It has taken me 10 years of incredible pain and darkness to come to this place of seeing my life having value and purpose again. To come to this place where I can hold such wonder and joy for living while also holding the pain and suffering from my PTSD. I have never felt more fully human and fully alive. I have never felt such intense gratitude and acceptance for what is. I have never experienced such peace for the woman I have become.
I am writing this blog to break the silence of my entire life – a life where I hid the pain of my PTSD from everyone because I did not want people to think I was mentally ill or crazy. It led to a lifetime of complete internal suffering, silence and bearing the shame I had for a part of who I was. PTSD is a significant part of me but it is not all of me. Today, I can celebrate that I have the tools and relationships to manage it a day at a time, sometimes a moment at a time.
I guess I don’t know how to begin this blog. So much has happened for me over the last 10 years so my blogs in the beginning will be about what I have learned over the last 10 years to come to this place of living purposefully and meaningfully while managing physical and mental illness. I am still struggling with what to call PTSD. It doesn’t feel right to call it a physical and mental illness. My PTSD is a result of personal, societal, and professional vicarious trauma and has been a consistent part of life since utero. It is part of my mental, physical, and energetic nature. It is part of my personality and part of my temperament. So while I write physical and mental illness I feel that it can’t be categorized by this either. My PTSD is part of my mental, physical, and energetic nature, my temperament, and my personality. Today, I can say that I make the daily choice to love myself and accept this as my normal so I wonder how it can be a physical and mental illness. However, I do own that my PTSD causes me significant challenges in my social and occupational areas of my life.
Like most people with PTSD, I have been diagnosed with several other disorders, Major Depression, Substance Abuse and Sleep. I have been also diagnosed with a few neurological illnesses, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy and Fibromyalgia, leaving me with Chronic Fatigue and Chronic Pain. Many of these issues are a result of a lifetime of dissociation, constriction, and a highly alert central nervous system. Therefore, I see PTSD as both a physical and mental health issue. Again, these diagnoses have been part of my life experience and all are a result of living with the effects of early and long term trauma. I am happy to say while I struggle with all these issues on a daily basis, I have been sober for 21 months. Really alcohol was the only way for me to manage my PTSD until I built new tools and relationships over the last 10 years that serve as containers and outlets for my anxiety and distress as well as for my joy and sense of being fully and purposefully alive. See, for me, having PTSD means that I feel everything intensely and so it is difficult to regulate any emotion, sadness, anger, rage, joy, gratitude, power, hope, and happiness. Since I feel each of them powerfully and each of these emotions causes an energetic change within my body making me feel like things are out of my control and that I am unsafe. I have not been able to break or eradicate this pattern over the last 10 years but, once again, I have found the tools to manage it a day at a time, a moment at a time.
The fact is that I have not been able to eradicate my PTSD and my triggers. I have not been able to eradicate my being easily overstimulated by lights, sounds, the energy of other people, nature, my own internal world despite the incredible effort I put into my therapy sessions and employing every strategy research said would help “fix me”. Therapies and strategies that took a significant amount of money from my retirement account as well as consistent effort, determination and time from myself, my husband, and my therapist. However, I see my 10 years and my lifetime of suffering as part of my evolving into the woman I am today and she is good and loveable.