Living with post traumatic stress disorder, it never ceases to amaze me how every day presents new challenges. In the beginning I found it very hard to accept mental illness, why it just wasn’t acceptable for a young mom to be so deeply scarred with a sudden war disease. I pacified myself with the notion that I wouldn’t be bothered by the stigma. How would others see me—coworkers, family members, friends? I kept the secret until I became very withdrawn, in a shell, separated from crowds, avoiding elevators, meeting new people staying inside my home away from social behaviors I felt inadequate—the panic attacks could occur anywhere, and home was safe
I could cry all day—the tears poured during panic attacks. I realized I was having them but no one else knew. I hid them behind a dark maroon drape of depression, staying in my room for days, sometimes panting, unable to face anyone. My children called my disease the crying disease. It was a family secret, but what would happen if the attacks happened in public?
They would begin with a feeling of rushing wind inside my head. I would begin reliving the traumatic events, feelings of being in combat. I could taste it, almost even smell it. I worked for the federal government defense department and also with the FBI. It would soon become unbearable. I just needed to hide—what would happen if I was exposed as an FBI witness?—leading to unwanted thoughts being killed. I developed a very draining pattern. After reading a license plate that read “witness” I began watching every plate, every logo on cars, trucks, motor cycles, with sheer panic and fear I was being watched following. I was in fear, sweating fear, painting my chest cavity swollen.
I could no longer work—an accident on my government job sent terror unleashing this pent up fear. Traumatic events circled my thoughts; I could still hear voices, I still heard heart beats and orders from the agents. I could smell the wires placed close to my skin, I could smell the rooms of actual stake outs. Shattered, my eyes opened to the past, I began rocking, holding myself, reciting “here” and “now,” hands over my ears, weeping, no more panic, trying to stop hearing heart beats. I came from behind the maroon drapes; it was unfortunate as I witnessed a murder at my feet
I was now broken, shattered. I couldn’t go back behind the drapes. After talking to a therapist, who felt there was no help in a civilian realm, I found comfort in writing, keeping post traumatic stress disorder journals
I still cope, with daily self-expression in poetry writing soon reliving the traumatic events that were expected. Coping became acceptable. I’m not alone. I began to come from behind the maroon drapes. I was no longer ashamed to take my medication or to talk about the traumatic events.
I thank god for my church community and for prayer. I realized I wasn’t alone. Yet post traumatic stress disorder still carries a stigma. It still remains a daily challenge. The voices are quieted at times, however there are times I awaken in a state of panic after having panic attacks in my sleep. Today I feel fragile, like an antique teakwood table holding tea cups, keeping them from breaking