When people think of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), their minds usually go to the worst possible situations — escaping war, being sexually assaulted, engaging in combat. These situations are no doubt inherently harmful, and are able to cause severe mental health issues.
However, I want to talk about my perspective on trauma. I have seen no violence in my life, and I have never been in danger (except when the threat was myself). I have lived a privileged life.
Despite this, I have the belief I live with undiagnosed PTSD. How is this possible, you ask? Perspective is my response.
When I was at my worst emotional state, I was a “frequent flyer” at the emergency room, was having panic attacks and felt incredibly suicidal. These experiences left me feeling scarred — both figuratively and literally.
Now that I am in “recovery” (whatever that means) — I am absolutely terrified of returning to that state. Simply put, it was traumatic. How could it not be? Constantly wanting to die and actively loathing yourself puts you through the ringer.
We never really hear this perspective though. Is it possible that having one mental disorder can trigger another? I think that living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) I am more susceptible to other mental illnesses, especially PTSD.
With BPD, my senses and emotions are constantly heightened. This hypersensitivity leaves me vulnerable. This has led to numbing. Paranoid of relapse, I ignore negative emotions and symptoms and put them on the back burner. I tell myself I will deal with them another day, but in reality I am running away from anything that could feel like a trigger to that deadly state from years ago.
It’s ironic that in the long run this tactic is more likely to be the cause of a relapse compared to just dealing with the feelings in the immediate timeframe. The repression of both memories and emotions is unhealthy and risky. But, in the moment, it seems like the most responsible course of action.
Why? Due to my heightened anxiety that has become a new normal, I am consistently walking on eggshells with myself. I am a volcano in danger of erupting at any moment.
In terms of moving forward — I suppose I just have to learn how to control the inevitable explosion. Do I do it on my terms, through therapeutic guidance, by taking it one thing at a time? That would of course be ideal. However, the risk of losing control is still there. If I continue to put it off I can live under the illusion that ignorance is bliss.
Defining trauma can be a tricky thing. I am in no way a specialist — I am simply providing my ideas in relation to the subject. I do not know if what I have experienced is diagnostically classified as “trauma” — but what I do know is that it sure as hell felt like it. And still does.