How does someone that’s not from the military get diagnosed with PTSD? Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are more common than you may think. It can be a stigma, making it difficult for a loved one to tell their truth.
I have a little story that I think you might relate to or could learn from. Try to keep in mind that this is a quick overview of one person’s experience with PTSD.
The Story Starts…
Once upon a time there was a little girl that experienced sexual abuse, heard and witnessed loved ones being beaten and choked, and was bullied by peers. She managed to graduate high school even though she was alone and homeless. It was never talked about and she never received any therapy.
As she became a woman, she looked for love in all the wrong places with many sexual partners. She became a functioning alcoholic to numb the pain and isolation. There was a pattern in her long-term relationships that she just couldn’t put a finger on and she experienced even more trauma as an adult. She would often have headaches, fatigue, digestive issues, and felt detached and alone even when she had bouts of sobriety. She suffered from depression, anxiety, and hypervigilance her entire life.
It wasn’t until later in her life when she began therapy and reading up on her symptoms that she was finally diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by her therapist. She, like so many, associate PTSD with the military. She had a hard time making the connection. It took a lot of investigating, soul-searching, research, and therapy by her to come to terms with that diagnosis.
Breaking The Stigma
It took years for her to confide in another human being about her diagnosis. First, she had to wrap her brain around admitting to her own trauma, then come to terms and educate herself about PTSD, and then finally she felt that maybe just maybe, she MIGHT be able to try to confide in at least one human being other than her therapist.
She just wanted to see how they would react and how she would feel about the reaction to the diagnosis. Never anticipating the amount of education she would have to share with just one person, she finally got up enough courage to tell her truth. She had to remember her own reaction to the diagnosis and how she couldn’t believe it either so that she could feel compassion for this person that she finally confided in. Otherwise, she might get angry for them not believing her.
She felt that her coming out about her diagnosis had to be bigger than herself. It had to be about education so that the next person who builds up enough courage to finally tell their truth just may have a better time with acceptance and understanding. She went on to tell another person that believed her but started to treat her so differently that she couldn’t maintain a relationship.
Mental health is such a touchy subject for so many and people just don’t know what to say or do when they hear about such a diagnosis about their friend or loved one.
PTSD And C-PTSD Factors
Most people who go through trauma may have some symptoms of PTSD in the beginning, but only some develop PTSD. It depends on many factors which could include:
1. The intensity and/or how long the trauma went on
2. How strong your reaction to the trauma was
3. How out of control and/or trapped you felt
4. If you or a loved one was injured
5. How much support and help you received afterward
A diagnosis of PTSD is more common than with C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). PTSD is from one traumatic incident whereas C-PTSD is from multiple traumatic incidences. Although she was diagnosed with PTSD, she came to believe her true diagnosis to be C-PTSD.
Check out Dr. Nadine Burke Harris explaining how childhood trauma stays with us for our entire lives.
What To Do When Someone Shares They Were Diagnosed
1. Support them and ask them if you can help with anything. Usually, it’s to carry on as usual but to be understanding when they show symptoms. They may be ready to tell you about their symptoms or they may not.
2. Let them talk when they are ready and make sure you don’t compare your story or someone else’s soy with their story.
3. Treat them as you always have, don’t start tiptoeing around or asking if everything is alright when you typically didn’t do that before.
4. Educate yourself on the subject as much as you can.
5. Be there for them, keep asking to hang out with them, they may turn you down a lot, but you have to be persistent without seeming to be overly demeaning.
There’s no comparison to what our military men and women go through. Many of them have been through significant trauma and don’t get the help they need or often go undiagnosed.
Every single person deserves to live their best life and have access to therapy to do so! Therapy is like going to the doctor to take care of diabetes or blood pressure and should never have a stigma attached to it. Trauma is trauma just like sugar is sugar. When a person experiences trauma whether military or not, there is Post Traumatic Stress. Period.
I’m sharing my thoughts on this subject in hopes of chipping away a little stigma, I am not a therapist. If you or someone you know is suffering, I urge you to find a therapist or contact your family physician or local mental health agency.
I believe that finding the connection with emotional well being is a huge step in making the connection with food and physical activity.
I would love to hear from you and your experience with this! Do you associate PTSD with only the military?