Respect people’s mental illnesses

Nicole Hanson

Almost two years ago, my world was flipped upside down. I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and have been struggling to come to terms with it ever since. For those who don’t know me well, I might say I have anxiety or I’ll try to act as normal as possible to avoid the subject altogether. Some days I barely think about my trauma while other days I can’t get out of bed. Living with PTSD is honestly like a roller coaster ride, and I’m starting to feel like I’m alone on this roller coaster.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve tried to my best to lead a “normal’” life (even though it doesn’t work like that). In the past I’ve been very cautious with who I tell about my PTSD because I know it’s not easy to comprehend. Because of this, I’ve only really opened up to my family and close friends about it.

At first it seemed like everyone who knew about my condition was very supportive and sympathetic, no matter what their understanding of PTSD was. But now, I do not feel supported or even remotely respected by multiple people I have made aware of it.

Now that it’s been almost two years since the trauma and my diagnosis, I’ve noticed that people are just assuming I’ve ‘gotten over it.’ My own father thought I had just gotten over it. According to a website called Heal My PTSD, time does not just make this condition go away. Unfortunately PTSD does not have an expiration date.

I’ve also noticed that people assume I’m okay and have miraculously healed after I have one good day. Like I said, a roller coaster is the best way to describe how I feel on a weekly, or even a daily, basis. Healing from a traumatic experience is not linear, according to Everyday Feminism. Sure, I might have a few good days or I might just be putting on a brave face, but that doesn’t mean I’m suddenly fine.

As if this stigma surrounding my PTSD isn’t hurtful enough, these people who don’t understand the disorder don’t even bother trying to ask questions about it. For me, this has led to me not being invited to go out or just being ignored altogether. I understand that it might not be easy to deal with a friend or significant other with PTSD, but imagine how that person feels when you disregard him/her as a whole because you chose to not ask a simple question?

As painful as it might be for me to talk about the trauma or my PTSD, I would rather be asked about it than be ignored. Living with PTSD is painful enough, but being judged or ousted for it has made things twice as hard for me.

Now I genuinely expect any relationships I pursue to not work out because of the way I’ve been treated due to my PTSD. I mean, after people I call friends have disrespected and disregarded my condition, how can I expect a new man in my life to want to take this on? Again, I get that it’s not easy to handle. Sometimes I feel normal and (hopefully) am pretty pleasant to be around, while other days I could lash out at you for no reason. I can’t predict how I’ll feel on a day-to-day basis and some people have taught me to feel bad about that.

So, to my friends who seem to be offended by my symptoms and bad days and whatever else annoys you: my PTSD is not about you. Do not treat me like I’m putting a damper on your night out in New Haven. Don’t assume that I’m okay because I managed to get out of bed this morning. Don’t shut me out because I get upset over nothing. Most importantly, don’t assume you know what I am going through when I might not even know why I feel a certain way. This is not about you. This is not my fault. Have respect for my PTSD and all other mental illnesses that someone might be struggling with.