How mental illness changed my view of the world

I feel like the whole pandemic thing has perhaps heightened some of my mental illness experiences (to be expected really, let’s be fair) and it’s kind of obvious to say that trauma and CPTSD can change your view of the world. Trauma changes a person.

I was thinking about this lately. Which parts of me are me, as in my personality, and which parts of me are CPTSD-induced? It’s hard to tell, but it got me thinking about how I’ve changed over the years.

Hyper-vigilance

This is a big one (and a somewhat obvious one).

Hyper-vigilance is the ruler of all things. I analyse every situation I go into aware of potential danger – and I mean every single one. This includes everything from washing up to chopping veg to going in the sea. My life is ruled by it. It’s a constant awareness that brings my attention to things that others probably don’t even think about. Before I do something I’ve thought about everything that could happen.

All it takes is for my partner to go ‘oh, fuck’ and the adrenaline starts going. This could be because he’s stubbed his toe or lost something or literally anything at all but my immediate thought is that he’s injured himself or something terrible has happened.

People often think I’m lazy or boring because of avoidance or reluctance, but the main reason for this is an extreme awareness of danger. My mind lives to seek out threat.

Empathy

I thought about this a few evenings ago whilst watching After Life. I won’t give any spoilers, but it made me think about how knowledge of mental illness and experience of absolute shitness, whether that be grief and loss, panic, anxiety, depression, whatever, experiencing it makes you more empathetic towards others who may be experiencing the same.

I really can’t bear the thought of someone else experiencing panic because I know how terrible it is. If someone I know is going through something I feel it a lot. I’m deeply affected by things.

Are people actually OK?

I know that you can spend your life putting on a front. I know that you can smile, you can laugh, you can seem confident and joyful and say ‘I’m fine’ when you’re the complete opposite. I know that it can be convincing. People can and do spend their lives as actors and actresses.

I worry a lot about people. I look for the smallest signs of anything that might suggest otherwise when people tell me they’re ‘fine’. Before I may have believed them, or shown some concern and perhaps been like ‘are you sure?’ if I thought they seemed a bit off. Now, I’m so aware that things are not how they seem and that the most confident or ‘happy’ people can really be experiencing severe struggle that I worry so much about what may actually be going on for people.

Priorities

As I’ve got a bit older my priorities have naturally shifted, which I think is quite usual. But I do also wonder if it’s amplified by my experiences. I don’t ever want to be in a place of panic. I know what it’s like and I’m not up for doing it again if I can avoid it. My life decisions (and even day-to-day ones) are in support of this.

Nothing is ever worth getting burnt out. Nothing is worth sacrificing your mental health for. I live by this and I share it with others often. I say ‘if it doesn’t serve you, cut it out’ and I think it’s important to say ‘no.’ Why do we say yes to things we don’t want to do? I get that there are some things in life that we just have to do, but on the whole I think learning to say no is really important.

Distrust

A friend said to me last week, ‘you’re well attuned to bullshit.’ And I thought yeah, maybe I am. But I also thought, maybe I just look for the worst. This means that when someone is having me on I spot it, but it also means that I think people are when they’re not. I do think that part of this is my personality (thanks, Dad) and I won’t let anyone take me for a ride. I’m OK to say what I think. My friends remind me of this often. But I don’t think I’m naturally distrusting? Looking for the worst in people isn’t an ideal way of life and I don’t want to be like that.

Resilience

I’m not saying that you can’t be resilient if you haven’t experienced mental illness because you absolutely can, but I feel like I’m personally more resilient now than I used to be. Sometimes without realising. When you’ve experienced trauma, everything really can be a battle. From routines and day-to-day life to television ads and shows, conversations that people have around you, all sorts.

I think it was EMDR that taught me to be resilient – or maybe that I already was. I went and sat with a therapist every week for fifteen weeks and relived trauma every time. It was bloody hard, but I did it. But even day-to-day, sometimes I realise how resilient I am just by getting up and trying again. Just by getting out of bed, getting dressed or going to work, or when the simplest of tasks feel utterly mountainous. It can take a lot to face the day, but we do. We all do.

Share:

1 Comment

  1. May 10, 2020 / 10:47 am

    great post as always Hanna,

    We both posted cptsd related entries yesterday, what a cool timing! A bit two sides of the same topic, too!

    Totally agreed that the pandemic triggers aspects of our cptsd, I’d say esp that of hyper-vigilance when so much unknown is going with it, and how a lot of people act willy-nilly taking risks, so we as cptsd sufferers are super attuned to the risks, imagine scenarios and try to act in extra careful ways. I know I sure do that, on top of my usual hyper-vigilance, say when I walk the street, I look around, when I come to a cross-road, I step back from the edge and make sure no driver is suspicious, cross only when i make sure cars have stopped (not just following the lights, that is) and so many other small and big actions and decisions, I’m not sure how I even can function with this sort of constant energy consumption.

    I agree that we have a propensity to develop empathy and compassion after having experienced trauma, but it’s still an active choice, perhaps from the personality part of us, as some lived trauma, go through mental illness, and are nastily contrary to the principles of empathy, compassion and kindness.

    The boundary between self and mental illness induced aspects is super tough to discern, I cannot even know for sure for myself, having had trauma from age 0, when and where did I start ?!

    My inner wounded child isn’t sure on a lot of priorities, but I do take some, such as concentrating on good, mutual friendships such as you, dumping out the others, lol.

    I share trust issues, but on the other hand, have also taken risks in telling private, deep things to friends, making the gesture of trusting and sorting out trustworthy people from those who betray… not sure if it’s a good method, to take such risks, is it ? It’s nice to be attuned to BS and call it off, I wish i’d learned that earlier in life, and it’s something I admire about you, how you stand up your ground, affirm and announce your boundaries.

    I never truly know if I’m all that resilient, am I ? am I not ? am I growing towards it?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.