The picture of PTSD that I believe falls into everyone's head when they hear it is a veteran cowering from hearing fireworks. But why is that veteran hiding?
It's incredibly common, yet I don't believe that people really understand just how terrible it really is. And this doesn't only happen with veterans. It happens with assault and abuse victims too. PTSD is focused around a specific traumatic event(s) that took place in the past. However, the thing with PTSD is that those events do not like to stay in the past. They resurface and create a retraumatization. It's the very basis of PTSD.
Every time you walk by the place where the incident occurred, every time you see someone who was involved in the incident, when you smell something that was similar to that night, when you're back in the place where it happened, when you talk about — all of this brings you back to the night that causes you the most pain. All of this retraumatizes you. And it sucks because you could be having a wonderful day, but then it starts to rain just like it did that night, and the smell takes you back.
It sucks because you could be trying to get your life back from the person who took it away from you, but every single step along the way you are brought back to that night. And in most cases, you hear people saying that you are lying. You hear people saying that you are doing it for attention or to hurt the person in question.
And you know what? I wish that in my case, that was true.
I wish that I didn't have to wait two years to come forward because if I came forward anytime sooner I don't think I would have been able to make it out alive. I wish that I didn't have to have an incredibly wide array of tools to calm myself down when I get triggered. I wish that I don't have to go through incredibly intensive therapy and support groups just to keep my head above water. I wish that I didn't have to worry about hiding the sharp objects in my apartment because something made my life almost too difficult. I wish that I didn't have to tell my friends that "I'm going dark," which is my way of saying, "I need some more help." I wish that I didn't have to see my rapist say the night never happened.
And at every step along this way, you feel like you're being overly dramatic because why would a person actually feel like this? It happened two years ago, it "was only assault, not a full-blown rape," or it wasn't a "rape-rape, he/she might not have meant to do that." In a society where people condemn those who come forward about an assault or other traumatic events on their own timeline, it is society's fault that those who are hurting and constantly getting retraumatized are being ridiculed.
It's an epidemic.
It hurts the people we love. And it needs to be talked about. It's literally begging to be talked about, but no one wants to bring it up. Those who suffer from PTSD cannot be the only ones willing to speak out about it, as that only furthers the cycle of retraumatization. We need those around us who are allies to be able to learn and speak out about it on our behalf because for a whole ton of people, it is absolutely way too difficult to talk about. If you hear or see someone acting like veterans, sexual assault survivors or any kind of assault survivors with PTSD are anything less than humans who are surviving and deserve help rather than ridicule, talk to them about it. Be nice and be kind, but talk to them about it because we can no longer further this lack of discussion and ridicule.