“Just get over it!”
“That was a very long time ago.”
“It is what it is.”
“You shouldn’t be affected by that.”
“At least it wasn’t rape.”
“You could have it a lot worse.”
“Why are you still thinking about it?”
“You need to move on with your life.”
“Not every guy is like that.”
Why am I expected to get over the events that have happened to me? Why is there so much victim blaming and not perpetrator blaming? Do you know how many times I have been asked “did you do anything to make him want you?” (I was 12) or “did you do anything to make him mad” (after a family member pushed me against the wall and choked me).
Why do I have the burden of just getting over it?
The thing is, when you have PTSD getting over something isn’t as simple as just forgetting it happened or talking through it. There are physical, emotional and mental symptoms of PTSD that carry through and infiltrate your life. When I have a panic attack because I see my ex in a bar and his brother is telling me he is upstairs dancing with some girl, it isn’t because I want to feel this way. This is more embarrassing and uncomfortable for me than it is for those that I am around. I don’t want to react the way that I do. But I did react that way. His brother evoked emotion from me of feeling like men lie to me and men do things behind my back. I started crying as I tapped my ex on the shoulder and asked what he was doing. Of course, he wasn’t actually dancing with a girl, he was ordering a drink at the bar. But my physical symptoms of rapid heart race, racing thoughts and hypervigilence didn’t care. I had to know what was happening and I couldn’t control it. Who would want to look “crazy” at a bar, crying in front of people because you felt like you were going to look stupid and see something that you didn’t want to see? Nobody.
PTSD changes the brain and isn’t something that easy to control or fix.
When your brain detects a threat, the amygdala initiates a quick, automatic defensive (“fight or flight”) response involving the release of adrenalin, norepinephrine, and glucose to rev up your brain and body. Should the threat continue, the amygdala communicates with the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to release cortisol. Meanwhile, the medial part of the prefrontal cortex consciously assesses the threat and either accentuates or calms down the “fight or flight” response.
Studies of response to threat in people with PTSD show a hyper reactive amygdala and a less activated medial PFC.
In other words, the amygdala reacts too strongly to a potential threat while the medial PFC is impaired in its ability to regulate the threat response.
– Psychology Today
Hyperarousal and hypervigilence are two things that are hard to explain but debilitating to experience. PTSD symptoms vary between people and experience but I will say, for me, the physical symptoms, the racing thoughts and being triggered by seemingly insignificant things are the worst.
Why should I be expected to get over it when my actual brain has been affected? We would never tell someone with lupus that they should probably just get over it. We wouldn’t tell someone with cancer that their symptoms don’t seem that debilitating. We would never tell someone with multiple sclerosis that they should blame themselves for their condition. Once we stop blaming the person with mental health conditions some of the shame, guilt and secrets will be lifted.
So what helps?
- Therapy. Different types of therapies have been shown to help those suffering with PTSD, most common is CBT (Cognitive-Behavior Therapy)
- EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
- Medications – Anti depressants, anti anxiety, talk to ya doc about what is best for you!
- SIT – Stress Inoculation Training
Being diagnosed with PTSD was both validating and scary for me. I found that finally figuring out why I felt the way that I did was extremely comforting to know I wasn’t alone but the outlook on the condition was kinda terrifying. I still feel like I have a long way to go to feel “normal” especially within romantic relationships.
These three books can all be found on Amazon and have been extremely helpful in my journey.