Yes – this can really happen. It really can be that traumatic.
It is helpful for people to understand – PTSD doesn’t just happen as a result of a single traumatic incident. You can also get it from harassment – basically – bullying. A pattern of upsetting behavior directed at you – can rewire your brain to bypass rational thought and just – make your body respond as if you are under attack.
For instance, I got PTSD from being stalked by an ex-boyfriend. I suffered for about 3 years before I finally got counseling and got it under control for the most part.
It mostly manifested as panic attacks. But I did disassociate a couple of times (once in an FBI agent’s office and another time in a court room). For a while – I wouldn’t even leave the house without checking to make sure I had my restraining order.
It’s a weird thing to experience. Your brain simply won’t let you think of it. So it usually takes me a couple of days to realize what is going on. Like one time, I needed to purchase plane tickets and it was to the state next to the state my stalker lived in. And I couldn’t purchase the tickets. Couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t. Couldn’t figure out why I was getting hot and sweaty while looking at plane tickets. And then I realized what the problem was – and had my husband purchase the tickets.
I now differentiate between fear and terror and flight/fight responses. Fear is mental. Terror is physical. Fight/Flight – totally bypasses the brain. It’s really strange when your body protects itself without the brain telling it to and you gradually become aware that your body is responding and then you have to figure out why.
I don’t suffer too much anymore. I credit that with the counseling and professional help I got for the problem. The other thing that helped was – going on a trip outside the country. I could finally – just walk about without worrying about seeing this guy. And it reminded me of what that feels like. So I started to live my life more fearlessly and intentionally after that.
The result is – things that used to trigger me – don’t so much anymore. And when I am triggered, it’s always something weird and it takes me a while to figure out what the problem is – because seriously – my brain WILL NOT let me think about the real problem. It just avoids it.
If you are really feeling traumatized by what has happened to you – don’t hesitate. Get professional help. There are counselors who specialize in helping people with PTSD and they can help you learn how to cope and lessen your symptoms so you can start reclaiming your life back.