I was officially diagnosed with PTSD a year and a half ago, but for the better part of the last decade that four letter word has been mentioned to me by more than a handful of mental health professionals. Like most people who receive this news I spent a while in denial, after that I was ashamed, and now I split my time between neutral and pissed off. Pissed off at the symptoms that keep me feeling broken.
A few weeks back I was enjoying one of those bad days. It was the first one for some time so this one in particular was kicking my ass. In an attempt to find some solace I spoke to a friend, one of those mentor types, and he had a peculiar suggestion. He empathized with the self-pity cycle surrounding all the downright shitty attributes to my specific mental quirks, going as far as to comment how easy it would be to come up with ten things I HATE about PTSD right off the cuff. Then he inquired if I had ever thought about the positive side to it. Clearly seeing the mixture of confusion and anger growing on my face he elaborated. See he believes, as do I that everything that exists in the material world has a sense of duality to it. Under that logic if there is a negative to something there must be a positive as well. Therein lied my challenge, to come up with ten good things about my PTSD… so here goes.
Ten good things about PTSD…shit:
- I always know how many exits there are in any given room and I have probably already visualized multiple different disasters or violent events and which escape route would be the best for each.
- I have an incredibly fine tuned gut when it comes to people. I can tell without even having a conversation with someone but by hearing them speak, watching them move across a space, and their facial features as they express different emotions whether or not they are likely to be safe.
- That ability to read people has given me a talent in picking out the best people, the gems amongst the coal. With very little difficulty I am able to find these remarkable humans that possess a level of genuine sincerity that is to be admired.
- I have about the same information and working knowledge about grounding exercises as most clinical physicians.
- This gives me a unique ability for helping people who may be too scared to go to one yet.
- It grants me quite a transparent and raw approach to parenthood, I have conversations with my kids that I think most moms would probably be intimidated having. Because my life in run on extremes. When it comes to communicating with other humans it’s either absolute surface or let me show you my soul and see if you understand. There’s not much in between. It allows me a very beautiful relationship with those kids.
- I have incredibly fast reflexes. Whether it comes to avoiding car accidents or catching a child moments before their cute little face meets sidewalk; unfortunately the racing heartbeat afterwards is less than enjoyable, but se la vie.
- Due to the gratuitous amount of trauma therapy I am painfully aware of the importance of self-care, I have a very in tune relationship with myself. I guess that’s always the upside to being crazy if you’re actually attempting to take care of it, or work on it, or just survive you tend to pay attention to things that other people probably don’t have to. Like actively altering your self-talk to make sure that it’s positive or ensuring that you don’t go longer than a week without taking a shower even if you don’t want to. Like making yourself bubble baths even when the idea of sitting in one sounds awful, but so does everything else. So you draw the bath and you light the candles and you turn on whatever music seems enjoyable or at least the most tolerable and you just sit there trying your best just to sit, even if it’s just for ten minutes.
- You are never bored even when you want to be. Your brain is always going, always thinking. Upside of that is with practice and focus you can turn the ever racing thoughts into creative things. Which means even as an adult you have an incredibly powerful imagination.
- You’re not alone. Even though you feel that way. When I was diagnosed I was in denial for a really long time. I kept repeating over and over in my head that I didn’t have that traumatic of a life. I didn’t really tell anyone for a while, not even those in my immediate support network. And it wasn’t until I just happened to be driving in the car with this woman I knew, not that well but we were friendly. Out of nowhere she mentions that she has PTSD and like a kid almost giddy I responded with “So do I!” There is something really beautiful about finally being able to talk to some other person about the shadow people who you see on occasion when things get bad. And to not have them look at you with this twisted face of confusion and want to be compassion, but the truth is if you don’t live it, if you haven’t felt it and you don’t know it; you have no idea what it’s like. But when you open yourself up, you realize that you’re not alone. When you finally find other people that do get it, your brain doesn’t have to feel like a cage anymore. All those strange quirks that you have, the ones that you would never want to admit in public just become simple jokes between friends.