Living with PTSD is hard. It warps your mind into negative thinking, it changes your hippocampus so you cannot remember a damn thing you need to, and it melts down your Broca’s area, so even if you had the words to describe the pain you were caused, you would not be able to express it.
All of that in addition to the flashbacks every time you pass your old house (which is pretty frequent for me as I live in the same small neighborhood I grew up in). The flashbacks come every time you are talking to your sister about the childhood you knew and the childhood she knew. They come when you see a happy father and daughter pair walking the streets, doing something wonderfully simple together, like going to the post office, or even worse, walking into a cafe holding hands. They come when you hear anyone talking about their parents and how lucky they are to have been shaped by such wonderful people, with their values and principles and disciplines (something you know nothing about).
See, I’ve lived my entire life with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or at least as far back as I can remember, which isn’t much because of that good old hippocampus damage I referred to earlier. The only reason I know there is another way to live is because as an introverted extrovert with a broken Broca’s area, I often have nothing to say, so I watch people, intently. I observe the way they do simple tasks that are a struggle for me. I see the ease of ordering at a restaurant, the lack of difficulty finding their way in the world. And I do not mean their dreams or passions. I mean simply remembering what their boss told them to do without asking 3 times. I mean understanding what their boss told them to do without asking 3 times. I mean not having to feel the shame of not knowing what their boss said and trying to figure it out without asking 3 times.
Info about hippocampus and Broca’s area damage and PTSD from “The Body Keeps Score” by Bessel van der Kolk
I have often felt jealousy watching other people do all these menial tasks without so much as a thought to them. I have often been envious of Siobhan, for she seems to do things in such a natural way, life just being a snap for her. That is, until I knew better.
I am blessed to have her as a friend, because PTSD is not something you just realize you have and accept it right away. I don’t want to tell too much of her story because I am intrigued to see what she will come up with on this topic, but I will say that I can see the difference between someone born with PTSD, and someone who acquired this morbid malfunction later in life. And I am grateful for that. I thought my whole life that there was just something wrong with me. Part of that was my unrelenting standards I have learned about through Schema Therapy, but a major part of that was I really did struggle to make the connections in my head that come naturally and easily to others.
It is heart-breaking to feel as though you have nothing to contribute to life. And to not know what the fuck is wrong with you is even worse. I remember being so lost, so hurt, so scared. Could I ever be capable at anything?
I thought I just had negative thought patterns, and that if I tried really hard, I could overcome my difficulties and be “normal.” That was my goal anyway.
I began teaching toddlers in a very upper-class childcare center. I was terrified of speaking because my words would always come out jumbled up. I was anti-social and did the least amount of speaking as I could, which is hard when you’re working with a lead and a co-teacher, and the parents want to know how their child’s day was. I was in hell. My only saving grace was that I loved the heck out of those children, as they reminded me about how simple life can be.
I just let my faith carry me each day, and I have had many exciting adventures throughout my short life. I am grateful to be alive today, and to have so many people in my life who support, love and help me through this journey.
Each day, I learn more of what it means to have PTSD, and more of how to overcome and accept those things in order to live a happy, whole life.
I am living my dreams today, and no one can stop me! (Past, present or future!)
My friend and I climbing a mountain in South Australia.