Me, Myself and PTSD
Please welcome Guest Blogger, C.W. Davis who in sharing her experience with PTSD. I think it's important to hear from someone who you share similar experiences with so that you know that you are not alone. I also believe that they can give you advice from a perspective that you can relate to. I truly hope that her words help heal, uplift and empower you!
I love socializing; getting together with my girlfriends for a night of jazz, bowling, or downtown dining. There was a time in my life where I detached myself from the people I loved and cared for most.
There was a time when hot water touching my skin or running a bath for my son drove me to tears or induced uncontrollable crying.
No one knew, because I never told anyone.
I enjoy a good book club and writing the stories of characters whispering about their lives in my head; I love the feeling of euphoria that I get from a long run, or dance moves with step aerobics, but there was a time when I lacked the motivation and the ability to do either of those things.
There was a time when irritability was my first and last name. And when I’m unmedicated, it still is.
There was a time when I self medicated with mindless binge shopping. I would wake up in the morning and hit the mall, not returning to my home until it was time to go to bed, and then do it all over again the next morning. It was my temporarily satisfying drug of choice.
There are times, even now, that anxiety rocks my world at the mere thought of leaving my children in someone else’s care or when they leave my sight in general. Sleepovers would leave me sleep...less, as my mind raced with all the worst things that could be happening to my child at someone else’s home.
All of the above are and were reactions and symptoms stemming from an incident which occurred more than twenty years ago when my toddler son was severely injured in a bathtub accident that left him physically scarred due to third degree burns that covered the majority of his body. I had left my 17 month old son in the care of my then boyfriend, who wasn’t his father, while I went to work for 4 hours. I wasn’t there for 2 hours before I received the phone call that would turn my life upside down and inside out...forever. I was 20 years old, a single mom, surviving one day at a time, letting life happen to me one non decision decision, at a time. And now I had moved from teen mom to clueless caregiver in the blink of an eye. Barely two hours worth of blinks, actually. I had no idea that my mental health would take it’s greatest hit from an accident that to me, only my son had the right to be traumatized by.
PTSD was foreign to me. I knew the word, but like so many others, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was a disorder I connected to military veterans that had suffered the horrors of war-from what they had seen, had to do, or what had been done to them. Or a kidnapping victim. Or a rape survivor. Not a naive young mom whose son almost lost his life because she was careless in her choice of a babysitter for her son.
According to NIMH, the National Institute of Mental Health, some people develop PTSD after a friend or family member experiences danger or harm. The sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can lead to PTSD. Anyone can develop PTSD at any age; war veterans, children, and people who have been through a physical or sexual assault, abuse, accident, or disaster. I developed PTSD as a result of what happened to a family member-my baby. What he suffered, what I saw him go through, what I had to do to help him survive, was worse than death in my mind.
The Mayo Clinic defines Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
PTSD can last months or years, with triggers that can bring back memories of the trauma accompanied by intense emotional and physical reactions. It has been over 20 years since my son’s accident, twenty four to be exact, and up until two years ago, when I began the healing process by way of medication, I was still having flashbacks, uncontrollable thoughts and having intense emotional reactions. That, in and of itself, was... a nightmare.
It has been said that what you don’t know won’t hurt you. I beg to differ. Not knowing that I was suffering from mental illness, specifically PTSD, immobilized me as a mother, and brought my quality of life to a low, which meant my son’s quality of life suffered as well. We all know that a mother plays an integral role in the wellbeing of her child(ren).
Not knowing or recognizing that I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, kept me from being my son’s greatest advocate when it came to pursuing the best medical treatment that he needed during his recovery. I was unable to properly advocate for his education as he struggled with learning which could’ve been due to regression caused by his accident, and I was unable to seek the appropriate psychological intervention that would’ve helped to strengthen him in his life’s journey as a burn survivor, which meant the possibility of being bullied.
It took years before I realized that the symptoms I was experiencing were a result of a mental illness named PTSD. It took several more years to reach out for help. I finally did so after I suffered a mental break, partly, and mostly, due to undiagnosed and therefore untreated mental illness. I wanted to get better because I knew I could get worse.
I dealt with PTSD by way of a few different avenues:
First, it was the acknowledgement that I was suffering due to the trauma I witnessed. My psychosis waa a reality check that all was not well with my soul. There was no denying that.
Second, I began attending a support group. There’s something about being a part of a group of like minded individuals-pun intended. One of the worst feelings in the world was feeling like I was all alone, that I was the only one experiencing a crisis of the mind. And it helped. Even though it was a club I didn’t willingly sign up for, nor did I ever want to be a part of. I was “in like flin” as the saying goes.
I was reluctant to take medication. I was determined to exhaust all my options before hitting that route, but I was also honest with myself, and I really wanted to be better. I made a promise to myself and my family that if natural, intentional measures like exercise, changes in my diet, vitamin supplements, and group therapy didn’t change anything for me in a certain amount of time, I would run, not walk to a psychiatrist for medicinal relief.
So, thirdly, I began medication. And it worked for me. Dramatically.
There was one other method that worked for me that I only just discovered recently. Telling my story. I was more than uncomfortable sharing the details of what brought on my PTSD. But when I did, I was amazed at the response within my own body. I felt...cleansed. Sharing my story has been by far, the most therapeutic and the most healing for me personally. Ironically, the two main treatments for PTSD are Psychotherapy, which includes talk therapy, and medication.
According to the National Center for PTSD, about 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men, and genes may make some people more likely to develop PTSD than others.
It’s important to know that not every traumatic event will develop into PTSD. When a traumatic event occurs in your life, talking about it with a trusted friend, relative, or even a therapist can prevent a decline in mental health. It’s also important to know that not every instance of PTSD will require medication.
When I discovered that there is a place of surviving a thing, and thriving in spite of a thing (the word used now is surthriving), I wanted it. I wanted to be there. I couldn’t make the trauma go away, but I could still raise my quality of life, I could still live...well. And every day I set the intention to be in that place of surthriving, for me, because when I do it for me, it’s already done for my family!
More about Ms. C. W. Davis:
Chavonne Wilkinson Davis is a writer, blogger, mental health advocate, and volunteer NAMI youth presenter. She lives in North East Florida with her husband and three children.
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I am not a licensed therapist.
This post does not serve as a form of therapy or diagnosis.
If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 911 or your doctor.