Because of multiple unfortunate events in my life, I have been diagnosed with PTSD, generalized anxiety and major depressive disorder. I have suffered in silence for years, pushing my thoughts, feelings and emotions down so far, I thought no one would notice. I worked hard to keep people thinking I was this "wonder woman"; working 2 jobs, taking on a full university course load, maintaining a household with 3 children and being married. Avoidance was the key to keep me from crumbling and this going, no one will see how much pain I am in and how I am not a "wonder woman", but someone who is suffering, but too proud to ask for help. Once I realized that I couldn't sustain this lifestyle any longer, I reached out for help. I had seen multiple counselors throughout my life, but I felt that it was time for something drastic. I reached out to an agency and asked for inpatient treatment. I waited for 6 months before finally getting the call that it was time to go.
I had a week to prepare myself and my family for my leave; I would be gone for 56 days. The day came when it was time for me to head to treatment; I was more scared then I had ever been in my life. I had no idea what to expect and I was so sad to leave my family for an extended period of time. What if my youngest forgot about me? What if my eldest hates me for leaving? I knew this was something that I needed to do, in order for me to be healthy and present in my life.
The first week was scary and I felt very alone. Once I came out of my shell, I met some amazing people who would forever change my life. Treatment itself was very helpful for me, but nothing will beat the connections I made and the feeling I had when I realized other people understood me because they were going through similar things. This had never happened to me before; the shame and guilt I had been feeling all of my life, were "normal" for people with PTSD. Finally, people who got it and didn't judge me, they accepted me and it felt amazing.
My whole life my brain has been telling me how stupid, worthless and ugly I am. These people, this community, was there supporting me and telling me to stop being so hard on myself. They understood how my brain works and got that there would be bad days and they helped me through those bad days. I came home from treatment not liking myself, because that will take some time, but not entirely hating myself. For someone with PTSD, I would call that a win. These pictures represent how my brain feels; chaos, anger, sadness and hate for myself on the inside and on the outside, that armor, that smile that pretends everything is perfect. Really, I am just an actress, putting up a front, so I can help others, friends or clients, and always avoiding taking care of myself.
Those 56 days were about me. All. About. Me. For the first time in 35 years, I took what I needed and with the support of family, friends and the PTSR community, I made it through those days. It wasn't easy, but nothing worth fighting for ever is. I choose me. I choose happy no matter what that looks like. I have been home from treatment for almost 2 months and I have my struggles. There will always be days where my thoughts are dark and I feel like I don't have any choices. I know I have choices and I have friends, family and the connections I made through treatment, to get me through those days.
Just because I offer a smile and come across as happy, that doesn't mean I'm not breaking on the inside, I am just really great at hiding it.
#PTSD #endthestigma #mentalhealthawareness #CAMH