As we hit the one year mark for #PTSDChat, I took some time to think about where I was a year ago.
When I got back to standing I realized how far I’ve come from there.
The isolation of Complex PTSD and other forms of PTSD, is crushing. It can kill us if we do not find a solution to it. The STIGMA around PTSD is still enormous, especially for those who work in the military or as a first responder. Is it any less for those of us who don’t? I don’t think so. As hard as we fight to defeat the pain caused by those around us when we admit to having a mental health challenge like PTSD, I sometimes despair of ever seeing any real change in understanding. When a man I respect greatly can still see those who claim to have PTSD as “shirkers” what hope for the rest of humanity who haven’t sat through the endless educational briefings he has, yet still come away with a view that anybody saying they need help from their service is doing it simply to avoid … well… working.
He’s not alone. Not by a long stretch. Even on the many PTSD support boards I watch, I constantly see references to the “users” who “fake it”. That from men and women who have PTSD.
I have never been accused of “faking” it, although I have had my fair share of abuse from combat veterans who think my PTSD doesn’t stand up to theirs, or an ERT cop who was so dismissive of my “PTSD” he told me to give him my best story (i.e. most horrific). I did. He did a nice grey, green before having to excuse himself. For the most part that sort of shyte really doesn’t even register: I feel insanely sorry for anybody who has to excuse themselves for having CPTSD/PTSD because their trauma was so much worse than anybody else’s. The magical trauma yardstick used to soothe hurt egos.
I have faced another kind of “you’re faking it” more recently.
With the two or three TIA’s (minor strokes) CPTSD has bequeathed me of late, I am again on the hospital treadmill of mind destroying humiliation. The latest was an interview with a Sunnybrook thrombosis specialist. His hematologist side kick was a caring, young student (you know the student aged 30+ having spent the last 25 years in school) who was kind, understanding and empathetic. He? He was a total wanker.
At the end of the interview he told me that I didn’t seem to be “in eminent danger of dying, so we have time to send you to the stroke neurologist”. Joy. Another doctor to poke, prod and finally dismiss me as “faking it”. I find that many people fake strokes, it’s a thing us CPTSD folk do. You know, fake death too sometimes.
Why do doctors have this attitude?
Because CPTSD is not a well understood physical injury.
The knowledge that CPTSD is an injury is just now sinking in. The fact that it affects our bodies to the point that we start shutting down seems to be a very distant piece of medical crumpet, that nobody has snacked on in the mainstream medical world. Our symptoms do not fit neatly into a diagnostic alphabet gleaned from a dusty book they picked up in medical school. In fact, the symptoms are so wide and varying the only thing they have in common is that they will eventually kill us.
Mine is a history of severe migraines, muscle weakness, fainting, blood clots and now, minor strokes.
A little baby can’t be exposed to extreme war trauma and domestic violence that I was, run on the toxic levels of stress hormone that became my norm and there not be a physical payment at age 40. My medical degree is still in the post, but my common sense degree was given to me at birth. Not sure what happened to theirs but they lost it clearly. Just as they lost their humanity.
So, whether it is the STIGMA we encounter from friends and family, from work or from the medical profession it all has one common impact: ISOLATION.
We shut down. I have been roundly abused for refusing to go to hospital for anything from a broken bone to a minor stroke. The reason is obvious to me at least: why bother? My experience is such that it just wastes what time I have left and leaves me feeling vulnerable, isolated and alone.
So, the reason I wanted Rebecca to find a platform for #PTSDChat was simply to defeat that isolation. To connect us. All of us, globally and universally. Regardless of how we came to be injured, to come together in one place, once a week to support, share and defeat that dangerous, killing machine called loneliness.