Ginger’s Story Feb. 18, 2014
I always knew that I had severe emotional problems and that I was extremely sad from the time I was 4-years-old until I was diagnosed at the age of 32 with PTSD. Having been born into a strict religious cult and not exposed to the outside world until I was 22 years of age, I felt like I was a freak because I couldn’t relate to anything that people around me were talking about. When I did get married and got jobs, people would ask me questions about myself and not having learned discretion at all, I would tell them truthful answers which only served to produce even more questions until they would finally try to slip away and act like they wished they never talked to me at all! That felt like stigma to me. It felt like I had something so bad inside me that made acquaintances turn away from me and that I might never have friends.
Some of my symptoms that were hard to manage and got me in trouble with co-workers and friends were: dissociating, feeling worthless when I made mistakes (being taught they were sins), being sensitive with sound, never believing the sad would ever go away, no positive coping skills, a very high startle response as well as hyper-vigilance. Some coping skills that have helped me manage these symptoms are: grounding techniques, being taught I have rights, gaining autonomy, using Bose headphones in crowds, restaurants & movies, finding a purpose in life, giving back to others by co-facilitating a NAMI Connection support group for people living with a mental illness, also giving my story to nursing students through NAMI In Our Own Voice presentations.
I don’t think that the media has done a good job of covering how PTSD can affect a person again and again throughout their lifetime and that it is not a one-time event (sometimes it is) that you go through therapy and get all better and that’s it. You never know what triggers can bring back flashbacks/nightmares in an instant and sometimes it takes an up & down-hill battle to fight the effects of PTSD. I do think that childhood abuse/sexual abuse and emotional abuse/neglect (such as I experienced all my first 22 yrs. of life) has been set in the background, as there are so many veterans returning from these wars that have been fought for years. And it is just now coming out about PTSD, whereas PTSD has been around forever.
If you have just found out that you have the diagnosis of PTSD, please know that recovery is a process and to be very gentle and forgiving with yourself. None of it was your fault. You had no control over how it came to be, whether you were a child who was emotionally, physically or sexually abused/neglected or if you witnessed a horrific event, or were a soldier in some war that you had no idea what you got yourself into. It’s not your fault. Please try to get professional help if at all possible. You are worth it!
“You are lovable and a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars!” (Quote from “Desiderata”).