I wish I could believe that things will get better and that I will eventually be able to live with the past and with the trauma that I suffered.
I wish I could believe that I am this strong, brave person that everyone thinks I am when in reality I am constantly feeling like I am on the verge of breaking down.
Most of all I wish people could understand this diagnosis. I wish they could understand that not all wounds are visible. There are some wounds that do not show on the body and which go deeper than any wound that bleeds. These wounds can take much longer to heal. I know because I have wounds like this.
People ask me, why can’t I just get over what happened? So I want to ask, why can’t people acknowledge how traumatic what happened to me, and to other survivors, was and how much damage has been done?
Every day I get up and pretend I am OK and that nothing is wrong. I do this so that people won’t think that I am trying to seek attention. I am too scared to say how I really feel, so instead I hide behind a smile.
If only people knew the truth.
It starts with the nightmares. At first it is the same nightmare over and over, then different nightmares that are more like memories.
Next are the triggers. A smell, a sound, a TV programme, a person who looks or sounds similar to my abuser. They are all triggers. Sometimes I can control them and sometimes I can’t. It is not a choice. I do not choose to be triggered. I do not want to remember.
The next stage for me is flashbacks. I hate getting flashbacks of things I don’t want to remember. I cannot stop them. I cannot just switch them off. I cannot control them.
Lastly is the reliving of the events, reliving the trauma. I relive the abuse over and over and over. Except it is not just the one time I relive, it is every time he abused me. Every time I have a new memory I relive it and every time it feels as if it happened yesterday.
Do you know that people who relive trauma can experience the same physical pain that they experienced at the time of the event? I didn’t, until recently.
I was triggered and I had a flashback about what he did to me. It felt so real that I woke up the next day with stomach pain, just like I used to after he had raped me.
I sat in the bath for three hours that day scrubbing myself over and over to try and get him off of me. It didn’t work. Nothing I did worked. It still felt as if it had happened yesterday.
I thought I was being silly, feeling pain that logically I knew wasn’t there. Until my therapist explained that it is perfectly normal for people who have suffered painful trauma to relive the physical pain as well as the emotional. Phantom pains she called them.
Now I am terrified I will have another similar experience. It was bad enough the first time around, living through what he did, but to now have to relive the emotional side of it all and maybe end up feeling more physical pain again, I am not sure I am strong enough to handle that.
I am tired. In fact I am exhausted. I am afraid to sleep because every time I close my eyes his face is there.
Some days I can’t concentrate or think straight. I have constant headaches. I am a mess. I am breaking and it scares me.
I want to forget, just for a second I want to forget. Believe me if I could I would.
I want to make sense of my emotions and not feel them all at once. Sadness, fear, pain, confusion, anger. I just want to feel one at a time. I just want to cry.
I am too scared to cry. I don’t want to burden people or be seen as an attention seeker.
Then there are the days when I feel empty, the days when I feel nothing but worthless. On these days I am not worth fighting for. On these days I do not even want to get out of bed.
I cannot tell you which is worse; feeling lots of different emotions all at once or feeling empty. I can tell you that either is just as mentally draining as the other.
I am tired and I am afraid. I am afraid I am not going to get through this.
People tell me that fear is not real, that it is a choice. They say I choose to be afraid of facing my past. I wonder would these people be able to live through years of sexual and emotional abuse and then tell me that being afraid to relive it is a choice I made? Would these people last one day not just walking in my shoes but living in my head?
You can’t stop being afraid by just pretending what scares you isn’t there. I know, because I have tried. I tried to pretend the abuse never happened. I tried to pretend I was not ill with depression and anxiety and I tried to pretend that this new diagnosis wasn’t real too. It does not work. Pretending just prolongs the pain and makes it worse.
Fear is a prison but it is not just a feeling that you can just get over. It does not work that way. To escape the fear, you have to face it and go through it, not go around it.
I know. I am living my fear right now and I am scared.
I wish I could just sleep away this sadness. I wish the pain I feel inside would just go away but it won’t.
I wish I could just erase my past, forget the abuse, but I can’t.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) isn’t about what’s wrong with you; it is about what happened to you. It is also not only Soldiers who can suffer from it.
PTSD is not a sign of weakness, but proof of strength. It is proof someone is a survivor. It is feeling everything and feeling nothing. It is losing yourself and feeling alone.
PTSD is courage and bravery and strength, even when you feel weak. It is fighting the demons from your past, not the monsters under your bed.
PTSD is not that the person is refusing to let go of the past; it is that the past is refusing to let go of the person.
PTSD is just as real as any visible illness. I know this because PTSD is me.
Thanks for reading.