This was supposed to happen yesterday. It didn’t. I am paying for ignoring my body’s quiet plea to slow down a little. I’m doing all sorts of good cool stuff but just a little too much (a lot too much.) I keep trying to not allow PTSD to run my life but ignore it too long and it will punch me out. Did last night. Panic attack while testing in Karate. Failed the test. Impressed I could do anything at all while trying to bring myself back under control. Taking a well earned break today. Onward with part 2.
This is not a correction or rebuttal to Rose with Thorns. https://annarosemeeds.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/ten-things-not-to-say-to-someone-with-ptsd/ I believe what she wrote is great; I recommend going over to read her comments and thoughts on these statements. I am sharing my experience and thoughts on the same comments. I learned in counseling that there are many ways to view something. By sharing experiences we don’t have to do it all ourselves.
6. I thought only soldiers/orphans/abuse victims/etc. had that. Stiff upper lip attitude ruled supreme for years. People that had symptoms of PTSD were considered weak, useless, cowardly and many other negative things. Attention to PTSD was slow in coming. Soldiers were first acknowledged then others became noticeable that they had similar symptoms. Like all things to do with mental illness, acknowledgement and acceptance is slow in coming. I didn’t know I was an abuse victim because I didn’t remember most of my childhood and I was always treated that way so didn’t know it was unusual. Some survivors with PTSD resent having other people diagnosed with the same thing if their abuse wasn’t as ‘bad’. First off, abuse is abuse and hurt is hurt. The worst thing that happened to you is the worst thing that happened to you. This crazy need to say, “My abuse is worse than your abuse so you can’t feel what I feel” is not ok. We each feel what we feel and PTSD is a name that groups a set of reactions and feelings no matter what the cause. They are learning that some people are as deeply affected by watching someone else be abused than if the abuse happened to them. They found PTSD in survivors of wild storms, those that watched the twin towers fall on TV over and over, there is no specific criteria that says, “this trauma is bad enough to merit PTSD.” What they are discovering is that people react differently from the same experience. I do not need a fancy study to figure that out. Misunderstandings abound about PTSD and the media doesn’t help. PTSD is blamed for things that has nothing to do with PTSD. I could make an entire post about this one thing…..probably will.
7. What happened to you was not that bad. Can I say major hot button for me? I was told by my abusers that they didn’t hit me that hard, hurt me that much or what I felt was unreasonable. There are articles enough to write books on minimizing suffering. Someone else deciding for you how bad your experience is. I appreciated my counselor teaching me that I decide what is ‘bad’ for me and what is not. I decide if someone is yelling at me. I decide if an experience hurt me and I decide how badly I was hurt. I minimized my own hurt. I still remember my counselor trying to get me to grasp the severity of the abusive treatment I endured as a child. I still remember his counsel, “You know from our conversations that I have had some hard things happen in my life. My problems are like the size of Pluto and yours….are like Saturn’s.” My thought, “Well, he didn’t say the Sun.” I minimized it myself because I didn’t want bad things to happen to me. You will always…..and I mean always, find someone that had experiences that could be considered worse. However, this is not a competition. Minimizing how you feel doesn’t change how you feel. PTSD is a set of reactions to an experience. We can’t decide for someone else why they feel the way they do.
8. It is partially your fault because of how you dressed/how you acted/where you were/that you trusted them/etc. Blame the victim is as old as time. “You made me mad so I hit you,” is not a new mantra. “She asked for it so I raped her,” is not new either. Blaming the victim is viewed by some abusers as a get out of jail free card. “It is their fault…..” The weird twist is blaming the abuser leads to victim thinking. As long as it is the abusers fault you stay a victim instead of moving on to surviving and thriving. My counselor helped me understand that my mistake was being born a girl to my mother. She treated my sister worse than she treated me. It was not our fault for being girls. However, we do not let her treatment define us. We are changing to become the women we knew we can be. She can’t stop us. It is a subtle and difficult dance of taking responsibility for the things I can control and allowing others to take responsibility for their behavior. Yes, I was told by my abusers repeatedly that it was my fault that they hurt me. I even believed it myself. One of the powerful things I learned in counseling is I do not control my abusers. I can’t make them do anything to me. What they did was their choice. How I react, is my choice. Choice is a powerful thing when you start to understand it.
9. You are tainted because of what happened. I chose several years ago to be open about being a sexual abuse survivor. When I talked about it in a small group someone asked me what I didn’t feel ashamed about it. I asked, “Why should I feel ashamed for what they did?” Do I suffer from feelings of shame, yes. I am working on those feelings. But I am not the one that did something shameful, my abusers did. One of the stigmas of PTSD is that there is something fundamentally wrong with me because of what happened. This, to me, is a variation of the blame the victim theme. Some how there must be something bad about me that these events occurred. Job, in the Bible, was told by his friends that he must have done some great sin for all these bad things to happen in his life. Yup, this is a misconception that has endured for 1000s of years.
10. Didn’t you kind of enjoy it? I like what Rose with Thorns said, “No, just no.” However this gets muddled when the body reacts in certain ways. Or when long term abuse turns the victim into an apparently willing victim as in Stockholm syndrome http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Stockholm+syndrome A person can get used to anything, unfortunately. The question I believe stems from a sense of cruelty and trying to cover up their own vicarious enjoyment of seeing someone suffer. People enjoy watching events where others get hurt. Top viral videos are often accidents and unfortunately crimes where someone is getting hurt. I believe to justify their own enjoyment they project it on to the victim. No, I did not enjoy getting hurt. Yes, I struggle with Stockholm syndrome. This I believe one of the cruelest questions I can be asked, partly because I am so muddled about what I felt and how my abusers blamed me. No, I don’t enjoy being hurt. No, I don’t enjoy PTSD. No, I don’t enjoy insanity but I can survive it with a smile on my face, which I understand sends a very confusing message to someone that doesn’t understand “Grin and bear it” at its worse.
Thank you Rose with Thorns for tackling these beliefs. I hope others will read your page too. Part of surviving is finding a community of people that want to help each other better understand and grow from the experiences we endured.