My Secret Battle Trying to describe PTSD isn’t easy and getting someone to truly understand what it’s like to live with it seems merely impossible. Some people are so brainwashed by a stigma that holds no truth. Most people have just refused to acknowledge the reality that such a disorder can even exist. And then there are those who can’t even let the thought of someone experiencing such a thing into their minds that they happily welcome blindness to such a subject they really know to be true. But regardless, it is a very real thing that real people live with. And as I start to become more familiar with a body I’ve had for 22 years, it has never been more evident. In no way did I have a normal childhood. Life was chaotic and my house was broken. My normal was no electricity, running water or food. I was use to lines of strangers constantly coming in and out of my house as well as bedroom. My goals and dreams were everyday necessities for most kids my age. I dreamed about moving into a normal house, my mom having a car, or simple things like owning a pair of socks. I craved to be normal and did everything I could to convince people that I was. Even as an adult I still find myself spending money on unnecessary things because I think, “normal people have this, right?” As long as I could remember I have always felt different. I just knew I couldn’t process or feel things the way other people did. In school for instance, it was so difficult for me to process or comprehend this simplest of lessons. It was as if the second my attention was needed for anything, disassociation had completely taken over. Eventually I found myself in a constant “auto pilot” state that seemed to have no ending. I still have a note that my best friend had written me when we were 14 that says, “Please wake up. You’re scaring me. It’s like you are a walking dead person.” And she was right. That’s exactly what I was. For the next 6 years I submerged myself in a community that taught me to “fake it till you make it” and keep any personal issues hidden and unseen. I learned to solely focus on others hardships rather than bringing any light to my own. And I got away with it for the most part but eventually I hit a wall. I had finally exhausted every recourse of distraction. In 2013 I came face to face with something I had worked so hard to get away from, myself. It really was like I had just woken up one day and was completely catatonic. Hours, days, and weeks were now spent staring at the ceiling in silence. I couldn’t comprehend or contribute to any conversations and trying to explain what I was feeling just wasn’t an option. I had lost all, if any control I ever had over myself. I was dead, again. This time I had nowhere to run and I couldn’t risk losing my friends that had stuck by my side through all of this. I knew I needed help but I was so afraid of finding something out that I couldn’t handle. I knew it would just be too much and I was afraid of what I might do to myself. But I was out of options. After just a few therapy sessions, my counselor had explained to me that I had bipolar disorder and severe PTSD primarily from 16 years of physical and sexual abuse. I then started seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist weekly and things were starting to become clearer. I could now recognize panic attacks, manic episodes, flash backs, and disassociation. The very things that kept me silent for so long that never had an explanation until now. In February of this year I was hospitalized after experiencing a flashback that seemed too much to handle. The very thing I was so afraid of was now happening. I couldn’t do it any longer. I couldn’t take another memory or sleepless night. I couldn’t live through this another day. But somehow I made it one more week. On February 6th I was released from the hospital. This same day I happen to turn 22. My only wish was to never come back. I just wanted to get better, to feel again. Since that day I have done everything I could to fight for myself. I’ve made life style changes, switched mindset, and remained open and vulnerable with my therapist and psychiatrist. I’ve slowly been able to become more aware of my thoughts and recognize progression. I feel better than ever. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll still close my eyes and my body will starts to shake, or I’ll spend hours in my closet hiding behind clothes just to feel safe. Sometimes I’ll wake up 3-4 times during the night screaming, and completely overwhelmed by crippling fear. Getting through 24 hours without a trigger feels like winning the lottery and if I’m lucky enough not to spiral into a horrifying flashback in public, then it was a good day. But for the first time in 22 years I feel like I can finally breathe and identify with real emotions. I have been able to keep my job, live on my own and have a somewhat normal life. I surround myself with people who love, accept and encourage me. I am optimistic for the future and my recovery. Living with PTSD is a constant struggle but you somehow make it through. The greatest thing I’ve learned is to stay open, honest and most of all not silent. Regardless of what I’m feeling or thinking, this day will go just as quickly as it came. No matter how inconsistent my mind is, time is constant. And time will heal. Which means yes, I will get better. I am one day closer to being better.