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What does post-traumatic stress disorder feel like?

What does it feel like to have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD)?

This is what it feels like for me on a bad day:

  • It's never ever feeling safe. It's never taking a full breath of air in your lungs. It's the feeling of walking barefoot over glass, except the feeling is all over your body every time you leave your house.
  • It's being afraid to close your eyes. The vulnerability you feel during the split second of blindness as you sneeze is terrifying.
  • It's having your gut instincts scream at you to RUN every time someone looks at you.
  • It's going shopping and tailoring your outing so that you are never in an aisle of a store with a man you don't know. It's avoiding taking a cab at all costs because you can't be alone in a car with a stranger. It's taking the stairs instead of stepping into an elevator, where you'd be trapped with no one to hear you scream.
  • It's knowing in your bones that other human beings have the power to destroy you. That you can be victimized, no matter how hard you fight or cry or yell. That even someone you trust as a friend or as family can turn on you faster than a wolf when hunger hits.
  • It's the taste of black licorice making you physically sick. It's the smell of manure making you drift off in your head so that you can't feel anything in your body. It's seeing every man with a weathered face as your attacker - he's back to kill you.
  • There are supposedly nice people out there, but you can't see them. You never see them. Instead of real faces you see ghosts of your past haunting you with fresh eyes.
  • It's being told that not everyone wants to hurt you, but you can't stay grounded long enough to truly get to know anyone. It's spending most of your time alone because you are terrified of other human beings, sometimes even your friends. You tell yourself it's better that way, but loneliness still ravages you when you least expect it.
  • It's feeling flawed, bad, marked, stained. You feel like you were born a target and that's all you'll ever be. Danger is all you know, it's everywhere.
  • What does it feel like to have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
  • It feels like prison.
  • It feels like Hell.

However, despite how inescapable the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can feel, there is hope and there is help! Here are some resources to get you started:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - from The Canadian Mental Health Association (CAMH)

How to Manage Trauma infographic

Coping With Flashbacks - from Mental Illness Mouse

Grounding Techniques - from Mental Illness Mouse

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"These are permanent winds that live in the present tense." - Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient