I first started seeking help for my mental health in 2011 when I said to my parents, “I think I have depression.” My father then revealed to me that he has depression (something he has been successfully managing since 2013!) and mental illness is frequent in our family.
A year ago, in February of 2016, I saw my third therapist: a trauma counsellor with a focus on spirituality, psychosomatic medicine, and cognitive behaviour therapy. She was a fantastic fit. I can’t stress enough how therapy is most successful if you have a therapist who actually helps you.
I had seen two other therapists who specialised in treating depression, and though I could have gone on antidepressants (I fully support them!), I didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel like I was being treated the way I should have. I didn’t feel like depression was the end of my mental health struggles. I felt like there was more that I needed to figure out.
During the standard first meeting with my most recent therapist, she instructed me to get comfortable. In retrospect, when she saw me assume the Lotus Position in my socked feet, she knew exactly how to approach my treatment. I remember having doubts about how successful our work would be, and she challenged that. While sitting on the couch, I told her in detail about my life and the experiences that mattered to me. She told me I have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and that it might be complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). She told me how a traumatic life, specifically childhood, can lead to PTSD in adulthood.
Everything clicked for me. It made sense: I wasn’t just depressed. I was traumatised over decades. I developed PTSD.
Often, I feel like saying I have PTSD is a sham. I’m not a military vet, I didn’t grow up in a war-torn country, and I haven’t experienced sexual assault. There are so many “poster child” representations of PTSD that feel more valid to me than my own—hence why complex-posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) has been proposed. I grew up and experienced more frequent trauma, on average, than people my age.
But I still have PTSD. I say PTSD for simplicity’s sake, though it’s really C-PTSD. I haven’t found much difference between the two for me personally, but I know others have a different experience with PTSD and C-PTSD.
So that’s why I’m writing this post: to share my experiences with my mental illness.
My PTSD and experience with it mean that I am…
- prone to violent anger.
- prone to psychotic episodes, where I can’t discern reality from imagination, dreams, hallucinations, or delusions.
- unable to regulate emotions, particularly strong emotions.
- afraid of developing dependency on substances like alcohol and strong painkillers.
- terrible at sleeping normally.
- terrible at remembering things without having a record of them.
- dissociating frequently from my body, to the point where I can wake up, go through an entire day, and not remember what happened by the time I’m in bed again.
- triggered when events, sounds, and images are similar to the traumas I’ve experienced.
- unpredictable and a lot to handle emotionally and mentally, especially for myself.
- comorbidly suffering from depression and anxiety.
- struggling with grief.
- suicidal and ideating suicide more often than not.
- controlling, with very specific preferences.
Like all mental disorders and illnesses, it’s impossible for me to separate myself from mine. I have PTSD, and I expect the rest of my life will be a journey of coping, surviving, and managing my mental illness. I have lots of resources and good methods for working through it, but I’m always struggling.