Abuse Hides in the Dark. Turn on Your Light.

I Feel Ashamed of My PTSD Diagnosis

Woman's head and upper chest, head in shadows as if she's ashamed of her PTSD diagnosis and doesn't want you to see her.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a second mental health diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I’ve long wondered if my symptoms added up to PTSD but knowing that a psychiatrist believes I have PTSD affected me. Negatively. Being diagnosed with PTSD affected me negatively. There. I said it. It makes me feel powerless. Again.

I did not feel ashamed of the diagnosis of major depressive disorder years ago. I suppose at that time I was more relieved to know that I had something treatable than anything else. I jumped into the medication search head first, determined to find a drug that would help me. I needed relief so badly that not even my abusive husband could shame me out of taking my “crazy pills” every day. I needed them to feel something close to normal.

About four years ago, my then-husband once again told me that I hated men. He said that I’d never dealt with my two rapes and “that simple fact makes you fight me.” I thought he was wrong. However, I doubted myself enough to call RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network for information about the effects of rape. I told the volunteer some background and what my husband said.

The volunteer said something like “You won’t uncover the damage from your rapes while living with an abusive husband who uses your tragedies to keep you under his control.” In essence, the RAINN volunteer redirected my attention from what may be wrong with me to what was definitely wrong with my relationship. The RAINN volunteer went on to talk about PTSD as a possible cause for some of my behaviors and feelings, AND that it was just as likely to develop the disorder while living with abuse as it was after traumas like rape.

After this conversation, I entered therapy and found some real help and comfort. Even so, the therapist did not diagnose me with PTSD; instead, that diagnosis came a couple of weeks ago when I saw it written in my file. I thought, “That figures,” and went on with the day…but later, I felt angry about it.

My rational mind tells me, “Don’t be alarmed! It is natural to develop PTSD after living in abuse for as long as you did.” But PTSD can form in much less than 18 years! PTSD grows from any kind of trauma, sudden or long-term. I know those things intellectually, but my emotional self has a tough time accepting it. It pisses me off. My ex-husband “had the power” when I lived with him, and it seems that because I have PTSD, he still, in some way, “has the power.”

I feel ashamed that my abuser’s actions were powerful enough to cause this disorder. I think I should be stronger or more able to “get over” it. Nothing but anger fuels those thoughts. The thoughts are flat-out wrong. But they are there. In the book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, author Daniel Amen states that our thoughts are not always true. He says that automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) keep us prisoners in our own minds because no one ever taught us to question what we think.

I hadn’t heard it put that way before, and it makes sense. People tell us to count to 10 when we get mad because the thoughts we think when we’re angry are not always the best thoughts to think. You have to wait for the anger to pass to get to the truth. The same goes for the sadness I think. In time, as I am able to deal with the anger I feel, I will come to realize the thought that he still has power over me is dead wrong. But for now, I am holding the thought like a knotted string, pulling at it to unravel the mess. PTSD is no joke.

I have PTSD, but I won’t be ashamed … in time.

Featured photo by Ali M