Scott McIntyre reflects on his diagnosis and what it’s like to live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I’m not very well. Or at least I think I’m not. I hurt. I cry. I’m sad. I’m manic. I’m anxious. I hate you. I love you. I want to talk. Fuck off and leave me alone. I want to talk. I need to talk but something is stopping me.
No, I’m not very well. It took me long enough to realise it. I mean, I’ve been writing for a while now, sharing my experiences and advising you to get help if you’re feeling ill. Only, I’m fucking awful at following my own advice.
Hi, I’m Scott. I’m 35 and I’ve just been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Or PTSD for short, if you like.
In 2010, an awful thing happened to us. It wasn’t the worst thing ever but it was pretty close. But this isn’t the right time to document what happened. It’s too raw, the wounds haven’t healed and it the pain is still too great. It was awful, just awful.
How did we feel at the time?
Empty. Lost. Angry. Distraught. Helpless. Hopeless.
As I said, the full story of this is for another time. I can’t bring myself to write about it. I really can’t talk about. Don’t want to. It brings it all back. Hideous memories that keep playing over and over in my mind. The problem is, people are noticing.
“Yeah, just tired.”
“Is something wrong? You look upset.”
“Och it’s just something at work. Don’t worry”
Something happened last night. It was my daughter Amy’s end of year dancing show. Just before we were about to go in, my wife Karen casually mentioned something to me. To her, it was quite innocuous. To me, it alerted every trigger in my head and my mind commenced meltdown.
So just before we go into the dancing: WHAM!
I’M HIT, I’M HIT! I’VE TAKEN ON FIRE AND I’M GOING DOWN! MAYDAY! MAYDAY! CAN ANYONE HEAR ME? CAN SOMEBODY HELP?
I always wanted to be a pilot.
Anyways, so in we go. Now I’m not the biggest dancing fan. I really do find nothing less entertaining than dancing. Obviously when my little girl and niece are dancing, then I’m proud as punch. But the rest of the time, it’s just me and my mind, slowly spinning around, performing a deadly waltz that sometimes never ends. I’m trying desperately not to let my thoughts spiral into the black hole of those hellish and terrible memories.
FUCKSAKE do something Scotty. Okay, okay. I’ll count the chandeliers. Six. That was too easy. Count the fucking lights on the chandeliers then. Seventeen. What about the wee holes on the lightshades. Approximately eighteen, it’s hard to tell but I’d like to have a proper look. Meanwhile, some kids are dancing inappropriately to a shite song. Some people mention how good the kids are. I don’t want to talk to them and mutter something inaudible to them. I instantly feel guilty about it.
More dancing. Amy is on again. I beam with pride. Then back to the other kids. They’re jumping about to Calvin Harris. My Mum mentions that she hates this kind of music. Personally, I don’t mind this one. The darkness is descending again. What the fuck can I do now? I look above the stage. Six curtains. Hmm. Twelve backlights, four each of yellow, red and blue. Makes sense. Oh look, there’s stars on the backdrop. One hundred and ninety-two. I think.
You get the idea. I’ve been living my life like this since 2010. Have I been living a lie? Yes. Was I refusing to accept how I felt? Probably. Should I have noticed it earlier? Hard question. You think that you’re ill but you push it away. You put it away for another day. I can’t be ill. What would my employers think? What would Karen say? My parents won’t understand. Okay then, I’m fine. What I’ll do is write blogs. Yes, a blog! I’ll talk about my experiences and pretend that I’m fine. Will anyone notice?
I certainly didn’t. Something had to give. It did.
I accepted I wasn’t well a few months ago. Talked it through with Karen, went to the doctors and was put on Citalopram. I almost immediately felt better. I was pleased with my decision. I felt good that I’d accepted my illness and eventually the pills worked too. Went back to the doctor. She’s pleased with my progress. So am I. Up the dose a little. Feel confident. Time goes by. I don’t feel as good this time. I’m expecting the same kick as I got the first time. It doesn’t come. I’m disappointed. I’m upset. I’m depressed.
Now, there’s other things going on in my life that would get any normal man down. You know, all these little things that all ball up into a bigger problem. The stress of a house move. An illness that has caused a great deal of physical pain. Many other things. But add them all into a big mixing bowl alongside my inability to cope with my past, then we are well and truly fucked.
I went back to the doctor and mentioned how I was struggling with the past and how I feel it’s some form of PTSD.
“Absolutely,” she said. “Without a shadow of a doubt, that’s what you’re suffering from. Not the most normal case in the world, but definitely PTSD.”
Well, isn’t that just dandy and just my luck? I’m very unusual, I am. So my meds have been changed to those for a major loony and I’m off to counselling. Putting a positive spin on things, this just makes me feel more like Josh Lyman. I wonder if I’ll get to go see Stanley? (One for the hardcore West Wing fans there. No, I am not a loser.)
So, here I am. I feel like a fragile bubble of glass. This is me, just carrying on with being a wee glass bubble. Until something handles me too roughly, not carefully enough, I’m tender you see. I shatter. I smash into all these tiny pieces and although I am surrounded by people who nurture me and put me back together, the pieces I break into become smaller and smaller. It’s becoming more difficult to put me back together. The glue isn’t holding.
I just want to become whole again and not be this silly wee delicate bloody human. Don’t you know who I am? I’m Scotty Mac for fuck’s sake. Or I used to be.
I’m not doing great at all. But I have the best wife in the world and she’s awesome. I have good friends. My family is great. And I have my writing. It makes me feel better. In a way, this is a form of therapy for me. It’s a good way of getting these thoughts and feelings out of my system. This is why I write about my experiences. I’m not an attention seeker and I’m not after your sympathy. I’m not looking for a pat on head and a biscuit. Although, I do like a biscuit.
It helps me to share my feelings with you. It’s probably too easy to do this from behind a keyboard rather than face to face and that’s why I find the words just flow sometimes. I know for a fact that some of you guys will be feeling the same. I’m there if you want to talk. If you read this, then the next time you see me, ask how I am. Get in touch. Comment.
Mental health problems aren’t anything to be ashamed of. I’m happy to admit it. We’re all vulnerable. It doesn’t have to take something as bad as what I went through to trigger an illness. It can be little things. It can be many things. Just don’t be afraid to admit it.
Talk. Write. Listen. Ask.
We all need to sometimes.
You never know what kind of difference you’ll make.
Photo credit: Flickr/Freidwall