I’ve been part of the mental health and PTSD communities for a few years now. My passion is offering humor, inspiration, and hope for people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and their families. To my surprise, I have lately run across disturbing messages, especially about the “cure for PTSD.”
And I am PISSED.
Here are a few statements I have seen just over the last few days:
“I have overcome my mental illness.”
“I decided that I would not live with PTSD.”
I have found the cure for PTSD.”
The most damaging message I’ve seen was a tweet that showed up on my PTSD Parent Twitter page, tagging me and a couple of others in this online community. Here’s a screen shot.
Can you say Trigger City? My heart thumped. I couldn’t breathe. Tunnel vision. Roaring in my ears.
I read the words again: “I told myself I would NOT live w/#PTSD. Hard work & therapy this explains what I did. Now I am ME again!” I read them again. And again.
The meaning remained unclear. My brain jumped to the “See, you’re not good enough” trigger. And to the “You don’t work hard enough.” And the “You’re doing this to yourself.” And “If you prayed harder and had more faith, you wouldn’t need medication.” And “See, there’s a cure for PTSD, you’re just not doing it.”
I didn’t believe those triggers, but it was work. For the rest of the day, I worked through them. Breathing, grounding, talking, sharing, and self-care. I was exhausted. And I was PISSED.
Bish, You Don’t Know My Life
My first thought was, “Huh? You don’t know me.” This was a tweet with no context. No conversation. We had no previous relationship.
And YOU are trying to tell ME about my own PTSD?
Then I thought, maybe I’m taking this personally. Maybe it’s not a big deal. Maybe I’m overreacting.
Well, like the triggers, I didn’t believe this either. One thing that I did know from my PTSD support group: listen to your anger; it is telling you something important.
Your Cure for PTSD Sounds Like Religious Crap
We also talked about this whole “cure for PTSD” thing in my PTSD support group. As we read through the curriculum about the subject, a visceral bristling rose up from my gut, shredding my insides. I took a deep breath and said, “Yeah, I’m not into this whole cure thing.”
The therapist facilitating the group looked at me and said, “Tell me.” (Which, by the way, I thought was awesome)
“Well, it reminds me of my 25 years in the Christian community,” I said. “The idea that if you had enough faith then you wouldn’t need medication, or if you prayed hard enough, then your PTSD would be healed. And if nothing happened, well, then you weren’t doing it right or you weren’t good enough.”
The conversation continued, basically boiling down to the question: What do you mean by “cure”? Does this mean successful relationships? Effective and safe coping skills? More stable days than unstable? All are good questions that deserve exploration, especially if you’ve been doing this PTSD-thing for awhile.
Your Cure for PTSD Sets Up Unrealistic Expectations
I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and anxiety in 2006. I’ve been doing this recovery thing for awhile now, and the idea of “being cured” has occurred to me.
In fact, I would like nothing more than to BE DONE with it. I like to be done. That is my thing. It was my thing when my father-in-law died, revealing years of trauma and grief that I *thought* I had overcome, but had, in fact, buried.
And throughout my years of slogging through PTSD symptoms and building safe coping skills, I have had some expectation that one day, I would wake up and suddenly…be better. Whatever better means. Seriously. This is not realistic, especially if you’re new and vulnerable in your PTSD journey.
I continued that Twitter conversation, asking her what she meant, exactly, and she responded with something about a book she’s selling. In the midst of that, I got into a conversation with a person who had just been diagnosed with PTSD and was completely confused by this whole “cure” idea.
I don’t blame them. I’m confused and I’ve been doing this for years. Which is what I said to that person, and we eventually came to the consensus that effectively functioning was the priority for now.
Your “Cure” Invalidates The Work I Do for Myself
Friends, I have HAD IT with this nonsense.
When you claim there is a cure for PTSD or depression or anxiety, or when you say that mental illness can be “overcome,” or when you say that you’ve “beaten” your mental health challenges, you are invalidating every single one of us who is working – HARD (twss) – every single day with our mental health.
I have always been me. I will always be me.
Mental health is fluid and requires constant vigilance and persistent work.
The fight is daily.
Hope is my weapon.
I leave you with this:
A Funny and Poignant Grief Book
For twenty years, I thought that I had been marching through the stages of grief in a straight line. I had been following the formula, crossing each processed grief experience off my list.
Except that I was totally deluded. And I didn’t discover that until Jim, my beloved father-in-law, died. I found myself drying off from my shower the morning after his death, really hoping he couldn’t see me naked. Or, if he could, that he was averting his eyes.
From that moment, my path through grief resembled a roller coaster, spiraling and twisting and turning, circling back around. Echoes of past trauma, including childhood abuse and cheating death, would no longer be ignored. I somehow needed to get from the beginning to the end of this grief adventure, and I don’t have a good sense of direction.
But what is always present during a journey through grief, regardless of the path chosen?
Caskets From Costco is a funny grief book that demonstrates the certainty of hope and healing in an uncertain and painful world.