Neonatal Mental Health Awareness Week – Day 2

#NICUMHAW Day 2

I know I said yesterday that todays post would be more about my own symptoms leading up to diagnosis but, as I suspected, I did see a few (hopefully well meaning) comments yesterday that just really hammered it home to me how misunderstood Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is. So I want to clear a few thing up and hopefully give a better understanding of PTSD.

PTSD is NOT about feeling sorry for yourself. Studies have proven that trauma causes neurochemical changes and people suffering from ptsd have an altered brain anatomy and function.

PTSD will NOT be cured by thinking more positively. When you tell someone that is suffering with a proven psychiatric disorder that they just need to respond better and choose to ‘rise from the pain’ 🙄 all you do is make someone who is already suffering feel like shit, and show how astoundingly ignorent you are. That’s not to say I don’t think self care and reframing things in a positive way aren’t important or useful, I really do, but there is a huge difference between this and shaming people who are already deeply struggling. I know this type of analogy is used a lot but seriously, would you tell someone with 2 broken legs that they just need to get a grip, stop fannying about with their crutches that are sooo obviously just for attention anyway and go for a jog!? It’s all well and good pointing out that everyone has their struggles, and its true they do, but if you’re capable of recognising that then surely you’re capable of showing a bit of compassion to someone who is struggling too?!

PTSD is PHYSICAL. Signs of PTSD can range from flashbacks to nightmares, panic attacks to eating disorders, cognitive delays to lowered verbal memory capacity (I suffer BADLY with these last two, imagine trying to hold a conversation when it feels like all of your thoughts and ideas and words have fallen right out of your head). Teeth grinding, swallowing problems, numbness/tingling in your face/arms/legs etc, heart palpations (terrifying, this one & the numbness/tingling recently came back for me and I hate it). Gastrointestinal problems, problems with your menstrual cycle, extreme mood swings, extreme reactions, hallucinations, hypervigilance, disassociation. I could go on. I suffer/have suffered from every single one of these.

PTSD is INVASIVE. I’ve been told on numerous occasions that I just need to ‘let go of the past’ which is particularly ironic because it feels much more like it is the past that won’t let go of me. Flashbacks, anxiety attacks and any number of the other symptoms mentioned above can spring from nowhere, even on a ‘good day’ the most unexpected thing can become a trigger. Its always there, just waiting to creep up and maul you like a rabid dog, when you least expect it.

PTSD is EXHAUSTING. It’s debilitating and painful and just all consuming.

It’s also really really important we start talking about it more. Untreated post-traumatic stress disorder can have a devastating effect for both those who have the condition and their loved ones. It not only affects relationships with your family, friends and others, it can also cause more serious health problems over time and I passionately believe that a huge factor in the affect trauma has on us is the isolation it causes. We need to be encouraging people to talk, no one should be in fear of admitting they need help and support. Kindness and compassion are fundamental to recovery, without them even taking the first step towards help can seem impossible.

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