PTSD

Kelly DeBie is Queen of DeBie Hive, an amazing blogger and a wonderful friend of this blog. I cannot thank her enough for her bravery and her honesty.

To most people who know me, I probably seem like your average suburban minivan driving mom of four. I have a busy schedule and get my kids where they need to be on time almost all the time. I rarely leave the house without doing my makeup and make a point to create the illusion that I'm all together and stable and normal, whatever normal is. 

And I am, most of the time.

I am balanced and normal unless a trigger hits me the wrong way and sends me back down to the bottom of my hole, tears at my soul and rips a hole in my heart. Triggers can send me reeling and launch full blown panic attacks. I've spent far more time hyperventilating in store bathrooms than anyone should ever have to. 

For years, I deliberately avoided normal activities out of fear. Fear that something or someone would set me off unexpectedly and that I would end up spiraling out of control.

I needed to do whatever I could to stay in control, though I could feel that control slipping from my fingers. 

I ended up isolating myself from the rest of the world, almost all the time. I did the absolute minimum to keep up appearances, to seem functional, because I didn't want anyone to know. I didn't want people to know that I couldn't go to the grocery store, that there are parts of town I can't bear to drive past without my heart racing and the sweat beading up. 

I didn't want to talk to anyone. 

I didn't because I am supposed to be stronger than this. I am supposed to be smarter than this. I am supposed to know better.

I tried the best I could to live with it until it started infiltrating every piece of who I was. Even if I stayed isolated, even if I suppressed any social interactions, the triggers found their way into my subconscious. I started having recurring nightmares. The nightmares made me fear sleep. There was no relief from my tormented mind, night or day. I developed intractable insomnia. 

I've never been to war. 

I've never been the victim of a violent crime.

I've never survived a horrific accident. 

I haven't lived through any of the experiences that people would normally associate with PTSD, but I developed it anyway. 

My trauma was emotional, caused by years of tragedies and loss that seemed to hit me from all angles in my life. There was quite literally a time when I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, because it always did. There was always something else, someone else, something bigger, something worse. And it kept coming.

I couldn't process it all. I survived the awful time, but my brain couldn't process it all. I was stuck, reliving those moments, living in irrational fear, living in the past that was being forced upon me with even the smallest reminders. 

I was a tortured soul, and I needed help.

For a long time, I told myself that I was fine. That I would get over it. That things would get better. 

People around me who knew what happened started to grow impatient with me. Urged me to just get over it, not understanding that it wasn't physically possible. I would have given anything to have been able to sleep, to go about my daily life, to exist without living in fear. 

Things didn't get better. They only got worse. Nothing I did helped.

I spoke with a friend and was candid with her. She told me about a special therapy she was doing, suggested that it might work for me. 

I had to confront what I already knew - I had developed PTSD. 

PTSD doesn't just happen to soldiers. It can happen to anyone overwhelmed with trauma, regardless of where that trauma comes from. 

I sought help for the condition I finally recognized I had. Targeted EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprogramming) therapy helped me work through the past, one piece at a time. To fully process it all, I had to be willing to go back to that time emotionally, to confront it all again, to relive it. I had to trust the process. 

I had to. 

It worked. 

It worked when nothing else would. 

What used to be a trigger that would knock me for a loop for days or weeks at a time before is now an uncomfortable, but transient reminder. I have my moment now, then I can go on with my life as I should be able to. 

I've learned to feel the feelings when they come, that I can't stuff them away. I can't because eventually that vault fills up and explodes and hurts me even more. 

I had to make a choice to take care of myself. If I feel myself being drug back down into that hole, I have to be proactive about it going forward. PTSD never really goes away, but it can be managed. 

First, though, you have to admit you have it.

My name is Kelly, and I have PTSD.

Graeme Seabrook