Don’t Cry, Smile

I’m tired. I’m tired of waking up every morning facing a panic attack. I’m tired of the nightmares of wars I haven’t lived through. I’m tried of the battles I have lived through. I’m tired of my alarm going off and anxious butterflies filling my stomach.

Every morning, I wake up, I turn off the alarm, I stand up, I look at my drawers and I start to panic. My stomach swells, I feel nauseous. I start to sweat, my hands shake. The more I try to focus, the more everything blurs. All I want to do is curl up in a ball and cry. Most of the time, I tell myself to shut the f up and get on with it. Sometime between putting on my clothes and brushing my teeth, I begin to vomit. I sit in front of the toilet, throw up stomach acid until it is over, then I go back to whatever I was doing.

This is my life.

Not all of it was created by growing up in a generation touched by war. I’m sure a lot of it was created by growing up in a family where violence was the norm.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That’s what the doctors say I have. The MDs, the Psychiatrists, the Psychologists, they all say, “Classic PTSD symptoms.”

But I never lived through war. Not really. I’m not a soldier coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan. I’m just an almost normal girl living in an upper-middle class suburban environment. I don’t like to tell people. Because most of the time they laugh or tell me that it takes away from those who really have PTSD. It’s a disease, apparently, that’s reserved for those who have faced explosions.

Bombs aren’t the only things that can cause PTSD though, which is something we should really keep in mind, considering the rate at which we’re dropping them. Over $1 billion dollars worth of bombs have been dropped on ISIS, by the way. $1,000,000,000, that’s a one with 9 zeros. One has to wonder – what could mental health professionals do for our soldiers with $1 billion extra dollars?

Mental health is a serious issue in this country, and it seems to be coming to the forefront more often, but not often enough and too often after a tragedy. While we raise a generation seeped in war, more and more guerrilla fighters and lone wolf terrorists are knocking at our door. “Sickos”, “psychos”, “crazies”. We don’t want to blame the NRA or the violent video games or the music industry or the media or the wars or the inequalities drawn along socio-economic lines. There are just crazy people everywhere, right?

True, but also, not true. Are we really ready to just accept that children are going to be shot while they’re at school (from time to time) and that it’s better to just stay in than go to a movie because you might be part of a mass murder and hey, even going to work isn’t so safe anymore, you might be shot up, or you know…beheaded. Because I’m not willing to accept that.

I know that PTSD hurts. I know that mental illness can be debilitating. I know that anxiety has actual, real, physical effects on you. And I know what it’s like to be scorned and embarrassed and laughed at and told to “just get over it”, “let the past be the past” and “don’t cry, smile”. Just be happy, right?

Some of us can’t, and it’s time that we addressed that problem. Maybe we should take a moment to deal with our own issues instead of dropping bombs on civilians and creating more “psychos.”

Author’s note: I am in no way defending the actions of anyone who takes the life of another. I just believe it is time to stop shrugging our shoulders at some real issues we are facing in this country. 




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