Self-Love in the Wake of PTSD
Updated: Jun 7, 2019
At one point the psychiatrist asked me, “do you worry you’ll go crazy?”
“I worry that I am crazy,” I said.
Let me start by explaining a little bit about myself. I'm a full time employee, a mom, and a wife. I'm close with my family. I have an incredible circle of bad-ass lady friends. I love traveling, going to concerts, having friends over for BBQs, camping and going to the beach. People have described me as extremely calm under pressure... but a few months ago I was diagnosed with PTSD.
Growing up I knew I would get nervous and obsess over certain situations. By the time I was a teenager I began having panic attacks. In my mid-twenties I spoke to a doctor about medication because living a life in support of my anxiety was no longer working. I made sure I worked out 3 to 5 times a week, I went on walks nearly every day, I made sure to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep (on weeknights, let’s be honest) & avoided caffeine if I was feeling anxiety or overly exhausted knowing that it would make me jittery and lead to feeling worse.
The day I went to the doctor, I found out I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I could feel anxious at any given time for any number of reasons or from nothing at all. Everyone with GAD gets anxiety from different things and experiences it in different ways. Knowing this about myself made it easier to accept help from medication and learn the situations that would trigger my anxiety.
What I never expected to happen, even years later, was to be diagnosed with PTSD. I thought Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was something veterans had or people who had seen terrible tragedies. I never expected myself to be listed alongside those courageous people. I didn’t feel like I was worthy to share their pain. I hadn’t been in combat. I hadn’t seen anything tragic. I hadn’t had any near death experiences. I was 30 years old with a 7 month old baby, a husband and a full career for a large technology company. Who was I to have PTSD?
I sat in a psychiatrist’s office after an hour & a half of sharing intimate details of my life trying not to have a panic attack or start crying. I didn’t feel like a victim. I didn’t feel strong. I sure as hell didn’t feel deserving of sharing a disorder most commonly known to effect veterans, who sacrifice on a daily basis and put their lives on the line. Instead I felt surprised.
After a few minutes surprise turned into relief. I was relieved to know what I’d been feeling, how I had been reacting to things and going through my days wasn’t who I was as a person, but a symptom of what I’d been through.
Eventually, after being diagnosed, I realized the following:
PTSD can be caused by many different life experiences from losing a loved one, having a traumatic labor & delivery to being assaulted.
It can affect women differently than men.
It can creep up on you. It doesn’t always feel immediate after something happens.
It’s an anxiety disorder, meaning it can hide in your day to day if you already deal with high stress and/or anxiety.
PTSD can cause physical reactions to specific situations like digestive issues, migraines or back pain.
No one expects you to be perfect.
No one expects you to sit down, be quiet & struggle alone behind closed doors.
No one will judge you for asking for help or seeking treatment.
Reaching out for help doesn’t make you a victim. It doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human, it makes you courageous & it makes you loving. Asking for help is one of the biggest ways to show yourself love.
Schedule an appointment with a professional and hear yourself out.
If you're going through tough times consider doing the following:
Imagine your younger self is telling their story or consider how you would react if it was your child or best friend telling that story.
How would you listen to them or comfort them?
Would you encourage them to let it all out?
Would you remind them that it isn’t their fault?
Would you insist that they’re worthy of happiness, of help, of anything other than this?
For the first time ever, I felt true empathy for myself. I sat with my thoughts for awhile and answered each of the questions above. I imagined myself as a child and thought about everything I would do to comfort them. I wrote those things down and started to let go. It took a few weeks of scheduling time to myself, listening to empowering talks, looking up positive quotes on Pinterest and Instagram, journaling on occasion... but suddenly I realized I was feeling so much more comfortable in my own skin. I had begun to listen to myself without judgement.
Self care isn’t just spa days and meditation. Self care can also be therapy or facing your flaws & accepting them. It can even be apologizing to yourself for expecting perfection or hiding vulnerability, even though showing insecurities & vulnerability is strength!