a diagnosis of PTSD, but there are also people who have had similar experiences who can relate and care for us. When we find community and people who understand our pain through their own experiences, we realize we’re not alone.

 

*** The University of Kentucky has the VIP Center and the Counseling Center that can help you navigate this time if you or someone you care about is in need of resources or support.***