The Struggles of Living With PTSD: My Story
After 30+ years of struggling with PTSD and not understanding what I was dealing with, about five years ago, I was finally able to find some help through counseling—both through the Veterans Administration and in Civilian Resources.
In this article, I discuss the aspects of PTSD that I have struggled with and what I've learned along the way.
Struggling With the Impact of PTSD, and Learning to Cope
To this day, I am still learning about the impact that PTSD has on everyday living. Dealing with relationships, making new friends, and knowing how to set and maintain boundaries, within those relationships. The biggest challenge I have is not reverting back to old habits and ”old tapes” that guided my life down a self-destructive path.
Staying in the present has also been challenging for me, to say the least. However, I have found that I am not alone in this matter, and that one person’s struggle with PTSD is shared by many people in our society and world. Regardless of whether they have PTSD, complex PTSD, or any other form of trauma, they are going through things that are similar to what I am going through.
Boundaries Were the Most Difficult for Me
Dealing with relationships in my adult life has always been difficult—for as long as I can recall. I used to let people walk all over me and take what they wanted from me, both materially and emotionally. I somehow convinced myself that this was normal. On the other hand, when I felt they were taking too much, I would cut them off completely and just walk away from them with no emotional attachment at all. As a way of compensating, to regain some sense of "control," I would interrupt other people, withdraw from conversations, and take what I wanted from those who thought they were close to me. Every time they figured me out, I would run for the proverbial “hills” and cut them out of my life entirely.
Any form of rejection was also a struggle. I used to take ”no” as an excuse for me to cut ties and close doors on the people who uttered that insane and inappropriate word to me. On the other hand, I never knew how to say ”no” to someone without feeling like they would push me away. For instance, every time my therapist told me "no," I took it as her telling me she did not want to be around me anymore—that she was pushing me away. I eventually learned that the opposite was true, but it took me a long time (a couple years) to begin to fully trust her and our relationship.
It’s Not “My Way or the Highway”
Previous to the last few years of getting help with my PTSD, I used to live by a general motto of “Things are going to be my way or the highway.” In my mind, it was used as a sort of "back door" I could use to get away from uncomfortable situations. I believed I had to have control over my environment—and I still do in some instances. I figured that since no one could relate to what I've gone through—that no one would be able to handle the "baggage"—I had to control every situation in my life. And I am not alone in this. In my travels and networking, I have learned that most survivors I have met have a similar way of handling their PTSD, particularly the pressures of relationships.
Triggers, Flashbacks, Terrors: It's All Very Complicated
(My opinion): It doesn’t matter the degree of one's PTSD; I have found that it is all relative. What's not relative is the extent of the traumatic event that led to that person's PTSD. However, each person has specific and general triggers that force them to act in a particular way.
I know from my personal struggles that I can do something many times over and be completely fine. But on another occasion, my mind goes ”crazy,” and I start acting inappropriately, or I have to excuse myself. For example, I can sit down and watch a movie, on TV or at the theater, time and time again, but the next time, I feel like I have to go check into the hospital because my mind starts taking me places that are not healthy for me.
I get asked often what specific thing causes me to react in such a rash and unhealthy manner. The problem is that I cannot really explain it; neither can many others who suffer with PTSD or anxiety. It can be a smell, like someone's perfume or cologne. It can be the context of a conversation. It can be a differing viewpoint that I had not seen previously. It can be sounds, like the crinkling of a wrapper, or the crumpling of a can. It varies. It is not a constant thing that I, or someone else suffering through PTSD, can put our finger on. So sometimes, as a way to expediently get away from having to discuss it, I will excuse myself from the situation. And I will usually get angry if someone doesn’t honor my request to leave it be.
I Want to Share What I've Learned
I know now, at least for the going parts of my life, that my experiences are unique, but the suffering is pretty much the same for all PTSD sufferers. If you are suffering with PTSD, you are not alone. There are others who know what you're going through because they are also going through it themselves.
The hard part is getting family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances to understand what you're going through. As a few of my friends might say, “Just get over it and move on.” It’s just not that simple. This is the reason I am sharing this information with you.
I think the most important thing I wish to share is that whoever in your life is suffering with PTSD needs your support, compassion, and yes, sometimes repeated reminders that they are important, and that their support is not going anywhere anytime soon.
I hope this reaches you all safely and that it is helpful to all who are looking for the information to help someone they love and care for.
A Very Helpful Book to Learn About Recognizing Healthy Boundaries
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Gary