The Paradoxical Joy of Meeting Someone with PTSD

Hello Live Out Louders,

I have not blogged for a little over two months, and for that, I truly apologize. I started my blog with the intention of publishing fulfilling content each week, without realizing that my mental illness might say “LOL” and remind me that sometimes, that is not always possible. Unfortunately, PTSD often leaves you feeling apathetic and unmotivated — which in this situation, directly led to my brief hiatus.

NEVERTHELESS, my apathy was quickly kicked to the curb this past Tuesday, at 12AM after meeting a fellow PTSD warrior! Given this new sparkling sense of rejuvenated writer’s inspiration, I want to share with you guys the contradictory excitement in meeting those who understand the battles of living with this strenuous mental health disorder.

Never would I have ever considered that joy would be the primary feeling that I would experience upon meeting someone who has also experienced trauma. Rationally, in meeting someone who has suffered through some sort of sorrow in their life, natural responses might include sadness, empathy, or even pity. However, in the last two years that I have been suffering with PTSD and depression, I get this odd, calming sensation when I meet others who are living with similar mental health issues.

While this may sound a tad masochistic, I can assure you, I do not ascribe to macabre fascinations. However, as those who have experienced or survived trauma know, it is often very difficult to create/further social networks and bonds following a traumatic experience, as it often leads to the individual feeling like an outsider.

IMG_7687.jpgDespite these internal battles, I still desire social inclusion. If any of my readers are familiar with the Myers-Briggs Assessment, I am an ENFP, who craves the positive energy of people. In Chicago, where I lived for three years, I loved to host. During my tenure as a semi-permanent Chi-town resident, many knew me for my annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Parties. Each year, dozens of millennials would attend, parade their most hideous holiday outfits, graze on appetizers that were graciously sent by my mother, and fellowship over ratchet Atlanta trap music. However, since the attack, I have struggled deeply with self-social exclusion, most often stemming from low energy and not wanting to feel like “that girl who survived the terrorist attack” at all of the social events that I attend.

Hoping to push myself back into my extroverted nature, this past week my heart summoned me to plan and host Wine and Cheese affair for a couple of my friends. While three invitation texts quickly escalated to twelve, the universe and stars must have been aligned, because I later found out that one of the soiree’s attendees was a fellow PTSD warrior.

Now as I mentioned earlier, excitement might be one of the furthest emotions that you would expect to experience upon hearing that someone also suffers from a mental illness. But it wasn’t just me who exclaimed mild bouts of joy. After my party concluded, this party-goer stayed around and mentioned that she had seen many of my recent posts on Instagram, where I was discussing my mental health battles, and that she was excited to finally meet another person battling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Since the beginning of my battle through mental health issues, it has been very common for me to meet individuals who suffer with depression and anxiety; however, it has been extremely rare to stumble upon fellow combatants of PTSD. Naturally eager to learn more about each other’s respective experiences, we sat down and chatted for nearly an hour post-festivities and shared some of our vulnerable truths and experiences.

I shared with her that since having returned from the attack, I have truly found it difficult to return to my natural gregarious disposition. One of the hardest aspects of battling trauma for me has been the “survivor’s guilt.” As 29 people died in the terrorist attack in which I was involved, I often feel a sense of remorse for attempting to experience joy when so many people will never have the opportunity to experience that sentiment due to their premature and senseless deaths.

Additionally, we bonded about the amount of stress and anxiety that we feel around having to strike up conversations. The stress is akin to how a graduating senior feels walking to get their diploma, praying that they don’t trip. Frequently, there is a struggle associated with having to fake interests in small, mundane complaints or social woes, when in juxtaposition, all we’re thinking about is how little these minuscule grievances matter in the larger scheme of life.

Through this hour-long venting session, what was most comforting was the ability to have another human validate feelings that sometimes I personally belittle or dismiss. For example, we talked quite lengthily regarding feelings of apathy and “nothingness.” For so long, I have tried to explain the exhaustion that comes with the state of “just being,” and finally I had someone who was able to corroborate and legitimize a similar lived experiences.

While I never knew that humans could bond over trauma, at this point in my life, there’s no better joy that I can have more than finding someone who understands the new me. One of my biggest sadnesses has been the colossal dichotomy between “pre-attack La’Nita” and “post-attack La’Nita,” where one of those individual’s personality is significantly more robust and vivacious than the other’s. But when I meet people who understand the drastic change that comes with the illness and how it manifests, it makes me feel as if I am no longer an outsider; and gives me hope that there are individuals in the world with whom I can associate without judgment.

All-in-all, I am very happy that I have found another warrior and it has given me an wonderful outlet and ally in my healing journey. I know that God is very intentional about who He puts in your life and when, and I am truly excited to see my new journey through this unexpected friendship.

P.S. My innagural La’Wine and Cheese Night was a huge success and here’s a picture to show you guys 🙂

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See you guys next week, stay tuned!

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