(originally published 9/5/19)

Reading “Life Inside My Mind” edited by Jessica Burkhart. An anthology of 31 writers who share their personal struggles with various mental health issues. And smack in the middle is an essay by Melissa Marr entitled ‘How to Deal With Me…and My PTSD’
Melissa describes her struggles with going into crowds…with being touched by strangers…needing to sit with her back to a wall….nightmares and night terrors…exaggerated startle reflex upon hearing loud noises or raised voices….
And I’m right there with her. Or I was for many years. Way too many years. Melissa talks about the ways she has gotten better; but how she regresses when life gets stressful.

In the midst of my own life stress right now…some of my night terrors have returned. Panic attacks have reared their ugly heads again the last couple weeks (it took me an episode or two to realize what was happening and why I was shaking and crying uncontrollably when I was safe at home-ugh). Touch hasn’t been too much of an issue, thank god. People don’t always react kindly when they touch your arm harmlessly and you flinch and jump. Probably because they don’t understand. One recent day I was highly upset when someone I know well came to see me. They went to hug me and I flinched ever so slightly. I was hoping they didn’t notice…but they did, because they asked if a hug was OK. I felt embarrassed; this is someone who can hug me without asking. This of course set off a whole new set of worries: what if they can’t understand or accept that this may happen from time to time? What if I can’t find a way to overcome everything? What if…what if…what if…

I almost cried in solidarity here at work as I read Melissa’s words. Her reactions and her triggers are so fucking familiar. My god, I really am not alone. I’m not the only one fighting this, struggling along some days, or feeling like I’m wading through mud as I recently told a medical professional.
I’m beginning to accept that I may have had-and still have-PTSD, or the remnants of it. And I wonder if that means anything different for me. No, I have not been formally diagnosed; but medical and mental health professionals have told me in casual settings that it’s very likely. I’m not really willing to be formally diagnosed and have that label in my medical files. I don’t know if a formal diagnosis matters at this point.
What matters to me is that a fellow writer has the same struggles. And has spoken about it. Just like me.
I am not alone.
💜 I am not alone 💜
And neither are you, fellow survivors.