I was diagnosed with PTSD when I was 19 years old. It has waxed and waned over the years, but in dealing with the rape, the loss of my dad and my miscarriage it has roared back into the forefront. As anyone who has PTSD can attest, it is a very real and often a daily fight. It is a fight that is seldom spoken about. At least for me, that stops now. We who have PTSD need to start talking about it so those around us can understand that while we may look perfectly fine on the outside, we are wounded inside. Those wounds need time and help to heal. We need help and time to heal. We need the understanding, patience and love of those around us and those who care about us to not only continue to fight this battle, but to win it.
To explain a PTSD to someone who has never experienced it before is akin to trying to explain why there is a different sunset each evening. There are some things that may be better left unexplained, but I don't think this is one of them. When a panic attack brought on by PTSD occurs, it is a hellish roller coaster ride that takes you from 0-60 in a matter of seconds. Something completely benign, like a dog barking, can set off a panic attack and flashback of the traumatic event. For me, it can be brought on by an extremely stressful day. It can also be brought on by any variety of triggers.
I have had a tough time writing this post because it is hard to explain unless I am actively going through a panic attack/PTSD episode. I have been waiting for the opportunity, so to speak, to write this when I am having an episode. Tonight, unfortunately, is giving me that opportunity. The description below, of what happens to me during one of these episodes, was written as it was happening.
I started feeling of anxiety unknown origin that seemed to explode inside me. My wrists are tightening, it feels like someone is squeezing them, trying to hold them, and me, down. A shakiness is beginning to take hold that is combined with a feeling like I am coming out of my own skin. My mind is beginning to race, flooded with flashback memories of my rape. I can feel my heart rate increasing. It is difficult to take a deep breath. I can feel my muscles tightening, and, right now, I am powerless to stop any of it. My senses are triggered with tidal wave feelings, smells, sensations and fear. I feel the sensation of holding me down. I feel the pressure of his body forcefully pushing down on mine. I can smell his breath. I feel the violence of it. I feel the shock of it. I feel the humiliation, the degradation, and the powerlessness all over again. I feel rage. I am thrust back into that morning. I can see the room, the sunlight just beginning to come through the window, the dark wood of the bed posts, the mirrored closet doors, the desk right up against the bed posts and the stark white, unpainted walls. I hear myself saying, "No!" I feel myself trying to fight back, only to feel his strength being used against me again. I fight the overwhelming urge to scratch myself, which can be a bit of a challenge because I feel like my skin is crawling. I am reduced to an uncontrollable mess that is sobbing, rocking and shaking, curled up in as tiny of a ball as my curvy body allows me to be. I can barely stand to be touched. As quickly as all of this started, it ends. It feels like the roller coaster has run its course and is quietly pulling back into the station as if the twists, turns, upside down loops and hairpin turns, all done at top speed, never happened. There is a sense of calm mixed with complete exhaustion as my body returns to its normal settings and my brain returns to its status quo.
I am happy that I was finally able to write this in real time. I hope that it will help those who know me, love and care about me gain a better understanding of what a PTSD episode is really like for me. I hope they can now understand that I am working with Bonita on this in order to get a firm grasp on how to cope and make these episodes diminish.