I have been part of a writing/art group for PTSD sufferers for about a week now. A few days ago, one of the prompts was to describe what your particular experience of PTSD is like. Now I don’t have a diagnosis of PTSD anymore, but I do have symptoms of what could be complex PTSD, although it is currently diagnosed as borderline personality disorder. I have, however, experienced PTSD in the past and sometimes still experinece its symptoms.
Rather than writing a lengthy description of what PTSD is like for me, I’m going to sum it up in some bullet points.
- PTSD is a constant feeling of being unsafe, wherever I go, with whomever I am. Even with my own husband I don’t feel fully safe. It is a constant feeling that someone, somehow, is going to hurt me any moment.
- PTSD is not knowing about boundaries. Not respecting my own limits. It is constantly feeling pushed beyond my limits no matter how well-intentioned people are. It is overstepping my own boundaries then feeling violated by others.
- PTSD is reliving the same few moments of my childhood over and over again. Some were among the worse of traumatic experiences, while others were simply the clearest or easiest to fathom.
- PSD is intense isolation, feeling that no-one can relate to what it’s like to feel what I feel.
- PTSD is having nightmares about the most insignificant of experiences yet feeling an intense fear about them. For example, having recurrent nightmares of high school graduation. Like, well, who doesn’t have these? At the same time, they scare the crap out of me.
- PTSD is constant self-doubt. It is doubting my own experiences, my own feelings, my own qualities even. It is not just low self-esteem, but being clueless about who I am. And then, it is doubting whether these experiences are not just normal for everyone my age, my gender, my …
- PTSD is having constant intrusive thoughts of experiences that I didn’t endure but could have.
- PTSD is an inability to feel certain emotions. These could be positive, like joy, but also negeative, like sadness. It is expressing every strong emotion as anger.
- PTSD is perceiving others as having total control over my life.
- PTSD is being triggered by the slightest thing, yet being fascinated by these same triggers.
- PTSD is constantly feeling on guard, on the edge, hypervigilant and anxious.
- PTSD is intense psychological pain and emptiness at the same time.
In this list, I tried to cover all three symptom domains of regular PTSD – reliving the traumatic experience, avoidance or emotinal number and hypervigilance – as experienced by me. I also tried to cover some of the symptoms of complex PTSD, which include alterations in self-perception, perception of others, affect regulation, etc. For me the key symptom of PTSD is a constant feeling of being unsafe and on guard. For others, the relviing of the trauma or the avoidance of triggers might be the core symptom. Everyone’s PTSD experiaence is different.