November 2nd, 2016. Wednesday. 4:30pm. Feeling confused.
Okay guys, listen.
I wish I didn’t have to open up about this, I really do. To be honest, I’m not even sure if I’m comfortable doing so, but enough is enough.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not a joke, okay?
Ah, good. I’m glad we’re on the same page.
Now let me explain. As a teenager in a public school sixth form, I find myself surrounded by crude, ignorant people for the great majority of my week. Not that we’re all like that, of course. I know plenty of people my age with a sufficient amount of common sense. Recently, though, I have noticed a worryingly growing conversational trend which never fails to set my teeth on edge: PTSD jokes.
All too often I will hear somebody’s tone warp into one of mockery as they state that something gave them PTSD: a lesson; a movie; a girl’s eyebrows. Every single day, at least once, I will hear that same jeering voice in my ear, uttered oh-so casually like an empty threat or a promise with crossed fingers. Well guess what – it’s not funny! Whether they were intended to be harmful or not, imagine the effect that they could have if they were heard by someone who actually has PTSD. Someone like me.
There aren’t many people who I can comfortably talk to about this, so I’ll keep it brief.
When I was 11 years old, my best friend started attacking me. It was mental at first, all jabs and jeers with little meaning attached. She would make snide comments, all pointless insults and profanities which were enough to make me hate myself for a little while. After that got boring, the rumours started pouring in. Like a Shakespearean villain, she’d sow the seed of doubt into the minds of myself and all my friends, nourishing the allegations which sprouted until I became ensnared in their thorns. Then I’d trip on the roots, and the physical attacks began. I don’t want to go into details, but let’s just say that the scars that remain aren’t just on my brain.
When I was 12 years old, I left my old school. I brought my memories with me.
The thing with PTSD, I guess, is that it never really leaves you. I like to think of it like an earworm, an irritating song that gets trapped inside your brain and refuses to go away. You remember a fragment of the song, usually the bridge or the catchiest few lines of the chorus, and your temporal lobe (which deals with your memories) tries to piece the rest together. However, it can’t do that without remembering the rest of the song, and so it will constantly be replayed in your mind until you listen to the rest of the song. The same concept applies with PTSD: after a significant trauma, your brain will repress the worst parts of your memory. This leaves the remainder of the trauma incomplete in your brain, forcing your temporal lobe to “replay” it over and over again in an attempt to piece it together. This leads to flashbacks, which can come at any time but are often triggered by things resembling significant details of your trauma: words, people, places etc.
So that leaves PTSD sufferers like myself with two choices: hypnotherapy to resurface your memory, or live with the flashbacks.
I chose the latter.
To be fair, it wasn’t much of a choice. I was in therapy for around two years before being discharged. According to my therapist, NCS cured me. I was fine, she said. I didn’t need her anymore. Yeah, tell that to the nightmares which allow me a maximum of three hours of sleep per night.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is, please stop. To you, PTSD might seem like a joke. It might seem like a myth, or a concept which applies only to war veterans and has no significance within the confines of a school corridor. To me, however, it is very, very real.
And it’s not funny.