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.