Hiding trauma and PTSD?

I'm in my 40s now, and all of my life I have hidden my trauma and PTSD as well as I possibly could.
I told my T and pdoc of course, and told my closest friends and also told my ex's at the time.
I have kept it hidden like THE WORLD'S BIGGEST SECRET from everyone else.
It never felt like an option to allow anyone else to know... I used to feel like my head would explode or I would die, if anyone found out.
I don't know why it seemed like a matter of life and death to me, apart from all the "obvious" reasons.
I mean, wanting your privacy and not wanting everyone to know, is one thing.
Feeling like you will literally drop deap if anyone ever finds out any of that stuff? Is not quite the same, IMO.

I've lived a double life, all my life.
While the abuse and trauma were going on, I was "expected" to hide it, like just about everyone else that's gone through childhood trauma.
In the years following that, I was also "expected" to keep hiding it.

But in my early 20s I went no-contact with my FOO (family of origin) and from that point onwards, I could've made different choices.
Instead, I continued to lead that double life.

Now, in my 40s, it no longer feels healthy and it no longer feels like I have to do it to survive.
I'm thinking of re-training in a new job, that would involve working with traumatised children.
And in that setting, I'd finally not have to keep my PTSD a secret from my employer anymore.

At the moment, due to an unrelated coincidence (a past work issue) I'm suddenly in the position where I may have to disclose my double life to a few people.
I've kept my PTSD and my disability an iron clad secret at work, forever.
I'm currently not working, but need to sort out some stuff from a previous job and it basically entails going "Guess what, I have a disability, I have PTSD from childhood trauma and yeah, I always chose to keep it a secret."

It's a strange feeling. It's making me wonder why my brain was 100% convinced it had to be a secret all of my life, so far?
How was I that convinced I'd die if anyone found out, ever?

Edit to add: The idea of people connected to the previous job now finding out still creeps me out. But I also feel this weird (dissociated) sense of relief to not live a double life anymore and even for the decision to be taken out of my hands... I feel like I'm floating and just watching it unfold and thinking "Yeah, whatever, now you all know the truth... That's what was going on all along..."

Edit to add: I've recently been working on early childhood attachment trauma with my T. I found out that I have avoidant attachment trauma, which means that I have tried to be 100% independent all my life... I have always relied on myself, never on anyone else. I always knew I had to protect myself, because if I didn't, then nobody else would. I think this probably has to do with the mindset that "if anyone found out" then I'd be exposing a weakness and then I'd be unable to protect myself properly and if I can't protect myself, then I'll die.
Something like that.
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I personally would reevaluate if it's wise to disclose to an employer - with vulnerable populations of all people.

May be disqualifying. Or perceived hinderance to both being hired and being kept at the work.

Personally I disclose the very minimum in the official settings. And only when hard pressed. And even there keep it as out of their face as possible.

It's bad enough I'm adamant about the gender & racial equality things.
I don't need to add yet else.

And there are settings I absolutely give no f*cks - as it's reaally peripheral and nowhere near a thing to mind.


I have similar reaction like Ronin above. But I also have few more feelings and ideas about your post. First I am sorry you feel you could not trust anyone with your secrets and conditions. This alone sounds very lonely and exhausting.
Secondly, I also think maybe your use of language and framing is skewed in such that your feelings of hiding/avoiding and what others see may not exactly match. Meaning, if you do not have overt symptoms like hospitalizations and such, maybe there was nothing to hide but normal life just like every other person who has life they are not sharing exactly. Your PTSD was a condition but not more than a person having autism (mild version and does not want to share this as if this is all they are). So you did not hide your PTSD but your life as human is not just that...that is just a part...not all of you! I hope that makes sense.
We all have lives outside of work we do not share cause it does not impact on the job we are doing. So if your PTSD did not impact enough on your jobs for so long, maybe that means a lot and valuable part of you and your life.

My question is this: Do you think others will relate to you differently if they knew you have PTSD? and how would that change from how others relate to you now? What impact will this have on your livelihood? Can you be more open in your personal life about this rather than your professional? Why or why not?

I see more strength in living with PTSD so long and carrying on life than seeing as if you were hiding it but I also truly understand your feeling and how you felt you were carrying a secret, a burden and want to share with others to feel more authentic and expressive.


I mean, wanting your privacy and not wanting everyone to know, is one thing.
Feeling like you will literally drop deap if anyone ever finds out any of that stuff? Is not quite the same, IMO.
It's that elusive middle ground between those points I think?
For me I want to rid the shame which made me silent, which makes me want to tell. But equally I feel a sense of shame in telling it to certain people (family, some friends, work, wider world) because it means dealing with their varied responses. Which I predict aren't always going to be supportive.

You got to disclose what you feel comfortable with, in a way that works for you.
Do you have to let old and new employers know if you don't want to?
And if you do, what support do you have if the response is one you find upsetting?

Warrior Chicken

Absolutely understand and identify with the feelings about hiding PTSD (even the length of time you've hidden).
Deserving of a longer response - which I can't muster....and not knowing when I will.....writing what I can now.

With new job in child protection - things to consider:
- Your own level of resiliency being able to deal with those who will question your professional ability because of their own misconceptions and ignorance about mental health. Can you manage those attitudes/opinions now if you start off by disclosing PTSD?

- If you feel the new team you'll work with has a good grasp on mental health and its complexities......that they accept everyone has a past and that past can be filled with pleasant and troubling memories that have the ability to greatly assist the work being done. IE - I work in the security sector and we have consulted with individuals who have survived human trafficking - even so far as to bring them in to the investigation to be the first contact with those who were trafficked. These people were absolutely the BEST to initiate conversation and carry it, because they'd BEEN there. Knew how to connect on the deepest level to get the help those who were trafficked deserved. The work could not have been done to the same success without them. But they were accepted and supported by the entire team from day 1.

- If you're unsure about the new team. Consider getting to know them first. When you intervene on cases with vulnerable children - you can use your skills/understanding/experience to connect with these children without announcing you have PTSD. Those colleagues with you on those calls might pick up subtleties and put pieces together.....you can choose how you respond if they ask (I read a lot, I have a deeper understanding of these issues, I'm passionate about this work, I have PTSD.....YOUR choice to share or not.)

More to say for sure.....but hard to peg my brain down long enough currently.


@Sophy (in lockdown) feeling your story.
I have kept everything hidden (only had diagnosis in recent times but not shared the extent of my problems up until now).

I had to share with my big boss so I could justify time off for T appointments, but given the circumstances they have had no choice but to be supportive.

It’s a fine line between keeping everything hidden for years and needing to share something. Time will tell if I made the wrong decision.

Your line about being independent stuck a chord. But I think you can still be that and share things if you want to share them. Maybe the key is doing it on your own terms, as and when you want or need to?


While you may have to tell your past employer of your trauma related ptsd, you do not have to tell details at all and they are bound to keep it between the two of you and you should let them know that info is in confidence. It is normal for people esp of childhood trauma to keep it secrets, since they had to as a child. It is hard to get beyond that since it was ingrained into us early. My sisters and I are still opening up and we are in our 50s and 60s. It took another tragedy to open us up more. You are strong! You are a survivor and over comer!! Some things that help moving beyond all that trauma and the anxiety/depression that goes along with it are the following: Taking magnesium (magnesium malate is best) and ginseng help a lot, they calm the mind body and spirit and get rid of sticky negative thoughts the loop around in the mind! Also, getting outside, laying on the grass to get grounded and breathe in fresh air, looking at stars, these things help a lot too. Our environment help or hurt our mental health and physical health. Speak aloud positive truths to counteract the negative thoughts and things said to us, even changing the ending in our imagination to a more positive outcome is very helpful! Also, volunteering definitely helps us get our of our own misery to help others, which helps us. Call those negatives a lie and correct them to yourself. Protect yourself from those who put that added stress on you too. You got this and will heal more and more! <3
Thanks all :)

So, I think it's ABSOLUTELY valid to hide it for as long as you feel the need to hide it.

Like I said, it used to seem like a matter of life-or-death to me to hide it.

So, I'm not really planning to go the "full disclosure" route and give ppl my T's case notes from 20 years of trauma therapy :P

But I figure that if I work in a setting with traumatised kids then it's possible for me to say things like "Yeah, I get it. I had a really difficult childhood too. I struggled with that stuff too for a long time. It's hard. But I do believe that it's possible to get your life to turn out okay, even if you have a rough start, I truly do."

Or things like that....

"Yeah, my family of origin is pretty crap too. I stopped having contact with them in my 20s. I've built my own family of friends over the years and that's turned out much better than the stupid family I was born into."

So yeah... I don't think I have to make myself vulnerable by unpacking my whole trauma history.

But I can be someone who has a back story... A difficult childhood.

And in that kind of work setting, I think it would actually be a positive thing... That I "get it". And that I know how much work it is to overcome that stuff and build a good life after a traumatic childhood.

The settings in which I used to work (office settings) were full of ppl trying to out-do each other with who was coolest and toughest and who was the most "fiiiiine thanks!"

So if I'd even said I had a very difficult childhood and I haven't spoken to my family of origin for 20 years, ppl would have been like OMG OMG OMG.

So I think the combination of me no longer feeling like I have to keep it a SECRET plus working in a setting where difficult childhoods are not taboo... I think that could work quite well.

And again: I don't mean this in a general pro/ con way re disclosure or not. It's 100% an individual decision influenced by countless factors and everyone is utterly right to keep whatever they want private.