What does PTSD look like?

After a hiatus from social media and other activities I am back and wanted to start with a conversation that led to my break.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  What does PTSD look like?

Well PTSD symptoms vary and are experienced differently from one person to another.  PTSD can develop immediately after someone experiences trauma or it can occur weeks, months or even years later as it did for me.

Yep, it can look like me.  Externally I appear happy, well-adjusted and content (I think I do?). But the truth is every single day I work really, really hard to be this person.

 A specialist suggested to me that I may have PTSD.  After asking me to take her through my medical history, while I was sharing, suddenly, I felt nauseous and nearly passed out.  The specialist laid me on the bed, put the air con on high and gave me a glass of water.  The specialist explained that I had a severe emotional and physical reaction to a traumatic experience, and I should investigate this further as I may unknowingly have more symptoms impacting my life.

The specialist was spot on, I have terrible trouble sleeping, I feel mentally and physically tired, the crushing anxiety when my medical tests are due, the memory loss, the visual reminder of my scars and colostomy bag, going to see my stoma nurse at the hospital smelling the disinfectant and feeling completely nauseous,  at times once simple tasks now feel like mammoth tasks, the overwhelming guilt I have for my children watching and looking after both their parents over a 5 year period fight cancer.  I also sometimes feel like I am in my very own Trueman Show where I am standing still and everything around me is moving super-fast, like someone has hit the fast forward button on the remote control.

PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four categories:

Intrusive memories - flashbacks , nightmares, having severe emotional and physical reaction to the traumatic event.

Avoidance – where you might avoid going to a place or seeing someone who reminds you of the event or avoiding discussing the event.

Negative changes in thinking and mood – feeling detached from family and friends, feeling numb and or hopeless, memory problems lack of interest in activities you once really enjoyed.

Physical and emotional reactions – trouble sleeping, overwhelming guilt, being startled or frightened easily and self-destructive behaviour.

I also learnt that PTSD is sometimes diagnosed as ADHD. Both conditions can present in similar ways and share many symptoms, including difficulty with concentration, memory problems, impulsive/reckless behaviour, difficulty sleeping, overactivity, and substance abuse. 

If you or a loved one is showing symptoms of PTSD, in Australia, make an appointment to see your doctor.  They will do a mental health assessment (they may also do a physical examination to rule out other reasons for the symptoms) and then refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Please, if you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help now, call triple zero (000). You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14 — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.