Archive for February 3rd, 2009

I recently had an epiphany about my diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): I really have PTSD, and it really does affect my life. Of course, that epiphany probably warrants a big, fat, “DUH!!,” but it was a huge realization for me.

When my therapist first shared this label with me, my mouth dropped open. PTSD was serious stuff, but my abuse had not been “that bad.” Other people had it worse. My therapist had to define all of the symptoms of PTSD, which I had in spades, for me to accept that this diagnosis actually applied to me.

Of course, I have lived with the symptoms of PTSD throughout my life. Even before I started having the flashbacks, I was well acquainted with being triggered. I had no label for my seemingly out-of-proportion reactions to things that happened around me, but I was well aware of having them. I just assumed it meant that I was “crazy” like my mother.

Since receiving the diagnosis of PTSD a few years ago, I have learned all about it. I have helped myself reduce the severity of my symptoms, and I have helped numerous people along the way. But somehow, it never really hit me that I have this disorder and that my brain does not work like other people’s brains do.

I have spent my life beating myself up for having these issues. My expectation has been that I can just push through it all and be “normal,” whatever “normal” is. I have not cut myself any slack for having to deal with triggers and other issues that most people do not have to deal with.

I am beginning to accept that I actually have PTSD. Yes, I would have told you this years ago, but the gravity of me living my life with PTSD is suddenly sinking in. I am always going to react to things differently than other people do, and I am not responsible for this. Yes, I am responsible for the choices that I make, but I am not responsible for getting triggered.

What difference does this make in my life? It gives me more self-compassion.

For example, my son has been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He is not responsible for having difficulty focusing or controlling his impulses when he is unmedicated. Yes, he is responsible for his choices, but I have to make accommodations because of his disorder. He truly cannot help feeling “wired” when his medication wears off.

In the same way, I need to give myself some accommodations. It is normal for me to feel triggered when something causes an emotional flashback. I am not “weird” because I react differently than non-traumatized people do.

Instead of getting frustrated with myself for getting triggered, I need to recognize that this is part of my disorder. I need to cut myself some slack because I cannot control getting triggered – I can only control how I react to the triggers. I am hoping that recognizing the PTSD in myself as a true disorder will help me to stop being so hard on myself.

Related Topic:

PTSD and Cycles of Emotions

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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