Dear PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder…)

Dear PTSD,

Its me. One of the survivors of trauma that you plague. I tried to deny you for so long. Tried to find excuses for your symptoms. Gradually I accepted some of your symptoms but I still tried denying you as a whole. Why? I don’t know. Was I ashamed of you or afraid?  Both, I think. It made no sense to me that I could be jumped so easily and yet when in genuine danger I can be so much more composed. What is that about? I was scared of you…of the power you have where getting out of bed can take me hours,  just because I’m scared. I started to blame all of my random behaviour on grief. But that’s not true or fair. The thing is,  grief isn’t an illness. It’s natural. It just…is. it hurts but I know it’ll gradually become easier to manage.  You? I have no idea. You frighten me.

It has become more apparent to me, whilst I’m in this new place with strangers,  that you actually dominate more of my life than I ever wanted to admit. I talk about my flashbacks and nightmares to friends but mostly I won’t talk to anyone about what you do to me. How powerless you make me. I tried blaming programming next. Every dysfunctional behaviour I blamed on programming. There’s no question that answers for a lot. But for the silent symptoms?  For the ones that are neither grief nor programming? I ran out of excuses. Depression is just a part of you. I felt like I’d been wrestling with someone,  trying desperately to twist my head away from the truth. Eventually I grew tired and was forced to look. PTSD. Which meant I could no longer deny it… I was struggling with the trauma.

I’d heard the professionals say this for a while. PTSD hadn’t specifically been said, but phrases such as “you’re traumatised” “you’re suffering from trauma effects” and “post trauma” have been used. PTSD used more recently, when I jumped out of my skin in a therapy session. I’m always worse in intense environments.  Intense but not yet dangerous. It was quiet. And then a distant door slammed. I jumped. Tried to hide it, but I’d broken out in a cold sweat instantly,  was trembling,  my heart racing and my mouth dry. The therapist smiled sympathetically and said quietly “its okay…” I tried to shrug it off – “I’m just a bit jumpy. It’s nothing.” She looked at me, “no…don’t call it nothing. It’s a reasonable response after so much trauma. Hypervigilance has saved your life. It’s a very natural thing now…you’ve biologically had to adapt in a different way to the rest of us. It won’t go away overnight but don’t put yourself down; it saved you so many times…”

She opened another door for me. I gradually stopped feeling so ashamed of you. Afraid of your power,  yes. But not ashamed of you. I began to even wonder whether you were friend, not foe. Just doing what I’d instinctively done for my entire life. Just trying to keep me alive. And Christ,  it’s hardly as though I’m safe enough to not rely on vigilance. You scared me but I also could see how and why you were there… 20 years of instincts wouldn’t go away overnight…

But that only tackles the jumpiness. And just jumping I could cope with. But the rest? I’ve never talked about what my life with you is really like….

The room im in is so hot I need a fan on. But a fan is a trigger. Pretty much everything is. I have to spend so much energy just on consciously working through the grounding methods every time I look at it. The whirring sound leaves me clammy and nauseous. At night, I wake with a start. Every night. Because I hear the sound but in my sleep it sounds distorted. It sounds like an engine. Another trigger. Every time I hear a car engine its another conscious effort to ground myself. I wake with a start, cold with sweat and the panicked tears already coming. I’m sure I’m about to be kidnapped. The light plays tricks on me and I think the door is open when it wasn’t before. I shake violently, heart racing,  and I’m so scared. So so scared. Just because of a stupid fan.

You’ve got worse the safer I’ve become. Or maybe I just didn’t notice you before because it was so normal considering the circumstances. I feel so stupid. I used to be okay. Now, before I go to sleep I have to check the cupboards and under the bed, in case someone’s waiting there, ready to pounce when I fall asleep. Even then I’m sure I missed somewhere, so it takes me a long time to fall asleep…my head listening for the slightest sound and racing with every escape plan. If I hear bangs of any kind in succession,  I hear gunshots. How do you do that?  How do you distort reality? I hear gunshots and freeze… instinctively freeze then drop, because I learnt far too young that the safest thing to do is drop and play dead…let them think they’ve hit you…or at least stay hidden on the ground…

In town the other day I heard gunshots. I froze then dropped. I didn’t think I could ever move again. My eyes were clenched shut, my heart so fast it hurt, the sweat pouring down my neck and I begged myself not to cry. If they see tears they’ll know you’re alive… people walked past me,  me crouched by a bench and immobile. Somehow after what could have been seconds or hours, I unfroze. It wasn’t gunshots I’d heard. It was car doors slamming shut at the taxis…

I smell blood or dampness almost constantly. Sometimes I look down and I’m covered in blood. Except I can’t be, because I wasn’t 2 minutes ago and I haven’t been hurt..
It rains and I panic. What if I get stuck somewhere and the rain causes a flood and I drown?
I go in lifts and don’t tell anyone that actually they terrify me. That they trigger memories of being trapped in a box that filled with water…or buried underground…
Daily I will find myself at some point hiding in the toilets and crying out of pure terror. I will then pretend I’m fine and not tell anyone.
I’m scared of time. So many occasions I was too late,  or too early…time at school counted down to when I was home and abused…time meant that I knew after being held underwater for over 90 seconds that I needed air soon… time scares me. Everything changes so fast.
Sometimes I am in a state of absolute fear…Other times I’m so detached that I’m watching myself do mundane things. I feel numb and frozen,  the world can’t see me, their lives so busy around me whilst I can’t even blink…
Every morning when I wake up, I listen for my heartbeat. Sometimes it upsets me because I wish I was dead. But the memories of waking up in the ring and checking my pulse and the other children’s…its instinct now.
Sometimes the idea of another day frightens me so much that I lie in bed either rigid or curled up, and silently crying. My phone only inches away from me but I’m so frightened that even moving my hand to text someone leaves me frozen. I just can’t do it.
Every morning is hard due to grief anyway,  but you don’t help. I’m still waiting for an abuser to take me somewhere,  and until midday has passed I don’t relax.

Can you imagine living in a world where everything is a trigger or memory of horror? Where your own shadow can literally have you huddled in a corner crying in fear? I’ve lost count of the times something insignificant has left me a curled up sobbing mess. Sometimes I hear myself saying things like “please just rape me” or “not my baby” or “please kill me” to an abuser who is not there. I constantly feel pains around my wrists,  the pains of the cable ties that they tied me up with when they raped and tortured me. I rarely call a friend after to help me. I’m so ashamed of myself that I keep my struggles as a dirty secret. Pretend I’m coping, or blame grief.  I rarely blame you,  PTSD, even though it is you who mostly leaves me unable to function.

The nightmares…flashbacks…hallucinations…tears…terror…numbness…helplessness…obsessively checking my environment…living and constantly wishing I had eyes at the back of my head… constantly waiting for the bullet in my back…

Life is frightening even when I’m safe. Why are you worsening? When will you get better? When will you leave me?

PTSD, you scare me so much. How can something so invisible leave me so inconsolably terrified? My muscles ache with the tension. Tonight I will be raped again. A flashback. Happens every night. Every night I’m raped and everyday I’m terrified.

Please go…


5 thoughts on “Dear PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder…)

  1. I feel you in this. Our traumas may be so different, but I get the fear, the nightmares, the freezing. Times when I can logically know I’m safe, my body seems clueless. I sometimes wish people could see in my head, see what I see, hear what I hear. Then maybe my actions would seem so crazy. It’s so hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. I hear you.

    • Take good care…thank you for sharing and helping me feel less alone… I hear you too… I sometimes wonder if ny body just doesn’t know how to be safe or how to function in safety… sometimes I wish there was a window to my head…but then I don’t want people to feel this… its tough huh… stay strong…

  2. Pingback: Can Complex PTSD Be Cured? | Trauma and Dissociation

  3. Pingback: Can Complex PTSD Be Cured? | Trauma and Dissociation

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