Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I Have PTSD

I have PTSD- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It isn't something that only affects war veterans. Anybody with trauma in their past can experience it.

I was just a child when I was traumatized. I didn't ask to be molested, to be a witness to other sexual violence, to be forced to keep secrets that no child should have to bear, to be born with a heart condition that required life-threatening surgery, to lose friend after friend in car accidents. But it happened to me. I was only a child. I had no authority, no power, no responsibility to fix what I experienced. And nobody saw the signs, and nobody helped me and so I learned that the world is not safe, that people cannot be trusted, that those in authority do not always help or care, in fact often they hurt, that even grown-ups can turn a blind eye to what is really sick in the world. I yearn to feel safe and when there is no safety I turn away or lash out.

I have bad dreams. Sometimes I am afraid to go to sleep at night because men with guns haunt me and try to shoot me down. Sometimes I am afraid to go to sleep because something will chase me and I won't be able to move my legs, I will be unable to avoid being hunted down and hurt....again.

I may lose my focus during a conversation. If I hear something that doesn't seem safe I will turn off and stop hearing and try to figure out how to get safe again. Sometimes I can never figure it out. Sometimes I won't be able to have anymore conversations with you or I will have to avoid certain topics, especially if my pain is bumping into pain you don't even know you have inside of you.

I may lose my temper and you won't know why. You won't know that the door slamming makes me feel like a lost 5 year old again, alone in a hospital bed wondering what is coming down the hallway outside my door, outside my control. There are many sounds, many phrases used in conversation, smells, songs on the radio, which remind me of past trauma and make me feel helpless and angry inside.

I probably won't remember your name or what you look like after I meet you for the first time. I can't remember a lot of things - the color of my children's eyes, details about people I've met, whether or not I've seen a movie or read a book before. Memories are painful things and my mind doesn't always like to make new ones and so I've forgotten years of study in college and graduate school, I don't know if I liked a movie I saw last week because I can't remember a thing about it and I can't tell you my children's birthdays. There are, however, some memories in my mind that are vivid, painful, agonizing, that haunt me and won't go away.

I live with the constant fear that those I love will be gone in an instant. I assume the worst will continue to happen to me and the ones I love. I expect to be traumatized again and again.

All I want in the world is to feel safe and for my children to be safe. If I feel we are being threatened I will do my best to protect us. Sometimes my best is too much and I fear the day when it will not be enough.

I am getting help for this condition. I am in therapy and I've come a long way. I no longer feel the rage I once did. I remember the trauma that caused this all and I can now put real emotions to what were once just silent movies running in endless loop through my mind. I don't have nightmares very often anymore. I understand what "triggers" my feelings and my reactions. I can identify when I don't feel safe and I know why I feel that way and I have healthier ways of handling that feeling. I have adopted children who have been traumatized also. I understand them better. I am a better parent because I know their pain. I want to be a whole person. I want to have my memory back. I want to be able to feel appropriately and love freely and trust more. I want to *know* that God is good and loves mankind. And I want all that for my own children. I want them to have the care-free childhood that was stolen from me by perverts and circumstance.



I wrote this as part of my own healing process but as I get better, I am realizing more and more just how many of us walk around with pain from our past and never get help. And hurt people wound others. So many people who hurt shut off parts of themselves to maintain and move on as if nothing happened. If you can relate to what I've written here, please get help. You don't have to live with the fear and the rage and the confusion. It can get better.

9 comments:

DebD said...

Thanks for this. I have a lot of lost memory and issues with remembering even now- it is partly why I blog. I got help in my teen years and will never do it again. But, I appreciate your words, none-the-less.

Pres. Kathy said...

Thanks for sharing this. I pray that God watches over you and helps you through all of this.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this, I can relate to all you say. Getting help can be a problem even if you have insurance or can afford it- because of lack of trust on your part and lack of understanding on the part of many so called professionals. If you do not have insurance... Also, don't waste any breath telling it to the clergy- ha ha ha, they're problably an abuser, or at the very least don't care.

Just Mairs said...

Yes, seeking help without insurance can be daunting. Most "pastoral counselors" are not equipped to handle this and even many professional therapists can be a very bad fit. Our family is blessed with a great fit for a therapist who is not covered by our insurance but for whom we have decided to make sacrifices that we can be a healthy family. I wish you well in your own journey!

s-p said...

Indeed a brave post, and God bless you for doing whatever it takes to get help. Indeed, Anon, not all "helpers" are created equal, and some actually do harm. Healing hurts. Staying sick hurts. The cost of either one is hard to bear. I pray your post will give hope to someone counting the cost.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

God will reward your persistence and prayers, and we will join you in those prayers.

Thank you for posting this, and for your bravery in doing so.

Just Mairs said...

I don't feel brave. I just want people to understand. The better I get, the more I realize how much most people are in pain. We all carry baggage and spend a lot of time bumping around in other's pain. It's tragic really. My glimpses of God these days come from recognizing just how perverted my reality is. The contrast is striking.

Anonymous said...

Right now I am helping my daughter through the pain of being molested by my husband, her father. It is the most incredible painful experience of our lives. We will do it tho with the Lords help and healing. He bends his ear down to hear us, and answers our prayers. I was molested by both strangers and family alike. I never believed my child could ever be harmed this way. May God help all who have been ravaged in this way. I pray God continues to restore what was lost and stolen.

Just Mairs said...

Thank you for posting your experience here. I can't imagine the pain you are experiencing. Thank you, also, for believing your daughter and being open to help her through this. Please find professional help for both of you. These types of trauma run so deeply into our souls....You are in my prayers.