My PTSD

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.

Thoughts On Aging

A macro photograph of a colourful cake with a number three candle.

Yesterday was my birthday. It was a relatively nice day—don’t have huge complaints or worries about it.

But it was an obvious reminder of 1) my mortality; and 2) aging.

The concept of time is very obtuse to me. I don’t quite understand it. This is how I feel about birthdays.

Age is a nebulous thing to me. I often forget how old I am not because I think I’m older or younger than I am—it’s just difficult for me to believe my age is some way to explain my growth or experience.

Because your age doesn’t define the experiences you have.

Where I live, it’s illegal to buy alcohol under the age of 19; it is illegal to drive under the age of 16; and yet these are not definitive of people’s experiences. Kids under 19 drink, and kids under 16 have had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a car.

I guess it’s just really hard for me to understand how so many actions can be defined or justified by our orbit around a giant ball of blazing gas. That’s the real gist of this post. I don’t get it. I don’t understand how age denotes maturity, experience, or qualification.

Like, yeah, of course I’m not going to say that 10-year-olds are mature, experience, and qualified enough to drive a car. When it’s in the younger years, the pre-pubescent years, the years where you need to buy new shoes because your feet keep growing—that’s different.

But now, post-pubescent and reaching a point of—dare I say it—stasis and decay… My age really shouldn’t matter too much. How old someone is doesn’t say how smart they are, how much they know about something, how experienced they are with it. Hell, I started working with HTML and CSS when I was 13, but I’m not going to tout 7+ years of experience—because no employer would look at my age and believe me. They wouldn’t believe I would’ve been self-teaching in different skills throughout my teenage years. Because, for some reason, your teenage years get discredited. What you do in your teens somehow doesn’t have the same impact as what you did after you turned 18 or after you started post-secondary school.

I hate liminal stages in life. Between infancy and childhood. Between childhood and teen. Between teen and young adult. Between young adult and adult. Between adult and elder.

I’m between young adult and adult, and I don’t like it, and there isn’t much I can do about the people who judge me based on 1) how old I am; or 2) how old I look.

Anyway, happy birthday to me. Another package of seasons in my life have passed by.