What Is The Difference Between Retraumatization Vs. PTSD

Retraumatization Is A Thing, And Worse Than You Think

It's a lesser-talked about side of PTSD.

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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?

Retraumatization.

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.

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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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Public Health May Be The Most Important Area To Focus On As A Society

I saw with my own eyes the importance of public health initiatives in villages throughout Honduras and Nicaragua.

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Medical exploration and healthcare management has thrived throughout the 21st century, with major developments in epidemiology allowing organizations such as the World Health Organization of the United Nations to track the spread of preventable diseases such as malaria and influenza across impoverished countries worldwide. I saw with my own eyes the importance of public health initiatives in villages throughout Honduras and Nicaragua when I traveled there as a Brigadier with Stony Brook's Public Health Brigade, a coalition organized by Global Brigades during the Summers of 2016 and 2017.

Working alongside other university collaborations such as Boston University, I was mesmerized by the impact that improvements such as clean water through mountain pipelines and sustainable housing could do in reducing the severity of Zika virus outbreaks in the region, as accentuated by the near 8,400 villagers with access to clean water as a result of our efforts.

These experiences demonstrated to me the value of preventative measures highlighted by the public health approach — by attacking the origin of a disease and the medium through which it spreads instead of merely treating the manifestation of its symptoms, a holistic approach would allow for the eradication of a malady throughout an entire region whilst educating the local populations about the importance of proper hygiene practices and fortified infrastructure to prevent its re-eminence. It is for this reason that I feel inspired to pursue a graduate degree in Public Health as a professional, so that I can help contribute to the eradication of preventable illnesses across the globe.

A specific area of interest that I wish to target as a field of study would be the impact of sustainable housing in the eradication of illnesses such as lead poisoning through contaminated water sources. My own experience in this particular aspect of Public Health Administration as a Brigadier with Stony Brook Public Health Brigade showed me the importance of secure infrastructure in the reduction of preventable diseases as an especially pertinent area of community health in the United States, highlighted by the water toxicity crisis in Flint, Michigan.

A recent study released by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha at Hurley Medical Center noted an uptick in the blood-lead concentration of Flint Children from 2.4% to 4.9% after changing their water source, with spikes as high as 10.6% in correlation with elevated levels of lead in Flint water. These elevated blood-lead concentrations put these children at higher risk for lead poisoning, characterized by reduced growth rate and learning difficulties. Purification of the available water sources throughout the region would be a comprehensive long-term solution to reducing elevated blood-lead levels amongst Flint residents.

My goals after my master's degree in public health would be to pursue a medical education and become a doctor, or go into Healthcare Administration and eventually work with the WHO of the UN to establish a more easily accessible Healthcare system across various countries to increase the number of people in impoverished areas that can be reached by doctors, nurses and other primary care practitioners. I feel that a proper understanding of public health would, therefore, be essential to establishing my career in service to humanity.

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