Dr. B. handed me a book and asked me to read several pages out loud. When I was done he asked me if the words sounded familiar in any way. I had to admit that the long list of PTSD symptoms did indeed sound like things I’d experienced.
But I also told him that I had never been in a fire, a horrific act of Mother Nature, experienced a terrorist attack, or fought in a war. I told him my life was just ordinary, and that the parental abuse I had experienced as a child did not make for PTSD. I reasoned that there were many other people out there who’d had it much worse than I, and that I knew my parents had really loved me. They were just a bit f ‘cked up. I described others I knew who had been through much worse and weren’t suffering from a mental disorder.
It took a few more years and another two diagnoses by other therapists to set me straight and to get over the shame of having a mental disability. Early on, my parents had planted a seed in my head that said mental dis-ease of any kind, is something to be terribly ashamed of. Denial was always the name of the game.
My father, who had beaten and abused me, showed signs of what at the time was called Shell Shock, brought on by his experiences in World War II. But he was never considered to have a mental health problem. On the other hand my grandmother had been labeled an unfit mother because of the way she treated my mother and her siblings. She was the family’s deep dark secret that no one ever talked about. After all, what would the neighbors think if they found out about Grandma?
After numerous long and difficult hours with a therapist who specialized in working with trauma patients I began to understand that most any trauma can cause PTSD. It all depends on the person who experienced the trauma, how early it started, how long it lasted and so on. She helped me to find new ways of navigating through life without the anger and anxiety that tortured me.
After I finishing my work with M., I picked up a book written by Michelle Rosenthal, entitled, Before The World Intruded, Conquering the past and Creating the Future. Hers is an inspiring story of how she overcame PTSD and won the battle for her life brought on by a life-threatening allergy to a medication she experienced in her teens. Over the years as she suffered from insomnia, nightmares and flashbacks she was diagnosed with a number of ailments, including cancer, by physicians who did not recognize the classic signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Twenty-four years later, knowing that there was something terribly wrong, Michelle started doing her own research. When she discovered she had PTSD, she began a journey of healing that included a move to a new location and getting on the dance floor.
As she began to recover, she started blogging about her journey. She became a Certified Professional Coach, a Certified Hypnotist and a Certified Neuro-Linguistic Programmer, and started giving back as a PTSD Coach. In 2009 she founded Heal My PTSD, an organization that brings awareness, education, and treatment options to those struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Michelle’s book is a compelling story of self-empowerment, and has further helped me with my own struggles. Filled with inspiration, Michelle brings us good information and the understanding that most anyone can recover using self-empowerment techniques and community to bring those with PTSD back to feeling safe and at peace in their surroundings.