Yes, even writers can have PTSD. Although Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is commonly associated with soldiers who experience the traumas of war, it can happen to anyone. PTSD is a severe condition that may develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as sexual assault, serious injury or the threat of death. The diagnosis may be given when a group of symptoms such as disturbing recurring flashbacks, avoidance or numbing of memories of the event, and hyper-arousal (high levels of anxiety) continue for more than a month after the traumatic event.
Now that we know what it is, what does it feel like? In a single word, hell. Dreams and flashbacks can trigger vomiting, the onset of a panic attack, tremors, depression, anxiety, and an overall feeling of misery. Without proper treatment misery becomes your shadow.
I have PTSD brought on by childhood sexual abuse. When the misery became over-whelming, I sought treatment: longterm psychotherapy accompanied by medication. The medication made me more receptive to the challenges of therapy. Now for the good part. Through the guidance of my therapist, self exploration, and some really dark times, I learned to trust, to love, and to gain an openness where I now see the previously unseen. New experiences evolved, too numerous to mention in a blog. Without PTSD and the ensuring long term therapy, I would never have become a writer and have three books to my credit. The experience has given me an insight that maybe others with a less challenged life do not experience.
Do the symptoms of PTSD disappear and never return? No, but they are manageable. Sometimes a slight depression sneaks in like a distant fog, troubling dreams may appear. I still have moments when my body jerks at night, and I literally throw my body out of bed to escape an attacker. The other night I hit my head on the corner of my nightstand when I fell out of bed. A week or so earlier I shoved everything — lamp, keys, iphone — off of the nightstand onto the floor when I fought off and overpowered an intruder. Sometimes my wife and I have discussions as to whether I should move to another bed. (That’s during the bad episodes.) But life is good, and I can draw upon these experiences to assist me with the type of writing that I pursue. Yes, life is pretty damn good. I’m a lucky man.