One man’s story of going from not being able to cope with the trauma to being able to breathe and hope for the future.
Sam DeSilva has been blogging about PTSD since being caught in the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. More of his writing can be found here.
The Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy I received from Dr Jennifer Wild at NHS Maudsley and Oxford University genuinely helped me reduce the severity of my symptoms of PTSD and without a doubt saved me from myself.
Not that everything is perfect now, far from it. Before the treatment, my life had fallen apart. I felt I had lost everything, and I couldn’t really cope with anything. I was so tired of it all, no one could see what I was going through, because I had managed to go for so long masking the extent the trauma had affected me. The only person I had ever opened up to about it on an emotional level couldn’t cope and had grown to despise me, she resented that she had “wasted three and half years of her life with me”.
I understood why she was so ashamed of me and wanted to have nothing to do with me. Like others, before the PTSD diagnosis and treatment, she saw me as “being selfish & weak”, a constant disappointment that there was “nothing to be proud of” – a general embarrassment in her eyes.
All I wanted was for everything to stop, I couldn’t compartmentalise any of it and was fighting suicidal thoughts daily. Ending my life seemed the logical answer, the only thing that was holding me back was what it would do to my mother and ex-fiancee if I actually went through with it.
However, there were times where I felt I couldn’t fight the trauma of what had happened, and the associated emotions that led to the suicidal thoughts anymore. I wrongly persuaded myself that I would actually be doing everyone a favour by ending my life. Despite the pain it would inevitably cause, I convinced myself that in time they would get over it and be able to eventually move on and have a happier life without me. Which would be far better than the alternative, which was continuing to destroy their lives and futures in the process of being exposed to my self-destructiveness, and how I only seemed to be getting worse while dragging everyone close down with me.
I don’t think I suffer severe PTSD anymore. I still have intense flashbacks, frequent horrific dreams and feel guilty I survived while so many died around me. However, since the treatment my reactions to the intensity of those feelings has fundamentally changed. My inner self-talk is generally more constructive rather than self-destructive, and I am able to compartmentalize what happened more effectively. I don’t hate myself as much, and I know there is a future for me. It’s not the future that I wanted and hoped for by any stretch, but it was only a few years ago that I couldn’t imagine any.
Despite the loss of career and the relationships of close friends and family, the shame of being labeled a criminal and the social stigma of attempting suicide and living with a mental health diagnosis, I know however bleak and lonely the future may look, with the right mindset, by essentially being kinder to myself and focusing on the skills I learnt and developed during my PTSD treatment, I know there is a path forward, wherever it may lead.
I have a lot to be grateful for.
This article was originally published on PTSD Jedi.
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