I’ve had PTSD for a really long time, probably in some form or another since childhood, and was formally diagnosed almost five years ago. It’s not like I’m completely nonfunctional, but I have a fairly strong case of it: enough that working a regular job was almost impossible and I was declared disabled by the state.
But all this time and I’ve never fully understood what PTSD meant. Wikipedia was quite vague. Survivors’ support groups were mostly made up of male combat veterans and I didn’t want to intrude on that. Doctors mostly told me it was “a flaw in perceiving reality”, psychiatrists talked about “a damaged worldview” and acted like I was a delusional schizoid who needed antipsychotic sedation. Friends and roommates who found out, even after having known me for some time, reacted as though I was a dangerous psychopath. Even feminist blogs missed the point; I can’t find the post now, but Radfem Hub once claimed that PTSD is like unto a lobotomy, which it most certainly is not. (Although admittedly I have never had a lobotomy.)
Well, it turns out that PTSD is not a flaw in perceiving reality, it is not a psychosis, it is not a delusion, it is not a lobotomy. It relates to a shrinkage of the amygdala caused by extreme duress (in my case, prolonged abuse that caused unusually stressful living conditions over the course of most of my life). My brain literally does not know how to cope with itself a lot of the time, because it cannot process emotions properly and instead overproduces certain limbic responses that make me feel fear and terror even when I really don’t technically need to.
And I never knew that until hardscum told me earlier tonight, because apparently a lot of physicians are totally underqualified for their positions and PTSD is evidently completely underresearched and misunderstood. (The Wikipedia articles vaguely talk about the female brain being “more susceptible” to amygdala damage apparently due to our uteri, and it attempts to draw a correlation between amygdalas and sexual orientation, all of which I found bogus and utterly unhelpful).
From having borne the brunt of the psychiatric bullshit for so long, I think this is not an accident. The longer male doctors can claim they don’t understand PTSD, the longer they can claim that women who have it are just crazy, just overreactive and oversensitive morons who have “flaws in perceiving reality” because of their estrogen. The longer they can name us all as crazy, the longer they can dismiss our experiences, our tales of horror, and say we either imagined it all or “failed to perceive it correctly.” The longer they can ignore our words and tell other people to do the same because we are crazed, lobotomized psychotics, the longer they can maintain plausible deniability about what females go through at the hands of males. The longer they can deny our abuse and handwave it as a faulty psychological response, as opposed to an experience so horrendous it actually causes parts of our brains to atrophy and malfunction, the longer they can keep us all quiet. The longer they tell us we’re insane, the more likely we are to believe it ourselves and to keep quiet about what we endured.
So everybody wins in this situation, except for women, who are denied the ability to speak openly about their experiences and/or denied the opportunity to listen without judgment when other women speak openly about their experiences. We are cut off from the full benefit of communication and denied complete understanding of our world. You can call me crazy all you like, and even point to my words above to justify saying that, but you cannot look at this situation for women across the world and say it’s all just an accident.
From Ise Palase