The Aftermath of PTSD & How I cope.
I just finished listening to a recorded audio of my most recent therapy session. This audio is a story of a traumatic memory with my father when I was nineteen years old.
I put my headphones in and sit with my eyes closed as I listen to the audio of myself sharing this story with my therapist.
In the audio I hear myself sob in sadness as I re-imagine the experience.
I hear my voice crack in fear as we get to parts of it where I felt terror.
I can feel my body start to slouch and tighten.
My heart races just hearing it again.
It feels like I am there again and it’s so scary.
Why am I doing this? Did it really happen that way?
These are questions I have asked myself numerous time.
It is painful but I am committed to healing from these stories and these memories.
I want freedom from the way PTSD affects my life.
So for the next ten weeks I will be replaying audios of my therapy sessions every day. In my sessions I will repeat a story of a traumatic memory for forty minutes.
We record my SUDS level which is basically a meter of how high my symptoms of PTSD are, 0 being the lowest and 100 being the max of panic and fear.
This is a new style of therapy I am trying called prolonged exposure therapy.
The goal is to tell the stories of traumatic memories so much that they start to lose their intensity and power.
The idea is to basically wear them out so much that they are just a story rather than an experience I am reliving again and again every time I tell it.
On the other side of this therapy could be freedom (I hope).
I am honestly tired of living with post-traumatic stress disorder.
I have been in therapy since I was six years old. I remember telling my first grade teacher that my parents were fighting.
She sent me straight to the school counselor, Ms. Mag and there began my journey of therapy.
I have post-traumatic stress disorder from childhood trauma. You don’t have to be a war veteran to be diagnosed with PTSD.
Trauma can be sexual, non-sexual, experiencing abuse, violence, war, witnessing a tragedy and/or even listening to someone’s story of trauma.
Because of my childhood trauma of violence, abuse, sexual trauma I have grown up to be a very fearful person. I lack trust and it takes me a long time to warm up to strangers. I don’t let people in easily and I want to change that.
I want to be more vulnerable. I want to be more trusting.
I want to feel closer to my loved ones and friends. I want to receive and give support.
I want to give and receive love.
In the past it has been easier to isolate, numb, push people away and fill myself up with work and superficial relationships.
Being alone seemed safer than building relationships.
I avoided my trauma. I avoided thinking about the past.
I avoided anyone who reminded me of my childhood or of my father.
I would spend more than I could afford or drink more than I needed. I would date as a way to fill a void and distract myself from my self.
I suffered with nightmares of the sexual trauma with my father for years.
Every night he would haunt me in my dreams. I would wake up screaming, kicking and crying.
I suffer by overreacting to people’s tones of voices. I am sensitive to how people speak to me.
I misinterpret their intentions and fear they will try to hurt me. I can take things very personally.
When I get triggered I fear people will abandon me so my body shuts down.
I have a hard time communicating what it is that is really bothering me.
I have to do mindfulness exercises and slow-breathing techniques to check in with myself, my surroundings and reality.
I have to fill out worksheets on my triggers and rate them.
Are my thoughts reality based? Factual? Is there evidence for what I am feeling to be true? Or is it a story in my head? Am I triggered?
And how can I bring myself back to the present faster without hurting anyone or myself?
To live a functional and healthy life now for me looks like consistency.
I manage my symptoms through consistency and support.
What that looks like is consistent exercise, meditation, writing, therapy, social groups that uplift me, being vulnerable, being outside, and asking for help.
I have started to find some freedom from these traumatic memories. They still come up but I am learning how to live with them differently.
Sometimes the memories feel like they take up tons of space in my mind. I feel weak and defeated.
And other times I am finding that I can live with them and feel empowered.
I find that by telling my story, my process, my journey I receive more healing and more support.
I think this has truly been one of my life-savers. Telling my story and healing from trauma has been a duty for myself and others.
Living with PTSD is sometimes like walking in a dark tunnel trying to find a light somewhere.
Through this journey I am realizing that I am not alone and that there are so many people who will light the way if I can’t find my own.
Dare to reach out your hand into the darkness, to pull another hand into the light. — Norman B. Rice