Trigger Warning***What PTSD Looks Like For Me

Hello, welcome friends. I hope you’re day is productive and peaceful. Sometimes we have days that are not peaceful, though. Life lessons, growth opportunities (bleck) and just blah days are a normal part of life. Sometimes something can just be off, but can’t quite put your finger on it; that’s life. C’est la vie.

That’s life.

On good and bad days, we can use life tools such as: self-reflection, journaling, exercise, goal-setting, meditation, therapy, etc. Or we might be able to just ride it out, knowing it’s no big deal and that our mood will swing back up again. Every so often we are even permitted to stew in our feelings for a while.

Sometimes things in life are like a mental Tough Mudder™ competition. There are times that require all the fight we have within to make our way through the waist-deep muck of trauma, hurt, rejection, failure, self-abuse; to pull ourselves over 10′ high protective walls we have built around our hearts and minds, with zero strength left. Sometimes we can’t journal and yoga our way through.

Sometimes there’s some real internal damage trying to get addressed, and it shows itself as: exterior behavior issues, lack of impulse-control, depression, perfectionism, hopelessness, nagging feeling of not being good enough. All of these things are absolutely normal to experience as well…but sometimes we may need help reining these things in.

Why Label It?

I used to internally scoff and roll my eyes at the mention of labels . Why in the world would anyone want a mental health label? (Oh, 13 year old me…) After a failed suicide attempt at age 11, I still didn’t have a label, so suck it up buttercup and get yourself together. (Note: this is my self-talk you here. Can you imagine talking to yourself in such a tone 24/7? Hi, welcome to my mind.)

Answer: to determine which treatment plans and tools will help this person live the best quality of life they can live; to best address the needs of that brain, that one individual person. A mental health label says, “Oh, I’ve seen this successfully treated before and I can help you! We call this[label] and these are the tools available to decrease your symptoms and increase your quality of life.”

A medical, mental health label says “this brain is experiencing reality through this filter; let’s get a new filter in place.” A medical, mental health label unlocks a direction of improvement.

My Experience With Mental Health Labels

I didn’t make it through my ongoing rapes without damage, no one could have.

I am actively in “hot mess recovery” status.

As I actively de-programming myself, I’m using my mental health label to find the right tools to thrive in my own mind. I’m also using these tools to keep my rebirth as minimally disruptive to my current life as possible.

Before my Big Reveal, I was working my way out of suicidal ideations, depression and anxiety with my doctor. The label “ADHD-inattentive type” was considered for me, but it turned out that all the ADHD symptoms were also PTSD symptoms. My Big Reveal happened, BOOM – PTSD label it is.

What PTSD symptoms were you experiencing, Jamie?

  1. Shut down auditory processing (Not having physical hearing loss but literally not processing sounds.) Article here.
  2. Weak executive functioning (A lack of ability to complete normal, daily tasks.) Article here.
  3. Diminished short term memory (Repeating myself because I don’t remember saying it aloud, forgetting what task I was in the middle of, forgetting to pay a bill…repeatedly and negatively impacting your life.) Article here.
  4. Disturbed subjective time experience (Literally processing time in a different way – like the clock literally goes slower and faster for us. Five minutes is not a concrete thing, but is processed at different speeds to us at different times.) Article in English here.
  5. Racing thoughts (SHUT UP! Not not you, my brain. No wait, I have to shut my brain up before I can hear you. Why are you all so loud?) Article here.

PTSD for me means that in response to my trauma, my brain literally turned off large parts of itself. (Roughly like going into battery saver mode.)

Anxiety means that my “fight, flight, freeze, fawn” mode got stuck on, so now every day life feels like an emergency. The adrenaline/cortisol rush after you get starlted by a sudden loud noise? Your heart is racing, your chest feels electric? That’s anxiety – that feeling never turned to the “off” position.

These medical diagnoses, these mental health labels, are helping me understand and change my trauma-based filter, I call it “the PTSD cloud.” I didn’t realize that my way of thinking wasn’t the norm. It’s been tricky letting go of 40 years of programming. So tricky, one might call it a mind—k. I am in a complete rebuild of my mind, my Self, my beliefs. These medical diagnoses/mental health labels shine a light onto areas I was suffering, so that I can improve and eventually even thrive.

The hardest part about healing from trauma is changing my mindset from helpless victim (life happens to me) to believing I have autonomy. Learning not to be afraid to think for myself, it’s still crazy to me that I have to even learn to believe I am allowed to think for myself. I am still so brainwashed.

Isn’t brainwashed a strong word?

Yes.

It is a strong word for a very strong experience. So much so that I can’t even address it at this moment.

Cocoon Time – Get Cozy and Figure “Me” Out

“Where is your father now, Jamie?” Is meant to remind me that he’s long since stopped harming me, that he’s gone. Forever. Dead. So is he really able to reach out and continue his hold on my mind and body?

Um, honestly, sometimes yeah.

BUT! BUT! BUT! I am taking my brain and body and self-talk back from my trauma. It’s very hard. So hard that dying has seemed like a better option (read: “suicide will stop the mental anguish.”) But I have a lot worth fighting for.

Flashbacks are out of my control.

But the day is coming when I will be able to control my response to them. It’s not here yet, but I’m walking the path that leads there. I’m walking the path of unbrainwashing.

Almost Ready To Find New Labels – But Not Quite

I’ve got to say, I’m more than a little embarrassed when my therapist reminds me that most people create their own personal foundation around age 15. Here I am, age 41, married, two kids, figuring out what a 15 year old has to figure out – ouch. That stings. I am not gentle on myself, until I remember that what I experienced before age 15 was enough to “figure out” at the time.

Now that the lid is off Pandora’s Box, the curtain of repression has been lifted from my memory, my Self is naked and ashamed and unclothed.

It makes me even more of a warrior goddess badass that I’m willing to change everything in my 40’s and learn to know and be and love Me.

This beautify array of options (new labels) lays before me. But first I need to get to know my naked, authentic self.

First, I need to recognize the value in what I see.

I need to allow myself time to get used to the idea of autonomy.

I need to allow myself time to look at my spiritual and mental foundations, and build new ones for myself with a clear, unbrainwashed mind.

So For Today…

So that’s where I’m at today with my PTSD label.

I’m grateful that I’m damaged, but not broken.

I’m grateful for science proving the adult brain can grown and change. (article here.) In this article here, Kendra Cherry wrote, “By developing new connections and pruning away weak ones, the brain is able to adapt to the changing environment.” I am pruning my life, pruning my mind, pruning my beliefs, pruning my self talk.

Flashbacks are kicking my butt right now, but I have therapy, medication (THC, CBD) , love from my husband, kids and friends, and determination to keep growing.

Sometimes I remember my self-care routine, sometimes I minimize my own needs and push them aside in avoidance. Sometimes I feel like I’m crushing it, sometimes I cry.

I’m here, I’m literally alive, despite not wanting to be so many times in the past. Learning to stop letting my dead, abusive, rapist father mentally control me. And waving from the lifeboat of mental health saying “there’s plenty of room for you too.”

Until next time,

Published by Surthrivor

Surthrivor: a survivor who takes control of their own recovery.

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