I was first diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in 2005 after I had a run-in with a man threatening that he had a gun, but I’d been living with it for most of my life. Over the years I’d learned to deal with the hyper-vigilance, anxiety, nightmares, etc. that a person gets from trauma; trauma that for me came in many forms.
Following my diagnosis in 2005, I went on to see multiple specialists. They all diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Major Depressive Order, and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia. They said that due to the extremity of my case, I would no longer be fit to work outside the home.
I tried to find a way to go back to work in the beginning and even went back to school, but it was too much for me. I have since battled with stress-induced Diabetes and a condition in my right eye called Central-Serous Retinopathy (CSR) that can cause permanent damage. Both conditions are caused by acute stress. Needless to say, I haven’t worked outside my home for over a decade.
In the years since my diagnosis, I’ve learned a lot about myself and my past. I learned that I didn’t deserve the hand I was dealt in life and I most definitely shouldn’t be blaming myself for the outcome.
Ending up with PTSD wasn’t my fault because PTSD is a natural emotional reaction to an abnormal situation and there’s nothing that I, or anyone else, can do to change that. What we can change, is how people look at the mental injury.
So without further adieu, I’m going to take you through a day in my life and share what it’s like to live with someone with a mental injury – from my perspective of course. I believe that if people like me share what it’s like to live with PTSD, then maybe we can help to #EndTheStigma around mental injury, illness and disease.
Each morning, I open up my eyes after a fitful night’s sleep. I don’t usually sleep more than 30 minutes at a time because of nightmares and the over-thinking that comes after them.
During the night, I’ll lie there for hours watching the minutes tick by… Sweating, then not sweating, then sweating again. Honestly, some of my nightmares are so bad I’m terrified to go back to sleep – sometimes for weeks, but that’s another story…
Each day I get up and head into the washroom. I go about doing the mundane things like wash my face and brush my teeth, but as I stare at myself in the mirror, the doubt starts to set in …doubt about myself and my existence.
I start to question myself as to why I even bother getting out of bed and I start an argument inside my head as to why I shouldn’t just climb back under the covers. I continue to argue with myself about whether I’m a contributing factor to society – “they” said I would never be able to work again, and I start the never-ending pity-party that seems to have become a perpetual part of my life.
I stick my tongue out at the person staring back at me, thinking to myself that I’m going to do my best to prove her wrong. Then I turn the light off in the bathroom and head down the hallway.
I turn into the laundry room, which is the first room I pass going down the hall, and walk towards the window. I reach over to open the curtains, holding my breath because I have this fear that one of my abusers will be standing there staring back at me, and once they know I’m inside they’re going to break in and kill me.
I take a deep breath and then I rip them open like someone tearing off a bandage. Then I go into the next room and continue methodically, from one room to the next: take a deep breath, reach over, and open the curtains…
When I get into the living room, I also turn on the stereo and then I head over to give some loving to my trusty furry family member. It’s a ritual for her as much as it is for me and she lies there while I go about my morning ritual. I can always see her tail wagging out of the corner of my eye, in anticipation of the cuddle she knows I’m going to give her to start each day.
From there, I walk towards the kitchen and repeat the process… Breathe in, open the curtains, no one is there – PHEW – breathe out. Honestly, you’d think that after all these years it would get easier. To a certain point it has; 5 years ago they didn’t get opened at all, but it’s incredibly hard for me to do.
Next, I put a pot of coffee on, and I tidy up the kitchen while I wait for it to brew. I pour myself a cup, add some cream, and head into my “office” to turn on my computer. As I’m going through the movements, I think that maybe I should try and get outside at some point, but then I dismiss it as quickly as it entered my mind. I know, I know – going outside should be easy, but for me, it’s almost like having a tooth pulled.
While I go through my morning ritual and get ready to start working, I talk to myself. Oh who am I kidding, I always talk to myself! The trouble is I’m not usually very nice to myself.
During this particular conversation, I try to convince myself that my writing and my interactions on social media are helping me to contribute to society. I tell myself that even though I’m unable to work outside the home, I’m doing something that will eventually help us out financially.
It’s an extremely difficult conversation, as you can imagine, and I call myself things like useless, worthless, and a waste of space. I blame myself for everything that’s going wrong in my life, as well as my husband’s. I believe that if I could earn some good money, we wouldn’t be faced with having to sell our house in order to survive.
I finish my coffee, put on my workout gear and turn on “today’s” workout challenge. Currently, I’m doing two exercise challenges through a site called Hasfit; one is the Warrior 90, and the other is a 30 day Ab challenge.
I find that working out, especially with weights, helps me to keep my stress levels down as well as getting rid of some of the anger that comes with PTSD.
Next, I sit down in front of my computer, pay any bills that need paying, and then I open the email, Twitter, and Facebook and set about checking messages and notifications.
The phone rings and I listen to the announcement of who is calling… Sometimes I pick it up and sometimes I don’t. Today, I decided that I have nothing different to say than I did yesterday and I ignore it.
It’s not that I don’t want to talk to whoever is on the other end of the phone, it’s just that today I’m feeling sorry for myself and I’m sick of boring people with my tales of woe.
I sit, and I sit. I answer notification after notification, email after email, hoping that if I just keep going, I will get my head out of the doldrums and start to feel worthy.
I read multitudes of mental injury/illness/wellness blogs in hopes that I will find the answer as to how I will find my way back to the person I was before the gunman. Then I read multitudes of success stories because I believe they counter-act some of the bad and they help me to move forward in a more positive way.
Then, I write. Sometimes I write a blog, sometimes I work on my book, and sometimes I just write down the mayhem that’s spinning a tumultuous web in my brain.
Hours go by, and unless my furry family member comes in to let me know she needs to go out, my legs invariably fall asleep, and I struggle like an 80-year-old to get my body to straighten when I finally decide to stand.
Around 4:00 PM, my husband comes in from work. Sometimes he comes straight into the office to give me a kiss, but sometimes I can hear him tiptoeing around to see what kind of “personality” is awaiting him – good, bad or indifferent?
I usually continue on in my quest to be “worthy” and he starts making dinner. After dinner, we watch TV until it’s quite late and then after my husband goes to bed, I turn on music videos or movies.
I find that the music, as well as the words being sung, quells the thoughts of nightmares and flashbacks that visit me nightly.
I turn the music as loud as I can, without disturbing my husband and I dance, and I dance, and I dance… Sometimes for hours.
Once the demons in my head have quieted, I turn out the lights, shut off the music and head to bed.
So there you go. Was it different than you thought it would be? Some people tell me they feel sorry for me when they hear what my days are like but I don’t want them to feel sorry for me. I believe there is a reason why I’ve gone through so much adversity and that reason is to help others.
There’s so much stigma around mental injury/illness/disease, and in order to speak up and be an advocate, a person needs to have some experience. Unfortunately, my experience came from circumstance instead of school, but I believe everything happens for a reason and my circumstances have made me into an advocate for mental injury/illness/disease.
I believe that if I, and others like me, continue to write and fight for the reasons why someone with a mental illness deserves to be a contributing part of society, we all might find a little niche where we fit in and feel worthy.
Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.
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