Sometimes the hardest thing about having PTSD is the fact that you don’t know when your experiencing the symptoms are happening to you. You can’t recognize what is happening to yourself as it is happening. It is only after you’ve had a flashback that you might even realize that you had one. Flashbacks can be so real that you’re almost positive that they really have just happened. Or, even worse, you don’t realize you’ve been triggered and you take out your anger and fear from a flashback on whomever is with you at the time, believing your flashback to be real.
I was diagnosed with PTSD at the age of 14. I am now a grown up, married mother, and I still sometimes have flashbacks without realizing I’m having them in the moment. This scenario happened to me the other day. I was triggered and didn’t even realize I had been triggered. I started yelling, screaming and fighting with my husband – certain what I was feeling and thinking due to the flashback was the truth and he was a jerk because he couldn’t admit it. It wasn’t until talking through the event with my therapist that i even realized that I had a flashback and my behavior was massively affected by it. I couldn’t believe how wrong i was, because what I had felt during the fight was so real. I couldn’t believe that my reality had been altered by a flashback this late in my life. You see, I made the mistake of thinking that I was “cured”.
When you have a mental illness you can never be “cured”. You strive not for a “cure”, but for as long as possible to be symptom or episode free. That’s it. You must learn to live with it or it turns your life upside down. Those of us lucky enough to have the proper access to mental health professionals are able to get the treatment that we need, and thus turn their lives around and make them stay on track.
Sadly, and shockingly, approximately one-third of the total homeless population includes individuals with serious, untreated mental illnesses, according to a research summary compiled by the Treatment Advocacy Center. This statistic is enough to show the terrible sad burden of a mental illness left untreated.
We need mental health reform in this country desperately, as mental illness is a lifelong condition a part of this country’s residents. Many of the homeless mentally ill are war Veterans who have PTSD, just like me. We need to provide life long care to a huge population of our country or we will continue down this terrible road, and that isn’t acceptable to me – and it shouldn’t be to you.