PTSD Survivors Speak: My Transformative Journey through PTSD

We don’t talk much about or hear much from the siblings of PTSD survivors. Today, we do.

In advance of her appearance on tomorrow’s episode of YOUR LIFE AFTER TRAUMA, this trauma sibling shares how PTSD affected her.

My Transformative Journey through PTSD

By S. Lorusso

Looking back over the last two years, I am amazed at how my life has changed. I feel I have come full circle from the worst night of my life.

It was almost two years ago. It is a date I’ll never forget, the night my sister was abducted. She miraculously escaped and survived but when she told me the things she endured, my world was shattered into unrecognizable pieces.

I couldn’t make sense of a world that was so cruel. I couldn’t stop having nightmares and I was unable to sleep.

So I tried seeing a therapist. She of course diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and explained that I had experienced vicarious trauma. I thought PTSD was only something war veterans and rape victims experienced. So I decided to never see that therapist again, I figured she was wrong. I just needed some time, I would be fine. I didn’t have PTSD.

But six months later, I was forced to accept the diagnosis when I was hospitalized. On my last day at the hospital, I sat with a wonderful nurse who told me “you are not as fragile as you think you are.” You see, I feared that if ONE more bad thing happened to someone I loved, I would shatter into a million pieces and never recover. But I have learned, that is so far from the truth.

I found a new therapist and went on medication, which allowed me to get some much needed sleep. What made the biggest difference though, was showing up for therapy every week. By doing this, I was actively taking control of my recovery. I wanted to be free of the nightmares, the panic attacks, and the odd sense of detachment from all emotion; I wanted my life back.

With the help of medication, talk therapy, EMDR and some meditation, my symptoms greatly diminished over the course of a year.  But even through all my hard work, and though my nightmares and anxiety attacks were gone, I still felt detached, unable to tap into emotion. I wanted to be able to cry over what had happened.  And something else bothered me; I still wondered if everything was just random and cruel, or if there was some greater purpose for having gone through so much hell.

One day, after becoming frustrated with what seemed like a plateau in my recovery, I had prayed to God, that He brings me hope. Hope that there was some meaning to my pain, that it wasn’t just some horrible chapter in my history that I couldn’t’ erase.

The next day, after this prayer, I met an amazing woman who shared with me her story, one of extreme heartache and trauma. Things I could never imagine.

She told me that she only made it through by her faith and hope in God. And now she was blessed with a life she once only imagined in her dreams.

I felt this was God showing me the hope I had prayed for, the clarity I needed. Her story brought me to tears; fresh, renewing tears. Tears that seemed to drain out of my body all the pain and anger I had been holding in. Tears that were linked to an anger I hadn’t realized was there. I had been so angry at God for allowing my sister to be hurt. But I couldn’t be angry and heal at the same time. I had to let go and reconcile that bad things do happen, but they can only take from you what you let them. And I can find purpose in what happend by sharing my story, with the hope it might help others, just like this woman’s story helped me.

I began experiencing everything on a more visceral level. I let myself cry, and made more progress in therapy in the weeks following than I had in a year, by facing my real fears and emotions surrounding what had happened.

I have pieced myself back together again; and though it was hard to accept, I find that I have grown in ways I never would have had I not gone through this. I appreciate the important things in life now, and try to live in the moment; not haunted by the past or anxious about the future. The fear that once threatened to swallow me whole has no power over me now. I try to daily count the blessings God has given me; I am blessed to hear my sister’s voice every day, for my amazing husband, and for the ability to see beauty even in the midst of darkness.

I feel now, after living through some of the darkest times of my life, that I am transcending over my pain, flying through and above it; with all the resources and strength to meet any challenge that comes my way.

 About Me:

I work as a Clinical Trial Research Study Specialist. I am currently working on my Master’s Degree in Public Health. I write a blog on PTSD and I am writing a book on my experience through my sister’s assault, which is expecetd to be published towards the end of September 2011.Check my blog for upcoming information on the book, events, and how to arrange speaknig arrangements or interviews.

Three links/books I recommend:

My blog:

My “PTSD bible”: Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing therapy (EMDR):

Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress

The ideas contained in this post solely represent the perspective of the author. To contribute to ‘Survivors Speak’ contact Michele.

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