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Rude Awakening: Symptoms of PTSD

A year and a half ago, I stepped into my therapist’s office for the first time. I was beyond desperate for help. I had constant thoughts of wanting to die because my life was too overwhelming for me. I had diagnosed myself as severely depressed and after trying some different medicines, I realized that medicine alone was not going to help me.

I spent the entire session sobbing as I erratically spat out as much of my life that I could fit into a 1 hour session. I told my therapist everything I could think of that I thought had a major impact on my life. I explained about my oldest son’s health condition, Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC). I explained how I felt I couldn’t go on because caring for him seemed like an impossible feat. I shared with her how I had learning difficulties, which a school psychologist had tested me for in 4th grade. I talked about that process and how it impacted me. I told her some specific experiences I’d had with this psychologist. I explained how I had been sick most of my life from that point on with thyroid disease. How I hadn’t ever had many friends, that I was an introvert. How I had done some crazy things in high school, hoping that I would be killed in the process. How difficult it was to deal with life as I have seen my husband be discriminated against time and time again. How it had been a difficult road of 9 years before my husband and I were able to have our first child.

By the end I was pleading…well BEGGING: “I want this to stop! I NEED this to stop! I cannot stop obsessing over wishing for a terminal illness to take me or better yet, a meteor to strike our house so my family wouldn’t be left without me. I am so mean to myself. My thoughts are full of telling myself hurtful things and I continually bring myself down. I can’t handle the nightmares, the sleepless nights, the stress and anxiety, the panic attacks that seemingly come out of nowhere, the fear of what the future holds for my son. Can you help make this stop?! PLEASE MAKE THIS STOP!!!”

By then, our session had probably gone over time by at least ten minutes and I feared that I’d leave without having a solution. My therapist scooted her chair close to me and looked at me with such compassion and said, “Well, you meet all the criteria for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).”

There is no way for me to describe the shock I felt in that moment. I stuttered, trying to make sense of what she said and concluded, “Oh, because of everything I’ve been through with our son (e.g. constantly fearing he could die at any moment due to uncontrollable seizures).”

With tenderness she replied, “Well, maybe, but PTSD most often stems from something traumatic that happened in your childhood.”

“But I had a very charmed childhood. My family was financially stable, my mom took care of us, we always had food to eat, we lived in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. People constantly told me how ideal my family was. Sure I was sick a lot, struggled in school and didn’t have many friends, but other than that things were great. I mean, you don’t think that the school psychologist locking me in that room meant anything?”

She replied, “I really want to help you feel better. The good thing about symptoms of PTSD is that unlike depression, you CAN work to make them subside. If treated, you won’t have to constantly be dealing with nightmares and triggers that incapacitate you.” She then gave me instructions to purchase a particular book and look up some things online before our next session.

I left in shock. I couldn’t wrap my head around what just happened. I went in for help with my depression (which I do have by-the-way), but came out with so many questions. Questions about issues I had dealt with for as long as I could remember. Although I didn’t like that I was going to have a big battle ahead of me before getting better, I was equally grateful to have a possible explanation for certain things that had been a part of me for as long as I could remember. I thought, “Maybe I’m not crazy. Maybe I am worthwhile. Maybe I’m not stupid. This CAN get better.”

Comments

  1. Annaka, I found your blog through Foundation for Survivors of Abuse. I’m going to start from your first blog and read through. Your very first post resonates for me on several levels. I’m a survivor of CSA (by my dad). I have a son (11) and last year I had what what I’m calling a nervous breakdown. The third medication, plus therapy has helped tremendously. I never forgot the abuse I endured. Through the years, I’ve been in and out of therapy, I struggled with an eating disorder, anxiety and married a person who struggles with addiction. All common risks for survivors of CSA. Thank you for sharing your experience. I look forward to reading more.

    • I appreciate you sharing your experience. It definitely is a long process of healing. I am reminded of that all the time. I hope you are able to continue to progress.

  2. Ben and Annaka…
    Thank you for sharing your stories! What courage!!! I am proud to say that I know both of you!

  3. Annie, What an amazing thing to read this. It is truly amazing how differently we can see ourselves. I saw you is My Annie. Annaka the brilliant, strong and spiritual giant. You were my older sister to guide me through so much. You always called me out on my crap and made me a better person. Much of what I am today is because of your influence. It’s funny the things we keep from even our closest friends or don’t even realize they are so significant at the time. Life is a crazy journey and we are all on our own pathway. I am just so grateful you were (and are) on mine. ๐Ÿ™‚ Much love to both you and Ben and all your beautiful and inspiring words.

    • Life is definitely crazy! We went through a lot together. I loved being your older sister. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’d never imagine that either of us would be where we are now. Love to you too. I hope you and your family are well.

  4. Mrs. Vimahi, you are such a wonderful person. You were my favorite teacher at PGHS. You have honestly changed my life for the better. You always made my day brighter. I’m so sorry you are going through all of this. I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to see my child fight TSC, but you are doing it and you are doing the best you can. And that’s all you can do. You are strong and beautiful and definitely worthwhile. You are a bright ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. And I know you can overcome whatever comes your way. Stay strong.
    With love, Katelyn Eldridge.

  5. Annaka, I had no idea. You’ve been such delight & fun since I first met you, my freshment year at BYUH. I wish I had known, may be I could have been more helpful. You hid your struggles well. My heart can’t even take it as I was reading this. Love you.

  6. I had no idea you were going through all of this! You always seemed so happy and had tons of friends around you. I always looked up to you as a person who was good and kind to the core of your being. You were an example to me of kindness and love to everyone as we grew up.

    • Thanks so much Kristen! It’s interesting how different our perspectives of ourselves can be from what others think of us. I appreciate your kind words.

    • We too find comfort in knowing we’re not alone. It is hard sometimes to not feel that way. We know how difficult/terrifying it is to find help and healing. Thanks for sharing that with us. God Bless as you continue on your journey.

  7. I found out at 40 I had PTSD, I thought it was for war survivors, for natural disaster survivors…I relate to everything you have written and want to know so much more. I want to hear more! (I did work through mine, took me years and much counseling, but even now, it can still raise its ugly head…hate it but the tools to control it have helped so much).
    Love you sweet girl, you are amazing!

    • Thanks so much for sharing Marylou! You will be my example of how to cope with this long-term. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Love you too!

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