Understanding PTSD….. part 1
The first time I heard the term PTSD, was when my mother spoke of Dad’s suffering from shell shock, later called post-traumatic stress disorder. The pain my dad, a Korean veteran, and his comrades went through many names: Shell shock, soldier’s heart, combat fatigue, and war neurosis. Countless men continued to experience the horrors of wartime well after they arrived back on US soil, but the concept of mental trauma stemming from combat was scarcely recognized until after the Vietnam War, when veterans started advocating for themselves. While he suffered from PTSD, my dad had no support or acknowledgement, of the pain he felt. He did what most veterans at that time did: silently concealed and hid away the pain of war secrets, and hoped it wouldn’t haunt him forever.
Fast forward to many years later, after a few months in therapy, I asked my therapist what my diagnosis was, wondering what he put on the insurance forms to get reimbursed. There was no name for why I was there, as far as I was concerned, I was just looking for the next step in my life. This was the story I told myself!
When he said PTSD, I was puzzled and sort of chuckled. That was a little extreme, I thought. I was not anywhere near or deserving of a severe diagnosis like that, my life wasn’t that bad, was it? It made me wonder if I was leading my counselor down the wrong path. But I needed to face reality.
Excerpt from my book Independence on PTSD:
I had lived on an emotional rollercoaster, the ups and downs with no seat belt, permission or a way to exit. Forced to sit on a ride that I didn’t want to be on in the first place. I lived parallel lives. Conscious and unconscious, suppressing memories that were too painful to accept.
Chronic PTSD from psychological abuse and manipulation was just as devastating to my mind as physical and sexual abuse, although I had experienced both of these as well. I didn’t deserve to even coin that diagnosis, I was unworthy, ashamed, broken. Limitations I carried in my handbag of self-beliefs.
When I came to accept the diagnosis of PTSD, and it took a while, I knew there was no way out. If I didn’t do something, my childhood memories would haunt me forever and I would never be free to move in a positive and healing direction.
One thing was definite, everything was now falling in place. I understood the pattern and found the strength to pull myself up or out of an unhealthy situation to look for a cure.
My mother’s parenting style was making me feel guilty, wrong, hideous, ashamed, unloved, obligated, and insignificant. Becoming mindful that the role of a parent was to love unconditionally, nurture and teach respect, I started to extend myself some empathy and self-love.
I did what I do best, research! First I needed to know exactly what was PTSD? In a series of podcast and blogs I will explain what PTSD is, the symptoms, provide resources and hopefully some comfort that will lead to the road of comfort and healing.
What PTSD is and what it is not?
Definition: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury that is physical or emotional.
PTSD is a real condition with real symptoms. It is not made up.
PTSD is a human response to uncommon experiences, not a sign of weakness.
PTSD does not make people mentally ill or crazy. It is not characterized by psychosis or violence.
PTSD symptoms (including but not limited to, nightmares, anger, flashbacks, insomnia, anxiety, and depression) are reflections of the brain trying to cope with the past trauma(s).
Symptoms of PTSD just don’t disappear on their own. PTSD is responsive to treatment.
Symptoms do not always show immediately and may take years to surface.
Only about 10% of women and 4% of men develop PTSD.
PTSD is not caused solely by physical trauma, there are many types and occurrences that cause the condition. You don’t need to be in combat to develop PTSD.
PTSD is psychological trauma. It is a response to any event that a person finds highly stressful such as being in a war zone, a natural disaster, bullying, domestic violence, violence, rape, or an accident to mention only a few.
In my opinion, the best book on PTSD, was written by the expert, Bessel van der Kolk, MD, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. He is a Boston based psychiatrist noted for his research in the area of post-traumatic stress since the 1970s. You can find the book on Amazon and there is also a work book. I have listened to this book four times and learn something new every time. He is by far the expert and took 10 years to write the book.
To be continued…………