Linda here. I got a very interesting question today from a friend of mine. She asked me if my blog was only for those with chronic PHYSICAL illness or if illnesses that are not considered physical could be written about. I told her that I never really thought about it, but it could. I told her she could write a guest post if she felt so inclined, and she did. This post is our first of hopefully many guest posts from both her and others because the more stories we get the less alone and more positive we can be. She also told me that she reads this blog when she’s really down because it gives her something to focus on. I thought that was awesome. So here it is!
*Warning- This post could cause flashbacks if you are recovering from sexual violence.*
I asked Linda if I could write a guest post about chronic diseases that are not physical, but still very hard to live with. I have severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. I’ll start off with a brief bio and then get into what it’s like to live with these diseases.
About a month before my 16th birthday (I can’t even tell you the day anymore) I was date raped. I hate that term honestly. I think that it makes it sounds less serious, and even has a hint of shame for the victim because you were on a “date” with this person. After it happened I didn’t tell anyone for a few weeks. After I finally told my mom we kind of brushed it off and went on with our daily lives (she and my dad were going through a horrible separation so it was easier to focus on that). I didn’t leave the house for a month because it was summer and I didn’t have anywhere to be. This started the depression and what I would later know was PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Many people know what it feels like to be depressed, when you feel “down”. Not so many people know what chronic depression feels like. It’s something you can’t get rid of. You can ignore it, but for brief periods of time that exhaust you. You can take medication but most of the time it makes you feel like a zombie. It’s a disease that makes it hard to get out of bed in the morning. There are days where I physically can’t get myself out of bed. The effort is too much. Usually this only happens when other things are stressing me out besides daily life. On those days I call into work or school and tell them I have a migraine and can’t come in. If I’m lucky it happens on a day off and after taking a nap I can try to pull myself out by reading or watching tv (I have watched a ridiculous amount of Netflix in the past year…. I might actually be the reason they raised the price! ) Usually those techniques will work, but if they don’t I call my mom and end up crying on the phone until I start to feel better. It’s to the point where she expects me to be crying when I call her. Another side effect of the depression (or maybe the PTSD, or both) is that sometimes I have crazy suicidal thoughts even when I’m happy. They come and go in less than a second but they are terrifying.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is most linked to soldiers returning from war. It is the body’s reaction to something horrible. There are many “symptoms” of this disease. I can’t come up with a better word right now. For a very long time I thought I was bi polar because I can have very intense mood swings, going from so depressed I can’t get out of bed to feeling so good that I feel like I can do anything (I imagine this is what being high feels like). The only difference between bi polar disorder and PTSD is the duration of the mood swings. With bi polar disorder the mood swings last for weeks, months, or even years. With PTSD they can be as short as 5 minutes. Which is not fun by the way, it makes you feel very tired and quite crazy. A few months ago I took a class in which this was explained to me. Everything clicked into place. People who have PTSD tend to create drama in their lives so they don’t have to focus on the underlying issue. When that drama or stress is removed they have more flashbacks. When I started removing myself from the drama in my life it became very clear to me that I had PTSD. Some other symptoms of PTSD are: feeling restless, jumpy, or unsafe; having flashbacks; issues with sexual activity; having issues being touched or trusting anyone; and being very tired from everything going on in your head. It can also cause insomnia. So both diseases I have make me tired while one of them sometimes makes it impossible to sleep. When I can sleep, I can sleep for thirteen hours and still be exhausted (I may have done this a few times). If you take both of those and mix them with extreme hormone drops before my period, I am almost impossible to be around for about a week each month. I don’t even want to be around myself. That’s when I buy tons of chocolate milk and eat whatever weird thing I’m craving at the time lol.
Through all of this I stay positive. I try to stay happy as much as I can, and I love laughing. I’ve realized that I will not let another person ruin my life. I have control over today and I can do whatever I want. I’ve also realized that it is ok to be not ok for a little while. No one said you had to be happy 100 percent of the time, but I’ve realized that you can’t survive staying upset or sad all of the time. Above all, I don’t let these diseases control my future. Sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh at life and move on.
“I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.” –Mary Angelou