See Me, Hear Me, I am not my PTSD

The other day, my son checked in with me again to understand the difference between my brain getting overwhelmed when shopping and my brain getting overwhelmed while working. He wanted to know if when shopping,  I recover after a couple hours. He understands that if I push it while working, it can take me out of the game for a whole day. I appreciated he asking me because anything that takes the elephant out of the room is wonderful. But, I also understood that he asked me because I became so overwhelmed at the grocery store when we were shopping together, that he was concerned that my plans would be affected later that day.  I’m grateful for his concern and his honest question because he understands how my life is impacted by my symptoms. I felt both seen and heard.

When I describe myself I don’t use adjectives that describe my illness.  I describe myself as a kind, compassionate, person with a great (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 every day of my life.

The effects of my trauma and the resulting PTSD has changed my life. It prevents me from being able to work,  hopping in the car to run errands, enjoying busy or new restaurants, traveling without a companion. 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. If you ask me about that, I will tell you.

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 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 I am not my PTSD, it certainly impacts my life. I am more than my past, more than my trauma, more than my illness. And the truth is that my terrible past includes significant trauma that resulted in an illness. I have found that often when people hear, read, 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.

To understand what and who we are at our core, our intentions, and how we want to connect with 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. My illness has been a struggle to accept this in my life. But it has also changed what I’m passionate about. I no longer hide in the shadow of shame and stigma. I choose to speak and write about what it’s like to live with a mental illness. To live with PTSD.  I want to be seen and heard for who I am as a person. I am not my PTSD, but I do live with this mental illness. Ask me about it, I will be glad to tell you what it’s like, the same way I would tell how what it’s like to live with a physical illness.


image source: pexels

Thank you for reading my new book, If I Could Tell You How It Feels, available in both ebook and paperback from Amazon.

30 thoughts on “See Me, Hear Me, I am not my PTSD

  1. Wow, thank you so much! I needed to hear those words this morning. Your timing is perfect and I absolutely appreciate your kindness. You are right! We all get through it together, which is an amazing comfort. Have a great day! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How wonderful it is that you have ‘come out’ and shared what you are experiencing. Just from reading these comments, I can see how many people you help daily. We all have a ‘shadow side’ and need to accept that in ourselves. You seem to have done an excellent job of doing just that and you have my utmost respect. Life is not easy, but by helping each other, we can get through it together.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing. Yes, those simple shopping trips can be triggering in way that we just can’t predict. It gets hard to navigate sometimes. We want to hang out with friends and be out in the world and sometimes it just doesn’t go as we hope when those PTSD triggers come barging in. Im glad you said no even though the person wasn’t hearing or respecting your decision. I think you’re right she is probably getting a commission or pressure to sell a certain amount and it was for her benefit not yours.
    Take good care of you! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This helps me to understand myself a little better. Coming home from an outing shopping with a friend it was hard to wipe off the remnants of what should have been simple and fun. A Penny’s cashier was aggressively pushing me to re-open my charge card. I went so far as to type in my social even though I knew I wouldn’t re-open it because of so much trouble dealing with overseas representatives the last time.
    It left a terrible darkness for the rest of the day as if once again I’d been manipulated as I was repeatedly as a child. I kept saying No, but she kept pushing. I didn’t re-open it but wondered if by punching in my social security number in the device if my identity was safe.
    I wish I’d had a less aggressive sales person who listened when I said No the first time. I must have said it several times. Maybe she gets a commission. But a simple and what should have been fun shopping trip was darkened by my inability to be assertive and her aggressiveness which seemed much more for her benefit not mine.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks Andrea. Im really grateful for my kinds being able to work though this.
    I think its important that we stand up and say this impacts my life but its not who I am at my core.
    That would be tough to be scrutinized when your parents visit. I know what scrutiny feels like—-the elephant in the room. Im so glad you shared this with me. Have a great evening. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t see my parents often, but when they visit, I see them observing each move. I hear them thinking “does she wipes the table cause it’s necesary or is it her OCD?”
    I feel like you. My illness does degine me, but does impact my life.
    It’s great to read your son see more than just PTSD! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Im sorry to hear that you, too have PTSD, Emma. You are absolutely right that having an understanding of it can really help with healing. That and connection, to help to keep us off the shame spiral. Im glad you have your art to help you cope and keep you grounded. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Dear Alexis – I certainly identify with your struggle to accept your PTSD. I suffered PTSD & a breakdown 5 years ago and I have had to adjust my life completely and feel a great deal of shame with having this condition although I did not cause, choose or want it. Its very common in society and a lot of people have it and don’t know it. At least you have some understanding of your mental health condition.

    Liked by 3 people

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