PTSD Awareness

drawing of a woman fighting the darkness of PTSDJune is PTSD Awareness Month. I don’t usually go in for these awareness month things because there should be aware all of the time. But I also understand that awareness has to built, nurtured, and encouraged. And education starts with awareness. So here I am, contributing to the awareness of PTSD.

As someone with PTSD, I want to help increase awareness of how PTSD affects people’s daily lives. Since I can only speak for myself, you guessed it, and you get to read about me. Like any mental health environment, PTSD presents differently for different people.

It does not make it any less of a life-altering or, more accurately, brain-altering life moment because it manifests differently—every person who experiences trauma experiences and processes that trauma differently. Every single adult will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime.

Trauma is anything too intense for your nervous system to process

PTSD Awareness: Not Just Symptoms

I will not focus on the signs and symptoms, at least not the ones listed in the Diagnostical Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), because you can find those anywhere when you Google PTSD. And because I don’t think that list of signs and symptoms helps raise awareness of PTSD. That list misses how it feels to live every day with PTSD. And that is what awareness should be.

Don’t try to fit me, my symptoms, or anyone else’s into a box because we miss what that person is going through. I was missing my feelings and emotions because I didn’t think much of PTSD signs and symptoms fit me. Sure, I was hiding and pushing down on all of those thoughts and feelings, and perhaps that was part of my denial of PTSD.

Awareness of PTSD

Awareness of PTSD isn’t only for the friends and family members watching their loved ones work through PTSD.  It is for all of the people out there in the world who, like me, didn’t realize that we are the way we are because we have PTSD.

I am so good at hiding what was going for me. From those around me, I didn’t have the awareness to realize how much I was hurting. To me, being aware is to look within myself and understand what I have going on. I had to do that. And boy, does it suck.

If I hadn’t had that realization and then started to dig into what that meant, I would still be stuck. I would still be thinking that there is something wrong with me. Instead, now I can look at why I feel the way I do and work to change that programming that I had learned so long ago. The programming needs to change because it is not helping me anymore.

The following statistics are from US Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD (based on the U.S. population):

  • About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people (or 7-8% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
  • About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.
  • About 10 of every 100 women (or 10%) develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 of every 100 men (or 4%).

PTSD is Survival

Hyperarousal was my number one survival tool growing up. I had to know where everyone was to determine if it was safe to make an appearance. I had to read a room before I went into it. I would listen intently for any sounds that would provide me information to know what to expect when I entered the house or the room.

Hyperarousal

I am hyperaware of EVERYTHING going on around me. I am constantly scanning the environment to see if there is any threat. And when I write that I am looking for a threat, read that as ‘EVERYTHING IS A THREAT.’ It is a threat until proven otherwise, and even then, I still think of it as a threat. It is EXHAUSTING.People with PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are in danger

When I was growing up, the danger was everywhere. I couldn’t predict what or where the threat would be coming from. I can imagine my brain going into hyperdrive all of the time to assess what may or may not be a threat. Eventually, my brain decided that it would be easier to react as if everything is a threat and then sort it out later.

My brain decided that everything is dangerous. It was safer that way. Being prepared all of the time for danger was better than being caught off guard because I was never safe.

Sources Cited

  1. Brook Nielson. (February 10, 2020). How Unhealed Trauma Affects Highly Sensitive People.com. https://highlysensitiverefuge.com/how-unhealed-trauma-affects-highly-sensitive-people/
  2. National Institute of Mental Health. (May 2019). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/

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