Our Lives With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury

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Be Not Ashamed

My brothers and sisters who suffer from PTSD. We can be a lot of emotions in a short amount of time: sad, angry, anxious, scared, frustrated and even happy sometimes. However, we must not be ashamed. Most of us have lived some incredible lives. I know this from having shared stories with some of my brothers and sisters who share this terrible condition called PTSD.

 

Most of us at some point in our lives were heroes. We were heroes not by choice but out of necessity. We found ourselves in situations that simply defied anything rational. In order to overcome we became our own heroes in order to get ourselves through the ordeal. All of us have suffered because of it and it is how we ended up with PTSD.

 

We live in a society that frowns upon weakness. We are supposed to be strong. Some of us may of gotten PTSD through the profession we were employed in. Many of those professions strongly discourage being weak. I myself worked as a funeral director. As a funeral director I worked for the Office of the Chief Coroner of the Province of Ontario, the Canadian Department of National Defence and the Government of Canada assisting in the recovery operations in Haiti.

 

I know what it means to be strong and to play a strong role even when inside you hurt. I know I was ashamed to admit how bad I hurt and was in denial about it for the later stages of my career. Even when I left my career I spent two years not only in denial about how bad I hurt but I was ashamed to admit how bad I hurt.

 

When we are ashamed we are alone. We suffer in silence because shame forces us to do it alone. We suffer further because shame stops us from asking for help. When we are ashamed we turn to all the self-destructive behaviors in order to try to lessen our pain. Shame is also what makes us think about self-harm and even suicide because options exhausted we see no way to end our pain.

 

Walking into a mental hospital to ask for help the first time on my thirty seventh birthday was probably one of the scariest and most humiliating things I have ever had to do. That being said it was also one of the most important things I ever did. One month later once I got my official diagnosis I decided to go public with it because I thought it was important people know what I was going through.

 

I will continue to share my story because I think its important people know what I am going through. It is also why I would encourage you to share your story with friends and to do so without shame or fear of judgment. I fail to see how anybody’s judgment could be possibly worse then the judgment we are inflicting on ourselves every day.

 

I think if more people were aware of how many people are out there with PTSD I think we all would all benefit from more resources being directed to assist people who suffer from PTSD. We will help to not only make things easier for ourselves but the future generations who will deal with our terrible condition.

 

If you have not gotten help yet then you need to put the shame and fear aside and step up and play a hero once again and get yourself the help you deserve. You suffered for it so you deserve it. The rest of us who have been diagnosed owe it our family, friends and society as a whole to let them know we exist and we ask to be treated simply as the hurt people we are in pain. Let our shame end and the healing begin.

 


Aside

Post-Traumatic …

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Bill of Rights

by: Todd Burgess (tburgess57@yahoo.com)

 

Adapted from The Grieving Person’s Bill of Rights

by: Dr. Alan Wolfelt

 

  1. You have the right to experience PTSD. Everybody has experienced different trauma and your PTSD reflects this. You have nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Do not allow anybody to tell you what you should and should not feel because of your experiences.

  2. You have the right to talk about PTSD. Talking about PTSD will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you talk as much as you want without judgment.

  3. You have the right to experience a range of emotions. Sadness, anxiety, anger, guilt and happiness are some of the emotions you will experience. Never allow anyone to tell you what you are feeling is wrong.

  4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits. Your ever changing moods and emotions will leave you tired. Respect your body and mind and what they tell you. Get lots of rest and do not forget to eat. Do not allow others to push you into things you are not ready to do physically.

  5. You have the right to experience panic attacks. PTSD can overwhelm you without warning and this is a natural part of PTSD. Respect your panic attacks and get to a safe spot and call a friend if you need help to calm down. Avoid doing anything drastic to try deal with your panic attack.

  6. You have the right to experience PTSD as a journey. All journeys will include wrong turns and steep hills but with patience you can arrive at your destination. PTSD too is a long journey that with patience you can overcome. Mistakes in this journey are yours to make and are a part of the journey.

  7. You have the right to search for meaning in your PTSD. Some questions will have answers and some will not. Accept that some questions will never have answers. Avoid cliche answers such as “It’s God’s will.” or “It could always be worse.”

  8. You have the right to make use of therapy. Seek out a therapy and a therapist you are comfortable with. Do not allow anybody to question your therapy or therapist. Not all therapists are right for you so accept that finding a therapy and a therapist will involve some trial and error. Find a therapist you can believe in even when you can not believe in yourself.

  9. You have the right to flashback and experience distressing images of traumatic events. You will feel fear, helpless, horror and even anger at having these memories. Accept they are a normal part of PTSD and with therapy and time they will become more manageable.

  10. You have the right to fight the good fight. No apologies or explanations are ever needed. Be prepared for the unexpected and always have a plan in place in case things go wrong. Battles will be won and lost but the war is yours to win. There is no shame in asking for help and admitting defeat. Self-harm or suicide is never an option and never be ashamed to ask for help if you reach this point.   


Dear Friends I Have PTSD

I wrote this to explain to friends and family what it means to have PTSD.

As you may already know I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As terrible as it is that I have PTSD I can understand that it must be distressing to know you have a friend with PTSD. I am writing this so you can better understand me and what it means and what I ask of you.

I think its important I start off by telling you what you should not be doing. First off, do not be a social worker or another therapist. I have one of those and they are doing a good job and I do not need another. Also spare me the platitudes such as “Stay positive” or “Take it easy.” If it really were that simple then I would not have PTSD. I also do not need to hear that it could always be worse or about some person you know who you think has it worse then me.

The most important thing you need to be doing as a friend is to simply be a friend. I do not need you to have all the answers or ask the right questions. I am not looking for anything insightful. If anything just do your best to treat me as you always have because it is what I need the most right now. Feel free to ask me how I have been doing and what I have been up to.

To most people, PTSD means experiencing something distressing previously and then flashing back to the event later and being distressed about it. That description barely covers it so a few things you need to know about PTSD. Having PTSD is distressing. Knowing you have PTSD is just as distressing as the PTSD itself. PTSD destroys your normal brain activity and makes it function in ways you can not control. The worst part for me with PTSD is it makes my brain very active.

As part of this increased activity I experience things like flashbacks, distressing images, hyper-vigilance and panic attacks. My whole life is about living on the edge waiting for something bad to happen. It is why something simple like a tap on the shoulder or somebody standing behind me can give me a major adrenaline rush and cause me to panic. I understand logically that these thought processes do not make sense however I am unable to control it.

If we ever decide to hang out together you will have to forgive me if I am sensitive about the venue. I like places that are not very noisy or crowded and I prefer to sit near a wall where I can minimize the activity around me. You will also forgive me if you find me not talking and staring off somewhere. Sometimes there is just too much activity for my brain to process and it needs to rest a little. If we are picking a venue or activity please do not give me a lot of choices and try to keep things simple. If I abruptly change the conversation on you, its probably getting into topics that will trigger my PTSD.

If I do not answer your phone call or return your text message or e-mail please forgive me. It is sometimes a struggle for me to remain in the present or keep track of what I have to do. My brain will sometimes shutdown and will forget things or even who I am and where I am. Other times my brain is simply overloaded and I need to minimize stimulating it. I will get back to you but if I am not as fast as you want then I hope you will understand why.

I want to thank you for taking the time to read this letter to try and better understand me. You will never understand what it means for me to have PTSD (and hopefully you never will) but hopefully you can at least understand what I need and why I sometimes do the things I do. I am confident that with time I can resume a normal life but for now I am going to be fighting the good fight.


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