The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth.

~Chinese Proverb~

PTSD: Looking from the inside out

September 25, 2012

Knowing the symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) gives us an idea of what having it is like, but reading a list of symptoms does not trigger our emotions. With words we share concepts. We understand or empathize with each other because we share the same emotional language. 

The best way to convey an internal experience is by using analogy and metaphor. It is one thing to say, “I’m confused,” and quite another to say, “It feels like my thoughts are a jar of marbles being shaken.” The word “confused” is a more abstract concept subject to countless interpretations, but most of us can relate to the noisy, chaotic, and pounding sensory image of a shaken jar of marbles. 

PTSD is a problem for people that experience or witness traumatic events. Frequent symptoms are anger, irritability, sleeplessness, loss of interest, nightmares, and intrusive memories. Other common signs are disconnection, confusion, depression, anxiety and a constant sense of danger. 

Here is the same group of PTSD symptoms described, with analogy and metaphor, by people diagnosed with PTSD: 

“It’s like standing in an endless open field during a heavy downpour. It’s impossible to focus on anything and things are coming at me but I can’t see what they are, or if they are dangerous or safe. There’s a wind and lightning. It’s unmanageable chaos but I can’t see clearly to plan a getaway or an attack.”

“You never stop being a soldier. I’m always on guard for the place, person, or thing that is going to attack me. I’m a confused freak. I can’t communicate with other humans even though I look like them. Plants and the dirt they are in are the only things that seem to get me.” 

“Having PTSD is feeling you’ve been killed but don’t know you are dead. You get tossed back and forth between the land of the living and the dead, a soul with an on-off connection to life. I know that a part of me is gone forever.”

“I’m at the bottom of a well trying to get out by using slippery, precarious grips. I never get to the top. Sometimes I’m close but then lose my grip.”

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