PTSD Doesn’t Define Me, but it Does Impact Me

I just came out of a major depressive episode. It turns out it was medication related. I have lived with, fought with, railed against my PTSD for eight years now, with very little medication intervention. The spring and fall are terrible anniversary triggers for me, this past autumn was particularly trying. I was having up to seven panic attacks a day and knew that I needed something besides therapy, acupuncture, yoga and family/friend support to help me.

I sought help and was put on anti-anxiety meds. They helped immediately! My body relaxed and my panic attacks ceased. When the fall triggers ended, I stayed on the medication and little by little I fell into a deep depression. My therapist and doctor communicated and wondered if it could be medication related. We would know by weaning me off the meds, to see if it lifted. It did! I’m grateful that I kept communicating with my therapist, showing him my mood journal, telling him how I was feeling and that he kept a vigilant eye on the changes that were occurring the past few months and communicated with my doctor.

So why am I sharing this? I’m sharing this because the nagging self-esteem issues I deal with from having complex PTSD were magnified ten-fold during this episode. I fight feeling like a burden to my family, feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness because my PTSD has rendered me unable to do many things that I used to love to do. I wrestle with feeling like I’m lazy because I haven’t cured myself of this illness. My family, friends, and professional support system never, ever indicate I’m a burden, worthless or lazy. That’s my own thought pattern, old tapes, and mental gymnastics as I cope with my illness.

The other day I asked my therapist, what’s wrong with me? He replied, “you have PTSD. You are doing the best you can, you are working as hard as you can, and you are okay.” He tells me that often as I find a way to live with this illness. People say that my trauma nor my illness defines me. That I’m more than my past trauma. I agree. When I describe myself I don’t use adjectives that bring in my past, that I’m a survivor of trauma or that I’m dealing with this unrelenting illness. I describe myself as a kind, compassionate, person with a wicked (sometimes dark) sense of humor who tries to live an authentic life. I have strong friendships and solid family support from my husband and children. That’s how I would define myself. My PTSD doesn’t define me, but it does impact me.

The effects of my trauma and the resulting PTSD has changed my life. It prevents me from working more than two hours a day, hopping in the car to run errands, enjoying restaurants, travel, and I have to consciously work with the triggers that cause flashbacks, and other assorted symptoms. While that doesn’t define who I am, it does have an effect my life.

I’m in a position, as perhaps most people who deal with a chronic or debilitating illness to find a way to live with my symptoms and try to have an illness free identity. It’s hard.  I spent years minimizing my feelings, being angry at my PTSD, thinking that I’m weak; after all, I survived unimaginable circumstances, why can’t I get my shit together and just get over this thing. That thinking wasn’t helping my trajectory of healing and it certainly didn’t honor my past, my feelings, or the fact that I did survive.

While PTSD doesn’t define me, it certainly impacts my life. I am more than my past, more than my trauma, more than my illness. And my terrible past includes significant trauma resulting in an illness. Sometimes, when people hear about it, read about, and understand that there are some really awful people in the world, it makes them uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable information, and it should be. We shouldn’t feel comfortable, complacent and unfazed when hearing about abuse. It’s something that can be stopped, abuse is something that is done by one person to another. This illness has changed what I choose to be passionate about, speak about, write about.

To understand what and who we are at our core, our intentions, and how we want to connect to others can define us. We aren’t defined by our circumstances, illness, or professions, but they often dictate how we have to live day-to-day. It’s been a struggle to accept this in my life, especially the last six weeks as I dealt with the major depression and the bottomed out self-esteem. I imagine it’s something I will have to wrestle with as long as I have PTSD. Perhaps, even if I didn’t have an illness, I would be checking myself, making sure I have a larger view, a compassionate perspective, and hope…always hope.




Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

49 thoughts on “PTSD Doesn’t Define Me, but it Does Impact Me

  1. Thanks for sharing your story
    Heard about PTSD, Dr Suzanne Barakat who lost her brother and sisters in law to a horrific murder years ago, she suffers from it too. May Allah (The One God Almighty)grant mercy
    Stay strong guys

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m loving your blog! I’m super glad to see that the PTSD is being discussed and the severity of it is being revealed. I think most people are very oblivious to the affects of PTSD, I myself, was in this category. A friend close friend of mine was then told that she suffered PTSD… at first, I didn’t take much note of it. She then went on to have a full blown panic attack and I was left helpless. I then realized that PTSD survivors are very similiar to myself being a recovering addict.
    Your posts are wonderful, keep at it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank You so much for reading Untangled and your feedback. That means the world to me. I know you will continue to heal. Its such a long and hard road. I think support is key when we believe that now people have our backs. Im glad we’ve connected.


  4. ” I fight feeling like a burden to my family, feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness because my PTSD has rendered me unable to do many things that I used to love to do. I wrestle with feeling like I’m lazy because I haven’t cured myself of this illness. My family, friends, and professional support system never, ever indicate I’m a burden, worthless or lazy. That’s my own thought pattern, old tapes, and mental gymnastics as I cope with my illness.”

    Yes, I can relate to this so well. I feel like a burden every single day. I wonder what’s wrong with me. How did I get here? How do I get out? I am working on that with therapist as I process my abuse. I read your memoir. Thank you for sharing your story. It has impacted me on many levels. I hope you continue to feel better each day.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am, was, floating in the same boat. Lost my job because of it, had to withdraw from college, panic attack triggered by things that I won’t go into detail on here because my ex is constantly cyberstalking everything I and his other ex’s write in regards to how he affected our lives so he can use it against us and claim he was the victim and he is going through these same anxieties. He’s not. Anyways, I went through ECT after the anxiety medicine I was taking, Xanax, along with the cirmcustances, let to suicidal thoughts and actions. ECT has been the catalyst for my recovery along with trauma counselors that specialize in PTSD, DV, Narcissitic Abuse. Tai Chi, adaptagen herbs, and meditation were all catalysts in my well-being. Drug free and loving it!!!! Good luck!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hello,
    I was wondering if you could tell me how you got started on writing your memoir. How did you go about it and how did you get it published? I’ve asked so many ppl this but no one wants to help me or tell me how to go about doing so.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. .”I fight feeling like a burden to my family, feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness because my PTSD has rendered me unable”– this is literally my every day fight ontl top of dealing w the anxiety that comes with ptsd. Thanks for this post. I wish you the best on your journey bc I know it’s a hard one.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You are amazing, inspiring and wonderful. Your blog posts hit the nail on the head and you don’t try to hide the ugly side of life. Thanks for being honest and truthful!

    Happy New Year! May 2017 bring you multiple Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Barbara

    I cannot even imagine your struggles, but I do feel for you. You are a survivor and that is no small feat in itself. Take strength from that. I wish you well and a Lovely 2017.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Thank you so, so much for your wonderful insight. I love your honesty in your posts and the way you stated what we typically have to deal with on a daily basis is so relatable. Im grateful we’ve connected. Have a good night! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for sharing this. I think one of the most problematic aspects of suffering PTSD is that we judge ourselves for it and try to pit our progress against those who would never have had the level of trauma we have suffered. We can be SO GODDAM HARD ON OURSELVES!!! I could never come to meds but at this time of year which I know to be littered with at least a dozen abandonment triggers I feel a bit jealous of those who can take this path. I keep doing my best to self soothe but have noticed I tend to push myself when triggers are around when really I may be better off to sit still and feel, but when the power of buried feelings is so huge that is so bloody hard and may not be totally what is needed either. It can be so confusing. Thanks again for the light and honesty you bring to this community, Alexis ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  12. SUMMERshines

    You do the serious thoughtful writing like this so far. You are totes more mature than what I is! LOL 😉 I did a good poem just now about murdering the black dog. I think you’ll like it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I really like that book too. It helps validate all the body memories. I’ve listened to some podcasts where he’s been interviewed, quite interesting. That’s tough for your husband. My heart aches for vets with PTSD. I read the book, The Evil Hours written by David J Morris. He detailed how the Vietnam Vets were the ones who brought PTSD to the forefront when they started having wrap-sessions since they weren’t getting the help they needed.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Wow! Thank You so much for sharing this with me. First, congratulations on your 27th year of sobriety! THAT is a huge success and something to acknowledge and feel proud of..Im sure proud of you! I love alternative treatments. I feel that East meets West in a very complimentary way. A great tip about the walnuts. My husband just went off sugar and most grains to decease inflammation in his neck and back. Im glad the trauma anniversary is over. Ugh, it’s so frustrating when the pain and symptoms sneaks in. Great idea about adding possessions. We can get attached to material things, but at the end of the day its all just stuff. So glad we’ve connected. Happy New Years to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. SUMMERshines

    Reblogged this on summer SHINES and commented:
    SHAMAZING post from one of my PTSD badass sisters. Living with chronic illness such as PTSD (and BPD in my case) is exhausting. This is a very thoughtfully written post which reassures me as I find myself dehabilitated by my issues today. I’ve had an entire day in bed. Do I feel guilty? Hell yeah. But I have a lot going on inside me. It’s impossible not to get downhearted about it sometimes 😔

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh, one more thing: I am currently reading a book written by Bessel van der Kolk, MD, The Body Keeps The Score, which is the most enlightening book I have ever read on the ways we are affected by trauma. And I have read a small library’s worth of psychology and self help books! But Dr. van der Kolk explains it in such a way, with photos of brain scans and the findings of scientific studies, that it is helping me to really understand that my PTSD is not my fault, and not something I can get under control with sheer willpower. Although I am only about 1/3 of the way through this book, it has helped me to let go of my shame for not being over it, already!

    The only thing I do not like about this book is the story of a particular Vietnam veteran he treated many years ago. I could have done without those images in my head. My husband is also a combat veteran from the Vietnam war, and he also has PTSD. But my husband is nothing like the man Dr. van der Kolk describes.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Oh wow… I am so glad to know that you are feeling better, but so sorry you went through this!

    I, too, have had severe depressive episodes in the past, that turned out to be an adverse reaction to various medications. For the past three years, the only prescription drug I have been on every day is a thyroid replacement.

    This holiday season has been especially rough on me, starting with the crazy contentious election, a bad anxiety reaction to the prednisone shot my Dr gave me for a torn shoulder the next day, and then, three days after that, a very dear friend of ours died suddenly. He was my age.

    December is when two of my worst traumas happened, so it is always a stressful time of year for me. But this year.. . I almost could not stand living inside my own head! I was wishing I could safely drink. But January 15 will be my 27th anniversary since my last drink of alcohol, and there is no way I’m going back to that insanity!!

    Because I have had so many bad reactions to psychotropic meds, I knew I couldn’t go that route, either. So I did a search online for natural ways to increase serotonin and alleviate depression and anxiety.

    Walnuts!! That’s what I have discovered! I started eating raw unsalted walnuts the Tuesday before Christmas, and wow… the difference is like night and day. I eat at least one ounce of shelled walnuts, three times per day, and now my depression and unbearable anxiety are GONE. I don’t care if it’s placebo, for me, it works. I just hope I don’t gain any weight. Eating walnuts before meals seems to help curb my appetite, though.

    Of course, I am not a medical doctor, and this is all anecdotal and subjective. I don’t want anyone to read this and decide to go off their meds cold turkey and eat walnuts, instead!!! When I went off my antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication several years ago, it almost killed me. I had to do an ultra slow taper, one med at a time, tapering off just one tiny “flea bite” less of a pill for a couple of weeks to a month, then taking two flea bites off the pill for another 2-4 weeks, then another. When I felt bad, I would bump it up a flea bite for a week or two. It took me over a year to taper off of everything at that rate.

    In any case, no one should ever go off their prescription meds without close medical supervision!!

    Alexis, I especially like the way you ended this post. You wrote: “To understand what and who we are at our core, our intentions, and how we want to connect to others can define us. We aren’t defined by our circumstances, illness, or professions, (I would add ‘or by our possessions’), but they often dictate how we have to live day-to-day.”

    Great post! I’m wishing you a Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thank you but every day is a great day. The blessing is always in the story. I survived. You survived. We may have PTSD but we are still standing. The trauma may have brought you, me and the many others who experienced similar circumstances but we got up and we are still standing!!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I too have PTSD stemming from nit just one traumatic situations including abuse. Several traumas all at the same time. I can totally relate to everything you wrote. Thank you for being honest and sharing your journey for others to read.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Benevolent_Son

    PTSD is only a part of you, although you will always be greater than any single part because you are whole. I’m sorry to hear the past few months were particularly difficult, but I’m glad to know 3 things: you have a great therapist, you have a wonderful family, and you’re doing better despite the hardship you’ve endured.

    Blessings and love!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. dbest1ishere

    Wow…you totally took the words right out of my mouth with this post. I am in a bad depressive state right now and all I keep thinking is what is wrong with me. I made it though the abuse and traumas why can’t I pull myself together. Because I have PTSD and even though I know that I have a tendency to forget. Thank you for reminding me.

    Liked by 3 people

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