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I spent three years in therapy without telling the most painful parts of my story.

Survivors of trauma often deal with pain by sending some memories to the subconscious. I have a padlocked box in my brain’s attic, from which nothing escapes. I willed myself to believe that some events had never happened. I believed that this is how my mind protected me. So I’d carefully steer conversation away from the proximity of those thoughts.

For a year after I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD), I fought the diagnosis. “I haven’t been through anything traumatic,” I insisted. Today, I still find myself struggling to explain the nightmares, the flashbacks, the avoidance, the aversion to physical human contact, and the fear of crossing roads at night. I have only begun to acknowledge that healing needs to be a priority for me.

Why has it been so difficult for me to accept my PTSD?

Here‘s what I’ve deduced. Perhaps my realizations can help you heal.

PTSD can develop from any intense painful or stressful experience. These include war, natural disasters, sexual assault, and childhood abuse, but can be many other things. The majority of the publicly-available information on PTSD is associated with war veterans and the psychological scars they receive. The lack of awareness about the myriad possible causes of PTSD is an impediment towards successful diagnosis and treatment. If memories or reminders elicit unwarranted fear, apprehension, or despair for a significant time after the event, you are dealing with post-traumatic stress.

There is inherent stigma to overcome before “coming out” about any mental health issues. In addition, you may feel that the experience which triggered your PTSD was not “traumatic enough.” There are a zillion reasons which will deter you from getting the help you need. The event was something which you should have had the strength to forget. Well-wishers tell you that “you could have had it so much worse.” Your friends say that you’re making it up. Other people with similar stories have gotten over it faster.

If it makes you feel uncomfortable to jump into certain thoughts or activities, don’t do them. Trauma does not come with a blueprint or a recovery-timeline. Only you can judge when you’re ready.

Talking about personal trauma can force you to revisit painful memories.

Forming coherent thoughts about traumatic experiences can trigger flashbacks, nightmares, and panic. Talking about it has got to be so much worse.

You can heal from PTSD. But, forced exposure to these thoughts might cause more harm than good. Don’t be afraid to seek help from a mental health professional.

Are you ready to tell your story? Make sure that you put your needs before anyone else’s.

Most importantly, trust your instincts. They are probably right.


  • Jokelia

    Jokelia Jokelia

    Reply Author

    This article is true there’s a lot I don’t not to visit because I’m scared of abandonment by my therapist(she said she’s not going to abound on me) she’s my ninth therapist but I had plenty more all of them had to leave except one I decided not to see that one cause she was too far from me but I choose not to talk about the mental illness, the rape years ago, or me not forgiving myself for something that happened I’m just bottling everything up and I know it’s not good my psychiatrist and therapist(LCSW) are both good just having trust problems with some people. I love the article even though now I’m having anxiety and flashbacks about everything after I read the article

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  • kristi

    kristi kristi

    Reply Author

    Everything causes me to flashback , I’m so sick of living like this ! PTSD is just one of the things I’m dealing with. My hell started when I was only 3 years old. But I didn’t remember the darkest , scariest parts of it all until the last two years . My mother hated me ! I’m 40 years old and half of the time , no most of the time I’m stuck in a prison locked inside my mind , a fantasy nightmare! The other part of the time I’m overreacting , blowing up for no reason at people that don’t deserve it due to flashbacks ,PTSD , Anxiety, its never ending the the worst part is because of all this I don’t have a job , a home to feel safe in , a family member or friend to confide in ! I have nothing but an overwhelming want to not feel anymore ! I need help and nobody around me cares or has ever cared. Sorry

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    • You Matter

      You are struggling with some tough emotions and feeling lonely, don’t hesitate to call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). We are here to listen!

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  • KG

    KG KG

    Reply Author

    Something bad happened to me over 3 years ago, but I haven’t actually been able to say it outloud ever. Not even once. It occurred to me recently that I’m actually incapable of saying what happened. Sometimes I feel like I’d rather die than have to face this again, but as I get older it’s going yo become more unavoidable able. My mom scheduled a Therapy Appointment for tomorrow and I’m scared. I want her to help me, but how is she supposed to do that if I can’t tell her what happened?

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    • Vibrant Communications

      KG, We are sorry that you’ve had such a traumatizing experiencing. Remember that therapist are trained to work with and understand what you are experiencing. Also, please remember that if you ever need someone to talk to (confidentially) you can call the Lifeline @ 800-273-8255. There is a counselor available 24/7.

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  • SH

    SH SH

    Reply Author

    I was assaulted years ago and just recently by my now ex boyfriend. I never thought it would happen again, and now that it has I’m dealing with both events. More times than not I find myself thinking about what happened years ago, as if being assaulted again was just a trigger for the memories and constant intrusive thoughts to return.
    I feel like I need to talk about it to get it out and off my mind.
    I went to a professor at my college and disclosed that I had been assaulted and that it wasn’t the first time. She said she was always there to listen or talk. I believe her but I’m worried about the inevitable ,”I don’t think I can help you, you need to see a professional,” talk. So I hold back, I have times where I don’t call her or text her because I don’t want her to know it’s as bad as it is because I don’t want her to be overwhelmed or to unload me on someone else. Don’t get me wrong I have no issues with counseling, it’s just the counseling center at school has a waiting list until March, and the psychological services uses video and audio recording and uses your sessions as teaching material for students and I don’t want my life broadcast to other people at my school.
    I trust my professor and I want to talk to her, I’m just scared what I need to say is going to be too much for her… this isn’t a normal situation I have no idea how to talk to her about it without her seeing me as a burden or feeling guilty about unloading such a heavy weight on to her.

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    • Vibrant Communications

      It sounds like you have a lot on your mind right now and have gone through some hard times. You are not alone. Please remember, the Lifeline is here for you any time day or night, every day of the year at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Don’t hesitate to call us, your life matters!

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  • FK

    FK FK

    Reply Author

    I was molested on three occasions when I was 10 by a family member who took advantage of the situation that my parents weren’t there to look after me growing up.
    I think I buried it for years until something triggered it for me when I was 16. A year and half later, I really needed help as I was having suicidal thoughts and hadn’t tole anyone in my family about it.
    I got help from a counsellor in school. I got lucky- she put me on a path of healing, which I had never even thought possible. It took years for me to heal and I finally did, about 2 years ago. No more nightmares/flashbacks. It took me going back to my past and seeing what a pathetic weak man he had become. I felt sorry for him and that fear disappeared after that visit really.
    All while I was going through it, I kept it private. I shared what had happened when I was little with my boyfriend but I always kept it private and was something I went through on my own – even the darkest periods. He was there for me and would have but I don’t know, it’s just how I felt. Maybe because of this (or maybe not), I have a really hard time being there for people who have trauma and need help. I really want to be there for them but It’s like I find it difficult to even mention the word ‘trauma’. You know? I am ‘healed’ but why do I find it hard? Am I protecting myself somehow by avoiding talking about others’ trauma? In my heart, I genuinely want to be there and help them. But I feel like I don’t know what to say – the right thing to say, to do, etc. This is affecting me and my relationship very much. Does any one else with adverse childhood trauma feel this? Or are people more open and empathetic?

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    • Gh

      Gh Gh

      Reply Author

      Hi FK
      I am trying to support someone who has had a similar experience to yours.

      I’m interested to know what the path of healing was that your counsellor took you through. If you can explain what activities this entailed?

      Regarding your own query, it might just be that you are being cautious to undoing the hard work you’ve put in. You dont want there to be any triggers.
      I think it’s ok to be cautious, as long as there is communication and explanation. But perhaps being confident in your own state, and its stability will help you to support others.

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    • whale U

      whale U whale U

      Reply Author

      i feel the same way. listening to other ppl’s trauma triggers mine, and i automatically avoid it. it’s even hard for me to talk abt mine. i have a couple of friends who also have trauma but i don’t feel like i’m capable of listening to them, or even being there for them. it’s like, i’m afraid of doing something wrong to them, or maybe i’m just protecting myself. i don’t know, i’m very afraid of it.

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  • Garima

    Garima Garima

    Reply Author

    PTSD is something that can feel like it will never go away, but with professional help, it can be managed and many people have beat the condition. Hopefully, things get better and people start to live happier and healthier lives with no fear.

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