June is PTSD awareness month. This is something that I definitely think is important to talk about, especially because it is something that I have battled with since I was assaulted. It probably has been one of the most frustrating and challenging things. Because it can sometimes feel like a roller coaster or come up when I don’t expect it. I know that I am not the only one who has experienced this, nor will I be the last. That is why I think it is important to have this conversation. If you are someone who struggles with this, let me tell you, it does get better, you can make it through this. And there will be good and bad days but the bad days become less and less. If you are someone who is supporting someone through this keep at it. It isn’t something that anyone should have to go through alone. Be patient, speak truth even when it seems like it is going no where, and take time for you.
To start the conversation it is important to put out what PTSD is and the effects it can have. RAINN (Rape Abuse & Incest National Network) explains it well:
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that can result from a traumatic event. You may have heard the term used in relation to the military, but it can apply to survivors of any type of trauma, including sexual violence. Survivors might experience uncharacteristic feelings of stress, fear, anxiety, and nervousness—and this is perfectly normal. With PTSD, these feelings are extreme, can cause you to feel constantly in danger, and make it difficult to function in everyday life.
While all survivors react differently, there are three main symptoms of PTSD:
- Re-experiencing: feeling like you are reliving the event through flashbacks, dreams, or intrusive thoughts
- Avoidance: intentionally or subconsciously changing your behavior to avoid scenarios associated with the event or losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Hyper-arousal: feeling “on edge” all of the time, having difficulty sleeping, being easily startled, or prone to sudden outbursts
For my personally, the biggest struggle has been in the form of re-experiencing. For me this tends to come during the night and usually happens through nightmares that sometimes once I wake up are continued with flashbacks. If I continue having trouble sleeping and fall into a pattern of not sleeping then I can get to where I feel anxious and on edge. The more exhausted I become the less I am able to rationalize and that is usually when it really interferes. That is when I get racing thoughts where what happened plays over and over again, or I get these stuck thoughts of how I feel and it can spiral to feeling hopeless. It looks different for each person, but that is a small glimpse of what it looks like for me. That is why it is important for this conversation to happen, because I want to make sure that others realize they are not alone, that it does get better, it’s normal, and no two people will have the same journey and that is okay. It isn’t something that has to be hopeless or lonely. But the most important thing I have learned is this doesn’t have to be something that is defining, it can be simply a struggle, and it can be overcome.