How do I stop getting upset when I have to speak about the past? Possible PTSD?

I think I’m either depressed or suffering from PTSD I get upset speaking about the past and am unable to speak about it. I don’t feel sad all the time just when I have to speak about the past and feel it’s bringing me back to the past and I can’t get past it
Asked by Lilly

Hello Lilly! Thank you for your message. You bring up a common concern that many people talk about. When someone has experienced trauma, it really can be difficult to think about it and/or discuss it. You could very well be experiencing some of the symptoms of depression or PTSD. Many times, the symptoms of one condition overlap with other conditions. And sometimes we have symptoms of different conditions, but we don't actually meet the criteria to be diagnosed with those conditions. My guess is that you are more concerned about what to do and how to feel better than you are about the actual condition you might be diagnosed with. 

When someone has an experience that feels very upsetting or sad or frightening, it is important that they are able to process that experience in a way that feels safe to them. Not everyone wants to resolve an unsettling experience in the same way. But if the person does not have an opportunity to process that experience in a way that helps them realize that they are now safe, then it might be really hard to think about it or talk about it. Many people really seem to benefit from having a compassionate, empathetic other person to just listen to them. There is a benefit to expressing one's thoughts and feelings about an experience with another person who is not going to judge them or criticize them or downplay their experience. If someone has an unpleasant experience and they are not afforded that opportunity, that person might try to stuff that experience or bury it somewhere in the back of their mind. But that is not helpful because every now and then something might happen that will trigger thoughts and memories of that experience. And since it was never fully resolved, it is still scary or painful to think and talk about.

Even when someone does have that opportunity to talk with a safe and trusted friend, relative, or even a counselor, those memories might still be difficult. The difference is that the person who has had the opportunity to process the experience is potentially going to have much less of an intense reaction to the triggers than the person who has not had the opportunity. There is nothing wrong with you if that is what you are thinking. It is perfectly normal to have that kind of reaction. Our bodies and our brains are very complex and also very interconnected. What affects one affects the other. 

It is also important to know that all feelings are valid. Feelings are normal. Some people think that they "should not" have certain feelings but nothing could be further from the truth. Feelings are part of the human experience. We all have them. Some people like to think they don't, but they do. So I am hoping that you realize that it is perfectly okay to have feelings. Think of them as messengers. They are trying to deliver a message to you. What is the message that your feeling of sadness is trying to deliver? Is it telling you that you miss something -- you are feeling some kind of loss? Sometimes, talking about our feelings reduces the intensity of them. We don't really want them to go away altogether because they are important. But on the other hand, we don't want them to control our lives so we have to know how to identify them and work with them. I have a lot of material about feelings and what a person can do to learn to tolerate them better. If we were working together, I would provide you with a safe place to talk about what has happened and bring those feelings out into the light. Frequently, that is the main thing that helps a person feel better.

I hope my response to your concern was helpful. Thank you for reading.