During my two previous PTSD related blogs, I covered Avoidance and Intrusive memories. On this particular blog, I will cover negative changes in thinking and mood. At the age of 7, during an armed robbery in Harlem, NY, I witnessed the tragic murders of my mother Helen Thomas, her boyfriend Ian Richardson and my Godmother, Ethylene Carne.
Although I suffered from a gunshot wound, it was the mental scars that did the most significant damage. Since this tragic event, I have been clinically diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder also known as PTSD.
According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:
Negative feelings about yourself or other people
Inability to experience positive emotions
Feeling emotionally numb
Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
Hopelessness about the future
Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
Difficulty maintaining close relationships
I will focus on hopelessness about the future and difficulty maintaining close relationships. These are the two that many, as well as myself, struggle with the most.
According to the National Center for PTSD, trauma survivors with PTSD may have trouble with their close family relationships or friendships. The symptoms of PTSD can cause problems with trust, closeness, communication, and problem-solving. These problems may affect the way the survivor acts with others. In turn, the way a loved one responds to him or her affects the trauma survivor. A circular pattern can develop that may sometimes harm relationships.
As it pertains to myself and hopelessness about the future, witnessing a traumatic event at such a young age really had me hopeless about the future, and very suicidal. There is nothing more frustrating than preparing for a future that you strongly believe is non-existent. In my opinion, this is similar to a foreshortened future because I can always somehow convince myself that I will never reach milestones or goals I have set for myself. At times, even after some of my goals have been achieved, I still believe that things will somehow take a turn for the worse and allow negativity to set in.
Please keep in mind that effective treatments are available for PTSD as well as for other mental illnesses. Dealing with the past can be difficult, but it's not healthy to keep your feelings bottled up! It's always beneficial to talk to a close friend or therapist to share your feelings.
If you aren't currently receiving mental health care, talk with your doctor to discuss what treatment plans are best for you.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts call 1-800-273-8255 to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.