Why I have PTSD

While speaking with my therapist yesterday morning, I confided in her that, out of all of the traumatic events I experienced throughout my childhood, I believe one of them did the most damage. Of course, there’s always an accumulative affect when it comes to trauma—a stacking effect that, once it reaches its peak, eventually causes the overall structure to come crumbling down. Most of these events I refuse to speak about in an open forum, as I feel they’ll contribute to nothing but heartbreak and conflict. I will, however, detail the one event that I feel affected me the most adversely.

So, without further ado, I present to you:

Why I have PTSD.

I grew up in a small town in the middle of Southeastern Idaho, where any difference could either ostracize or make you an easy target. Be it your religion (or lack thereof,) your weight, your appearance, your disabilities (as minor as they may be,) anything could be used against you to make you feel as though you were small. The kids were mean, as some would be fit to say, and once settled upon you like a pack of angry wolves, they wouldn’t often let you get away.

I’ll forego the meatier details of the bullying I experienced throughout my early childhood for the sake of brevity. What I will say, however, was that I was picked on mercilessly—be it for my weight, the fact that I wasn’t Mormon, the fact that I had acne, glasses, an odd group of friends and, at the time, was struggling to figure out whether or not I was gay. I went through this from about the second grade (when I was seven) all the way up until I was eventually driven out of school when I was fifteen.

Yes. I said driven.

The event that would ultimately change my life for the worst began on an early evening in April—when, while walking outside to accompany my father and younger brother to the local fast food establishment to get ice cream cones, I was confronted by the sight of a police cruiser in our driveway. Lights on, officers standing, we approached with confusion only for one of them to ask, “Is Kody Boye here?”

“I’m here,” I replied.

“Is something wrong?” my father then asked.

“We’re here to investigate reports that you posted a death threat against [REDCACTED] High School on MySpace.”

I froze. LITERALLY froze. My heart seemed to stop beating, the blood in my veins chilled. I could do nothing more than stare.

The officer then said the one thing I never wanted to hear:

“We have proof that you posted a death threat against [REDACTED] High School on MySpace.”

I couldn’t believe it—could not, absolutely, one-hundred-percent believe it. I’d never done any such thing—would never in my life ever conceive of threatening someone in such a way—but there they were, two officers, standing there, declaring something I could not even imagine.

That was when they continued by saying, “Let’s go inside.”

My mother—who had been drawn by the attention from flashing lights outside in the descending darkness—could only watch and stare as my father, my little brother, and myself led the two police officers up to our front porch, then nod as they explained the situation and let themselves inside. At the time, we were too shellshocked to ask about a warrant, too scared to refuse access when we could’ve been able to, too intimidated to even begin to think to call a lawyer. The situation, as grim as it happened to be, skewed all sense of thought. So we let them in.

And thus the interrogation began.

Most of those first two hours are a blur to me. I remember simply sitting on the living room couch while the two officers drilled me on the aspects of my high school life. Having already accessed my MySpace account, they were privy to all sorts of information—including whom I talked to online, whom I interacted with, what groups I had been invited to. They kept claiming that they had proof that I had posted this death threat even though they would not produce it, and though I tried to access my computer at the time, it was slow as hell (and in hindsight, likely infected with a virus to make it that slow.) Thus: there was no way to produce my MySpace page for them to comb through.

At one point, an officer pulled me aside—away from the eyes of my parents—and said, “Just admit it. It’ll make things easier.”

“But I didn’t do it,” I replied.

That was when it only got worse.

No less than ten minutes later, an agent from the FBI walked through the door.

Thus began the next two hours of torture.

I was, at another point during the interrogation, pulled away from my parents by the FBI agent and asked whether or not I had anything I would like to tell him. Completely isolated from my parents, I could do little more than stammer out that there was nothing I could tell him, no leads I could give. He confided in me that this report had come from a school bus filled with kids on the way back from an after-hours field trip, and that was the moment I immediately knew that this was a practical joke—an anonymous ‘tip’ from someone who wished to destroy my life. Shortly thereafter, we returned to where my parents and the other police officers were and my interrogation continued. They worked to dismantle my family computer, seized the jump drive which held all of my life’s writing, then departed the home.

By the time it was all over, four hours had passed from the police officers’ initial arrival to the time they and the FBI agent had left.

Thus began their investigation into the matter, and the hell of not knowing what they might find that would come soon after.

During this time, which stretched over the course of two weeks, I was subjected to extreme anxiety—first because I irrationally feared that they would somehow find something to show that I had done it (even though I hadn’t,) then because I feared they would lose everything I had ever written. At one point they called my mother and tried to claim that one of the stories I’d written—which featured a CARRIE-esque destruction of a fictional high school—was proof enough that I hated school and had an agenda against the local high school. My mother, in response, claimed that it was simply a story and nothing more, and as such left it at that.

I wasn’t allowed to go back to school during this time—and was encouraged not to do so by the principal himself, whose thinking was that: if someone was willing to go this far to pull a prank, who was to say that they wouldn’t resort to physical violence?

I was still allowed to attend driver’s education, however (which was sponsored by the high school.) It was here I learned, from a fellow classmate, that a ‘rumor about me posting a death threat to the entire school’ was floating around campus—which, according to the officers who interrogated me, was ‘not supposed to be happening.’ A friend was even threatened to be charged with ‘impeding a police investigation’ when she tried to get to the bottom of the rumor to try and find out who spread it.

After those two horrible weeks were over—and after I was cleared of any wrongdoing—I finished out the last of my coursework for the year at home. Teachers offered condolences over the act that had occurred, offering me support in folded and stapled messages in schoolwork they sent home or by giving me passing grades simply for my prior attendance, and life continued on as it normally would—but not for me.

No.

The damage had already been done, the act already perpetrated, the person whom reported the case never found. I was told—in no uncertain details—that they could ‘probably, possibly’ find the person who anonymously reported the call, but by that point was so emotionally and mentally exhausted by the ordeal that I just wanted it all over.

So it ended—then and there, without resolution.

Come time the next school year came around, I tried to attend a high school the next city over. As I mentioned, however, the damage had already been done. I lasted all of three days before extreme paranoia that a similar event would happen eventually caused me to call home, crying my eyes out and faking sick, and never go back again.

I was homeschooled until sixteen, then dropped out when I couldn’t take the back and forth struggle of online schooling when teachers would not respond to queries and my grades began to fail. It would be two years—when, finally away from that area and down in Texas—that I would apply to take and then receive my GED.

It’s been around ten years to the date since this occurred, and I still sometimes have nightmares over what occurred. The fact that I never allowed it to be resolved (or attempt to be resolved) still bothers me at times, as that person should have been punished for doing what they did to me, but there’s little I can do about it now.

So… there you have it.

Though many events throughout my childhood (some spoken of previously, others not) contributed to my multiple mental illnesses, this was likely, and probably undoubtedly, the one that affected me the most.

Have you tried not taking medication?

More often than not, people view mental illness as something that is attributed to the individual rather than an actual fault of their body. Unlike cancer, HIV, MS or any other debilitating illness—which people would automatically expect treatment to be administered—mental illness is brushed aside as something people can control.

You see things? someone may ask. They’re not real.

You’re having mood swings? another may inquire. Control them.

Or what about the most common, which is often ignored or cast aside as trivial because of the refusal to acknowledge its chemical realities?

What about when people ask if you’re depressed, then matter-of-factly tell you to to look on the bright side of life?

What about when people—who may or may not understand your situation, who may or may not be aware of your diagnosis and who may or may not know you are being treated by practiced, licensed professionals—ask the one thing anyone treated within the mental health system hears at least once?

It’s the one thing you never expect to hear when you’re sick, even if others can’t see it.

Have you tried going without medication?

I’ve heard it countless times over the four years I’ve been treated for PTSD, GAD and Bipolar Disorder. From friends, to family, to passing acquaintances, from people who aren’t even addressing me but who are speaking on the matter in general—to them, it’s something I’m able to control. Mind over matter, they might say. It’s something I’m able to just get over.

Except there’s a problem—a fault in their logic that crumbles the foundation:

No one wants to be sick.

Over the years I’ve been treated, I’ve undergone countless evaluations, rigorous therapy, multiple interviews with psychiatric and pharmaceutical professionals, and had more blood drawn than I can even bear to remember. I’ve been on ten different medications and suffered through each of their individual side effects (and withdrawals when I’ve gone off them.) I’ve laid in bed trembling, unable to move because the room shakes, because it feels like I’ll throw up. I’ve hallucinated. I’ve undergone complete personality changes. I’ve had allergic reactions that scared me to the point where I believed I was having a life-threatening side-effect. I’ve even had the government, and some medical professionals, believe that my problem was obsolete and that I am capable of ‘less demanding things.’

But most of all, I’ve cried.

I’ve felt sorry for myself. I wished there was something, some way, I could just make it all go away. I’ve rationalized behaviors to the point of idiocy and even wondered sometimes if my situation was real—if, perhaps, I’ve just created the delusion in my mind and, for some reason, have subconsciously continued the ruse without due cause.

There’s only one problem.

With all that going on—with all that acknowledgement, understanding, education and self-awareness—you would think that, if it was all in my head, I could just make it go away.

And that’s where it ultimately leads to.

I can’t make it go away.

Medication helps me feel better. It stabilizes the mood swings, keeps me from panicking over every little thing, allows me to venture beyond the scope of four walls to explore the world as I deem fit. It lets me feel the one thing I don’t without it.

Normal.

It doesn’t get rid of it. Sure. Like all ailments, there are bound to be aches and pains. Some things never go away. But the one thing it does do is help.

It’s hard to understand for some people. You can’t see it. It isn’t a mark on my skin, a flaw you can identify through voice. But when I hear things like that—Have you tried not taking medication?—I can’t help but wonder:

If it were that easy, would there be any point?