One of the most common (and annoying) parts of having PTSD is that you keep things inside yourself. Feelings, thoughts, emotions… It’s like you are wearing a mask and nice thick armor.
Logical? Yes. It’s a survival strategy and it works very well.
Good? Until a certain point. It helps you survive. After that, it becomes poison.
There are a couple of different reasons why someone with PTSD keeps things inside themselves. They can exist simultaneously.
After you have been exposed to a trauma, your mind can protect itself by going ‘numb’. You felt so much, was hurt so bad, that you start to feel ‘nothing’. It’s a way to continue living without losing your mind completely. You need to protect yourself from your pain.
You don’t want to hurt your loved ones because you are hurting. So, you put on a ‘happy face’ and trick them for their own good. People with PTSD can be quite the actors, ya know.
People who have never been through a serious, life changing trauma often don’t ‘get’ a person who has flashbacks, panic attacks, random anxiety attacks, periods of rage, depression or nightmares. So, you keep your mouth shut. No one understands anyway and they are just going to think that you’re crazy.
Not knowing how
This often occurs after the Numbness period. You have locked up your feelings for so long, you forgot how to deal with them or how to show them. It’s very difficult to trust, love or cry again after wearing a mask. You start to feel again and it scares you to death because you don’t have a clue what to do with those feelings.
This sounds familiar to you? Then you probably have one of these two questions:
Can I keep this up forever?
How can I heal?
About that first question I can be short and harsh: No, you can’t.
Not if you want to have a life worth living. Not if you really want to become happy. All those bottled up emotions will come out some day and that can be very unpleasant.
That second question is a little bit more trickier. It takes time and courage. A lot of both.
It’s not going to be easy, but you can do it.
If I can do it, you can too.
First off all, start opening up to someone you can trust. Someone who understands.
Maybe someone else with PTSD. They will know what you are talking about, won’t judge you and know how hard it is. Trusting someone is one of the hardest things to do for someone who has PTSD.
But, it’s also a good way to start healing.
Change your attitude.
Revealing things to someone from which you think they are completely crazy is very hard.
Let me tell this: They are not as crazy as you might think!
PTSD is not about what’s wrong with you, it’s what happened to you.
Your thoughts and feelings are a normal reaction on PTSD, like bleeding is a normal reaction on being stabbed. The only difference is that your soul and mind are wounded instead of your body.
You have to start seeing yourself as a warrior, a survivor. Because that is what you are!
Accept yourself. After that, you can start to get a better you.
There is no need to expose yourself completely right away. Just start with some minor disclosures. You can see how the other person reacts and it will give you a safer feeling to continue. If talking is too hard, start with writing.
You need to experience firsthand that sharing pieces of yourself isn’t that dangerous and often has a positive result, and that on the odd occasion that one of your secrets is received badly, that it’s something you can handle. You have survived worse, trust me.
Give it time
Opening up about things that you have kept hidden for so long is a process. It’s okay to get nervous, it’s okay to choke and be silent for a while. It’s also okay to get overwhelmed. Talking about your emotions and the things that happen to you can be very stressful and you can get overwhelmed when emotions start bubbling out of that bottle. Give yourself a break, you are learning here! Just don’t give up when it gets hard.
Step it up
Share slightly more serious things about yourself with people you know, and who you’re comfortable with. The more you talk and open up, the easier it will get.
Yes, it’s all very scary, I know. But you deserve to be yourself and you can’t be yourself completely when you are always guarded and keep things bottled up.
I have successfully bottled up and used my mask for a lot of years. I don’t anymore. This is me and people will just have to deal with that because I am way happier and relaxer this way.
Lots of Love,