Warrior Princess

January 21, 2014

The Worse It Is

canstock2022383“The more you see, the worse it is.”–Elana Newman on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

I read a couple of articles  about PTSD over the weekend.  I’m always drawn to stories about fellow-travelers, no matter how we came to be on similar paths.  Of the two men featured in the articles  one was a journalist who covered the Middle East wars and one was a Navy seal.  Both ended up dead by the hand of another vet  and the other crashed his car into a tree.  There is debate as to whether that was a successful suicide.

I didn’t think to prepare myself for the emotional fall-out.  It’s either never occurred to me or I forgot that reading about PTSD actually evokes it’s symptoms.  I really must learn to keep track of these things.

I was never in Iraq or Afghanistan; I am not a journalist or a veteran.  However, I saw (and sometimes was forced to participate in) my own private war, waged within the confines of my home as I grew up.  By the time I was three, I’d already seen and heard more traumatic events than most people have to endure in a lifetime.

It’s true.  The more you see, the worse it is.  I’ve learned to “manage” my flashbacks.  When the film starts rolling in my head, I often have to resort to imagining a room inside my head.  The room is made of stone, the door is thick wood and heavily bolted.  I move the images into that dungeon.  When I can.

If you run into me in a hall way, I will be noticeably startled.  Some people find this incredibly amusing.  I try to forgive them.  I worked with one sadist who found it endlessly entertaining to sneak up on me.  Luckily for him, he was never close enough to experience the consequences.  If you catch me unawares and you’re close enough, you will definitely get hurt.  I did find another way to stop him, though.  I will not be re-victimized by any asshole.  I’ve done my time–and more–as a victim.

Living in my head is a lonely existence, being lost in a terrifying house of mirrors, with the requirement that I find a way to live in this world without anyone knowing.

“The symptomatology of PTSD.
In PTSD a traumatic event is not remembered and relegated to one’s past in the same way as other life events. Trauma continues to intrude with visual, auditory, and/or other somatic reality on the lives of its victims. Again and again they relive the life-threatening experiences they suffered, reacting in mind and body as though such events were still occurring. PTSD is a complex psychobiological condition.”
― Babette RothschildThe Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment

That’s right.  The more you see, the worse it is.

January 13, 2014

The Truth May Not Set Others Free

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“Adversity is the first path to truth.” – Lord Byron

“My father committed suicide.”

“I have breast cancer.”

“I was a victim of childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse.”

“I have a mental illness.  I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” (see above)

When I was a young woman, I kept the secrets of my real life to myself.  Exactly like every other young person, I deeply longed to find acceptance by fitting in.  I studied long and hard to determine just what it would take for me to blend into the crowd.  I became a consummate chameleon.

I now tell the truth.when it’s appropriate.  The truth about my life’s difficulties isn’t something I share immediately, unless the topic arises in conversation.  If people wish to hear  a statement of fact, I provide them with as much truth as I believe they can handle.  Not everyone is capable of hearing everything. Some people have refused to shake my hand after I’ve told them about my breast cancer.

Some people change the subject quickly when the topics of abuse, mental illness and suicide come up.  Some people believe they know how I feel.  Others would like to hear the gory details about my life because they find it titillating. All of these responses have become predictable.

I don’t like to experience unpleasant reactions, but I believe that every time I tell the truth about these things, I chip away at stigma and intolerance.  I’m willing to face the consequences. I’m not trying to get a pat on the back nor is this a call for more people to take the leap of truth.  I just hope that I’m doing a tiny bit to create a future in which all that is profoundly difficult in life can be voiced without fear.  I hope that I’m standing in solidarity with all of the people who have, and continue to, suffer in silence.

May the truth liberate us all someday.

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