What PTSD is.
I sometimes feel a bit embarrassed about my PTSD, since it came about from "only" bullying, rather than the kind of thing that we usually see as life threatening. Then I remember that I did die briefly when I was in high school and got slammed into a wall, and spent the next three months concussed and with memory problems.
But that wasn't what did it. Nor the time I got concussed when I was deliberately dropped during a trust exercise, or any of the most obvious traumatic events. It was the years of feeling under threat of violence, each and every school day. It was an environment that made that threat feel "normal" over time, that made me feel like I couldn't rely on my friends for help because that would spread the violence around. The feeling that sometimes it was best to take the violence now, so it was over and done with and wasn't going to land at random and without warning later, either on me or someone else who I cared about. That maybe I did deserve it. That maybe it was simply the price of not being able to fit as well as the others. That embarrassment never entirely goes away, but I recognise that it's a deep-down, burned-in visceral reaction. Maybe about the only thing I feel genuine shame about, even though my intellect tells me that it's not my fault.
I'll say one thing, though - while yes, it dredged up more historical stuff to eventually deal with in the process, and messed up a couple of romantic relationships with its fallout, it helped me when the quakes happened, too. No hesitation: I just collected all the things that I needed in the emergency from around my room and my flat, and got it all together in case I needed to go within around 10 minutes. "Cope mode" just kicked in and kept me functioning.
In some ways, it's also given me the strength to look at some of the unfairness and injustice in the world, big or small, and seriously ask myself: "What can I do about it?" While I can't solve every problem, I can pursue work that helps people. I can make personal decisions that help. I can strive to be aware of my actions and how they affect others; be responsible for them, and do better. Even if it's as simple as a few words of encouragement, or shutting up when the situation's not about me, or listening, or apologising (without following it up with a reason or excuse), or letting someone see something in a different light that helps us along the path to Getting It, and then Getting On With It. It all matters.
I can't say for certain who I would be now if I hadn't gone through it. At the core, hopefully we'd have the same principles and values and appreciation and passions. Those things that somehow never managed to erode under fist and boot and wood and metal. But I feel like I'm starting to become more at peace with that experience, now. That even if my energy is sometimes limited, I'm growing more capable to deal with what life throws at me, and at those who I love and care about.
PTSD may follow me, but I won't allow it to haunt me.