Non-Military PTSD and My Life


Ten years ago I didn’t know very much about post-traumatic stress disorder. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that trauma was influencing the lives of many of my family members. Today I look back and know that if I’d known then what I know now, I’d have been able to help those I love in more effective ways.

  • Accidents. When my son was two, he bit an extension cord and suffered a devastating shock through the mouth that seared his lips and required reconstructive surgery. During the hour-long drive through the country to the hospital, his head swelled and distorted as he lay in my arms. In those moments, I believed my child was going to die before we arrived.
  • Suicide. My father-in-law lost his father to suicide when he was a child. The trauma influenced Norman for the remainder of his life, leaving him “stuck” emotionally and family members confused about his enigmatic behaviors.
  • Childhood sexual trauma. Assaults rocked my world, as well as the life of one of my children, who hid the abuse from us as parents for eight years. The experience resulted in multiple symptoms.
  • Car accidents. Both of my children were involved in  multiple car accidents where they were extricated with the Jaws of Life, hospitalized, or sustained closed-head injuries that had a long-term impact on their health.
  • Natural disaster. My daughter volunteered to do humanitarian relief in the first wave of workers on Nias Island after the 2004 tsunami. In the months she was there, she experienced a dozen more earthquakes, leaving her reeling with symptoms of PTSD.
  • Secondary trauma. My daughter also experienced secondary trauma as a result of caring for the sick, devastated, and dying on Nias Island.
  • Caregiving. For eight years, I cared for my father-in-law with Parkinson’s disease, mental illness, and other complex medical needs in our home. A week following his death, my mother with Alzheimer’s came to live with us for the next four years. Over an eight year period, I watched the slow demise of two of my loved ones to terminal disease.
  • Medical trauma. In 1999 I suffered a devastating brain lesion and was hospitalized for an extended period of time as doctors searched for a cause of my symptoms. (One was never found.) During that period of time, my survival was in question, as my abilities to see and walk diminished daily.

Many people make the mistake of believing that traumatic experiences and PTSD are limited to military experiences or sexual abuse. They are not. For many years I believed that the symptoms of PTSD had to include drug addiction or self-abuse. They do not.

What’s your story? Have you or someone you know experienced trauma? Are you suffering from symptoms of PTSD? This week we will be exploring symptoms and other valuable information that can be helpful. And for further information, check out and download our free ebook, The Truth about Trauma

15 thoughts on “Non-Military PTSD and My Life

  1. Reblogged this on Lori Lara and commented:
    Shelly and Wanda are friends of mine. If you suffer from PTSD or you know someone who does, I highly recommend their new book, “Love letters from the Edge.”

    Blessings to all who struggle. May you find the healing and freedom and the life you were created to enjoy.

  2. I have complex ptsd, and you’re right not from going to war or dealing with drugs or alcohol., or sexual abuse……..and it never goes away, just sits in the background of the depths of your soul and waits to hit you whenever it wants……..

    • Marla, we’re so sorry too hear about your struggle. We hope you have found a support system and treatment. Please know we are praying for you. More resources are available at

      • Thanks, Shelly, and yes, I have been thru Doctor’s, and therapy, but that still doesn’t make it go away. But thank you very much for recognizing, that it’s not just the military that have it………..I have changed my life in order to try to disperse it……not changes I am happy with, but none the less, changes I make on a daily basis of where I go what I do and how I do things . It is an energy sucker, and depletes you as you try to function on a daily basis of moving forward and away from the incidents that brought it . The hardest is trying to stay away from the edge of giving into it, and giving up.

      • Thank you, Marla, for sharing part of your experience with us. Yes, for many, or for perhaps most people who suffer from PTSD, the symptoms never completely resolve. We do have to make accommodations and be vigilant about our triggers. Some of those accommodations are not easy and require sacrifices and compromise. Praying you will find encouragement and resources to come alongside you on this journey.

  3. You have been through so much and I appreciate you writing about this. I never thought about it until my husbands death last year. It wasn’t until someone told me that it was PTSD that I was suffering from even to this day. I was also home when my dad died and it has also brought back flashbacks from that morning as well that I had suppressed for 40 yrs. I also suppressed many feelings through many things in my past because I was the “strong” one, and while caring for my mother in law and aunt that came out in many forms. In the midst of your pain, I thank you for bringing to light how PTSD can take on many shapes for many people no matter what your walk in life is. Hugs and prayers for continued strength and healing. In Gods love – and mine….

    • Thank you for sharing parts of your story, Patty. I hope you’re finding help for the symptoms of your PTSD. Your story will help to encourage others as we walk the path of healing. Hugs, Shelly

      • Yes, I am, thank you. One day I know God will direct my words to help others.

  4. To Shelly, thank you, I have had more therapy sessions than anyone I know, have had more meds than anyone I know because of this junk……….They tell you it goes away,…………it never goes away ever………..mostly am afraid, that I will be in public and it will go off……… I hide mostly………..can’t work very much, don’t like the people contact…………and the fact that it has affected my brain functioning because of the long term effects of my adrenaline being so high for so long………..has changed the way I process……..I scan and view too much always, I have a life time medical award which helps immensely, but I don’t do crowds or go anywhere I don’t feel safe, stay mostly within a 2 mile radius of where I live………always go with someone else to the store to get groceries or do anything………..and my family, no one understands, I’ve always been the strong one……….always the fighter, but this takes you under time and time again………thanks

  5. Hi Shelly & Wanda, I found your blog through our mutual friend Lori.
    I, too, have non-military PTSD. Fortunately, my therapist had extensive training in trauma therapy and brought me back from the brink. Nearly all my symptoms are gone, save for a hyper-startle she says will likely never go away. But I can truly function and have healthy relationships. There are medical issues that will need to be addressed long-term ie: hypo-thyroid from long term adrenaline rushes but I’m so grateful to have come this far.
    I’m interested in checking out your book.

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