“You have PTSD – It’s a Classic Case.”

On January 25, 2018 by Bethany

Gotta love candids.. right?

If I’m honest, sometimes I feel like a liar.

This blog for me is kind of like my own private sanctuary. My own private altar. Where I can speak with honesty and truth about what I’m going through and the Lord is right there with me, listening and watching and knowing me. That I can place things on this altar for the Lord to take from my hands. Writing is a form of worship for me, in a sense – a physical act of faith, turning back my trials and joys to Christ and placing my burdens in His hands. And through the process, I learn so much about myself and about my faith. About who God is and how He sees me. It’s therapy in a sense… healing.

But lately, when I share the hard parts of life and I hear people say, “Thanks for your transparency,” I think to myself, “I am the farthest from that.

I think because I’ve been feeling pulled by the Lord to write and I’ve been running from His pulling. It has been years now that I’ve been held captive by this issue and not been able to share it with many people, due to my continued fear of hearing a negative response and it setting back my therapy… my healing and growth.

But recently, an old friend of mine from high-school shared a tough, painful video of her truth and struggle with depression, bi-polar disorder and her subsequent issues in her life and motherhood. I was so moved at her bravery and transparency. And I found myself typing a reply to her – explaining that she’s not the only mom out there (or person) who has issues that are sometimes greater than your own capacity to solve and that it’s okay to get help. And, out it came…

“I have PTSD.”

That sentence is growing easier for me to say aloud these days.

I wrote to my friend and typed it on the screen, without thinking, without second guessing… and it felt, okay. So I hit send.

So here I am today.  Taking a leap of faith and listening to the voice of God in my ear, whispering for me to share my story and allow Him to redeem it – allow Him to do whatever He sees fit to do with it.

So will you take a moment and hear me? I’ll try not to wax long, but know I write this with shaky hands, nervous to reveal such a large piece of who I am now. So if you have the time, pull up a chair and let’s talk.

But before I delve any further, I want to give some information on this PTSD, I feel like that’s a good place to start. From the Mayo Clinic‘s article on PTSD:

“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

Most people who go through traumatic events may have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping, but with time and good self-care, they usually get better. If the symptoms get worse, last for months or even years, and interfere with your day-to-day functioning, you may have PTSD.

Getting effective treatment after PTSD symptoms develop can be critical to reduce symptoms and improve function.”

And the National Institute of Mental Health explains that PTSD isn’t limited to any age or gender, and that is also doesn’t always affect every person involved in an incident:

“Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. This includes war veterans, children, and people who have been through a physical or sexual assault, abuse, accident, disaster, or many other serious events. According to the National Center for PTSD, about 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men, and genes may make some people more likely to develop PTSD than others.

Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some people develop PTSD after a friend or family member experiences danger or harm. The sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can also lead to PTSD.”

It’s been nearly 3 years since an incident in my life left me, well… broken. This incident served as a tipping point for me, after years of different events that I didn’t realize were affecting who I was and how I walked through the world. I was changing little by little, without notice. And then suddenly, I found myself broken in a very deep part of my soul, in my heart and my spirit.

And up until this point today, I’ve felt like I couldn’t share my story with the world for several reasons:

  • One of the unfortunate things I’ve learned over the past 3 years is that people don’t really want to hear about mental issues. It’s a lot to handle, and by listening you choose to shoulder some of the burden and heartache with me and for me.
  • I didn’t think it could help anyone much. Aside from a few close friends and family, who could actually benefit from hearing my story? But what I didn’t realize at the time, was just how healing it was for me.
  • I was embarrassed. Plain and simple. PTSD was for veterans, I thought. And I am not a veteran.

Despite those hurdles, I’m realizing that while the story of the incident (or those of the years before) is not something that I want to share, my subsequent life change is something I do. Because maybe it can help someone, somehow. Maybe it can make a difference in just one person’s life. And that maybe, the Lord will take my story and redeem it beautifully, just as He always does. And it’s not my place to worry about that, I just have to obey when I feel the pull to write, and let Him work the rest out.

It was weeks, well actually more like months after this incident, before I realized something was wrong with me. Really wrong, actually..

I was a shell of my former self and it was growing apparent I needed help. I couldn’t function day to day. I was growing more and more shut off from the world and it scared me.

I needed serious help. And fast.

After weeks/months of putting it off and spiraling further downward, I found a counselor in my area who was highly recommended. I walked into that office afraid and unsure and overwhelmed. But I walked out with breath filling my lungs, tears in my eyes and a diagnosis for what was going on with me.

“You have PTSD. It’s a classic case.”

Yes, me. A young mother, wife and friend… a “normal” person with a positive outlook on life and in general, a pretty happy, emotionally stable and intelligent person.

I was the one walking out of my therapists office with an answer to the question I had been asking myself for weeks: “What’s wrong with me?”

And while I felt peace that I had an answer, I was also ashamed and embarrassed.

All those classic things people think about PTSD? Yeah, I thought them too.

“Soldiers come home from WAR with PTSD. They’ve been through something seriously traumatic, life-changing, mind-altering, world-shifting. I don’t deserve to call what I’m experiencing PTSD. I don’t deserve to place myself on par with that caliber of person.”

I was so embarrassed to tell anyone the truth at first, for fear they would think the same: “Hello! snowflake alert! Just another millennial crying out for attention.”

But I knew it was true, in my heart.

I couldn’t sleep at night without horrible nightmares – the kind of nightmares you never recount aloud. I would “daydream” as I like to call it and get lost in my thoughts and memories, in every situation in my life… in the middle of a conversation with someone, on phone calls for my job and while cooking dinner for my family. I couldn’t focus on a computer screen for more than ten minutes at a time, and even then I was jumping around from task to task like a maniac. I felt so disconnected with Eric and Edison, like they didn’t know me. I avoided any topics that would bring up memories from my past. I was overprotective of Edison and overbearing with Eric and couldn’t manage my fear and worry. Every loud sound would throw me into a panic, and every cry from Edison would send me over the edge with fear. My reactions were embarrassing to me, my outbursts a scathing reminder of how little control I had over my mind and body.

But slowly, as I researched more and more, that diagnosis made sense.

PTSD doesn’t just affect those who serve in our armed forces and have fought in wars. It can affect anyone, as you read above. And, thankfully, more and more research and information is being put into the hands of the public about this very thing. And as a bonus, mental health issues are becoming less of a joke, and less taboo to speak about out in the open. Just yesterday I was watching a sci-fi show about time travel on Netflix and even they were subtly educating their audience about the re-defining of PTSD within our society and how to get help. It’s not just a mental illness associated with Veterans, but that it can affect the everyday, normal person.

My therapist was wonderful at helping me over the course of the next six months. She taught me techniques for working through triggers on the go, meditation, calming down, maintaining my breathing, focusing on reality, and catching myself when I started to “daydream.”

But I still felt so distant from the world. There were a lot of setbacks – falling off the wagon, if you will. I felt like I was looking at everyone from inside a glass box and they were going about their lives. Like I was just merely along for the ride, existing outside of time and no one could reach me. I felt like that feeling would never end.

I felt so alone.

But slowly, Eric and I began learning and practicing the techniques. He would catch the washer when it got off balance and made loud banging noises that had me frozen in fear in the corner. He would always notice when triggers happened and simply wait and hold my hand as I processed them. He would hand Edison straight to me when he was hurt, so I could have a little more control over the situation. I would take time to meditate each day, with worship music and prayer at the center of my healing.

And I researched more and more about the physical changes that happen in my body when I experience flashbacks or triggers. It was powerful to comprehend the biological explanations for my feelings and experiences – it allowed me to get my arms around my diagnosis in a new way. Slowly it started happening, I started to get a grasp back on my life. I could understand my body and what was happening and I felt power over it for the first time in a long time.

But it changed me.

It changed me in ways I’m still learning today.

Even now, nearly three years later, you may find me “day dreaming” or losing track of my sentences and thoughts. You may notice that some days I’m more closed off than others. You may find that I’m startled very easily and that I may leave a room without explanation to work through a triggering moment. You may find me a little more of a nervous mother, and notice that I choose to soothe my kids over spanking them. Some afternoons you’ll see that I need to rest because my brain has been working overtime and my body needs a minute. Or, you may think I’m not that different at all (I’ve learned how to be a great actor).

I may be pushy about some things I feel passionate about, like mental health care and personal well-being of friends. You might find my struggle to let go of control overbearing. Or, you may see me as aloof, and you might worry about my lack of concern. Chances are, I’m working hard to strike the right balance in my mind that day.

I’m not sure what I want to say here. Maybe it’s okay to struggle or we’re all a little broken… but mostly I just want to communicate these four things:

  1. Everyone has a story.
    • And sometimes, their story changes when they’re 19. And again at 26. And 28. And if you never take the time to truly know someone, you’ll never know that story. You’ll never truly know that person. The beautiful part about everyone having a story is that proves that everyone is a little scarred. We carry some baggage and heartache, whether it’s on display for the world to see or we hold it tightly in our chest. Maybe we’re all a little nuts, but the right people in your life will want to hear your story. They’ll want to know the good, bad and ugly – no matter how much you might fear that they won’t. And it’s important to share that ugly with someone, anyone, outside of yourself.
  2. If you need help, ask for it.
    • There’s a stigma around counseling/therapy in certain groups. To some people, the thought that you would need help is embarrassing and means you’re weak. But, I’m the first person here to say: counseling changed my life. Whatever you think about that doesn’t matter. I’m a stronger person for it. If you need help, be brave and ask for it. Message me, I’ll help you.
  3. If you notice something is off in a loved one, talk with them about it.
    • Eric had been noticing changes in my behavior for a while, but hadn’t said anything to me. The day it all shook loose and we started talking I finally realized that something was truly off and I needed to get help.
    • If you truly love someone, you won’t allow them to continue to spiral. You’ll do the hard work and help bring it to light for them if they can’t see it themselves. Even if that means upsetting them. Even if that means risking losing them in your life.
  4. I want you to know that there’s no perfect. There’s only a continual battle for growth every day, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar.

When I start to feel a little guilty and embarrassed that I still struggle with PTSD and anxiety, I just remind myself of the millions of people that are alive today that actually should be diagnosed with this disorder as well, but aren’t.

Just because you aren’t seeking treatment for an issue, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

My hope is that in sharing this with you, perhaps you’ll re-evaluate your preconceived notions on mental health issues, or if you have someone in your life who you are worried about, to talk with them and be a champion for them, an advocate. And most of all, I pray that if you are struggling yourself, you’ll evaluate your current mental health and seek treatment if needed.

And at the very least, maybe we’ll all slowly learn to see others through the lens of grace and gentleness, just a little bit more.

The strongest in our society are the ones who admit they need a little help to get by.




3 Responses to ““You have PTSD – It’s a Classic Case.” ”

  • Bethany – we are all “a little nuts” ! Beautiful blog my Dear. I’m happy you’re healing.
    Hugs from me to you.

  • You bring God so much glory!!

  • 43.10
    I see it every week on the receipt. Cumulative trauma. Still struggle every week with that number.