PTSD and Its Startle Response

PTSD and its startle response is by far one of the most difficult symptoms to manage…but I do my best.

I am lucky. Every morning when I open my eyes to greet a new day, I do so with a blank slate. I could have had the worst mental-illness flare-up the day before, and still feel grateful and renewed the next day. However, PTSD and its startle response can change all that.

The exception being when the PTSD nightmares come for me in my slumber. These nightmares startle me awake and as a result, I start my day with a rapid heartbeat and a fear that plagues me for a good part of the day.

With this blank slate, I do my best to map out a day of normalcy. it doesn’t necessarily have to be full of joy, but I always try to head in the right direction – a direction that allows me to conduct the everyday tasks that come with living.

I fully embrace them and don’t give in to the temptation to run home.

Taking care of chores, paying bills and making appointments. High on my priority list is meeting up with friends. My end goal is not to let PTSD imprison me in my own home. It’s of vital importance as I fear whatever potential emergency could be lurking around the corner.

Yes, it can be overwhelming, but we have no excuse not to try.

Living your life with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I resist fear with all my strength and step outside to greet the world. I do so with a sense of hope that today, I will be able to tolerate the very noisy and very busy world. As I said, I use social connections with friends as the primary reason I leave my home. Those whom I care about and who support me; I use it as my motivator to integrate into society.

I would be lying if I told you that I love being amongst the daily chaos – a chaos that is the everyday hustle and bustle of humanity. On the contrary, I despise it; but I do recognize that despite how I feel about it, I know I have to interact with society. So I, like I always do, defy it, and I set off in hopes to win the day.

Learn more about how to recognize the symptoms of PTSD here: Symptoms of PTSD

Out of the many symptoms that are produced by PTSD, none are more impactful than the startle response. PTSD and its startle response are so problematic for me because when I am symptomatic, it increases my hypervigilance. As a result, I am in constant fight, flight or freeze mode. Being in this state makes me jump at every sudden noise, regardless of its volume. 



So, why is it such a challenge? Well, I find the tendency to be easily started so difficult because it is often the primary trigger that causes me to spiral into a mental-health crisis.

I become so finely tuned to all the chatter surrounding me.

I become so finely tuned to all the chatter surrounding me, every little kid crying and each and every item tossed about and dropped. Even the clanging of a spoon against a plate can bring me out of my chair.

I feel like I am constantly vibrating, acutely aware of every last bit of commotion in the room. The price I pay for leaving the house is being scared out of my skin over and over again, until I can’t take any more.

Sometimes I isolate myself for days because of PTSD AND ITS STARTLE RESPONSE.

It may help you to understand my plight if you stop and think back to a time where someone had scared the life out of you; think of the physiological response you had. Racing heart, agitation and rapid breathing.

Go here for help with PTSD #firstrespondersfirst

Now, imagine what that would be like to experience those multiple times in a row. It puts me in a constant state that ranges from constantly irritable to level-ten agitated. The best way I can put it is that it’s like getting a tiny shot of electricity over and over. After a while, all you want is for it to stop assaulting your body.

Without a doubt, what I hate most is that those closest to me must endure the fallout. PTSD and its startle response effect everyone.

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And as if that weren’t enough, its side effects lead to numbing recounts of things I’ve witnessed; it’s so numbing that I feel like I’m trying to make my way through molasses. These are the moments when I end up spending the day in bed. Sometimes I isolate myself for days.

black and white photo
Photo by Nothing Ahead on Pexels.com


Although these moments make it very tempting to just stay home, I remind myself that I have had great days interacting with the living. It has enriched my life, whether meeting up with an old friend or helping someone get through their own firsthand experiences with mental illness. Reminding myself of this, I know that tomorrow will be better.

One day I will beat PTSD and its startle response.


More about self-care here

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In crisis? Call 1.833.456.4566 | Text 45645 (Crisis Services Canada) Crisis Services Canada



Categories: Anxiety, Depression, Firefighter, Mental Health, Mental Health Awareness Month, Opinion piece, PTSD, The Road To Mental Wellness- the book, Therapy, Wellness Store

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