January 22, 2021

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: it’s More than simply “Having Bad Things Happen.”


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I’m going to stop minimizing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to an acronym.

What if I told you, “I have a glass of water?” What would you say in response? Probably something like, “Okay,” right? A simple acknowledgment.

You have an idea of what I’m talking about, right? I’m telling you that I have some thing, and that thing contains something as well.

Now, what if I had said, “I have a square crystal glass filled with brown, murky water?” Now you have a visual—an understanding. An impression has been made. No?

When I tell people I have PTSD, I often get a blank stare and the occasional eye roll. “Yeah, I have traumas too. But, I’m not like that,” some say.

Four letters, easily dismissable and misunderstood.

You have anxiety. Grow up. Snap out of it. Keep yourself busy. Just don’t think about anything you think about.

If you have PTSD, you know how hurtful and frustrating it is to hear these words, how they attempt to diminish the intense struggle you endure to the sliver of a passive excuse.

I live through a few conditions that are minimized to acronyms. One of which being Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“Complex,” meaning multiple. It isn’t simple; it isn’t isolated to one event or one trigger.

“Post-traumatic,” meaning I have been traumatized in the past, and this is the effect.

“Stress Disorder” means I am in a constant state of high stress in my body and mind, and I have little to no control over it.

I am triggered in countless ways. Sometimes without my knowledge as to why. I have flashbacks that take me out of where I am and turn a waking state into a nightmare.

I don’t feel comfortable in my own body, let alone in any certain place. I am constantly searching for safety, even when I am unaware of myself doing so.

I’m not throwing a pity party when I mention it or go through it. I’m not dwelling. I’m not hiding behind excuses or labels. I am a certain way, and this certain way has a name. Stating so is meant to give whomever I am speaking to an understanding.

I’ve decided not to use an acronym for post-traumatic stress disorder anymore. I’ve decided to describe myself in a way that shows you nearly exactly what I am talking about.

So, if I were to say, “I’m thirsty, but I have a glass of water,” you would more likely be able to understand that I’m not drinking it because it’s brown.

So anyone who says, “Yeah, I have traumas, too,” can understand that they are fortunate enough not to have developed a post-traumatic stress disorder from them.

That there is a difference between “having bad things happen and moving on” versus having been so deeply affected by them that I now live with resulting experiences beyond my control.

PTSD is easier to state, but how many of us actually understand what these letters describe?

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