What PTSD Really Is

I think PTSD is how your body attempts to keep horrible things from happening a second time. If we are hypervigilant, then we stand a better chance of seeing disaster before it strikes next time. If we isolate ourselves, then we have a greater chance of knowing when someone is a danger to us. If we unleash our anger more quickly, then maybe we’ll be able to drive off danger before it gets to us. Those aren’t bad qualities to have if you know that horrible things can and do happen. The problem is, we tend to take it too far and we intensify those traits until we choke on them. That’s PTSD.

The big problem is how to learn to live with the protective aspects of PTSD but without going overboard. How do we learn to be hypervigilant enough? How do we learn to isolate ourselves so that we can see disaster coming without becoming so cut off from others that we can’t see anything at all? How do we use our anger without it damaging everyone else around us? In other words, how do we live with PTSD and make the most out of it without having it consume us?

Seeking balance is the obvious answer; allowing our subconscious to exert some control without seizing total control. That’s a hard balance to find!



One thing about PTSD I’ve realized, is that to a large extent, I can define whether it’s going to have a totally negative effect on me or not. While I wish I didn’t have this particular diagnosis, I’ve had to admit there is a legitimate reason I have PTSD, and that, having it does, to an extent, protect me.  After all, being hypervigilant means that it is very rare for anyone to take me by surprise.

I’ve had one friend point out that I’m probably one of the safest people he knows just because I am so tuned in to what’s going on around me. When I get out of my car, I’m always aware of others in the area and I’m always evaluating whether they are a danger to me or not.  While that doesn’t mean I won’t get hurt in the long run, it does mean that subconsciously I’m doing everything possible to ensure I won’t be stuck in another traumatic situation again.

Trying to view something in this manner is called reframing it. By acknowledging that my PTSD has a positive effect on my life in some way, makes it easier for me to live with it.  PTSD is something I wish I didn’t have to live with.  But, I have had to acknowledge that it’s possible to view things in a different light and recognize that there are silver linings to my clouds.  PTSD is a way my mind has responded in order to keep me alive…and that can’t be all bad, can it?