My Daily Struggle: I Live With PTSD And Was Never In The Military
When I was 10 years old, I wanted to be an artist and create the next Saturday morning cartoon series.
At 15, I was so influenced by the indie scene, I wanted to become a journalist and work for a music magazine.
At 20, I was glued to CNN, watching Anderson Cooper report on the devastation and disparity of Hurricane Katrina.
At that point, I changed my major to human rights and social justice. I wanted to one day be able to provide a voice for the voiceless by telling their stories. Whether it was through art, music or advocacy, I wanted to change the world.
At 30, I saw no future for myself.
Depression consumed me to the point where I attempted suicide.
The dreams, hopes and goals I once had suddenly vanished, leaving me completely lost.
The world I had once wanted to change became a place I desperately wanted to leave.
After dealing with the trials and tribulations of medication and therapy, I am now coming to terms with a new diagnosis I thought someone like me was immune to: post-traumatic stress disorder.
PTSD: Please Take Syrah Down
Before dealing with the aftermath of my attempted suicide, I had always associated PTSD with war veterans experiencing intense flashbacks of their time in combat.
I never thought it was something that could affect someone like me.
I felt ashamed thinking about all those soldiers, war prisoners and victims of natural disasters, who have experienced the most intense traumas one can ever imagine.
I compared their pain with mine, and hated myself even more for allowing the previous events in my life, which seemed so minuscule in the grand scheme of things, affect me to the point of no control.
But trauma is trauma.
It doesn’t go away just because someone else has it worse. PTSD doesn’t pick and choose.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 7.7 million Americans age 18 and over suffer from PTSD, with women being twice as likely to develop the disorder as compared to men.
Depending on the individual, PTSD can be described as one of the most crippling disorders, with symptoms striking at the drop of a hat.
Along with having to deal with the exhausting state of depression, I now had to worry about these triggers.
The triggers had the power to cause anything from an episode to intense suicidal urges.
The scariest part of it all is not knowing what your triggers are. Anything from seeing something on TV to someone accidentally saying the wrong thing can cause extreme bouts of anxiety.
It’s come to the point where I now have to avoid certain places and settings, for fear of having an episode and embarrassing myself and the people I’m with.
One of the worst things I’ve had to sacrifice is visiting my family.
I used to find solace and comfort being around them, but since most of my past trauma took place in their town, I’ve had to lessen my visits and prepare myself every time I do find the courage to make the drive up.
As much as it affects every corner of my mind, the anxiety can be so intense, it manifests into physical symptoms. Muscle pains and tension headaches are almost daily occurrences.
I’ve also trained myself to avoid big meals, due to the fact that anything as small as a horrible thought can trigger intense feelings of nausea and the need to throw up.
As much as there’s sincerity when people tell me not to allow my disorder to define me, it’s hard to believe.
When you feel your mind has betrayed you to the point of losing your identity, and interest in the things that made you you, your illness dominates.
When you disassociate from the people you love because you think your depression is contagious, and you don’t want them to see you in that mental state, your disorder wins.
The most difficult part is accepting the fact you probably will never be the same person you were before all the trauma.
Acceptance is learning to live with that new sense of self, and figuring out what still makes you happy.
Rebuilding yourself when you don’t seem to know who you are anymore is one of the most difficult things one could go through.
Nightmares That Won't Go Away
I had a dream a few nights ago that I can’t seem to shake.
I was getting on a crowded bus, and noticed two children laying in the center aisle. Upon realizing they were dead, I began to scream at the other passengers, begging them to help.
Nothing. Simply no reaction.
I was ignored and almost invisible. I found a blanket and put it over their bodies. I sat next to them on the ground, held their hands and cried silently.
Even when you think you’re close to getting over the things that caused your breakdown, the trauma always seems to creep up at night, into your dreams, leaving you to wake up in a panic.
It affects work, school and any plans you may have had that day.
As much as you believe you’re winning the fight during the day, you have no control over where your mind goes when you fall asleep.
Sometimes, the nightmares are just that: nightmares. They have nothing to do with your ordeal.
Even so, the panic and anxiety are still as real as ever.
You wake up every single morning, either happy you didn’t have a night terror, or severely depressed because you don’t think they’ll ever go away.
On the mornings I wake up in a panicked state, getting out of bed is close to impossible.
But still, you somehow find the strength to get up.
Life goes on, and the world stops for no one.
Promises You Can’t Make
Facing your family and friends after a suicide attempt is probably one of the worst things you can experience.
According to the National Center for PTSD, those with the disorder are at a greater risk of suicidal ideation and tendencies.
Before my attempt, I remember being mentally and physically exhausted.
I knew I would continue to wake up each morning with the same aches and pains, the same anxiety and the same episodes.
I was already on medication, which seemed to only amplify the pain. That morning, I couldn’t see a future beyond the daily struggle.
I convinced myself that person who traveled the world, cared about people beyond our borders and found passion in music and art had long since died.
It’s hard to see a future that doesn’t include a deteriorating mental state. Because of that, you easily lose the will to live.
One thing I was asked by several different people upon my hospital stay was, “Can you promise me you won't do this again?”
As much as I want to say yes, PTSD is unpredictable.
It’s riding a roller coaster that can reach the highest of highs and lowest of lows.
When that roller coaster enters a dark and scary tunnel, there’s no guarantee of getting out.
Living Every Day
On some days, life can feel worth living again.
Those are the days and moments I wish I could bottle up and save for later.
It’s those moments where being around family and friends is enough to feel that sense of hope.
Then, there are days where I just want to be around my best friends: Elliott Smith, Thom Yorke and Morrissey.
I find comfort in listening to them describe the same feelings I have on a regular basis.
Those are the days I write. Not about bands or current events, but about the day-to-day struggle, in the hopes these words can make someone feel a little less alone.
Maybe at 30, the story I was meant to tell was my own.