Guest Post: My life living with PTSD
This guest post was written by Megan Jones. She is sharing her brave story about living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Living with PTSD has changed everything for me. I’ve suffered with mental illness since the age of 14, however I was diagnosed with PTSD at 24, a year after a violent relationship that I was in had ended. I had suffered with trauma before but this time I felt like I could never escape it (and still do feel this way). I try and try again to avoid the symptoms but they can creep up on you at any time, quite unexpectedly sometimes. How do you escape something that can be triggered by so much so easily?
At first I used to try my best to avoid feelings or memories the best way that I could, which would be to keep busy. There’s only so much you can do to keep busy though, as I said the symptoms and triggers can creep up on you when you least expect it. For instance, the repetitive nightmares and flashbacks can be one of the hardest to escape from.
I have many dreams, some good and some not so good. The worst always involve my abusive ex, whether it’s a repeat of an event or something that I’m worried will happen. I can wake up in a state of panic, dripping in sweat, trembling and I become irritable because I find it hard to sleep again, sometimes I’m too scared to sleep again. I’ve gone days without sleep before because I’ve over worried about the nightmares that I might experience all over again. And not sleeping can really affect my mental health more. It’s a vicious cycle.As I’m still scared of him, it makes it difficult to go outside sometimes in case I happen to bump into him. I feel constantly on edge and just want to return home because it’s my safe place. He may know where I live but I have triple locks on my door and I’d ring the police if I had to. I know nothing would happen in a public place but I’m still scared, I’m still worried and I still panic quite a lot. The days that I challenge PTSD and actually go outside are the days I feel like I’ve made a huge accomplishment and conquered the world. I may be constantly alert but some days I can beat it. This ‘on top of the world’ feeling doesn’t tend to last very long though, just like any mental illness, I can crash soon after and become depressed with intrusive thoughts or even try to self-destruct.
My safe place is my home, however I’m currently trying to move because all of the trauma happened here. I feel like it’s my safe place but somewhere I also can’t escape the flashbacks from. If I don’t feel safe at home or safe outside, where is my REAL safe place? Flashbacks can happen any time for me; in the shower, in the kitchen, in the living room, in bed etc. Even objects or scents can trigger me and bring on a flashback. It’s as if your past self is taking over your present self; it’s difficult to breathe, it’s difficult to acknowledge where you are and it’s difficult to find your present self again.
I wouldn’t wish PTSD on anybody, it’s constantly reliving your trauma every single day inside your head. Reliving trauma can bring on a panic attack for me, but I’m always trying to calm myself down using techniques that my support worker has suggested. Although my mental health can affect me every day, I do have my son and he helps me stay grounded. He may only be a little boy and doesn’t understand a lot about my mental health and trauma just yet, but he knows that his mum suffers with a brain that is sick and requires medication, professional support etc. He’s been there during a flashback, which has resulted in a panic attack.
As much as I was trying my best to calm myself down, he noticed something was wrong and asked if I was OK as he held my hand. He also knows to call 999 on the house phone if anything was ever to happen. The feeling of guilt never goes away though. I’m a good mum but sometimes my mental health can affect me so badly that I tend to think otherwise. Mental illness can affect everyone around you in good and bad ways, it’s all about patience and understanding. Luckily, I have that with my son. Due to having PTSD, I can often find it hard to trust anyone and I feel like nobody would understand. I know there are people that do, but it doesn’t stop my mind thinking otherwise. I’ve spoken to Women’s Aid in the past and it really did help, they’re a wonderful charity. However, it never stops you blaming yourself for what happened. It’s a constant battle with your mind because you know you’re sick, you know there are people that you can trust and you know you are never alone, but it doesn’t stop you isolating yourself because you don’t want to hurt again. Protecting yourself isn’t a bad thing and sometimes it’s easier to push people away because of PTSD, but it just makes it even harder to trust and love all over again. We all need to be loved, whether it’s by family, friends etc - and we deserve it too.