03/26/2014 by syrbal-labrys
The Minotaur and I were talking recently, about some of the subtler effects of PTSD and how one can slide into a state of being controlled by the affliction before you knew it. But the larger part of of conversation, as often, was about the reaction of others to the admission of having PTSD. Something both of us have heard is “Oh, just put it behind you, LET GO of those memories, already.”
Well, you see, that is the thing. That is pretty much a big distinguishing mark of PTSD — you might try your best to ‘let go’ — even bury memories. But the events of your trauma do NOT LET GO OF YOU. And if you are unaware of triggers because you are trying so hard to pretend those events are not jerking your strings and making you dance, things begin to fall apart.
I, for instance, have to know and admit if I am out shopping for groceries and I hear or see a woman throw a child into a cart or car or speak to a child in a certain voice; I will then need to do some mental health maintenance on myself to avoid a bit of slippage. I can’t just dismiss it with “What a bitch.” I have to remind myself very forcefully that I am NOT that child, that woman has no control over ME. And yes, occasionally, I even have to ask myself IF what I thought I heard or saw really happened. If I don’t do this, I will be keyed up and over-reactive to other things later. And the spiral down gains speed.
It is nearly impossible to avoid every trigger; regardless of the source of the PTSD. Mine derived from years of childhood abuse. My husband had that, as well as wartime issues. He can avoid certain war movies, he has more trouble avoiding fireworks, or helicopter sounds — or, since we live near military bases, the sound of gunfire. He still has trouble not having a PTSD mediated response to ME if I am angry.
Working with the public is very difficult for me because certain tones of voice used by parents to children set me on edge. The resultant hyper-vigilant response evoked in me is exhausting and hard to turn off. Someone actually striking a child or woman actually has sent me into physical attack mode, and it sends me into depression if I cannot take some appropriate action upon witnessing questionable behaviors.
All the people with PTSD would joyfully “let go” if we could. Most of us, with work and help are content to get to where we can “put down” the thorn in our own sides, the spike through the heart, and unseat the mental monkey on our backs! Some get it under enough control to live without the constant mind-minding; others — like me, have to do maintenance just like a diabetic takes a daily shot.