Awakenings. Seeing PTSD For What It Really Is.

The thing about trauma is it never goes away. You push it down, plow through it, ignore it or just completely shut down from it, but you never get over it. Learning to live with it and having better tools to cope with it are the keys to managing it, instead of it managing you.

I have long lived with PTSD, very long before ever learning it even was that. Soldiers get PTSD, victims of violent crimes or horrendous accidents, but not “normal people”. But what exactly is normal, even? My Aunt Helen always says “Stace, if I didn’t know you so well, I’d think you were making stuff up. You’ve lived through so many awful things”. Which is true-but then doesn’t everyone? Enter Amelia and counseling and I’ve learned a lot about living with trauma.

As I start this post, I need to once again mention my ever friendly reminder: I am NOT a Clinician and anything I talk about here is derived from my own experiences. Please do not take my experience as a substitute for appropriate care; either physical or mental.

I recently went through a spate of appointments, tests and health crises. It hadn’t been a good couple of months. And while we talk about trauma and PTSD in therapy, Amelia is never actually here, with me, when it hits. We prepare for it, we try to talk about effective coping mechanisms, it’s root causes and the effects it has on me and my life. We do all we can feasibly do, knowing it will hit again; inevitably, when it does, it’s always crazy unsettling. As we tried to prepare for what we knew would be triggering events, Amelia and I discussed multiple coping strategies and the importance of rest and self care. But this go round, I did something I’ve never done before: I went with it. I think I was just too overwhelmed to do anything else. And the outcome of that was pretty unexpectedly helpful.

For a second, though, let me digress and explain some of what I have come to understand about PTSD…..

  • First of all, trauma is stored in your most primitive brain. The same parts responsible for the “fight or flight” response or the “less conscious” thinking parts, like say breathing and swallowing. You know, all the super crazy important functions that keep us alive, but the ones we never really think of. That’s how deep it goes.
  • Experiencing childhood trauma can later cause one to revert to that same age when the same or any additional trauma manifests. Which means, if you experienced your first trauma, at age 6, like I did, you would revert to utilizing the same tools, social skills, life skills and experiences you did at age 6. Sometimes without even realizing you’re doing so.
  • Trauma is sticky. So they stick and stack on one another. Like a thick, disgusting bologna and cheese sandwich. So any time you experience another trauma, it attaches itself to the original trauma or traumas. How convenient is that for our sanity? (I’m oozing sarcasm here).

So with those explanations, I’m going to revert back to my hell week. I knew I was going to have a really difficult time getting through it and in it’s lead up, I was wracked with fear and anxiety. So when the full onslaught of PTSD came, I think I was already mentally exhausted. Heeding Amelia’s advice, I took a step back and decided to take good care of myself; rest, relax and do what I needed to do to get through. Basically, I started to watch alot of tv and practice alot of Reiki. However, none of that stopped it. It still came in all it’s glory, playing like a long drawn out horror movie. I sat as endless painful scenes played out in my mind. I was 6, I was 8, I was 9, I was 16, I was pregnant, I was a single Mom, I got sick, I lost my career, we went broke, people didn’t believe me……… But this time, for once, as all the traumas played out, I surrendered myself to them and I sat and allowed those movies to play.

And something miraculous happened. As I watched this all play out, I knew what was happening. I was finally well aware of how PTSD works. I finally understood that the flashbacks would come. I knew the flood of emotions that would arise. But mostly, as I sat and got through one episode and then another, I slowly began to realize exactly that: I was doing just that: I was getting through them.

And with that increased understanding, for the first time ever, I watched all of these episodes and flashbacks through a different set of eyes. A set of eyes that was finally watching these horrible events from an objective point of view. (Okay, so maybe I was also disassociating, but that’s an entirely different post altogether).

This “one step removed” approach, whether intentional or not, taught me some really, really incredible things:

  1. The situations really were horrendous.
  2. I wasn’t exaggerating how awful each experience was.
  3. There was no “oh that’s just Stacey” or “you know Stace”. NO, it wasn’t just anything.
  4. How I felt about and during each of these things is valid.
  5. The repeated onslaught of traumatic events would crumble even the strongest of us.
  6. These events were NOT my fault, nor were they a result of my choices.
  7. I didn’t create ALL of this drama to garner attention or sympathy.
  8. How very, very alone I often was when fighting these battles.
  9. AND…….I got through them. ALL.

As I type these out, my eyes begin to fill. Because the enlightened awareness and finally objective view have brought me to have more acceptance and forgiveness towards myself. I can finally see through the pain, fear, anxiety and sometimes hysteria to see it all at face value: I have lived through and endured multiple super traumatic events. Real events that I didn’t choose or cause. Horrendous situations or events that warrant being permanently scarred.

And with that, I feel like I can finally start to heal from them all.

PTSD doesn’t make us weak, nor does it make us weak for developing it. It’s a direct response to experiencing traumatic events. It really comes down to being as simple as that. And with this new found simplicity, I’m ready to start the long healing process from all these events. A process that will be long, messy and ongoing. I would never recommend the approach I took to get here. But I am glad I am finally here.

Be kind to yourself. Believe in yourself. <3 Stace

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Fighting with Fibro and Living With Purpose. Mom, Wife, Blogger and animal lover. Fighting with Chronic Illness on a minute by minute basis; sometimes winning.

19 thoughts on “Awakenings. Seeing PTSD For What It Really Is.

  1. Wow, Stace, this is incredible. “As I watched this all play out, I knew what was happening” – I’ve experienced a similar thing before, with that ‘one step removed’ perspective, but not often. It can be really hard to do, especially when you’re stuck in the middle of it and overwhelmed. With everything you’ve been through, I think this is a huge step in your journey, to reach this point. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights, as I think these can be so helpful to others going through similar. Amazing post that it takes guts to write  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
    Caz xxxx

    1. Awww. Thanks so much, Caz!! It was the first time I’ve ever been able to do that-so you’re right. I’m not even entirely sure it was on purpose!! I think I was just mentally done when it hit. But it at least gave me some new insight to what I live with and why. It was sort of the bridge to know what I need to deal with next. None of us really talk about how our medical issues contribute to our PTSD. But they really do. Its always attributed to soldiers or really awful situations (rightfully so), but our entire illnesses and all that surrounds them are pretty freaking traumatic in themselves. I’m really glad you think it may be helpful-that’s why we do this, right??? The older I get, the less I care about saying or doing “what I should” and care more about being real and using that reality to help others….
      SO good to hear from you, Caz!! ❤️

  2. Stacey I cried as I read this as I felt like you were writing my story. PTSD is very hard to cope with especially when I didn’t even know I had it. It was 5 yrs ago that my Doctor informed me I was suffering with it. So while I knew I had Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue and rheumatoid arthritis from about 1997. I was literally told 5-6 yrs now that I really had fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and PTSD etc. etc. I can tell you I cried and cried but then felt comfort in realizing how much sense it made. I had an idea that it could be possible but never knew the real specifics of PTSD but then my doctor told me and it all began to make sense and I started to make peace with it. I still have my moments where I want to wish it away pretend it’s not there but as you know there’s no way we can do that. Something always triggers the memories and That’s where speaking to a (professional )Psychologist comes in handy. I truly needed to do this especially after being diagnosed. It’s a roller coaster ride for me. Sometimes talking about it with my psychologist is harder than trying to ignore it all. It’s something that’s a battle and it tears it’s ugly head in so many different ways. I commend you on how far you have come and I will be praying for you. You are surely but alone. Once again you inspire me and give me strength. Thank you for sharing Stacey. Love and prayers always 🙏🏻❤️

    1. Thanks so much for this, Sandy. I’m sorry it’s been such a struggle. I went through something similar: it was Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, RA and Fibro, then CFS and Fibro. I think it takes a while to narrow it down. I used to violently cry, all the way home, when I first started seeing Amelia. It was awful. I felt worse every time I went. But then (very) slowly, I started to feel better. While I wrote from a positive perspective and tried to highlight some things I’ve done to improve it, I’m always astounded at how quickly a really bad day can unravel me, mentally. So please don’t take my post as I’m always okay or totally healed……I just look at my Blog as something I want people to find helpful or for people to learn something from the struggles I’ve endured, instead of a place to whine or complain. So please don’t think your struggles go without merit. It’s awful, Sandy. For you, for me and from alot of other Readers I’m hearing from. Personally, I feel like ALL the appointments, Doctors, tests, diagnoses and medications wear us down….I’ve read test orders on which the Doctor’s questioned brain tumors, bladder cancer and stroke. We have our whole entire life to deal with, but then ALSO face our own mortality, horrible procedures and terrifying, life altering diagnoses to boot. Of course that takes it’s toll and only compounds everything else. I’m glad you’re getting help, Amelia has made a huge difference for me. Hang in there, Sandy. We’re here and we get it. <3

  3. This was a very moving post. I can relate to so much of what you say. Forgiveness of self has been what I have struggled with the most. It was like I was conditioned to blame myself or something 😉 Thanks for sharing this,

    1. You’re welcome. Thanks for reading it, commenting and following me. I’m sorry you can relate….alot of people have shared that same sentiment. It’s heartbreaking to hear from so many people who suffer similarly. I’m not sure why we blame ourselves so much…..or why we consider ourselves worthy of blame for getting sick. People who have heart attacks don’t (always) blame themselves….it really isn’t that different. But somehow with chronic illness, we blame ourselves for getting it, being weak or not being able to get well…’s a little baffling. Even my poor Husband blamed himself. That sort of resentment isn’t helpful….So please let yourself off the hook. You already have enough to deal with (I’m sure) <3

      1. Thank you so much for your very kind comment Stacey and your open discussion. You are doing something great with being so open and I appreciate it and I know many others must appreciate it too. I am working on letting go of the blame and creating a new story and a fresh perspective for myself. I am hoping 2020 will be a kinder gentler year, and I will also have those qualities towards myself! Wishing you all the best for a great weekend.

      2. Thank you so much, truly. It means so much. I think I am finally (after 8 YEARS) coming to a place of peace. It’s been a really long road…..but YES I have finally let go of the guilt and blame, mostly. I (try to) focus now on embracing gratitude and acceptance and it has brought me to a much better place, mentally. It isn’t without setbacks or days spent crying, but overall, it’s a much happier place. I have high hopes for you to also find this place. Wishing you strength, love and hope in the new year ❤️

      3. Thank you so very much Stacey! Do you find you get hit with those days that are just hard and it is a real effort to pull out of the downward spiral? That is kind of where I am at in the journey, finding tools to make those days better, and there are fewer of them and they are not as hard, but more work needs to happen on my part. I find getting outside myself and doing projects that get me outside of my self like the ‘healing vase’ and ‘vase of attraction’ help shift my focus to positive things. If you might be interested, I would love for you to be involved in my next community art project ‘Vase of Attraction’ here:
        If it is not your thing, no worries. It may or may not resinate with you! Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

      4. I absolutely have days where my emotions just plummet and I completely struggle. It always surprises me how quickly I can be so seriously affected after thinking I have a pretty good handle on things. I think it comes with the territory. But these days, when those spirals come, I give myself permission to do whatever I need to do, in order to get through them. That’s been one of my biggest hurdles in this journey. Just allowing myself to feel bad and be okay with it, instead of applying ALL of those “should be doings”, “why can’t I”, “if only”. It doesn’t mean I don’t still get frustrated and cry, it just means I punish myself less now for things out of my control. And even that is a work in progress. So keep at it!!! I think you have some great ideas for coping-just give yourself a break if you simply can’t cope.
        I would like to sincerely thank you for considering me in your project, but at the moment I am planning my Daughter’s wedding in April and I need to put my sole effort into that. I think what you’re doing is fantastic, though!! And I wish you great success with it! Take care and best wishes, Stace

      5. I hope your daughter has a beautiful wedding day! That is a big job! Thanks for sharing your experience and ideas with me, it means a lot. I am learning to give myself a break when I need it too. Not always easy, but necessary.

      6. Thanks so much! It’s a big job, but an exciting one!! You’re most welcome. That’s one of the few positive things about getting/being sick is helping other people from my experiences. At least it puts all with struggle with to good use. I’m glad you’re learning to give yourself a break, it’s a tough lesson to learn and actually put into practice. But well worth it. Be good to yourself <3 Stace

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