Stigma and PTSD


by DTT

Why must I hide behind a moniker? This is a common practice for people with Mental Illness. We have to hide lest we be judged by society. Society prefers to remain scared and judgmental of those who are different.

What is it about me that is so ”bad” that I have to hide my identity? I have a secret, at least something I try to hide from the rest of the world lest they judge me. I allowed situations to affect me. If I didn’t, I would lose my humanity and / or become an angry, drunk, or drugged person. It is interesting how these behaviors are more universally accepted than my position where I take ownership of my disease and do something about it.

You see, I have experienced things, horrible things, things no one should ever have to experience and they have left me scarred. These are not the visible scars of a flesh wound, but rather they are scars in my mind which no one can see, but that I can feel. I have emotional scars that have caused me to experience other than “normal” feelings which in turn make others nervous to be around me.

They are as real as any wound, yet this wound doesn’t illicit sympathy or empathy, rather judgment, fear and misunderstanding are the responses from those who don’t understand. Injuries to the mind are the most tricky to diagnose and treat and yet they come with such concrete judgments attached by others who don’t understand.

Do I really have a flaw or am I truly the only one “in touch” with my emotions? I like to think that I am the one who has better control over me than the general public. I have learned how to use a whole toolbox of coping skills that aren’t innate but learned behaviors. By learning these new behaviors I can function better and I know my limits better than I did before I was injured.

I cannot wallow in the depravity of life and not come out the other side unchanged. The things I have seen and done have touched me and changed the way I view the world. I have not gone down the traditional path of anger, alcoholism, divorce, isolation and self medication.

It seems that alcoholism and anger are acceptable coping methods, but when someone tries to really work through the emotional soup they have become is somehow looked down upon. I dare not say I am in counseling or that I take medications for my disease. This information brings out a host of unwanted reactions mostly derived from fear and lack of understanding. Education and understanding of the disease is the answer, but it seems society is not ready to be educated or to be understanding.

Learning to live with my demons, understanding they will never truly go away, not allowing them to run my life rather I am able to function within the norms of society because of my treatment and choices. Until the fear of reprisal fades away I will hide behind my moniker so I may continue my life in as “normal” of a fashion as possible. Waiting for the day that acceptance and understanding finally become the norm.

About the Author: DTT started his EMS career in the US Army as a Combat Medical Specialist. He was certified by the National Registry and two States. After a seven year career in the field, DTT served as a First Aid/CPR/Wilderness Medicine and EMT Instructor. DTT currently works in Emergency Management.