On The Outside – On The Inside

by Sherry Riter in PTSD

long dirty concrete stairs steps

As I sit here staring at my hands hovering over the computer keyboard in the pale light, I’m struggling with the words to write. While driving home from therapy tonight, I completely composed a post in my head and now that it is time to type it out, the thoughts have disappeared into thin air.

I guess I will just blurt out what I’m feeling now.

Over the past week my PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) symptoms have been…extreme. They have truly hampered my existence. During this time, I finally accepted the reality that those people who should be the closest to me, totally do not understand my struggles. Actually, they are oblivious even though I have tried to explain it until I’m blue in the face. Since they do not understand, I wonder how much good I’ve actually done by sharing any of it online or with anyone face-to-face. The pointed accusations and subtle hints that have been abundantly thrown in my direction are never ending. It has left me baffled.

Underneath, on the inside, I am still me. Looking from the outside, I appear mostly normal, but my mind, spirit and soul are currently trapped in a world of turmoil and upheaval. On top of it all, the stress of coordinating everything to move is almost more than I can bear. My mind struggles desperately to stay on task and remember even the simplest of things that must be completed.

I make lists and post notes everywhere. I read the words and there is no comprehension. A simple note on my computer monitor read, “Call power company.” I saw it. I even remember reading the words, but it was like reading a foreign language. It meant nothing to me. There was no connection between the words and the action I was supposed to be completing. THIS inability has frustrated and angered people causing them to strike out or ignore me.

Over the past two plus years, I have tried to understand why they can’t see my struggles and pain. I want to be understood! My inadequacy of being able to convey the message of my horrific pain and constant struggle at normalcy has plunged me even deeper into a black ocean of suffocating depression. Time and time again the words that I write on my blog have calmed my mind and comforted my aching soul. However, my blog always seems to become a victim to the anger people feel when I am unable to perform as the “old” me.

No one misses the old me as much as me. The woman who could keep fifty things going all at once without letting any hit the ground. I realize that I wasn’t understood then either, but at least I served a purpose and made everyone’s life a bit easier at times without being a burden. I didn’t ever “give” to the people I love so that I would “get” anything back. Stuff like that never crossed my mind. Well, it never crossed my mind until those same people kicked me while I was down.

Obviously, I’m not naming names because that really isn’t the point of this post. In the back of my mind, I always thought that I could count on people to be there and pull me out if I ever fell into the ditch. The ditch was actually the Bermuda Triangle and instead of a life raft, I was told to try harder, it makes no sense or was completely ignored because I wasn’t who I used to be. I look back and wonder why they didn’t all rally around me when I had always been there whenever they called for help or I just knew they needed help. No one had to make me help them when they had a need. I just did it.

Well, I’m not who I used to be because having no control in whether my daughter lived or died threw me into a world of terrorizing pain. It was a pain beyond anything I had ever suffered. I wasn’t able to just “get over it” and keep living like I had always lived. I was traumatized. Every cell of my body was traumatized. I lost control of my own self – thought processes, body functions and emotional responses. I have been fighting a war without troops or with unwilling troops.

All the cute sayings like, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” or “Everything will turn out better than before,” sound hollow, meaningless, trite and mocking. I have my smiling face in the header, so I look like I am okay, but inside I have been crumbling in pain. I am not ashamed of what happened to me or how I feel now. I do not feel that I am less valuable of a person because I am having problems. My entire life isn’t shared on this blog, but many of my deepest emotions have been shared in hopes that I would be understood, accepted, comforted and could have other people see they are not alone in their heartache. Even more than that, I want it to be a written reminder to Alyssa that I haven’t given up and I love her.

Do you know that this same thing could happen to you at any time or on any day? I am not an oddball. Millions of people are suffering with PTSD and they are not all military personnel. Trauma and pain is trauma and pain. At any point, your mind and heart could fall prey to the lurking PTSD monster. So this is where that old golden rule comes into play. You know the one, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or in other words, “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” That action requires sacrifice, patience and long-suffering.

There was a long period of time when I was completely hopeless that I would ever get the help that I needed. At times I still feel that way and I can feel myself slipping into the darkness where it is very quiet. Hopelessness is not a friend. It is a cunning enemy to the essence of the soul.

Take your time to look on the outside, but if you care for someone, go out of your way to look on the inside. Everyone, in one way or another, is just like me. We are all humans going through this experience together and alone.

I’m still here. I am the same woman who worked eighty hours a week to put my first husband through school. I’m the same woman that let my sister live with me for almost twelve years. I’m the same woman who raised my niece and enjoyed being a mother before I was blessed to be Alyssa’s mother. I am the same woman that cooked Sunday meals fit for a king and while they all took naps, I washed all the dishes. I am the same woman that as a teenager massaged my mother’s back for two hours each night because I appreciated her working so hard to support us. I am the same woman who picked up prescriptions, washed laundry, ironed business shirts, paid for other people’s professional licensing, bought cars for other people, gave of my time and talents. I am the same woman who can knit, crochet, embroider, sew, cook and write. I am the same woman that enjoys the apple festival, long walks, being in love, passionate embraces, holding hands, eating ice cream in the middle of the night, going on Sunday drives through the country, taking long showers, listening to Alyssa breathe as she sleeps so peacefully…I am still me – a daughter, a sister, a mother, an aunt, a friend, an employee, a business owner, a woman. On the outside and on the inside, I am still me just trying to be understood, loved, accepted and healed from this terrible PTSD.

Believe me…If I could be or do any better than I am now, I would be it or do it. However, right now, this is me.

inside edge concrete stair step

“While there’s life, there’s hope.”
~ Marcus Tullius Cicero ~

This post was written by...

Sherry Riter is also known as The Redhead Riter. Sherry is witty, intelligent and addictive as she writes about cooking, family, marriage, failures, blogging tips, art, humor, inspiration, travel, PTSD and aging. Her goal is to inspire, motivate, educate and to make her audience laugh. Sherry embraces being a redhead and helps others to see the redhead point of view…"In some eras redheads were worshipped while others thought us witches. Personally, I like the former and think every day is 'Love a redhead day!'" She can also be found on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Linkedin, tweeting as @TheRedheadRiter and you can subscribe to her free blog feed.

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Israel García October 16, 2012 at 2:58 am


I love what you write, it shows sincerity on all sides.

You’re a superwoman, of which no longer exist in this world, surely you came into this world to do something great, you have a special day.

I recommend more meditation, I recommend that you contact your inner self.

A hug from Spain.


2 Sherry Riter October 16, 2012 at 7:06 am

Awwww Israel, that is very sweet. Thank you. {{{{HUGE BIG HUGSSSSS}}}}


3 mom October 16, 2012 at 3:11 am

I wish I could make it all go away, but I cannot. I am praying for you. Have a good day and know this will end and you will be free. You will not go backward, but forward and a different person. It is up to you if that person is better or not. I love you.


4 Sherry Riter October 16, 2012 at 7:10 am

If you could make it all go away, I would surely let you or anyone else just take it! The different person thing is so true and I hope I will be better and it will be over soon. I am so tired. By the way, thanks for waking me up this morning. I don’t remember what I said to you on the phone, but at least I got up. LOL I love you too!


5 KINGOFNEWYORKHACKS October 16, 2012 at 3:18 am

SO true, and we all can fall into it at any time…thanks for writing such a brilliant post on a subject that is foreign to so many until it hits close to home. Peace and much love from NYC . ~ Edward


6 Sherry Riter October 16, 2012 at 7:11 am

Thank you, Edward. Thank you very, very much. {{{{BIG HUGSSSS}}}}


7 Sherry Riter October 16, 2012 at 7:42 am

Well, I’ve listened to this a few times this morning, http://youtu.be/m7JWYnDFPgs so Englebert will be in my head all day. LOL


8 Susanne October 16, 2012 at 7:47 am

Good Morning Sherri,

I completely understand your need and desire to be “understood”. I live it every day and probably will, until I take my last breath. I have tossed the therapists to the curb, as they do not understand. Meditation, catchy phrases..are you kidding me? They don’t work. I too would like my former self back. The girl who was intact, the one who laughed alot and had abundant hope for the future.

The people that I have shared trusted with my soul, have thrown back bits and pieces of it. Oh, I should add, the pieces are never in their original condition. Trust has been compromised. What I have learned is that we have been given the wonderful gift of choice. We can choose the people that we would like to surround ourselves with. They are the people that I call my friends. They accept and care unconditionally. No criticism, or judgement, only mutual respect. Each new “friend” has has at least one serious imperfection. I think this is why they are able to look past flaws and embrace strengths. My attachment to most of my own family has altered. I still love them, but the dynamics have changed. Unfortunately, I had to make that happen in order to shield myself from unnecessary blows. I have found a kinder, gentler and safer place among those I have hand picked. Every day still presents serious challenges that are compounded by the unresolved issues from the days, weeks and years prior. I think that’s called the pink elephant in the room. Maybe I should just name her and feed her a peanuts, because she’ll never leave. However, now I have friends to come over and pet her. I know a weird analogy..but that’s me…lol.

Your friend,


9 Sherry Riter October 16, 2012 at 8:40 am


{{{{BIG HUGSSSS}}}} and thank you for sharing that with me. I appreciate knowing that you understand me. It really means a lot.

I totally get your analogy! LOL


10 Joan October 16, 2012 at 8:11 am

As I read this post it broke my heart. I wished that I lived closer to you so that I could be there to give you the emotional support that you so desperately need. You are going through so much now and moving is stressful enough without also having to deal with your PTSD.

Believe me, we your readers know what you are going through, even if we are not going through it ourselves. All we have to do is read your words to feel the immense pain, isolation and hopelessness that you are feeling now. Please know that we are here for you and we all think that you are amazing! Do not berate yourself because you think you are not enough. You are more than enough! Your willingness to expose your doubts, fears and vulnerabilities is what makes you so relateable and human – and is the reason why we love you so much! (Do I dare end this comment with my usual smiley face? Well, why the heck not? After all, you might be feeling entirely different after you wake up from a good nights sleep.) As my dearly departed mother used to say, “Emotions are ephemeral. Ever changing. Like the waves of the ocean they crash upon the shoreline, only to retreat back to the sea.” 🙂


11 Joan October 16, 2012 at 8:12 am

Redhead Riter, are you feeling any better after my last comment? 🙂


12 Joan October 16, 2012 at 8:13 am

I didn’t think so. 🙁


13 Joan October 16, 2012 at 8:14 am

Well, I tried. Maybe you’ll be feeling better later today! 🙂


14 Sherry Riter October 16, 2012 at 8:35 am

Thank you, Joan. That was beautiful and I appreciate your caring for me.

Umm…you’re also so silly! LOL


15 Andrew Barber October 16, 2012 at 9:44 am

I hope that your honest words will bring strength to others who, I am sure, feel so alone with these same emotions. I also hope that things improve for you and I dearly hope those you hold close will find ways to understand what it is you are going through.

Remember that when looking at a portrait in a gallery, sometimes it is necessary to step back in order to see the entire picture. Often those entering the room have a better view than those standing close. Take care!


16 Sherry Riter October 16, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Thank you very much, Andrew. I really appreciate your sweet words. {{{hugssss}}}


17 Stéfan October 16, 2012 at 9:52 am

Sending positive vibes wrapped in warm smiles.


18 Sherry Riter October 16, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Thank you, Stéfan. 😀 {{{hugsss}}}


19 Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs October 16, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I have no words of wisdom to impart as I know there are no words that can make it right, okay, normal. I’ve been there and so very much feel for you—your frustration, your pain, your grief. I’m thinking of you, hugging you in my thoughts, holding you close in my heart. This too shall pass…but I know it’s the waiting for it to pass that really, really sucks.


20 Sherry Riter October 16, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Lisa, thank you so much. It is comforting to hear you say, “This too shall pass.” I truly want to believe it. {{{hugssss}}}


21 Ric Fox October 16, 2012 at 3:54 pm

The only constant in life, or anything else, is change.

Everything changes, even us.

Sounds corny, I know. It’s one of those damnable sayings everyone gets tired of hearing; but it’s true. Kids grow up from babies; our pet fish dies and so does our grandparents, then our parents. The people we have dedicated our lives to and always thought would be there for us when we were down and out suddenly seemingly abandon us.

The universe changes, matter decays, elements slowly lose electrons. We have always trusted let us down, out of nowhere we develop allergies we never had before.

Everything changes.

The center does not hold.

I’m fighting an earache right now, myself. Earaches are something children get, babies usually. Never had earaches when I was a kid. Seems like I’ve had an earache more often than not for the last decade of my own brother’s early death.

I don’t watch a lot of movies, but there’s one I like, and it’s kinda corny, sad, absurd, and funny; funny in an absurd way that helps me laugh at myself and my own foibles in life; and even has a very happy ending:

“Joe Versus the Volcano”.

It’s a comedy.

It’s about a guy named Joe, that has these real symptoms after having spent most of his life as a hero, as a firefighter. He does some especially heroic act, saving lives, and somehow, afterwards, he develops these symptoms. Just like many of us, heroes in reality to everyone we loved, doing everything we could to help them be the best, and feeling let down when we face our own darkest struggles withing ourselves.
I love that movie. If you’ve never seen it, I recommend you get it and watch it. You’d be hooked on it forever after, I think.

Hang in there, kiddo.

I’m praying for you.



22 Sherry Riter October 16, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Yes, I have seen the movie! LOL

Everything does change…every…single…day.

Thank you so much for praying for me, Ric. {{{hugssss}}}


23 Bev October 16, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Hugs to you. Wish I were closer too, then Joan and I both would help with the move. Believing with you that the PTSD will be healed/gone forever very soon and this exacerbation due to the move will end quickly. And then more hugs!


24 Sherry Riter October 16, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Thank you very much, Bev. I wish you both lived close too! Would we ever get any work done? LOL {{{hugssss}}}


25 Ric Fox October 17, 2012 at 1:59 am

Anxiety is the dizzyness of new freedom and the handmaiden of creativity, Sherry.


26 Sherry Riter October 17, 2012 at 6:41 am



27 Skip_D October 17, 2012 at 5:55 am

Please don’t doubt the good that your valiant, honest, painful posts have done. You have brought into sharp focus the real nature of PTSD, its insidious ability to devastate while leaving no visible evidence of its presence. You have bared your soul with your haunting, powerful words. That those closest to you can’t or won’t see or understand is a terrible byproduct of the invisibility of PTSD. All we your readers can do is wish them understanding, while we send you our love & support – & appreciation for your invaluable posts.

BTW, your photographic metaphore in this post is very powerful.


28 Sherry Riter October 17, 2012 at 6:48 am

Thank you, Skip. I appreciate you for saying that my posts were not in vain. {{{hugssss}}}

BTW I wasn’t sure if anyone would “get” my photo correlation, so thanks for telling me you did!!!!!


29 Ric Fox October 17, 2012 at 8:53 am

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom:
“Anxiety may be compared with dizziness. He whose eye happens to look down into the yawning abyss becomes dizzy. But what is the reason for this? It is just as much in his own eye as in the abyss, for suppose he had not looked down. Hence anxiety is the dizziness of freedom, which emerges when the spirit wants to posit the synthesis and freedom looks down into its own possiblity, laying hold of finiteness to support itself. Freedom succumbs in this dizziness. Further than this, psychology cannot and will not go. In that very moment everything is changed, and freedom, when it again rises, sees that it is guilty. Between these two moments lies the leap, which no science has explained and which no science can explain.”

~Source: The Concept of Anxiety (1844)
Author: Søren Kierkegaard using the pseudonym Vigilius Haufniensis

“Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity”- T.S. Eliot
There are two positions; both are accurate.
1)For the artist, and in this case the writer, there is an Immense self pressure to get the work in an very exact way. It requires a very precise creation, that is why the person is an artist, because they require a very precise creation. The anxiety does not create the art, the art creates the anxiety.
2)It means to be creative you must first experience anxiety. If you do not experience anxiety or be anxious about a certain situation, you will not have the need to be creative or express yourself beyond your normal reach in a situation. Anxiety breeds creativity. It pushes you to your limits.

Don’t fear your own brilliance, Sherry




30 Sherry Riter October 17, 2012 at 5:41 pm

I know you meant this sincerely, “Don’t fear your own brilliance, Sherry,” but by the time I got to that point and read it, I was cracking up! Thank you for the nice comment. I love reading T.S. Eliot too!


31 blu January 1, 2013 at 2:33 am

thank you for your blog – i have suffered from ptsd for years and no one understands unless they too experience it, i use to think i would never be one of those people who would let ptsd keep me down – others have not a clue what a struggle every day is and how much determination it takes to do what we do – can’t tell you how many times i’ve been called selfish for working on my healing- but i will never stop, they have no idea how strong i am


32 Sherry Riter January 1, 2013 at 5:25 am

I am so sorry that you have PTSD. Yes, I do understand how devastating each day can be and that even breathing can feel like a struggle at times. The one thing I have been struggling with ever since this happened to me is why can’t or don’t people who interact with me on a daily basis make more of an effort to understand PTSD. Some of them actually ignore it and pretend like I’m fine. Seems so ridiculous! I hope that you are getting therapy because without it, you will never be fully healed. NEVER stop working on healing no matter what anyone says!!! You are NOT selfish! If you ever just need to vent, complain and unload, I’m here. {{{{hugssss}}}


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