I feel as though it is necessary to address some of the signs and symptoms associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder since a lot of people are unaware. There are a lot of victims out there who are suffering from PTSD and don’t know it because they assume their trauma was not harmful enough. When it comes to PTSD symptoms, there are three main categories: re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal. Re-experiencing symptoms are those that affect your everyday life such as flashbacks, nightmares, and paranoia. Avoidance symptoms are triggered by reminders which results in you changing your daily routine to avoid future triggers. Victims will begin avoiding places or objects that could force them to relive the trauma, become emotionally numb, lose interest, or sometimes they even blackout the traumatic event. Hyperarousal are constant symptoms that cause one to lose their appetite, develop insomnia, and lose the ability to focus. The victim becomes easily startled and very tense. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms typically surface within three months of the traumatic event, but sometimes it may take years. Personally, it took me seven years to experience PTSD symptoms from a childhood trauma since it was triggered by an incident in 2014. If I had not experienced that trauma last year, I probably would have never coped because I worked so hard at suppressing all memories and emotions from my past. Everyone who experiences a harmful event is not diagnosed with PTSD, you must show signs for more than a month. Doctors typically look for at least one re-experiencing symptom, at least two hyperarousal symptoms, and at least three avoidance symptoms. If left untreated, PTSD can result in depression, substance abuse, suicide, or other anxiety disorders which is why I am trying to bring awareness to this issue. I have experienced almost every sign and symptom; I feel like I am still here because my experiences are meant to help others.
Dissociation: an altered state of consciousness that results from a person trying to escape their feelings when they become overwhelmed. Dissociation was my first response to each traumatic event I experienced, I believed if I did not think about it then it could not disturb me. I was convinced pushing it to the back of my head will cause it to go away, but it never did. So when I was triggered, I used alcohol to drown the emotions. If I kept drinking, then my mind could not think about all of my problems; they did not exist. I was prescribed so many medications for each symptom to the point I became dependent on it. I was first put on sedation pills and if the alcohol could not present an escape, then I would sleep through the pain. Sleeping through the pain is fine until you start to have nightmares of the traumatic event and your mind forces you to relive that moment each and every night. I would wake up to an empty apartment, feeling vulnerable and alone. I would constantly walk around the apartment checking all doors and windows to make sure they were still locked. I would search the closets and bathroom to make sure I was still safe. I got to the point where I refused to sleep. I would stay up for days at a time, leaving my lights on every night as I stared out at my patio doors. I would miss days of work, because sometimes when I stepped out in public I would be triggered by reminders of what I experienced and I would have panic attacks. I remember one day I tried to go pick up my prescription for Xanax from CVS and I saw a man that triggered an attack and I broke down in my calm. I never got my medicine; as soon as I became stable enough to drive, I went home. The man didn’t even notice me, but I noticed him and my entire world shattered around me in that car. No one understood my pain; they would mock me for being “overdramatic” but this is not a switch I can flip on and off.
Everything about me changed November 20th, 2014. I say this all the time, but the girl I knew before that day is long gone. I felt as though I was living in a world of my own covered by a dark cloud. I was lonely, nervous, angry, and hopeless. I could no longer go to the store by myself, especially at night. I had become so numb that I watched my relationship fall apart and I could not even force myself to care. I nearly flunked out of college because I didn’t feel safe attending classes on campus. I could care less about completing my homework assignments, and I even skipped my finals. I had begun blacking out randomly, which was worse when driving. I would come back to my senses and be in some random place with no idea as to why I was there. I experienced hypervigilance which made me very anxious, exhausted, and responsive. I started to lose friends as I isolated myself and hid in the comfort of my own home. I walked onto a path of self-destruction where I would physically inflict self-harm, I would swallow pills like candy, and I would wash it all down with Tequila. I didn’t want to exist anymore, because living your life in fear is one of the worst ways to live. To constantly have to look over my shoulder, to avoid a lot places that I once loved, and to lose all sense of security; I was miserable. My depression became so severe, flashbacks were becoming a daily reoccurrence, anxiety attacks had increased, and the hallucinations pushed me over the edge. I was in a black hole with no escape. I was hollering at the top of my lungs for someone to help me, but it felt like no one could hear me. The severity didn’t resonate with me until my life was almost gone. A part of me wished life would have escaped me, but for some reason it didn’t; I’m here. You’re here, so please take care of yourself before it is too late. The solution won’t be at the bottom of a bottle, even though it may cause a temporary relief.