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.”