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A love story - 3 ways I learnt to love PTSD

I love you, PTSD.

A sentence you don’t expect to hear or read. I love you, PTSD.

It’s true. I love it.

It’s been an important and life changing relationship within my life. I feel married to it. It is a part of me, and I will always be inextricably linked to it.

I love it.

I haven’t always felt like that. I didn’t get to choose whether I wanted PTSD or not. But sometimes we just have to accept the hand we’ve been dealt.

How did I learn to love it?

First of all, let’s cover off PTSD and make sure we’re on the same page. What does it stand for?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Great. But… what is it?

The definition given by the brilliant mental health charity, Mind is:

“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health problem you may develop after experiencing traumatic events. The condition was first recognised in war veterans. It has had different names in the past, such as ‘shell shock’, but it’s not only diagnosed in soldiers. A wide range of traumatic experiences can be causes of PTSD.”

It can be simply summed as a mental health condition caused by traumatic events. Not severely traumatic, just traumatic.

The situations we find traumatic can vary from person to person. There is a vast array of different events that might cause someone to develop PTSD. Mind have provided this list as some possible causes:

  • being involved in a car crash

  • being raped or sexually assaulted

  • being abused, harassed or bullied, including racism, sexism and other types of abuse targeting your identity

  • being kidnapped, held hostage or any event in which you fear for your life

  • experiencing violence, including military combat, a terrorist attack, or any violent assault

  • seeing other people hurt or killed, including in the course of your job, sometimes called secondary trauma

  • doing a job where you repeatedly see or hear distressing things, such as the emergency services or armed forces

  • surviving a natural disaster, such as flooding, earthquakes or pandemics, such as the coronavirus pandemic

  • traumatic childbirth as a mother or partner witnessing a traumatic birth

  • losing someone close to you in particularly upsetting circumstances

  • being sectioned or getting treatment in a mental health ward

  • being diagnosed with a life-threatening condition.

My personal story is I was a police officer and the causes can be simplified as the 6th and 7th bullet points

  • seeing other people hurt or killed

  • doing a job where you repeatedly see distressing images or hear details of traumatic events.

But as you can see there are numerous things that can cause it.

The Symptoms caused by PTSD can be split into 4 broad categories.

  • reliving events

  • hyper alertness and feeling on edge

  • avoidance of feelings and memories

  • difficult beliefs and feelings

A few of main the things I experience, or have experienced are flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, crying (I mean unbelievable non-stop crying!), off the chart’s anxiety, paranoia, distrust, overwhelming feelings of blame, memory loss and panic attacks.

That’s my PTSD summed up in list.

It’s no joke.

It’s hard.

It’s real.

If that’s what it is, why it happens and what it feels like — how on earth did I learn to love it?

Three things I did that led me to loving my PTSD are:

1. Talk

I talked about it to anyone and everyone who would listen. I told people why I had been off on long-term sick. I was brutally open and honest. The consequence of that was people were open and honest with me. They told their own stories. It helped me and it helped them. Suddenly I felt part of a secret club — at times it seemed like the people with mental health conditions outnumbered those without.

The more I talked, the more comfortable I became with it. I didn’t have to say much to let people know I was feeling triggered and needed to remove myself from a situation. People stepped in and helped.

I also partook in talking therapies. I have had good therapists. I have had bad therapists. Keep going till you find someone who suits you. They are lifesavers.

2. Time

I gave myself time to adjust. Time to rest. Time for talking therapies to work. Time for medication to work. I had space away from my triggers and space to let my brain do what it needed to do to get to a better place.

And with that time came reflection.

3. Reflect

After my diagnosis I re-evaluated my values and beliefs. I was different. I had empathy like I had never experienced empathy before! I didn’t want to be the person I had been before; I didn’t really like her very much.

I became a nicer, more patient person through my experience with poor mental health. My PTSD changed my life experience, my values and my attitude.

If it wasn’t for my PTSD, I wouldn’t be here writing this today. I wouldn’t be as comfortable as I am in my own skin. I wouldn’t push myself to try new things.

Without PTSD I would still be wearing the uniform of a police officer as though it were a costume, pretending to know who I was and what I was doing. Instead, I’m here, I know what I like, and I know what I can do and achieve in life.

How could I not love something that led to me to being right here, right now?

If you’re going through a difficult time, you are not alone. Talk. Give yourself time. Allow yourself to reflect on what matters to you now. Reach out and get support.

This is my love story. Not a romance. Not a Mills & Boon, or a Jackie Collins. It’s an Olivia Standbridge original. And this love story is just one part of my life story.

What I want to know is, what is your life story? What genre of literature is it? Where do you go? What do you do? Who joins you along the way? How do you triumph over adversity? Never forget, YOU are the author of your next chapter.

Originally published on Medium

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