On Bell Let’s Talk day, I shared this photo on Instagram and promised a blog post, so here’s that post! When my friend Audrey and I were downtown looking for street art, we came across this painting that says “everything matters, nothing’s important” and I thought that it describes how I often feel living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Living with PTSD is tough, painful, sad, and debilitating, yet occasionally a little happiness can find it’s way in. At times it feels like “everything matters”; like life is nothing but wonderful and full of meaning. But it can also feel like “nothing’s important”; like life is too painful to continue on. And it switches back and forth like that quickly, constantly. Sometimes it’s even like everything matters and nothing is important at the same time, and that’s really confusing.
It wasn’t until recently that I’ve started learning more words for feelings; before that, all of the traumatic experiences had taught me that things are either good or bad, and there was nothing in between. Continually, I’m having to challenge myself to figure out how I’m truly feeling, but sometimes it’s too tiring. Everything is driven by emotions I don’t understand. Many moments are filled with dread.
But it’s more than just the confusion and misunderstanding of feelings. There’s nightmares, flashbacks, and horrible anxiety, which each effect me almost every day. I want to work through the memories behind the PTSD symptoms, and I have been trying to for years, but disassociation and difficulty trusting people makes that challenging. I can also be impulsive, wanting to find a quick fix for the emotional pain that follows me like a thundering rain cloud.
There have been so many dark moments, but so many moments where the light has shone through. And although I greatly dislike that I have to go through all of this and that it often seems impossible to get through, I know I would not be me without these experiences; it allows me to feel empathy, to connect with people, to feel intense creativity and inspiration. Ask me another day, I might tell you how very angry I am and how much I despise having mental illness, that I don’t think I could possibly survive another day of it. But I always come back to the fact that everything matters. Life matters, I matter, and these experiences matter.
This is just my experience and definitely doesn’t describe what everyone goes through with PTSD, but it is a little glimpse of how I experience the world.
Note: This post has been edited to remove references to “BPD” as being part of my experience. I never felt that it fit for me, but my counsellor at the time had me convinced; she focused on it so much, but we never got very far. When I met a new counsellor and began working on my PTSD, I realized how much my life is controlled by my traumas. As I work on dealing with those experiences, my mental health improves. I think it’s valuable to also note that it can be challenging to label a person with a specific mental illness because our lives are constantly shifting and our internal experience of the world isn’t static. What is most important is that we find what helps us heal and put our energy into that.