YOU'RE NOT NORMAL
You Have PTSD
If you've been to this blog before you know that I'm a Gulf War era veteran with Post Traumatic Syndrome (PTS), sometimes referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
I was traumatized by events that happened to me early in my eleven-year, Army career.
I was affected immediately and it took about three months before I could function again.
I honestly can't tell you how I made my initial steps toward recovery because I don't remember.
In my book, 4-Hours to Live: Memoir of a Female Soldier, I talk about how trauma and depression, then later a head-injury, impacted my memory.
Doctors may tell you that you have PTS when you experience difficulty coping after a traumatic, life-threatening, or terror filled event. It could be something that happened to you directly or that you witnessed happening to someone that you care about.
After the trauma, my earliest memories are of the challenges that I had trying to go back to my old life.
I wanted to prove that I was fine. I didn't talk with my family and friends about how I was feeling--scared all the time, jumping at every sound, unable to sleep and very angry.
I didn't want to talk about my trauma so I had to work hard at "being okay". In fact, I set out to be more than okay--I needed to be perfect!
I succeeded at being "super-soldier"—excellent at everything, for about a decade.
It was right after leaving the regimented confines of the military and entering the civilian life that a friend, who didn't have military experience, told me that my "behavior (wasn't) normal."
I thought that I was having trouble adjusting to being a civilian, but otherwise fine. It turns out that I had PTSD.
Looking back now, I can't believe how I could have thought my actions were normal.
I'm happy that I listened to my friend and made an appointment with a therapist soon after, and I was initially diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
Depression and anxiety can be symptoms of PTSD. We'll talk about this in my next post.
My experience with trauma is unique to me. Not everyone will be triggered in the same way or react as I have in similar situations, but my hope is that it will help people to understand what it is like to have a mood disorder, how my trauma occurred, and what efforts I have taken, along with my healthcare team, family, and a small group of friends to save my life and to create my new normal.
I want to hear from you caregivers and loved ones of a person struggling with mental illness, PTSD, or recovering from a physical or emotional trauma. I especially want to hear from anyone who has found their way to their own recovery—and new normal. This is a safe community in which to share your story so leave a comment.