As a survivor of abuse, I live with PTSD everyday and let me tell you, it stinks! What’s it like?
Insomnia – I can’t sleep. It takes me forever to fall asleep and I wake up about 20 times a night. I usually don’t dream because I wake up so often that I rarely get into that good REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. If I do dream, it’s usually somehow related to the abuse – that’s probably why my brain won’t let me sleep.
Flashbacks – whenever I’m in a situation that reminds me even a little bit of my past, I feel like I’m right back in the abuse. It’s like time hasn’t moved at all and I’m five years old again.
Hypervigilance – I’m always making sure I’m safe. I like to sit with my back to the wall so no one can sneak up behind me. When I go to church or movie theater or anywhere there’s a bunch of seats in a row, I want to sit on the outside so I can get out quickly if I need to. I’m always on guard – even when I sleep.
Exaggerated startle response – if you want to see me jump as high as Michael Jordan, come up behind me and startle me – but be warned that you may end up with a broken nose from my elbow 🙂
Dissociation – I’m the queen of dissociation. It’s kinda like checking out mentally and emotionally but still being psychically present. My body is still here, I may be making eye contact with you, I may be able to repeat back what you said to me, but I’m off camping in the woods in my mind.
When I work with trauma/abuse victims, I can relate to what they’re going through. I don’t just have the book knowledge – I have the personal knowledge. I’ve learned more in the school of hard knocks than I ever could have learned from a book or class.
PTSD is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation and if you’re going through it, you’re not alone.