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PTSD - Not just for soldiers

PTSD Awareness day 2023

In my 20s I was misdiagnosed and medicated for an illness I didn’t have. I spent years believing I was Bipolar, being treated for bipolar disorder, reading and trying to understand myself under this label - when in actual fact, it was complex PTSD. Finally in my late 30s following a Big Breakdown, I was finally given the correct diagnosis by a psychiatrist and everything started to make a lot more sense, and the recovery could really begin.

PTSD is not just for soldiers or only developed after life threatening scenarios. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is different to the impact of trauma - the two are not necessarily the same, and neither should be minimised. PTSD/ CPTSD however has a life affecting, debilitating and all consuming effect on the person living with it.

A few symptoms which play a part, which I knew as ‘normal’ for me were:

Flash backs - These are not cinematic in any way. These were all consuming visceral sensations in the body. Afterwards, I would shut down and need to sleep.

Insomnia & Sleep paralysis - Chronic lack of sleep. I avoided going to bed, and needed distraction to fall asleep.

Dissociation - I would watch myself from outside myself, and feel completely numb in the process, and witness myself interacting with people but I wasn't ‘there’. I was acting, or felt I was operating the puppet strings.

Avoidance - I would avoid and dread social situations, and if I was there I would often dissociate. During my 20s this meant I filled most of my time with work, extra jobs or study as it had a purpose and a practical task list I could work though, rather than having to be with myself. I hated being alone, being quiet or still. I missed out on all the party fun you are supposed to have during that time.

In my late 30s when things got really bad, this meant I found it increasingly hard to leave my house, and would have to plan my routes to avoid people in general (pretty much impossible, so you end up not leaving the house at all, and if you do need to, it induces acute anxiety.)

Distress / Dysphoria - Periods of extreme emotional distress leading to severe depression. Often accompanied by intense internal ‘noise’ in my head leading quickly to self destructive thoughts, beliefs and actions, followed by overwhelming shame.

Sounds like madness? It felt like madness. It was awful, and traumatic in itself which was a double blow, but with a correct diagnosis, the right help and time it got better. Life got better, and now I am free from these symptoms I lived with for far too long. I am able to say I am impacted far less, I cant say its gone forever, but it’s much smaller and more manageable. I look after myself as best I can and this keeps me well.

If you are living with this, it will get better. It WILL. It will not be linear and it will not be easy, or understood by people around you, but with help you will get better. It used to drive me to distraction when I was told it would get better in the midst of all the mess and daily slog of it all, but it is the truth. It will get better.


Sources of information / help


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