Every day I wake up to a different version of me. Will I be happy or sad, will I feel safe or scared? It’s not that I am unstable; I have grown to become a master of me. The things I feel because of my Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) aren't invisible to others. I like to think of myself as a warrior in my own right, because I face invisible battles every day. But we all have our own battles, diagnosis or not. Do you know what mood you will be in when you wake up tomorrow? The only difference between me and you is that my battle has been categorised. Because society likes to do that, it makes people feel comfortable. They can try to “make sense” of things. The thing we forget is, we designed these categories and labels ourselves and for some reason we feel like we must conform. But what are we conforming to?
Can you show me the definition of normal manifested into a human? Get back to me on that one. Could you tell me the definition of PTSD? I’m sure you could read it from Google or attempt. We all have our different ideologies of what things are.
Do you know how many times I have heard “Well you haven’t been to war so it can’t be that” when people find out I have PTSD.
Could you show me or tell me what someone with PTSD is like? I can show you various people with PTSD who are entirely different. Their PTSD results from gang crime, hate crime, wars…the list actually is endless and every single one of those people are different. Trauma has one definition but there are a hundred, if not more, different ways it can impact a human, so why would the result be the same every time?
Challenge negative language
I’m never afraid to say if someone’s language makes me feel uncomfortable. If someone spoke badly of someone with cancer or because of their race, we wouldn’t accept it. Negative terminology around mental health is no different; my mental health is my identity and nothing to be ashamed of. I remember once someone commented on “me being less sensitive if I was normal”, I simply asked them what normal was. I explained my illness displays in a different way to others, but it doesn’t make me sensitive, it means I have to protect myself a little more to make sure I feel stable and safe. This prompted a discussion about a side effect I experience called hypervigilance. This was in fact rare.
I usually find once challenged people do not even realise the language they use, but by pointing it out in a safe way we are promoting new, positive and accepting language around mental health. It seems like a small drop in a bucket but over time every drop adds up to fill the bucket and this will reshape our thoughts and approaches to mental health.
We all fit labels. I fit various hashtags; #PTSD #metoo #survivor but those things do not define me or make me less of a person. After all, like you I am a human being not a commodity and that’s exactly what I think we have all forgotten. How to be human and to be just that. Because there is no normal, but there will always be different. Look in the news about how many young people self-harm or struggle with mental health now. All fighting to fit into those labels. Instead let's teach our children to embrace self instead of hiding because they don't 'fit in'. Let's save the labels for clothes.
Sharing my story
I have turned my pain into help, support love and light for others and myself; from public speaking, support groups, writing poetry and starting my own victim support brand. I am a big fan of sharing my story so others don’t feel alone.
I spent a really long time hiding my experience of mental illness for fear of hurting others or being judged by them.
But the fact is you never know who needs your light and sharing mental health experiences could provide that light for someone who is lost in the dark like I once was.