Wednesday, July 17, 2013

PTSD, A Misunderstood Diagnosis.

    Today I had a meeting with a group of people of a department I am looking to work with. In this meeting we discussed a lot of issues and topics, one of which was my PTSD which raised a few questions which of course the first one was if I was in the Military or not. Of course within recent years due to the amount of wars we have taken part in, the country is becoming more aware of  the term and is becoming a more recognized mental illness in our community today.

     What really surprised me, and almost angered me, is the lack of real knowledge of just what PTSD is and how it can and does effect a person. There almost was a sense of fear in the conversation as if they needed to walk on egg shells. Now this was not a job interview so it was not like anything was off key however questions were asked and it was really evident that the questions asked and the manor they were asked in really showed just how uneducated they were, almost to the point of ignorance which I don't condemn however it shows again just where media and other forms of information lack in the correct conveyance of what PTSD is.

     I know it seems I almost repeat myself and I know we have come along way in understanding the real effects on someone who deals with this diagnosis, however it is the way mainstream media reports on military personnel who return who have this. Today, the United States Army is doing research on how to combat PTSD in many ways as they try and understand what many survivors of abuse have known for years, that trauma does not end once the original act is done. It plays over and over in ones mind for years to come, sometimes hidden for years until triggered by an event that brings the memories forward. Most times, when they have been hidden and they come forward it is even that much harder for a survivor to deal with because the memories that have been suppressed for a long period of time will catch a person off guard and not ready to deal with these "New Found" memories.

     With news reports of soldiers committing suicide hitting major news outlets over the last few years, PTSD unfortunately become known as the war illness as I stated by the questions I was asked. What the media fails to do is present it in a way where the public gets educated to understand why it is soldiers have this illness, nor do they report that this illness has really been around for as long as man has been alive. As with any illness it has only really been in the last few decades where PTSD has been recognized outside the Mental Heath field and in fact recognized by Social Security as a debilitating illness. This illness also brings on many other illness's such as depression and other disorders that the public has known about for many years such as eating disorders. It is only now that they are finding a real link between PTSD and these illness's and a real push is on to treat it.

     With all that said, I feel that more education is needed by the public in general to help understand the real effects of PTSD and how the mind reacts to trauma. It is not an illness that one needs to be afraid of and not an illness that means that the person who has it will not lead a normal life once it is treated and under control thru the help of understanding, counseling and sometimes more often medications. To me labeled as having a Mental Illness does not mean that a person is a threat to others or even themselves just because they have this illness. The truth is, it is the Major Depression that is a side effect that causes a person to do self harm or even taking of ones life. And while depression is so widely known and never questioned by anyone, PTSD is not so well known and that is where the confusion comes in. Sufferers of PTSD alone often never show any signs until one of the side effects become present. And this is where research is coming into play, on just how the trauma does effect ones mind as well as thinking and actions.

     So until the world as a whole understands what PTSD is and how it truly works, I don't see the understanding it getting any better soon. Like I said, compared to depression which the first reaction by the public is compassion, sufferers will always be misunderstood and misrepresented under the great umbrella of being Mentally Disabled. Just like the call to remove guns from anyone and everyone who suffers a mental illness, having PTSD or even depression does not mean right away they should be targets of this label. It does not even mean that a person is what the world refers to as "Being Mental" either. This is why in my opinion that public education is so important and that a better understanding is needed by everyone.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

From behind these walls.

     I previously blogged about walls that someone who has been abused will build inside their mind to protect themselves from further abuse and to hind behind from the abuse they have endured. These walls can sometimes be so strong that even the closest of family members or loved ones have great difficulty even getting a chance to peek beyond them for a chance to understand or to strengthen the bond one currently has with a person who has been abused.

     For someone who has built these walls, even for them they find it very hard to ever let someone in fully. Often friendships and relationships are gripped with mistrust, skepticism and fear which is well hidden from the one whom the person is attached to. Although these issues are not the intention, they are a natural protection that comes from these walls and serve as the main source of stability in ones mind and life. For a loved one who has to deal with someone who has these walls, stress and anxiety will often follow for them as they try and understand just why it is that the person they love so much just can't break down just a little part of these walls to allow them to understand and be able to help which every loved one wants to do.

     When someone is abused, as I have stated before, the mind will build a wall for protection and a safety zone for the person to hide mentally from getting further hurt. These walls can come in many different forms of reaction such as withdrawing from family and friends, eating and living disorders to the way one even takes care of their own body known as personal hygiene. The sense of feeling dirty because of the abuse, the sense of responsibility and other internal feelings of blame will rest and hide within these walls as well. Most often someone who has been abused will always ask, "Did I ask for it" or "Did I do something to provoke it". These questions come from within these walls in order for the person to seek answers to questions that in many cases will never be answered. If they feel that they can accept some of the blame then they can stop any further abuse from taking place ever again by changing what ever answer they choose to use.

     The whole purpose of these walls is protection, protection from the outside as well as the inside. What many people do not understand is that once abused, the mentality of a person changes in such a way that what once was something easy to comprehend becomes quite the opposite. Thoughts become much more complex as they try to analyze just what happened, why it happened, why them and what if anything it was they did to have it happen to them. They begin to look at even the simplest tasks, such as combing their hair, and begin to question if had they done it different could the abuse been avoided. People change because of these thoughts, and it is often the loved ones who see it happen but there is little they can do to convince the person that what they are changing is not really always the case for the reason of the abuse. Some people have gone as far as changing whole life styles in fear that the way they lived before was the main reason the abuse took place.

       When the walls are used to protect from the inside it is often called the safe zone in the mind. Many times when one feels trapped or unprotected from the outside they will retreat into the walls as a way to disassociate themselves from what is happening around them. This practice is quickly learned subconsciously as a defensive mechanism to retreat from the reality of the world around them. Sometimes in doing this the mind will create an alternative personality, or alter, that will come forward to the outside world while the essence of the main personality stays hidden behind the walls, self protected from the fears they possess. This is what is termed DID, or Dissociative Identity Disorder where one takes on the identity of two or more specific identities each having their own traits and thoughts. Only through the process of healing and breaking down these walls can one begin to blend, or combine back to one personality. It is however a very hard process to deal with and takes lots of patients and perseverance of ones counselor and inner self in order for this process to happen.

         While these walls are purely something built in the mental state of the mind, they are very real. Not everyone will have the ability to allow someone in without trust, and as I stated before, mistrust is a main reason the walls are built. It takes time for someone to let their guard down to allow a loved one even close to getting in behind a portion of these walls. Complete care and understanding is a must if you truly want to share in someone's life who suffers from abuse. And although we may be referred to as survivors, the fear and stress of being a victim or abuse will forever remain a part of the person and being able to be allowed behind the walls will not always mean you are fully in. Take the time to understand, listen and be mindful of the situation. Like the game of chess, one wrong move and you could be out faster then you were when you were let in.