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Many have PTSD but don't know it

When we think of PTSD, we often associate it with combat vets returning from war. But I have come to realize that PTSD stems from a wide range of circumstances, conditions, and life experiences. PTSD is what I have from an infant surgery, possibly without anesthesia. PTSD is what people may have when they’ve been sexually abused, physically assaulted, or bullied as children. PTSD can result from witnessing another’s trauma and being helpless to do anything about it. It results from being raped, held hostage, beat up, or harassed as adults. Does everyone have it?  No. Do many?  Yes.

This coming May, I am leaving my community college teaching position in order to pursue a public speaking career, which will include promoting PTSD awareness. Lots of people can get help but not if they don’t know they have it. How many of those people at the psyche ward at Pennsylvania Hospital when I was 22 had undiagnosed PTSD?  How many of my students at the community college where I’ve taught for almost 20 years had it?  Certainly the young man who was shot as a child in a drive-by shooting and struggled to be able to concentrate when reading. The woman repeatedly molested by her father during her childhood years told me she had it; she would often go into freeze mode. The student who literally jumped up from his seat if I called his name likely had it; he had written of his parent physically abusing him as a child.

Recently, in doing an informal survey, asking English 1A composition students what their favorite part of class was, they invariably said medical humanities. For several weeks, we read stories by Alice Walker, Rachel Naomi Remen, Jill Bolte Taylor, and Eckhart Tolle and excerpts from my blog in order to gain an understanding of the art of the personal narrative as it relates to the field of medical humanities. Students seemed to find relief and clarity from writing about an act of self-harming, an encounter with an uncaring doctor, the death of a loved one, or a relative who is critically ill. I think they find this type of self-exploration and writing healing. It eases stress and encourages self-awareness.

Many of us don’t know that we have PTSD. Once we are aware that  our hypervigilance or startle response or avoidance of certain situations or stimuli or nightmares or panic attacks stems from PTSD, we can change and grow in ways that we didn’t think possible. We are more able to activate the seed of beauty within when we know what’s blocking the flow of nutrients and water. Just acknowledging that we have PTSD is powerful. Simply knowing is healing.

0 Responses to Many have PTSD but don't know it

  1. Thanks very much for this post. I loved it, particularly your mention of your students valuing their medical humanities studies so much, How revealing!
    Although the reality of what used to be called “shell shock” has been recognised over a long time, it has only been recognised more recently that “shell shock” is just one (and a very debilitating) form of PTSD, and that PTSD is rather more common than most realise, manifesting itself in many damaging forms and in many people.
    Surely this recognition has made us increasingly aware today of the damage caused by abuse in its various forms, including doing surgical work on infants without anesthesia and other medical practices of past years. This in turn has moved our society to identify and reduce stress-causing behaviour and situations.
    Thank you for being in the forefront of placing on the record medical procedures that caused serious PTSD, your own journey in managing its harm, and many ringing challenges for us to identify inner pain and move towards its healing.

    • I feel so honored by this post. Right now I am listening to the Brandenburg Concerto and recalling when I lived in Synanon, New York City, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation community. Every morning I had to rise at 5 a.m. and do aerobic jumping, or running in place, to a recording of this Concerto with the group with whom I lived: it was one of the rules for living there. I wasn’t addicted to drugs or alcohol, but I had opted to live there instead of in a psychiatric ward to recover from a breakdown that was, in large part, caused by my having PTSD and NOT KNOWING IT. I am so grateful that I recovered and am able to give back something of what I have learned on my journey to mental health. Thank you, Fred, and everyone who reads myincision. Without you, there would be no me.

  2. Thanks very much for this post. I loved it, particularly your mention of your students valuing their medical humanities studies so much, How revealing!
    Although the reality of what used to be called “shell shock” has been recognised over a long time, it has only been recognised more recently that “shell shock” is just one (and a very debilitating) form of PTSD, and that PTSD is rather more common than most realise, manifesting itself in many damaging forms and in many people.
    Surely this recognition has made us increasingly aware today of the damage caused by abuse in its various forms, including doing surgical work on infants without anesthesia and other medical practices of past years. This in turn has moved our society to identify and reduce stress-causing behaviour and situations.
    Thank you for being in the forefront of placing on the record medical procedures that caused serious PTSD, your own journey in managing its harm, and many ringing challenges for us to identify inner pain and move towards its healing.

    • I feel so honored by this post. Right now I am listening to the Brandenburg Concerto and recalling when I lived in Synanon, New York City, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation community. Every morning I had to rise at 5 a.m. and do aerobic jumping, or running in place, to a recording of this Concerto with the group with whom I lived: it was one of the rules for living there. I wasn’t addicted to drugs or alcohol, but I had opted to live there instead of in a psychiatric ward to recover from a breakdown that was, in large part, caused by my having PTSD and NOT KNOWING IT. I am so grateful that I recovered and am able to give back something of what I have learned on my journey to mental health. Thank you, Fred, and everyone who reads myincision. Without you, there would be no me.

  3. Reading this gave me a better understanding of what PTSD is. I know that my mom has it, and couple others in my family. I too watched my mom suffer from trauma between her and my dad when i was 4. And my mom says that i am still affected by it today, because i avoid confrontation and i am too myself too much. I do have thoughts about visioning that incident that left my mom unconscious..

    • Have you written about it? Writing can help people feel the emotions related to a certain experience even if the experience was long ago. Writing can help one release or come to terms with an image that is disturbing.

  4. Reading this gave me a better understanding of what PTSD is. I know that my mom has it, and couple others in my family. I too watched my mom suffer from trauma between her and my dad when i was 4. And my mom says that i am still affected by it today, because i avoid confrontation and i am too myself too much. I do have thoughts about visioning that incident that left my mom unconscious..

    • Have you written about it? Writing can help people feel the emotions related to a certain experience even if the experience was long ago. Writing can help one release or come to terms with an image that is disturbing.

  5. I felt like I was describe in this blog. The sweaty nightmares when there were nights when I would wake up with tears storming out from my eyes, My heart beats like I had been running for miles. Like I had shared in my essay before. I was once in a very abusive relationship and was beaten. broken nose, plenty of black eyes, and countless on knots on my head. It terrifies me when I think about it. but at the same time, as I acknowledge it and share it with more people, I feel like a bit of that burden weight is being lifted off my shoulder. I was only 16-17 yrs old when all this was happening to me.

    • Yes, talking to others often helps. Writing helps. I’m so sorry you went through that but glad it’s in the past. There are many ways to heal, thank goodness.

  6. I felt like I was describe in this blog. The sweaty nightmares when there were nights when I would wake up with tears storming out from my eyes, My heart beats like I had been running for miles. Like I had shared in my essay before. I was once in a very abusive relationship and was beaten. broken nose, plenty of black eyes, and countless on knots on my head. It terrifies me when I think about it. but at the same time, as I acknowledge it and share it with more people, I feel like a bit of that burden weight is being lifted off my shoulder. I was only 16-17 yrs old when all this was happening to me.

    • Yes, talking to others often helps. Writing helps. I’m so sorry you went through that but glad it’s in the past. There are many ways to heal, thank goodness.

  7. This post made me realize that I could have friends that have PTSD and do not know it. I really thought that PTSD’s are only for people that have experienced war. I will definitely do my best to encourage some of my friends to write what they are feeling so that to those that have PTSD’s would start a healing process.

  8. This post made me realize that I could have friends that have PTSD and do not know it. I really thought that PTSD’s are only for people that have experienced war. I will definitely do my best to encourage some of my friends to write what they are feeling so that to those that have PTSD’s would start a healing process.

  9. I chose this post to see what might be the cause and symptoms of PTSD. I never knew that one can develope PTSD from so many different sources. I always thought it was combat related and since my childhood was spent in a war zone I wanted to see if I display any of the symptoms.

    • Yes, Farhad, I am not a doctor, but it sounds like you have some PTSD. It sure would be worth exploring. We don’t have to live on the edge, always ready to combat danger.

  10. I chose this post to see what might be the cause and symptoms of PTSD. I never knew that one can develope PTSD from so many different sources. I always thought it was combat related and since my childhood was spent in a war zone I wanted to see if I display any of the symptoms.

    • Yes, Farhad, I am not a doctor, but it sounds like you have some PTSD. It sure would be worth exploring. We don’t have to live on the edge, always ready to combat danger.

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