Meandering Michele’s Mind: My PTSD Confession
Monday, April 5th, 2010 • Uncategorized •
I have to tell you all something I’ve been keeping secret for a very long time. I understand you may immediately want to leave this page. I accept I may never have the pleasure of your company again. I take full responsibility if I am about to really let you down.
However, in light of conversations last week (both on this blog and other social media sites) about the idea of the stigma related to mental illness I feel forced to reveal:
I am one of those people with a big stigma about mental illness. PTSD in particular. I don’t want to be around it, affected by it, impacted by it or in any way enclosed in its grip. I have disdain for its very existence. Even the smallest idea of it makes me sick, suspicious, and immediately wanting to run in the other direction.
Which is, of couse, why I’m working so hard to raise issues of PTSD awareness, education, treatment and self-empowered healing. I want everyone with the PTSD label to get away from it, to be released from it and move on to living lives that are labeled with things like joy, happiness, excitement, freedom, fulfillment, peace and serenity.
When the issue of my own PTSD was raised I flat out rejected it. I told my therapist I would NOT be labeled with this psychotic thing. The idea that I would have something so ‘mental illness’ wrong with me was frightening. It made me feel out of control, terrified, creepy and on the verge of insane. I didn’t understand what it meant to be traumatized, or to dissociate, or to have issues of hyperarousal, hypervigilance or avoidance.
Alas, we don’t always get to choose our labels. We do, however, get to choose how we wear them. I pulled mine on full force so that I could proceed to rip it to shreds. My PTSD stigma became a sort of rocket at my back fueling my own recovery. Get it away from me! Get it off!
The stigma against us from the outside world is uncalled for, unfair and unjust, but in our own community here, maybe a little stigma is not a bad thing. And let me make sure I’m clear about this: not a stigma against ourselves, but against this PTSD thing that has invaded us. We have to accept the label, the existence of symptoms, our history and our experience. But PTSD is not who we are. It is something that happens to us. And then we are faced with the task of unhappening it.
I think, in fact, we should all have a healthy stigma to help us achieve that. Let’s start a PTSD stigma revolution! Let’s all have a PTSD stigma and vow to rid ourselves of this blight on our otherwise unblemished, authentic selves.
Who’s with me?
(Photo acknowledgement on Flickr.)