Image Source: http://traumadissociation.com/
PTSD is NOT a death sentence, but in the beginning, it definitely felt like it was. Maybe it was ignorance on my part, fueled by common public misconceptions. We hear plenty in the news of soldiers coming back with PTSD, their anger, violence, lashing out, the destruction it has on families. We have mental images of soldiers suffering with flashbacks, constant hyper vigilance, debilitating depression and anxiety. Maybe this is why my diagnosis hit me so hard. I thought that things would never get any better, and I knew I could not survive much longer.
The exact words still ring in my ears from that day more than a year ago. “It’s the PTSD. The depression. The anxiety. The suicidal ideation. The hypervigilance. Danielle, it’s all PTSD.” I didn’t respond to the diagnosis. I didn’t know how to. But mostly, I was afraid to let the psychologist see my weakness. It wasn’t until I climbed into my car that the tears come down. I cried for myself, my family, and my children. I cried because the person who had caused all of this destruction won in the end. I hurt in ways words cannot describe.
I wish someone had told me then that it was going to be okay. That it was going to get better. That it would get easier. Every day wouldn’t hurt like today. It would take a lot of work to get there, but one day I’d have more good days than bad. I needed to hear those words because there was so much truth to them. It’s a message that every diagnosed person and his or her families should hear.
That’s not to sugar coat things. Trauma changes us on a deep level, and you will never go back to the person you were before. There will be a lot of hard days; there is no escaping it. On a certain level, you will always struggle, but the struggle becomes much less intense once you learn to manage the symptoms.
PTSD does get better, but it will not get better on it’s own. In fact, it’s guaranteed to get worse. Don’t try to battle this on your own, PTSD is so much greater than you are. Put simply, you are going to have to humble yourself and reach out for help. Self-help books, friends, your own stubborn determination—I promise it isn’t enough to fight what it is you are up against. There are people out there trained to help those with PTSD. They know what they are doing, let them do their jobs.
In the end it’s a personal decision, but don’t be afraid of medication if it is offered. In my own experience it has helped immensely and allows for more focus on the therapy process, which is essential. Does that mean medication has to be forever? No, it doesn’t, nor do I intend to take medication forever. But for now, I’m fully aware I need it if I’m to function at a level that I want—one that allows me to work, take care of my family, and be happy.
Therapy is hard, incredibly painful at times, and a slow moving process. But in that room, you will learn to manage your symptoms, identify triggers, identify negative cognitions, and process the trauma so you can move forward. Sometimes it feels like you are learning to walk all over again.
PTSD is not the end to everything. I promise it’s not, even if it sometimes feels that way. It sucks to have this battle laid out in front of you, but you are fully capable of reclaiming what was taken from you. Fight hard and never stop fighting. I promise, it does get easier.