The Hollow Words I Live By

2019-12-18

Living with PTSD and major depressive disorder, I was shocked to learn, and unfortunately experience on a daily basis, just how numb my emotions and feelings have become. While, like is common with PTSD, I can experience negative emotions and feelings like anger, irritability and frustration, it’s the positive ones that elude me every day. Emotions and feelings like happiness, joy, excitement, contentment, compassion, sympathy, pride all remain hidden behind the fog of PTSD and depression.

Living with PTSD and major depressive disorder, I have also became acutely aware to the point of annoyance, of the significant, almost laughable and unbelievable disconnect between my emotions and feelings and my everyday spoken and written language.

Too many times I have greeted somebody new with the usual “I am happy to meet you”. When heading out for a hike on a late fall day I have heard myself say “I am glad it’s not raining”. I have caught myself saying that I have sympathy for a person because of the situation they find themselves in. I have said that I am excited that a particular event is fast approaching. I have stated that “I enjoyed that dinner”. Even as I progress through treatment for PTSD and achieve many progress benchmarks I have stated to my wife that I am proud of my accomplishments. All of these, I have said without actually feeling happy, glad, sympathy, excitement, joy and pride.

I started listening to others paying particular attention to the positive emotion words spoken. I am happy to say that my day to day conversations are not really all that different then most other people (see what I did there, at the beginning of the sentence?). What this exercise did, was to clearly show me that many of the positive emotion words I use day in and day out are in fact just words that do not actually reflect what my true emotional state is at the time they are spoken. My PTSD and depression has slowly, replaced words in my vocabulary with meaningless filler words. They are just placeholders spoken or written because they are the words that are expected to be spoken or written at those specific points. To me they are just the hollow words that I live by.