Living with PTSD – the bare truth

I think a few things need to be explained here. I am facing constant societal judgements and am being made to feel like I am either broken, or slightly crazy. So let’s get this out in the open shall we?

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a psychological reaction to experiencing or witnessing a significantly stressful, traumatic or shocking event.

Symptoms can include: (but are not limited to):

  • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
  • Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
  • Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
  • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event
  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
  • Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event
  • Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Feeling detached from family and friends
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Always being on guard for danger
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame

(I would say that I experience the majority of the symptoms listed here plus a whole lot more that are not listed.)

PTSD symptoms can vary in intensity over time. You may have more PTSD symptoms when you’re stressed in general, or when you come across reminders of what you went through. For example, you may hear a car backfire and relive combat experiences. Or you may see a report on the news about a sexual assault and feel overcome by memories of your own assault. The triggers depend on the nature of the original event that instigated the PTSD.

When to see a doctor:

If you have disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month, if they’re severe, or if you feel you’re having trouble getting your life back under control, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. Getting treatment as soon as possible can help prevent PTSD symptoms from getting worse.

My triggers for PTSD

I don’t completely understand this all myself, I am still doing a lot of reading on this subject and learning as I go with how my body and mind are coping and reacting to the world. However here is what I know so far.

The original cause

This much might seem obvious, but the issues are actually more complex. There are a number of trauma incidents that contribute to the PTSD diagnosis for me. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The general theme seems to be ‘feeling ignored’ by medical staff. Although this whole leg saga that started the PTSD was relatively recent, the theme here is tied into life experiences that we can trace right back to my early childhood. This ‘theme’ or thread of triggers all have to be dealt with in order to treat the most recent one in the chain.
  • I witnessed two deaths in close quarters, while in hospital being treated. One was very traumatic.
  • Then there is the whole amputation itself and all those connotations.

How PTSD is different

In ordinary life, shit happens, right? We deal with that shit, it sometimes reminds us of other shit, but that really is the size of it.

With PTSD there is a whole new level of shit, under the surface that cannot be seen. It is there all the time, like a slightly blocked drain. Then something comes along that could seem completely insignificant in its stand alone sense, but it is enough to totally block the drain, then we have a mass flood.

That is what has happened to me this week.

PTSD cannot be CURED…. It can only be managed. That means I am in the process of learning the best ways to manage symptoms and flare ups. The likely frequency and severity of these flare ups are unknown. We just live day to day, and deal with things the best we can.

What this looks like to an outsider

At first I had no idea what was going on. I thought I was slightly crazy, severely depressed, god knows. So much was happening inside my brain that I just didn’t understand at all. I am beginning to see the connections between how I am feeling and what is going on in life around me.

At first this looked a bit more like crash and burn. Slowly I am learning how to head the crash off at the pass, so it doesn’t turn into a full blown bonfire. That is what I am also trying to do this week.

What exactly happened this week to set the trigger off this time?

As I said earlier, one of my original causes was medical staff not listening to me. That was a definite theme throughout my battle that ultimately led to me having my leg amputated when it was actually completely preventable. With that in mind, I don’t know why I didn’t see this as having the potential to be one of my most major triggers for PTSD symptoms, that is what has happened this week.

I have been battling with ACC regards this treatment injury since they first took the case, as you may (or may not) know. It has been an uphill struggle every step of the way which just keeps exacerbating the PTSD symptoms caused by the cock up they are meant to be helping me with.

I got two pieces of news from ACC this week declining to aspects of my amputation related treatment. In both cases I have strong documental evidence to support them from multiple medical sources, which have been ignored in both cases. I want to make it clear at this stage that none of this is the fault of my treatment providers themselves.

I seriously did not expect the scale of the reaction this created in me.

  • Absolute hysteria
  • Unable to stop crying
  • Unable to rationally talk about it
  • Struggling to engage with normal social activity
  • Strong urge to isolate and retreat from society
  • Stopped exercising
  • Struggling to focus on completing simple daily tasks
  • trouble sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Flash backs of the original events.

The lists goes on.

This is PTSD. On the surface this looks like a completely irrational response to the original trigger. However, look at the global picture of PTSD and you can begin to see what might be going on.

This does not mean I am crazy. It does not mean I belong in a nut house. It means I experienced significant medical trauma and I am still dealing with the fall out of that.

Understanding how to deal with someone with PTSD

When this is going on for me, I will retreat, because I need to re-set and calm my brain. Do not be upset, it was not you or anything you did.

Please do not ask me what’s wrong, or ask what has happened. This will create another trigger and make things worse.

Unspoken kind gestures, a little bit of distance, then time. That is the best way for me to get things back under control. and continue to treat me the same way you always have.

The simple fact is, I just cannot access certain parts of my brain when my trauma is activated.

Thank you for reading. ❤️

Author: Melanie

I am a massage therapist and part time athlete, blogging life thru a disability lens. On wheels, with flipper and occasionally on feet.

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