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An inside look at PTSD
by TeenHelp July 3rd 2015, 06:25 PM

An inside look at PTSD
By Anonymous

Post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition that develops after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. PTSD has several types of symptoms that include reliving, avoiding, numbing, and hyper-arousal symptoms. Symptoms do not go away by themselves, and they worsen without treatment. Individual experiences with PTSD vary, but I am reminded of the past on a daily basis.

PTSD develops from a trauma, and that is what makes it different from other mental illnesses. I experienced years of severe physical and sexual abuse from the time I was a toddler. I was only a few years old when several members of my extended family began to harm me in unimaginable ways. I was forced into many sexual acts, and different household objects were used in attempt to harm me. I was also involved in child pornography and I was forced into taking drugs. I learned early on that I couldn't fight back without being physically assaulted or threatened. I tried to fight back time and time again, only to be strangled or hit on various areas of my body.

During one particular incident, I tried to verbally fight back, only to end up staring death in the face. I was grabbed by the neck and slammed up against the wall. I was screamed at, and my abuser's face was so close that I could feel the heat of his breath. I could no longer breathe, and my face was beginning to turn different colors. I was unable to speak so I reluctantly nodded my head and that was when he let me go and I fell to the floor. If I were to ever tell anyone, my life would be cut short. I kept everything to myself for years while other people were searching for the answers regarding my unusual behaviors.

Due to a family emergency, my abuse abruptly stopped for several years. Being abused at a young age allowed myself to willingly forget what I had endured. I had become accustomed to the pain that I felt during the abuse, so I began to seek out different ways to harm myself. I did just about anything I could do to release the emotional turmoil that I felt. I didn't tell anyone about what I had been through until I was in my early teens. A few months prior to telling someone, I ran into one of my abusers at a family event and that is when I was abused for the final time. At this point I started to feel worse and thought the only way to improve was to tell someone about what had happened to me. I had seen several therapists who were unable to assist me in my struggles because I had trouble forming the relationship needed between a therapist and their client. I wasn't honest with them and that hindered my ability to get the support that I needed.

The first person I told was my mom. I remember emailing her an article with signs of sexual abuse and telling her about my experiences. Telling someone was incredibly hard, but I think it was the best thing I ever did. I conducted an online search for therapists in my area, and I was able to find a therapist that specialized in sexual abuse. I have been seeing him ever since then, and although I still have a lot left to work through, I have made remarkable progress. My therapist was the one who first pointed out the signs of PTSD. However, he was unable to make a diagnosis, so I had to see a psychiatrist to get one. I was evaluated for several hours. I was asked to recall what I had been through, the feelings associated with it, and how I was coping with them.

I experience several flashbacks a day that come with no warning. Sometimes it is just like watching a movie, and other times I can physically feel the abuse happening all over again. These flashbacks cause physical reactions such as bleeding associated with rape, gagging or vomiting, or uncontrollable shaking. I'm prone to having numerous panic attacks throughout the day as well. I'm often up through the majority of the night and I'm able to squeeze in a few hours of sleep if I'm lucky. Sometimes I manage to stay awake for several days in a row; I remain awake until my body passes out. When I do sleep, I experience nightmares that cause me to wake myself up by crying and kicking. I dissociate and become emotionally numb for days or weeks at a time. When I am not numb, I have intense emotions of anger, anxiety, sadness, or suicidal ideation. I struggle with being extremely hyper-vigilant and am always on edge. I relive my abuse on a daily basis.

I'm currently being treated with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy. Although I am being treated for PTSD, I know that this is a lifelong struggle that I am going to learn to live with. With the help of my therapist, I am able to reprocess these memories so that my brain can correctly store them and potentially make them less painful. Professionals use different methods for EMDR, but I sit in front of a bar with a moving light. I bring myself back to a painful memory and my eye movements allow me to reprocess the particular memory. This type of therapy is intense in that it brings back all of the feelings associated with the trauma, but I know that my body has to relive it in order to properly store it. I'm also being treated with CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and Psychodynamic psychotherapy.

If you're struggling with PTSD, try to get help for what you're going through or have been through. Talk to someone you trust so you're able to receive the help and support that you deserve. You don't have to do this alone. Here is a list of who can help you. Find ways to express how you're feeling so you don't have to keep everything locked inside. Bear in mind that what you have been through doesn't at all define you; you're so much more than that. Try to look at PTSD as something to live with, not something to suffer from.
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