Evie: One of the things that I am not very good at is having a focused blog. My focus is whatever I feel like or feel up to getting down into written word. Most of the time, yeah I’ll be a bit goofy and not that hard hitting on topics. This one though is pretty frickin important for me. It’s something I’ve been dealing with at full… manifestation isn’t quite the right word, but it’s as close as I can get to in my pre-coffee morning fog here, since early 2012. This is something that I will occasionally talk about here in terms of my experiences with it and progress in dealing with it. So without further rambling…
Originally written: July 2013. Some things have changed, but not a lot.
This was a hard article to write. Hundreds of thousands of people here in the United States alone have this disorder, and probably at least half are un-diagnosed, if not more. I myself have it. Though… mine happened and complicated other disorders that I may have. I can’t afford to go get diagnosed. I can recognize the symptoms and know how they are triggered and then deal with being able to handle the triggers. But I’ve also owned up to having PTSD and that it’s not going away. I have to be able to live among people. I want to be to give my future husband everything that I can give him, with as few scars attached as possible.
Understand this, PTSD has several symptoms. Everyone who has PTSD has several, some or all. To different degrees. If and when, I talk about it, it’s me relating MY struggles. The challenge that it is for ME. My symptoms can be (and most likely some of them are) at a different degree of severity than yourself or someone you know. Just remember that.
I want a family. A home in the country, with several cords (it’s a type of measurement that has seemed to fall by the way side, I have it linked to a definition though) of firewood aging, milk goats, rabbits, alpacas, a few sheep, chickens and turkeys. I have goals, for myself that I’m going to achieve. However, I’ve not kidded myself on the time frame. It’s going to take slow, steady work and there’s going to be many many failures. Failures equal learning though. I’m okay with failing at something, depending on what it is.
This is because of a large number things that have happened, where I was following other people’s advice…and their ideas didn’t work. So you boil away everything except the core idea and tactic, and then apply it. Then try the next thing. I’m a huge proponent of everyday application of the Scientific method.
Because it works. Yeah, you end up at points in time where you are wishing people to live long and prosper (and leave you the hell alone, and stop talking), but you end up sincerely meaning it. Honestly, it works one problem at a time. And being honest with yourself, and the reasons why you don’t want to face your shadow self is a good place to start.
Shadow self, is a term used in several circles of thought, sometimes referred to as the It. (If you’ve never had the chance to see the very old film Forbidden Planet, I highly recommend trying to. It explores this concept, and how truly dangerous not coming to terms with it can be.) These are the negative emotions or memories that are repressed by a person. Like that of what a person’s PTSD stems from.
This is in the mind though. PTSD affects not just your mind. Those wounds go deeper. We humans are strange creatures, really. We have minds, hearts, souls, spirits and bodies. Scans of PTSD diagnosed individuals, show brain damage. It’s a type of shrinkage. This does seems to make some things harder, but it’s doesn’t make an individual brain dead. (I repeat, they are NOT brain dead.) The events that cause PTSD inflict wounds on your spirit, your soul and break your heart.
I have noticed in the past few years, I am having problems with memory. Refreshing your memory frequently is an incredibly good idea.
ANYTHING TRAUMTIC CAN CAUSE PTSD.
Bad car wrecks, seeing a friend commit suicide, being raped, growing up abused, being in war, being in a tornado, etc. Anything traumatic… can cause it. Hell, you (yes you dear reader) may have a mild case of it. You just don’t realize it, because it’s attached to something that happened years ago or it’s from a only mildly traumatic event. It can happen. How many people do you know though that, after being in a car wreck, had a difficult time getting back into a vehicle? Maybe even terrified for a few to several weeks?
Some traumatic events, are easier to deal with. Ones that are spawned by natural events likes storms or earthquakes, can be a lot easier dealt with. Those are faceless entities. Those are things that can not (and should not) be controlled. They happen to everyone at some point. Other events like war and rape… those haunt the people for the rest of their lives. Because every face, is that human being that did that horrible thing to you. Or jihadist. I can’t write from the perspective of a vet fully. I write as a rape induced PTSD.
It took roughly a year to acknowledge that they had happened and there were a lot of mistakes made. Many of them complicating the initial trauma, though had I realized it sooner, I could have avoided most of them. Had a car wreck in that time period too. Took me weeks to be able to get into a car without wanting to vomit.
However, I share a few things with a vet/active military with PTSD. Among them being questions like, is this person a threat? Whose around me? Where are my squadmates/fire team/battle buddy? You get stuck into high alert. Anyone and anything could be a threat. What’s worse, is when you start seeing those faces of those who you watched hurt you (or hurt someone else) start appearing on the bodies of people you know aren’t them. You become hyper-attentive. And exhausted, which means the nightmares and insomnia.
I had grown up in an abusive situation, so I never could stand a large number of people in my personal space. I hated being in public. I was one of those tomboys that wanted left alone in her hammock and with her books. Still do, but I don’t wear the baseball cap all the time nowadays. But after the rapes, I couldn’t handle groups of three or more people around. I used to hang out at the Science Fiction conventions. That can’t happen anymore. Some of my most awesome friends, that’s the only time I could see them.
It’s hard to touch people. I have lived at home again for the last oh…about fourteen months. I’ve given my dad maybe one hug and my mom, maybe a dozen. I can’t even hug my dad. I can handle one person touching me, and that’s my fiance. But he knew what he was getting into with me. (Marine for the win! Damn I love my man!) Yeah, the rape victim with PTSD is marrying the vet without it. Hey, I never said my life’s been normal. He’s learned what my warning signs are. There’s not been a time where I’ve had to separate myself from him for a couple of hours to decompress yet, but I know it’ll probably happen. (Update as of 12/14: And there was a few times after we initially moved in together were I did have to tell him to back off. And he did. After I got back into normal headspace, I got hugged. Without mercy even. I love it when he hugs me these days.)
I know that something that will act as a trigger can be incredibly random, that seems innocent and harmless to someone else but to me it sends me into a trip onto memory lane that I didn’t need. Triggers are a pain in the ass. So is the insomnia. Most of the sleep I get, it’s because I just got that exhausted. 24 hours a day, I sleep maybe 2-5 of them. Hell, some nights none. I just lay there, eyes closed, keeping my over active imagination on positive happy things. Meditating…oh boy. I had to re-learn the basics and am still re-learning them. It’s good for you, because once you nail the basics you can take those steps and sped them up to help yourself calm down.
Here’s the thing. I know mine…won’t go away. The terror I felt at first once everything had sunk in, lasted for months. I would double, triple, quadruple checked door locks and window locks. I was terrified that a mutual friend would let it slip where I was and here we go again. I had/have knives of several sizes and types. I always have a knife. Except when flying. (YOU BASTARDS!) And yes, I almost committed suicide. I know what that darkness looks, feels and smells like. Why am I still here? Friends, that talked to me day in and day out. Friends, that gave me a cat. She’s a wonderful little momma cat, that is my PTSD animal companion.
PTSD service animals, are good things. (There’s BattleBuddy.org , if you’d like more information on the PTSD service dogs for yourself or to help other vets gain such an animal.) If it wasn’t for my cat, I wouldn’t have made it in the shape that I did. Even as I’ve written this, she’s been nearby occassionally trilling at me when I’ve gotten too serious. (UPDATE 12/14: I wasn’t able to bring that wonderful cat with me when I moved. When you have an animal friend that you’re that close too, it makes things a bit harder if you have to leave them behind. These days I miss her because I have no one to keep to keep me company when the Fiance is at work.)
PTSD, in most cases, doesn’t go away. Period. You get stronger and it gets easier to deal with, but everyone has bad days. Days where you’re better off taking an animal to the back yard and tossing the ball or catnip toy for them. Ignoring the internet for the day. Avoiding TV, movies, books that stirs up your emotions and just dealing with it. Yeah, I’m suffering at times. But suffering, as I’ve learned from the myths of Old in my study as a Witch, makes us stronger.
I won’t let my PTSD rule me. Oh, believe me, I fell apart horribly until I started accepting the fact that:
A) Yeap, that shit happened. Damnit.
B) I’m losing parts of my life to this. Aw hell no.
C) A part of me is dead. That can’t come back, that’s not going to change. It’s gone.
D) I will not let this weaken me. I will become stronger and it will help me do so.
I became stronger, when I admitted I had this. Because at that point, it became just another challenge to pit myself against and overcome. It lost it’s power over me. The mountain, became just a long set of foot hills and small ridges. I will always be careful of whose at my back. Of whom I’m around when I’m eating out or drinking at home. I will always have that small fear, that it’ll happen again. But, I will always have that anger that I have that fear and I will let it drive me forward to being able to have the life I choose.
Trauma can poison you. Kill you completely. It can become a sheer cliff, that you’re stuck at the bottom of. Or, you can become you’re own antidote. Yes, you have parts of yourself that are dead. Lay them to rest as best you can. Grieve for yourself. Grieve for what you lost, but look forward at what there is to gain. There is always something to be gained.
For me, it was a different perspective. A dangerous one, for a civilian female to have according to some folks, but a different one none the less. For me, it was strength to be able to stare back at life and tell it, you hit like a bitch. For me, I gained my freedom back. You learn powerful, difficult lessons from trauma. They can be powerful guides to other people, as long as you’re willing to acknowledge them and accept that you learned them.
From teaching others, you will find yourself again. I know it’s like looking at a broken mirror, and you want the cracks to go away right now(!!!!!!) but it takes time. It takes you being patient with yourself. I know my mirror is still cracked…but not as badly as it once was.
And those cracks are still healing, will keep healing and only I am have the power to stop their healing or keep it going.
Just like everyone else with it.
It. Can. Be. Done.