Tag Archives: PTSD

Depression kills

Depression and suicide have recently touched the family of a good friend. Robin William’s tragic death this week showed that severe depression affects even people who you might think are better able to get help either due to their fame, connections or bank balance.

Depression can affect everyone.

I used to think people who committed suicide were incredibly selfish, only thinking about themselves and not caring about the aftermath left behind. Perhaps being a minister’s daughter I saw more of the aftermath of death (in general) on families left behind a bit more than the average person. But more probably it was because I couldn’t empathise with depression sufferers.

Now when I hear someone make a ‘selfish’ comment, I just think that person has (luckily) never suffered serious depression.

After Sofia died, I came dangerously close to the precipice. How close, is something I don’t like to think about now; it’s better to focus on the fact that it’s now very very far away on the distant horizon.

Severe depression doesn’t just envelop you, it smothers you. Smothers to the point where it won’t let anything else in. It won’t let you think about anything else. Or anybody else. It’s like a cancer eating away at your whole being.

On top of that is the debilitating sense of no longer having control. You feel hopeless, helpless and overwhelmed. The depression is in control, not you. This is a Catch-22 –  you don’t see how you can regain control and it’s difficult to believe how anything can change the situation.

Even if you do manage some positive changes your low self esteem will make you excessively self-critical. It’s too easy to put a negative spin on things, belittle your achievements or even put it down to luck. You might not even feel worthy of getting better.

Thoughts of suicide can arise when your future seems even worse than your awful present; you feel that life is simply not worth living. But going back to the loss of control, there’s also unfortunately a ‘positive’ feeling to suicidal thoughts. Deciding to take your own life is an act you DO have control over and from this perspective sadly I can understand why some people choose it.

Returning to Robin Williams, here was a man who gave so much laughter and joy to others while he was battling severe depression. In his daughter’s moving words, “one of his favorite things in the world was to make you all laugh.” But where were HIS clowns?

These thoughts are just from my personal experience of suffering from depression and PTSD.

For help or someone to talk to –
UK:
http://www.samaritans.org/
USA: http://www.samaritansusa.org/
Australia: https://www.lifeline.org.au/
Or Google ‘suicide help line’.

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Rambling PTSD thoughts

It’s common for PTSD sufferers to want to change things and to make big changes in their lives. This could be physical changes like changing jobs or moving, or changes in your beliefs.

I’ve always enjoyed the freshness of making changes, perhaps sometimes too much. To finish one chapter of my life and turn over a blank new page fills me with excitement; it can be scary excitement sometimes, but it’s always exciting. It feels good to make a complete clean wipe of the slate and move on. I’ve moved from one country to another several times, changed jobs and changed career.

After Sofia’s death I would have loved to pack up our life and move somewhere else. In particular not to have to see all the things we lovingly bought and made for her in the room we had transformed into the perfect nursery. I had the overwhelming sensation of going somewhere that didn’t have constant reminders of her and everything in our house did.

As soon as my hair started growing back I went from the long blondish hairstyle I’d had for several years to a short black bob. It’s difficult to explain how this made me feel better, but it did.

Your outlook on life can dramatically change because of PTSD. I’m now much less materialistic than I was before. I used to want to hold on to everything I could from the past and the thought of losing or throwing away these things horrified me. I still have notes I passed to friends during secondary school and other worthless objects which have great sentimental value to me. Now though, these things aren’t so important. I’ll always have my memories, and the people I love and who love me are what matters.

The long journey of PTSD

A family member recently questioned if Roberto and I perhaps were using the fact that we’re both suffering from PTSD as a crutch. Apart from feeling hurt by this, it made me reflect once again on other people’s perceptions of us and others’ expectations of us.

Funnily enough I had thought both Roberto and myself haven’t been taking our diagnosis as seriously as perhaps we should be. Even though you can be completely aware of the impact a serious trauma can have on many (if not all) aspects of your being, seeing a diagnosis written down in black and white confirming that indeed you do have a mental health problem is yet another thing to cope with. I felt like I hadn’t only lost my daughter, but was now being put into a branded box in terms of how I coped with losing her. It’s very easy to put this extra ‘problem’ out of your mind.

Most of the time I don’t think about having PTSD and the times I do, I wonder if I’m in denial for the other times! Regularly my counsellor will remind me that what ever I’m struggling with at the moment could be to do with my PTSD. Isolating myself or avoiding things are just two that pop up fairly often. Each time she reminds me, my usual response is ‘Oh yes, I forgot that could be related to my PTSD’.

No one will ever truly understand how I or Roberto feel (everyone has their own unique perception of the world and their feelings after all) and probably part of that is because we only give out snippets of how it’s affected us and how it is affecting us. For me this is sometimes because I don’t want to (it hurts and I don’t want to relive it any more than I already do) and sometimes it’s because it feels impossible to explain.

Funnily enough again, the same family member has been seeing me as distant and cold. Whilst not excusing myself, separating myself from others has been my coping mechanism of choice that I learned from childhood and it wasn’t uncommon for people to sometimes perceive me as detached long before Sofia died. But it’s also common for PTSD sufferers to be distant, unloving and uninterested even though they often also need the security of feeling other people around them. It’s a Catch-22 situation; you might see the sufferer being able to talk about emotionals things in an unemotional way, maybe even in a lifeless and distant way and their behaviour may seem to be pushing you away, but most probably they need you to be there to support them.

I know trying to continue a relationship with a PTSD sufferer and give them support can be difficult (I’ve seen my own friends and family struggling). It can be incredibly frustrating, but showing a sufferer even the smallest bit of understanding that they’re experiencing very real distress will help them immensely.

It makes sense to think that talking about the trauma and getting things off your chest can help, but more often than not, and for different reasons, it can be incredibly upsetting and disturbing talking about what happened and reliving the nightmare. On top of this, I had the very real fear that many other sufferers have, of completely losing it (losing control, losing my mind and losing my grip on life) and was afraid if I opened up to people they’d see I was going insane. Thankfully I no longer feel this way.

Fear of how those close to me would see me, perhaps even judge me, is probably why I found and continue to find it easier to talk to people outside my close circle. There’s no other ‘baggage’ from the relationship coming along for the ride and I have no fear of causing them concern or hurt by the feelings I’m expressing. I’m free to say anything, I feel listened to and I know it’s unlikely I’ll be judged.

Recovering from PTSD is an ongoing daily task. The impact it has on your life can be incredibly frustrating. Over time it changes and this is important for people around you to understand – it changes but it will remain for a long time. Of course, it’s natural to want to see a sufferer get better as quickly as possible, but don’t assume just because they seem to be coping better that they are. And certainly don’t get frustrated when their recovery is slower than YOU want; don’t put your own expectations onto them. If you want to support someone with PTSD you need to be patient.