Written by Trish
How many times have you felt misunderstood? Or did you give up counting a long time ago?
I think everyone feels misunderstood at times. People make judgments, assess you from outward appearances, and have too much going on in their own lives to be present to your pain.
It forges a disconnection between you and them; them being everyone else in the world that is not going through a similar experience. It’s not that you don’t want people to understand; you are just tired of the assumptions and the disappointment of not being heard.
Feeling misunderstood has been a big theme in my journey with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It has been the main ingredient for me to create the reclusive life I live right now.
Oh yeah, I should probably mention my stubbornness too.
Feeling misunderstood is kind of lonely… and then you become a cat lady.
Something happens that changes your whole life
I think that is the first symptom of feeling misunderstood; going through something you cannot phantom anyone could have possibly survived to tell-the-tale. And since there are no survivors, then no one has experienced the aftermath.
I felt that way about my trauma and as I unknowingly descended in to PTSD. How could I explain what was going on with me when I didn’t understand it myself? Some of the stuff I didn’t want to tell anyone for fear of being institutionalised.
Then the biggest question of all—the one that gets you right between the eyeballs—who really cares to understand anyway?
So I felt to feel truly understood, I needed someone who had gone through what I was going through.
Looking for a needle in a haystack
So it’s a bit hard to know where to start finding others who have firsthand knowledge when you can’t define it.
It didn’t help my cause that my psychiatrist evaluated me as having PTSD and I didn’t believe her.
I knew I had a mishmash of mental health symptoms that didn’t really make up any disorder. So I felt that anyone who had experience with anxiety, depression, psychosis, mania, OCD and an eating disorder were my partners-in-crime.
I set out to meet my comrades on the Internet via this blog. Soon I was connecting with all sorts of people from all over the world who were experiencing mental health issues.
For the first time I felt like I was a part of a community and not the freak trying to living among “normals”. It felt really good and I am so grateful for the experiences I have had working with others to produce this blog.
Yet after a time, I realized I had not come across anyone just like me—at the time I was looking for the exact same symptoms and feeling more and more isolated with each encounter.
Sometimes our expectations keep us in a place of feeling misunderstood.
Labels can be a good thing
Five years I felt misunderstood in a way that would creep up on me at the oddest of times.
I would start to tell my story and someone would cut me off to change the subject.
I would write a guest post documenting part of my experience and no one would comment.
And though my post about having a floating sensation that is tied to anxiety is one of the most popular story’s on this blog, no one has come out and said “me too!”
This past summer while I was using Emotional Freedom Technique, I came to the realization that indeed my psychiatrist had been right.
Suddenly I was not alone in this. I had the Veterans!
I hooked up with some really great PTSD resources on the Internet that not only talked to what I was going through, they explained how and why.
I was empowered. I now had the lingo to explain my experience, even if the person had never heard of PTSD, let alone experienced it.
Then my old fear paid me a visit and I stopped myself from using my voice and connecting: who really cares anyway?
Passion wins out
As I further investigated PTSD, I found articles by Dr. Robert Scaer that felt like I was reading my life story. That was pretty darn exciting.
But what was equally exciting is that he is a neurologist and I love neuroscience and biochemistry. They have been minor hobbies of mine over the last 10 years. Well when I could explain my condition in terms of neurology, I really wanted to share.
Here was an opportunity to talk about myself from the perspective of a medical science I have a great love for (and those are few and far between!) I love that Dr. Scaer’s stuff is practical and innovative.
Once again empowered, this gave me the courage to share what I was going through from a perspective of “isn’t this really cool?” and allow people the opportunity to understand.
How could people not be receptive to that?
And not just people who have firsthand knowledge of a mental illness, but basically anyone with a brain and nervous system.
That includes most people I know.
So how did it go?
It was the beginning of this month that I had my first sit-down-look-them-in-the-eye opportunity to talk to a friend about my PTSD experience as it stands right now.
That’s if you don’t include my Mom over the phone.
It was with my best friend of over 35 years.
So I jumped in and monopolized the conversation talking about myself and my “stuff”.
She listened. She didn’t say anything in attempt to reframe my experience.
When I was done, she had a few inquiries which I happily answered.
I walked away feeling understood. Man it is a great feeling.
I could get used to this.
The need for
peer pier support
Just this past week, I received an email from a new volunteer guest blogger. We connected right away and in his last email he asked me about my view of PTSD.
I was floored. I don’t think anyone has asked me that before.
I tell you when your perspective changes from one of misunderstanding, to knowing there are people out there who truly want to listen from a place of equality, magical things happen.
Sure, I can sit here and tell myself that what I really need is to find it within myself to fulfill my need for understanding.
And maybe that’s true.
But for now the way I see it is misunderstanding is bridged by connection and it takes two living breathing human beings to build that bridge.
I plan to be busy building lots of bridges.
Cartoon credit: Trish Hurtubise
Hi. I’m Trish Hurtubise…the founder, curator and an editor for Mental Health Talk. I love serving those who are relegated to the shadows by society by giving them a platform to share their voice and be seen and heard… hence my passion for working with all the wonderful people who have shared their stories and wisdom on MHT.
You may view all posts by me here.
Much love to you.