Vikki Hankins on Ending Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Many of us live our lives without realizing the impact tragedy has on us. Oftentimes we wonder why people act the way they do or how others can be so cruel. But how often is that we take the time to seek understanding to the questions we pose in our minds? If we took a deeper look at our world, we would realize the number of people that are in mental, emotional and psychological pain; the results of this type of anguish can be rather surprising.
I grew up in a very strict, spiritual environment. My mother made sure we were at our Bible studies at the Kingdom Hall every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. On Saturdays we usually met with our spiritual sisters and brothers to prepare for field service (speaking to people in the neighborhood about the Bible) and we also had our personal Bible studies at home; as you can see my life was very full with studying the Bible.
I don’t regret growing up the way that I did. I am rather grateful for the teachings that were embedded into my mind at such a young age. The Bible scripture Proverbs 22:6, brings out the example of training up a boy or girl in the way he should walk and when the child gets older he or she will remember the teachings; even if he or she strays the will return. A prime example is that of the prodigal son.
Even though my mother did not live to see it, this specific teaching proved true in my life. Unfortunately, my mother ended her life by her own hands – suicide. After suffering a mental breakdown, she took a gun, pointed it at her heart and pulled the trigger. This was a terrible tragedy for my family, in particular her children. I am the oldest of my mother’s children; at the time of her death I was two months shy of nineteen years old.
Take a moment to think about the effect this tragedy had on me; do you have any children? How do you think they would feel if you killed yourself? This unexpected, tragic loss with bells and whistles, smiling and enjoying life or is it possible they would suffer an extreme shock so much so that it would alter their personality?
Post traumatic stress disorder is a term I came to be familiar with about seven or eight years ago. I researched PTSD and was quite surprised at some of the things I found that related to my symptoms after my mother’s suicide. After my mom’s suicide, I became a different person; I could no longer feel the way I once felt. I had always been a warm and loving person filled with joy and for the most part happiness, but after this tragedy, I remember this extreme cold feeling coming over me; I instantly developed an tremendous amount of rage, hatred and disconnection from the human race.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, (National Center for PTSD) says anger is often a large part of a survivor’s response to trauma. It is a core piece of the survival response in human beings. Anger helps us cope with life’s stresses by giving us energy to keep going in the face of trouble or blocks. Many trauma survivors, especially those who went through trauma at a young age, never learn any other way of handling threat. They tend to become stuck in their ways of reacting when they feel threatened.
Furthermore, post-traumatic stress disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It can occur after you’ve seen or experienced a traumatic event that involved the threat of injury or death. According to PubMed Health (A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia), some of the symptoms include:
• Emotional “numbing,” or feeling as though you don’t care about anything
• Feeling detached
• Being unable to remember important aspects of the trauma
• Having a lack of interest in normal activities
• Showing less of your moods
• Avoiding places, people, or thoughts that remind you of the event
• Feeling like you have no future
It took a while for me to accept the fact that I was suffering from a major case of post traumatic stress disorder. At the time that I came to terms with this reality, I was thirty-six years old and serving a 23-year federal prison sentence for a non-violent drug offense. I so desperately needed to understand how or why I went from being a good girl with such a strong spiritual background to a drug dealer. I wanted to know what happened to me.
Well, I found my answer. It was so evidently clear – my mother’s suicide. In my opinion, it would be very human of us, if we took out a few minutes to understand or at least open our minds to why people become alcoholics, promiscuous, a recluse or even violent. I do not condone any of such behavior and I do not feel it is acceptable but there is a peace that comes with such eye-openers as I have shared with you.
People react differently to tragedy and trauma, but if left unattended trauma’s can have a very damaging effect on us. In my case, I never received therapy, nor the nurture and care that any human being could have administered, instead I was left wandering around the streets, trying to figure out my name. Yes, for a brief period, I was in such a terrible state of shock that I could not remember my identity.
Nonetheless, I ended up in front a federal judge at 21 years old, only two years after the tragedy. Imagine the countless amount of people who have not dealt with traumas and tragedies appropriately; where are they now and how do they react in society. Even a member of your family could be suffering with a great deal of depression or PTSD, clueless as to how to cope with it or come out of it. PTSD can be overcome by facing difficult areas of your life and allowing the healing process to take it’s course. I did!
A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, (2011), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Retrieved from PubMed Health website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001923/
McCall, C. (2006), Train up a child in the way he should go. Retrieved from SermonCentral.com website: http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/train-up-a-child-in-the-way-he-should-go-charles-mccall-sermon-on-children-92677.asp
National Center for PTSD, (2007), Anger and Trauma. Retrieved from U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/anger-and-trauma.asp