The most well known symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, avoidance of triggers and dissociation. Less obvious, though, and possibly more pervasive are the effects that PTSD has on the ability to have healthy relationships.
People come to me when emotional pain, for whatever reason, has gotten to a point that it is interfering with daily life and is no longer tolerable. One of the most common questions they ask is "how do I make it stop?"
"I found myself curled up into the fetal position, crying. I don't understand where this came from. Am I crazy?"
"I'm falling apart at work. I get angry at the smallest things and snap at people. Sometimes I need to excuse myself from meetings because I get emotional. Am I crazy?"
"No one understands me. They say I'm too sensitive. I do seem to feel things deeper than other people do and I get hurt so easily. I don't understand why I can't snap out of it. Am I crazy?"
"Sometimes I feel like life has no meaning, no purpose. I want to be happy and be a better person but these thoughts keep coming up for me and it's making me miserable. Am I crazy?"
"Good morning, how are you?"
"Doing great, thanks! And you?"
It's our ritual. Say good morning, reply that everything is great and keep on moving. But is it really? When someone asks how you are doing, do they really want to know? Do you want to tell them?
When I first tell people I am a therapist, they inevitably end up asking for advice and often later tell me painful stories that they typically don't share. You see, the person that you think "has it all together" is often struggling quietly and they think that showing the pain will somehow make it feel more real. Does this sound familiar?