Friday, June 17, 2016

PTSD, Suicide, and A Way Out

PTSD is most often associated with veterans and rape survivors. The label has grown to cover the repercussions of other traumas: childhood abuse, for example. The symptoms are across the board; no need to reinvent the diagnosis for each situation.

Of course, when the four letters are attributed to my condition, I shake my head. PTSD is for Serious Traumas. Not the bullying I experienced in sixth grade or the episodes of suicidal behavior and thinking that I’ve known. The latter is perhaps the most shocking to me: I could suffer from PTSD grown from the traumas created by my own brain? PTSD doesn’t require an external force? Are you sure?

I guess it could be true. I’m terrified of suicidal depression/severe depression returning. It will. We just don’t know when. And that terror I feel is PTSD, apparently. That stomach churning, lung crushing, anxiety-producing terror. That terror can cause me to freeze. My mind will rush with confused thoughts, I won’t sleep, I’ll cringe and toss and turn, and all sensible reason will freeze just out of reach. My comfort is in telling myself that it will be fine. Which is horse shit. It isn’t and won’t be fine. When severe depression returns, it’ll be all wrong and not okay, not fine.

Last time I was actively suicidal I held pills in one hand and water in the other, 99% sure that the “fine” thing to do would be to take those pills. (The final comfort once suicidal thinking comes is that there is always, always, a way out.) Before that, seven months before, I sat being evaluated for inpatient care. I had yet to step so close to suicide, but there I was. And they sent me home. I was shocked. But I guess I did okay at present myself as fine without even trying.

The amazing part, though, is that the episode of depression that led me to hold pills in my hand did not put me in the hospital. But then again, no one knew. No one knew because that would have compromised my “safety plan”: it would have resulted in the confiscation of my secret stash of suicide in a bottle. I needed a way out. I need a way out.

The biggest fear, then, that comes with PTSD, is not the repeat of the conflicting feelings and numbness of deep depression, but the feeling of losing control. I fear feeling the fear of someone knowing of my plan A and taking it away: taking away my therapist, friends, family; and I fear feeling the fear of someone knowing my plan B and taking it away: taking away my way out.

I need a way out.

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