This is extremely personal. The following is an extract from a speech that I presented last year:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder doesn’t only affect people who have suffered extreme physical violence, it can inflict anyone who has had a traumatic experience, but it doesn’t affect everyone
For a sufferer, re-experiencing or reliving of the event can be tough, anniversaries are hard to face:
- you fear being with people and will avoid anyone that may, somehow or in some way remind you of what happened.
- you become irritable, anxious and paranoid.
- experiencing sleeping difficulties, nightmares, horrors, the heebie-jeebies when you are too scared to go to sleep at night,
- consuming rages and damming depression,
- you feel a complete disconnect from the world. Re-establishing emotional bonds even with the ones you love the most can be extremely difficult and this leads to a lot of guilt, a sense of loss and periods of mourning
- feelings of extreme alienation, futility and meaninglessness are common.
It is frightening, it’s lonely, and it’s confusing.
Over the past 2 years I have kept a record of my struggles. I read from those notes:
Things are changing almost daily: feelings, perspectives and attitudes towards what happened and life.
Maybe, despite my impatience, I am simply not ready to move on from what happened.
Confusion and self doubt, I hope that they do not become constant companions.
I cannot escape this sense that I will die.
My heart recovered extremely quickly after my heart attack and this allowed me to get back to life pretty quickly. I guess people then assumed that everything was alright.
An almighty fist came down upon me, crushing me, ending me.
Everything was taken from me, everything that I had worked for, everything that I had lived for and everything that I had become.
I walk upon this earth differently. I no longer feel the weight of myself on the ground.
Any sense of permanency is gone. I feel that I am no longer a part of this world, that I am a visitor, struggling to be understood, struggling to communicate.
Cocooned, confined in a bubble, distant and removed.
I’m struggling with anger. I need to be alone to calm myself, to relieve the pressures, to protect others from my angry mood.
I am sheltering myself from the risk of depression. It has been a very dark period of my life.
I grieve for me, for who I was and will never be again.
There is still some way to go.
It is still hard to talk about, especially the fact that I made the decision to die and leave my loved ones behind.
And still no one comes.
I didn’t count on the depression, the questioning, the need to understand.
The death experience is still difficult. I avoid contemplating it. I’m scared to go there.
I stood at death’s door and was invited in.
When I try to face my fears, try to feel something, the dark clouds come. I feel them inside my head. It’s a physical sensation and then I stop thinking and I back away.
Illustrating the confusing thoughts:
My heart attack and my recovery may have been some of the most fulfilling times of my life and therefore perhaps one of the happiest.
I had a clear focus, a huge challenge. It was something that I had no knowledge of, no experience in.
I was at my weakest, my most scared and I got through.
I learned, I experienced, I discovered, new sensations, complete vulnerability.
What a blast!
I’m still here, it’s still here.
The nasty unease, as I get better and the low moods and anxieties become less frequent, I become more frustrated and disappointed when they do come.
I have withheld the darker thoughts, even now they are way too personal for me to share. The hardest thing to deal with was the loneliness, the sense that I had been abandoned and that no one understood or cared.
An still no one comes
If you know someone recovering from a traumatic experience, if you need to text, email or pray for a friend, please do so, but also please, phone them, and go and visit them.
If one day they don’t want to see you, if one day that don’t want to talk, do not give up, keep going back, and keep listening and be willing to sometimes have to do the talking.
Understand that, because of the loss of identity and connection to the world, it is difficult to make decisions. It’s still difficult.
Emotions and thoughts are all over the place, it is as confusing for the sufferer as it is for you. What might be the right thing to do one day, may not be welcomed the next. Please be patient.
They need to know that someone will be there when they need them. They need to know that someone cares and WANTS to understand.
Its’ a long, slow and lonely journey, please be patient and please be there.