Living with post-traumatic stress disorder isn't easy. I'm sure we can all agree on that. It's frustrating to live in a world that doesn't always understand what PTSD is or recognize the extent of which it effects our daily lives. Sometimes I find myself wishing I had a little card that explained why I may have chosen to remove myself from a room or why there's a look of fear or tears in my eyes. Other days I wonder if it would make a difference.
Do you find yourself wondering what people are thinking of you when you choose to leave a situation because it is triggering something inside of you? Do you wonder if people think you're just being over-emotional and just need to grow-up?
If you're living with PTSD, you know the impact triggers can have on your emotional state and ability to think clearly or act 'rationally.' In the last few weeks, I've found myself being easily triggered...let me be the first to say: it sucks! You spend so much time working on identifying and understanding your triggers, and you can be moving along thinking that you have all of that noise under control. And then something comes along and catches you off guard. You find yourself wondering what the hell is going on and questioning why this brand new and unexpected thing has triggered a negative emotional response. It can make you want to scream. I find myself becoming angry with myself because in the moment it feels like I've ALLOWED something new to trigger me. Those moments have a way of making you forget that you don't choose your triggers. How amazing would it be if we could?! We could pick the most random things that we know we'll never encounter and go on living our lives in bliss.
As it is, we're stuck having to continuously experience and identify things that bring us back to the worst moments of our lives. For those of you that are dealing with trauma that was consistent, beyond a single traumatic event, you've probably experienced triggers that brought you back to moments that are new to your repertoire of flashbacks. Sometimes you just need to hear your feelings being validated by someone else, but when you're dealing with PTSD your feelings stem from moments in the past in which they weren't present. For you, it's happening again, to the same intensity, but the people presently with you can't feel or experience it or fully comprehend it. Didn't someone once say something about feeling lonely in a crowd? I guess we should thank our traumatic experiences for ensuring we can relate to that sentiment.
Everyday people with PTSD face moments that make us feel isolated and incredibly disconnected. We can't always explain why we feel the way we do about certain people, places or moments. What we know is that something has triggered an emotional reaction and it's time to process that input. I find it easy to get caught in the trap of feeling like I have to process things at the same rate as someone else and that leads to feeling inadequate and judged. I know it's hard to give yourself permission to feel what you feel and to trust your gut when it's trying to get your attention. Maybe it's something that we can all work on together.
It's hard to not feel judged by others, so let's break it down and start practicing how to not judge ourselves by the way in which we process the world and its many stimulants--living with PTSD forces you to live in a way that isn't always going to make sense to other people. And if we're honest about it, sometimes it triggers behaviours even we don't understand...but someone once told me to 'get curious' and I want to pass that on to you.
If you're a young person living with PTSD and you find yourself in need of someone to talk to, please feel free to reach out in whatever manner feels safe for you. You can email me, phone the office (604-463-2229) or drop by the CEED Centre. PTSD often tricks us into believeing that we have to keep our emotions, challenges and struggles to ourselves because other people just wouldn't understand. It's helpful to try and quiet that voice.
I'm living and dealing with my own PTSD, but that doesn't mean I'm not here, ready and waiting to listen about yours.