The Reality Of Growing Up With PTSD

The Reality Of Growing Up With PTSD

A look at the unique challenges facing kids growing up with PTSD from the perspective of someone who did just that.

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By now, many have probably—hopefully—noticed that millennials are experiencing unprecedented rates of reported and undocumented mental health issues, more so than any generation that came before.

Now I'm no sociologist, but my theory is not simply that the baby boomers are just all bad parents. Since psychology is such a young science, it seems like many of our parents were unaware of the signs that characterize mental health issues and had a corresponding lack of knowledge of what to do if their child was diagnosed.

Although the reality of the current mental health epidemic is staggering, recovery starts after acceptance, and with that, abandoning blame and "what-ifs." With that being said, millennials are still stuck with memories marred by mental unrest and the psychological effects that this kind of an environment fosters.

As a 22-year-old person, I am no exception to that.

In 2015 as a sophomore in college, I visited a counselor for the first time and was diagnosed with PTSD almost immediately. It also became clear pretty quickly that it had been there for a while.

Although, from childhood, I remember having episodes of extreme mood swings; events that only happened because I had a violent impulse and punched somebody, inconveniently disassociated from reality until I blacked out, or fantasized about death at the slightest inconvenience. I lived in a constant fog that muted my emotions until they burst out of me in dangerous fits of energy, making me totally out of anyone's control, including my own.

From the time I was about seven years old, my mind was not my own, and fear dictated a lot of my decisions and actions.

I would have vivid fantasies about violence about as much as, if not more than, sex fantasies since my fight or flight instinct was almost constantly engaged. All that energy affected my sexual drive, too, as PTSD will if left unchecked for too long, so all of my earlier exploits were far from safe or healthy.

That fear affected my sleep, too.

I grew up with chronic sleep paralysis, having episodes almost four times a week. During sleep paralysis, the body remains physically asleep, which creates the feeling of palatalization, but the mind remains active and aware. So, while the person goes through the REM cycle or rapid-eye-movement, the eyes are open just enough for nightmares to come alive in their very bedroom.

Each night I dreamt of a huge, hairy arachnid with a man's face and insane smile while I was powerless to do anything. Every night I felt that if I could just scream, or even twitch a finger and get someone to wake me up, I'd be safe again. But it never happened, and I would dread going to sleep every day in fear that he would come back to haunt me again.

I didn't know how to tell anyone about it, so I assumed that I was being punished by God for being gay and had been possessed by a demon.

The anxiety, too, was unspeakable.

Unable to articulate the complexity of my struggles, I developed excoriation, or skin-picking, to relieve some of the pent-up stress I carried with me always. I obsessed over making the surface of my skin and the inside of my mouth smooth and free from imperfections.

I would rip off whole nails in one fatal swoop if I found an imperfection, pick scabs until they left gaping holes in my skin and scars still visible today, and bite the tissue on my cheeks until eating seemed impossible. As not-so-disgusting as that all sounds, it actually didn't help me at all on the social front.

All of this unsettled emotion that quite literally strapped me to my bed every night stayed constant until young-adulthood when it got to the point where couldn't leave my house anymore for fear of being attacked. Shortly after, I started hallucinating in broad daylight instead of in the comfort of my own home while I slept.

The day I saw two fully-equipped zombies in the back seat of my car, mouths gaping, clothes greying and my whole car stinking of rotting flesh, I knew it was time to get into counseling.

Three years down the line, after a lot of sweat, tears and, yes, blood, I consider myself to be 100% healthy and free from PTSD. But I can't pretend that my life would've been the same if I had gotten the help I needed at a much younger age.

Now I'm obsessed with making sure my kids have a healthy and happy childhood, and I know a lot of my fellow millennials feel the same way. With this, we need to do everything we can now to raise awareness and patron resources for mentally ill people in hopes that Generation Alpha aren't half as afraid of the monster-under-the-bed as I was.

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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How To Stay Mentally Healthy In College

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health.

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Staying healthy in college seems really, really hard to do. Classes, friends, clubs, and the whole fact of living by yourself can create a lot of stress and anxiety. Most students, and people in general, don't really know how to deal with stress or how to take care of themselves mentally, leading to unhealthy behaviors physically and mentally. If you don't take care of your mental health, your physical health will suffer eventually. Here are a few tips and tricks to help take care of your mental health:

1. Eat a well-balanced diet

Eating fruits, vegetables, grains, and other healthy foods will help you feel more energized and motivated. Most people associate eating a balanced diet as beneficial for your physical health, but it is just as important for your mental health.

2. Keep a journal and write in it daily

Writing can be one of the most relaxing and stress-relieving things you can do for yourself. Writing down the issues you are struggling with or the problems you are encountering in your life on a piece of paper can help you relax and take a step back from that stress.

3. Do something that brings you joy

Take some time to do something that brings you joy and happiness! It can be really easy to forget about this when you are running around with your busy schedule but make some time to do something you enjoy. Whether it be dancing, writing, coloring, or even running, make some time for yourself.

4. Give thanks

Keeping a gratitude log — writing what brings you joy and happiness — helps to keep you positively minded, which leads to you becoming mentally healthy. Try to write down three things that brought you joy or made you smile from your day.

5. Smile and laugh

Experts say that smiling and laughing help improve your mental health. Not only is it fun to laugh, but laughing also helps you burn calories! There's a reason why smiling and laughing are often associated with happiness and joyful thoughts.

6. Exercise

Staying active and doing exercises that energize your body will help release endorphins and serotonin, which both act as a natural antidepressant. Keeping an active lifestyle will help you stay happy!

7. Talk out your problems

All of us deal with stress and have problems from time to time. The easiest and probably most beneficial way to deal with this stress and anxiety is to talk it out with a close friend, family member, or even a counselor.

8. See a counselor, peer mentor, or psychologist

Just like it was stated in the previous point, it is beneficial to talk out your problems with a counselor. We all have issues, and it is OK to ask for help.

Keeping up your mental health in college can be a struggle, and it may be hard to even admit you are not mentally healthy. This is OK; you are not alone. If you want to see a psychologist or would like to learn more about mental health, there are resources. You can also take a self-assessment of your mental health. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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