Dealing with PTSD: Managing Extreme Anxiety & Depression
Five years ago, I was working on a Thursday afternoon, helping a coworker finish up a project before heading out for the day. I had just walked back to my desk, leaning forward to read something on my computer, when I heard a series of pops, that reminded me of those little cap fireworks you throw on the ground around the 4th of July. I heard yelling, someone asking for help and to call the police and asking for an ambulance, and thought this was some weird joke; I'd only been working here for about a month, I wasn't too sure of the culture yet.
What happened next, was gruesome and unreal, to say the least. I saw a coworker take the lives of many innocent people. I saw my leaders and my peers injured and bleeding out. I saw a gun pointed at my face and immediately thought of all my regrets and the things I'd never be able to do, the people I wouldn't be able to apologize to that I had wronged, my loved ones I wouldn't get to say goodbye to. The world slowed down, I could only hear my own breathing, my pounding heartbeat, and listened intently for the chaos to stop and the final resounding gunshot, prompting me to get out while it was "safe".
As a result, I have severe PTSD. It's something that embarrasses me to admit and it's a struggle for me to deal with. If I don't do what's right for me to keep it balanced, it gets the best of me and knocks me hard on my ass over and over and over.
I have, admittedly, spent the past year in a downward spiral without realizing how bad it was getting. I was so depressed, I couldn't even be happy and enjoy my engagement. I was so anxious, I couldn't enjoy precious moments with those I love. I was so angry and resentful and bitter and it was leeching into my life and relationships.
It took a huge, hard reality slap for me to come to my senses and realize I needed to ask for help. I needed to be selfish and focus on me and my self care and what's important for me. And it's hard to admit and it's even harder to talk about, but sometimes you need to admit defeat and ask for help. And those that are important players in your life and love you and support you, will pick you up and carry you.
It's been five years since I was involved in a crazy, unbelievable, tragic, scary incident that left me, and so many others, traumatized. And I don't talk about it or my experience or what I went through, or am still going through, enough. Because honestly, I am embarrassed and ashamed by my suffering. I feel less whole and it makes me feel like I'm not perfect. And I struggle with thoughts like "who wants to love and be friends with someone with depression and anxiety and who has moments of irrational anger?"
But I also have moments of complete clarity. When I realize and acknowledge how lucky I am. How truly blessed I am to have the life I do and the people in it that have my back. And I know I can get to a good place. But it takes commitment and work. Here's what I've learned over the years:
- I know eating a mostly plant-based diet, without gluten or dairy leaves me feeling my best. Clear headed and calm.
- I know yoga and meditation and reflection soothe my soul and relax me and help me put things into perspective.
- I know lifting weights helps with my anger and releases tension and stress and anxiety.
- I know talking it out helps me realize and remember how blessed I am, how much support I have, and how to let go of the insignificant moments that don't matter and rather focus on the beautiful things that do.
- And I know I need to be more open and honest, and I need to learn to ask for help and continue to be humble and gracious to those in my life.
I can't do it alone. It takes a village and it takes dedication.