P is for PTSD

I’ve had some trouble coming up with the A-Z Blogging Challenge post for this letter, but events have happened recently that made me decide that it’s time to be the change I want to see in the world and not hide mental illness.

I have PTSD, which stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Several years ago, a mom lied to me as I was completing an assessment and intake information on her child, a large teenager with Autism. Because I did not have adequate or accurate information, I was not prepared for the next session where he attacked me and bit me seven times on the arms and face and came after me at least 3 times.

His mom had to beat him off of me and I ran out of the house and hid until the cops showed up. Because he had Autism, the cops and the ER staff that doctored me just assumed that I was not the victim in this story.

Anyway, I was left with PTSD. I have found that for me, the best treatment has been to talk about it with people I trust whenever I have symptoms. I have learned what my triggers are and, to some degree, how to manage the symptoms.

But today, my toddler bit me on the face as an expression of his non-verbal toddler frustration. It wasn’t hard or with malice. But it triggered symptoms for me. My symptoms are physical and emotional and cognitive. I feel sensations in my face and arms where I was bitten by that teenager. I struggle with depression and anxiety at times. I have repetitive thoughts about that day that happened a long time ago, and subsequently, I have thoughts about not being good enough, why am I not normal, why can’t I just get over it, I’m too much of a burden on my friends and family, etc. There’s also some feelings that my PTSD isn’t as severe as the PTSD a solder returning from war might have, so it should affect me less and doesn’t deserve attention.

It’s frustrating because prior to some symptoms that have been occurring since March, I hadn’t really felt any for I think almost a year. So I keep thinking I finally have a handle on it and it no longer affects me. But then it does and throws me for a loop.

I have several good coping skills in place that I learned through lots of therapy and self-care work. Plus, I happen to be an amazing music therapist and have used many of those talents to help me deal with PTSD. And I have many wonderful friends and family that help me, most especially my wonderful husband, Kevin.

What I hope readers will take from this is that mental illness is a medical condition, just like diabetes or a broken leg, and deserves treatment and respect. That people with mental illnesses are not worthless or broken. That it might never be cured but can be dealt with. And that just because you can’t see the damage, doesn’t mean that the damage isn’t there, so we can all be a little more kind to ourselves and to each other.