PTSD and Me
I went home after that session at the counsellors. Originally I had come in due to a stressful situation at work. We were advised if we experienced certain feelings to call the crisis counsellor. Counselling was available for several weeks after the incident. I found I did have certain symptoms and thought I would take advantage of the free counselling session to go over what was happening.
I discovered I had been experiencing panic attacks. After several questions, I was told that I needed to come back for another appointment. Second appointment, you have PTSD. Why? That was my first question. There was nothing wrong with me.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
The diagnostic criteria for PTSD, stipulated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (Text Revision) (DSM-IV-TR), may be summarized as:
A: Exposure to a traumatic event This must have involved both (a) loss of "physical integrity", or risk of serious injury or death, to self or others, and (b) a response to the event that involved intense fear, horror, or helplessness (or in children, the response must involve disorganized or agitated behavior). (The DSM-IV-TR criterion differs substantially from the previous DSM-III-R stressor criterion, which specified the traumatic event should be of a type that would cause "significant symptoms of distress in almost anyone," and that the event was "outside the range of usual human experience.")
B: Persistent re-experiencing One or more of these must be present in the victim: flashback memories, recurring distressing dreams, subjective re-experiencing of the traumatic event(s), or intense negative psychological or physiological response to any objective or subjective reminder of the traumatic event(s).
C: Persistent avoidance and emotional numbing This involves a sufficient level of:
avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, such as certain thoughts or feelings, or talking about the event(s);
avoidance of behaviors, places, or people that might lead to distressing memories as well as the disturbing memories, dreams, flashbacks, and intense psychological or physiological distress;
inability to recall major parts of the trauma(s), or decreased involvement in significant life activities;
decreased capacity (down to complete inability) to feel certain feelings;
an expectation that one's future will be somehow constrained in ways not normal to other people.
D: Persistent symptoms of increased arousal not present before These are all physiological response issues, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, or problems with anger, concentration, or hypervigilance. Additional symptoms include irritability, angry outbursts, increased startle response, and concentration or sleep problems.
E: Duration of symptoms for more than 1 month If all other criteria are present, but 30 days have not elapsed, the individual is diagnosed with Acute stress disorder.
F: Significant impairment The symptoms reported must lead to "clinically significant distress or impairment" of major domains of life activity, such as social relations, occupational activities, or other "important areas of functioning".
There's nothing wrong with me. There's nothing wrong with me. My past is my past. I'm okay. There's nothing wrong with me. I was wrong.
The past comes back to haunt me. It roars at me. It refuses to be ignored any longer. It begs me to pay attention. It whimpers at the door to be let in. To be recognized.
There's nothing wrong. There's nothing wrong. That's what everyone says. I am fine now.
How I hate that word. Fine. What does it mean anyway? What is fine? Okay, I'm getting by? Not so good? What's going on in there?
I am coming to terms with the letters P T S and D. I am saying, okay, maybe it hurt more than I can admit, even to myself. Maybe things are not as okay as I want others to think. Maybe some really bad stuff did happen. Maybe I can't talk about it. Maybe I don't want to talk to anyone. Maybe I will stay at home all day.
I am learning to cope with panic. I am learning to ride the wave. I don't think I have gone past that point of coping. I have not faced my truth in the eye and claimed it as my own. I want to be brave enough to make it past here, past coping, and into thriving. I want to get there. I don't know how I will get there, but I am working on it every day.