I wrote this letter to bring awareness to not just PTSD but to all mental health disorders. These aren’t games that we play - this is a life or death situation for those of us who suffer. I’m also writing because we need to stick together to break the stigma around psychiatric medications. I tried getting through my depression the first time without them, and I only dug myself into a deeper hole. Another thing I wish to convey is that PTSD should not be seen as a label. I know many people who cringe when they find out someone has it - they think that we’re out of control but we're not… To those that suffer, please don’t do it in silence because you don’t have to. It's okay to not be okay. If you ask for help, I like to think that there will be people to catch you when you fall. We just need to trust the process and take our medications like we're supposed to - so that we can be the best that we can be. Thank you for taking the time to read this in an effort to really understand the battles we go through daily.
Dear Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),
Yes - I have you; but no – you’re not a result of time spent in the armed services, as there are many experiences that birth you. You can result from any trauma throughout your life – trapping your victims into dark boxes... Little did I know you were the main reason I had so many problems. When I was diagnosed with ‘Bipolar, Manic 1 with Anxiety’; I hadn’t a clue that it was really a small part, playing a big role as the devil's advocate in my mind.
For almost 20 years I searched for an answer to my angry outbursts and sensitivity - becoming overly emotional over the smallest of things. I couldn't understand why I let myself get so attached to certain people, knowing that they might not be in my life forever. This detachment issue I had - led me to lots of pain and lots of heartache. Before treatment, I was at a complete loss as to why I couldn't remember much of my childhood… But then, you were named and thanks to the help of therapists, all of the puzzle pieces have fallen into place.
My car accident had only added fuel to the fire that raged out of control. I had no idea how to stop it! I spiraled downward so fast we almost didn’t catch you before it was too late. I’ve almost lost my life on several different occasions because the path that brought me to you was never clear.
It was a dark path of self-destruction. From self-harm, to alcohol, to drugs - the light at the end of the tunnel became dim with time. If it weren’t for my family, the friends that have become family as they were on this journey with me since day one, and the wonderful staff at my treatment facility - I wouldn't have made it through the fog.
I used to regret my past – having been a part of all of these things - but since coming out of treatment and being six months clean, I am no longer ashamed! Someone once told me to ‘stop beating myself up about my addictive behaviors because I did what I had to in order to survive’. I understand that now and see the strength many people said I had. Life really is greener on the other side, now that I understand that you were there all along. With all of it fresh in my mind, I am thankful everyday I get to wake-up with a chance to become a better person than I was the day before. I am now grateful for my past because it's shaped my character and who I am today. Now that I have knowledge of what the root problem is, I know who I truly am; and the peace of mind that comes with that is priceless.
Female, Age 25
PTSD; Bipolar I Disorder with Clinical Depression & Generalized Anxiety; Alcohol Use Disorder, Substance Use Disorder
Brianna Schiavoni, LCSW
“Ms. Schiavoni has given a voice to many people who battle various diagnoses. Through this therapeutic and empowering writing project, participants can finally share their story and reclaim their power over that diagnosis!”