What else

IssueDecember 2022 - January 2023
Comment by Rebecca Elson-Watkins

There are a lot of things I could say, write, and otherwise communicate, about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

But let me start with the most obvious, or at least the most obvious to me, an almost life-long sufferer.

Having PTSD fucking sucks.

There. I said it. I think a lot of my fellow sufferers would agree. It sucks all day long and twice on Sundays. It sucks long, hard, wide and sideways. It sucks upside down and inside out. It even sucks at night.





To explain that, I need to break PTSD down a little.

First, I must point out that everybody who experiences PTSD will experience it differently. Different people experience and process life differently, and many folks will never experience PTSD.

Secondly, even if someone else has been through the exact same traumatic event as you, it doesn’t mean that they will necessarily develop PTSD too. We are all wonderfully unique.

Thirdly, there are different kinds of PTSD. For example, I have both ‘standard’ PTSD from a one-off traumatic event, and Complex PTSD from being a survivor of abuse.

Finally, there is treatment available. No one in a country with socialised medicine need live with PTSD. Yes, the waiting lists can be long, but it is worth it. I am walking, talking, typing proof of that.

Now that housekeeping is out of the way, why does PTSD suck in a plethora of ways?

It’s exhausting. One of the common symptoms, known as ‘hypervigilance’, essentially means we are always on guard, looking for and expecting danger at any moment. Think of the most treacherous journey you have ever been on, and how you had to be ready for anything in order to keep yourself safe. Now imagine living like that for 35 years.

You’d think we’d find relief in sleep. But no. Insomnia is another common symptom with PTSD. It makes sense really – it is very difficult to fall asleep if you do not feel safe. Anyone who has experienced homelessness can attest to that.

When we do finally get to sleep, nightmares are another common symptom. Dreams and nightmares definitely have their place when it comes to helping our brains to process events. However, in the case of PTSD, they can become ever-present, and pervasive, as well as extremely vivid, and even violent – I am told that I scream and thrash around in my sleep, even when I don’t remember having any nightmares. A resultant fear of falling asleep is understandable.

When people hear the phrase ‘PTSD’ many will think of the word ‘flashback’. Flashbacks, like their nocturnal cousin the nightmare, are a form of re-experiencing a traumatic event. They’re not like memories. They’re more dramatic, more visceral than memories. It’s like being there all over again.

There’s more to it of course, but I think that’s enough to explain why I say PTSD sucks.

So, what can we do about it?

First, and this takes everyone working together – get the bloody Tories out and rebuild our shattered NHS mental health services. Demand better from our government than hobbling the institution that lifted many Brits out of suffering needlessly from treatable health conditions.

Second, ask for help. I can’t stress this one enough. If you are struggling, you are not alone. It really is okay to be not okay.

Thirdly, it doesn’t matter if you acquired PTSD from war, from abuse, from a road accident or from any other traumatic event. Your trauma is just as valid as anybody else’s, and you are just as deserving of help as anyone else.

When it comes to help, this is where I would encourage the NHS and the charity/NGO sector to work more hand-in-glove. In my experience, the more tailored to the trauma the help is, the better. I was extremely lucky to see an NHS therapist who knew of a fantastic women’s charity in my area providing tailored support to victims of domestic abuse. The help I got there was nothing short of life-changing for my Complex PTSD.

Unfortunately, with the rise of far-right violence, war in Yemen, Ukraine and more places than I can list, cuts to services that help victims of abuse and other causes I could list for an entire issue of PN, it doesn’t seem like PTSD is going anywhere any time soon.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t work towards making your PTSD suck a little less.

We can do it together.

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